What Are You Reading?

When I was growing up I hated to read. I thought it was boring and a complete waste of time. I did like a good ‘choose your own ending’ book, however. Recently, I have picked up the habit of reading again. Reading as an adult is a lot different. My perspective for the world and my surroundings influences what I read and how I interpret things.

Like so many, social media platforms like Facebook are very popular. Many of my friends are fellow cattlemen. I enjoy seeing their families and reading about their challenges from around the country. However, I really can’t get my head around the problems some ranchers are having with 1) conception/preg rates, 2) end product emphasis as it relates to maternal ability and 3) feet.

Here at CAM, I suppose we take a very simple approach. The cows must work for us and provide income. Cows that are problems don’t stay in the herd and go to town. It is imperative cows breed and have a calf every year. If we are using genetics that negatively impact fertility and do not promote our bottom line, we simply stop using them. Again, reproductive efficiency is the foundation for every herd in America and CAM Ranches is no different.

This brings me to the second point. At CAM Ranches, concentration on end product traits is paramount to our customer’s success. Cows must still be cows and we do not keep cows around that cannot function in our environment. Dr. Scott Greiner, Virginia Tech, will tell you, unequivocally, that improved carcass traits are not detrimental to a cow’s ability to conceive and raise a calf. In popular press and social media we see the term “maternal” bantered about quite regularly. Maternal can be construed to mean several things. For the production herd, maternal ability is displayed as how well the cow will protect and raise her calf within a given environment. Maternal can also mean moderate and big bodied to the folks that prefer phenotype over everything else.

Foot structure in Angus cattle is a hot topic. Frankly, bad feet are in every line of Angus cattle and have been documented back several generations. It’s not that hard to fathom as we, like so many others, depend on genomics to provide much needed predictability in cattle long before they ever have any actual progeny. We use sires that excel, genomically, for traits of merit. Long story short, if you keep narrowing the population in an effort to predictably produce cattle that hit multiple targets you will get some instances of bad genes rearing their ugly head.

Tying this all together, why can’t producers learn to read data, objectively use it and cull like the previous generation instructed? It’s really that simple. If the cattle don’t fit your environment, don’t use them. I recently got closeout data for 32 steers sold in May. These steers were sired by young bulls such as GAR 100X, GAR Prophecy and GAR Daydream. Proven sires included GAR Prophet, GAR Sunrise, GAR Sure Fire and GAR Advance. These steers were 15 months old, out weight of 1450, 64% dress, 46% Prime, with the balance being mid-Choice or better. These numbers are what I find fun to read. It’s time we all embrace the fact cattle will be consumed eventually. Not concentrating on what you can control (i.e., high heritability associated with carcass traits) will not help your customers make money. Even if cattle sell at weaning, not breeding these cattle for improved carcass merit is like quitting a football game in the third quarter. Somebody will feed them, somebody will consume them. Let’s make sure the experience is grand and we continue to grow our market share while simultaneously concentrating on maternal, good-footed cattle.