Why is it that as an industry, agriculture seems to only measure success by the amounts we produce?
Why is it always important to raise the most bushels per acre, the most horsepower, the longest stock trailer, the largest weaning weights, or the heaviest calves at market time?
An old cattle trader from years past once said that the most profit you can make on a set of calves is made the day you buy them. What he meant was that if you did't buy them right, no matter what you did after that, they would not make money. He increased profits by controlling inputs.
That is what we as cattle producers need to concentrate on as we move forward in the beef business. We can continue to push production numbers to a certain degree over time, but the real money is going to be made by controlling inputs. We need to produce more with less. We need to improve efficiencies.
Approximately 65% of the variable costs in our business is feed cost. Whether it is grass, hay, or grain, the price of it has gone out the roof over the last few years. If we as producers hope to survive this onslaught, we must develp and raise cattle that produce more on less.
That is what the measurement of residual feed intake has to offer the industry. With heritability of the trait at 40%, it is conceivable that we can improve feed efficiency by twelve to fifteen percent over three or four generations. that means that instead of spending $500 in grass and feed to raise a calf, you can do it for $425. On 100 head of calves that's $7500. That is money saved in the operation that drops straight to the bottomn line. You don't have to get a buyer to pay you for it. It's not dependent on a premium or the markets. If you buy and use bulls with a negative RFI it's yours to keep no matter what.
The catch is, that just because a seed stock producer says they have efficient cattle does not necessarily make it so. The only wasy to measure feed efficiency accurately is throught the use of technology such as the Growsafe system. DNA tests do not accurately predict efficiency. The size of cattle does not accurately predict efficiency. The EPDs that are available to date by breed associations do not accurately predict efficiency. Anyone that tries to tell you differently is misleading you. Look for accurate, proven, predictabel data and use it to move your program forward into a more profitable era.
They said it would happen when I got older, but I thought they meant a lot older. Time moves faster, much faster. My hair is grayer, white really. My body hurts more, almost all the time. And my memory is going, I can't even remember when time moved slower, my hair wasn't gray, and my body didn't hurt.
That said, I can remember how good it feels when something goes right. Like how good it feels that first warm Spring day after a long winter. How great it feels when grass starts to green up, or the first night each spring when the frogs start peeping. The feeling you have when the first calves start being born each spring, and the way that dirt smells when everyone starts farming each spring. It also feels great when something that you know works, and that you believe in, turns out to be worthwhile.
A couple of years ago in one of our sales the top Angus bull to sell was owned by Garton Angus ranch and was purchased by McDonell Angus, H and H Angus and Suretop Ranch. He was a great calf with good pedigree, good test data, good numbers, and a negative RFI. Leo McDonnell, along with his family, also owns and operates Midland bull test in Montana, the largest test station in the US and home to the largest test station Growsafe system that I know of. These guys know the value of efficiency. So it was really exciting to me when I learned that this young Angus bull, sired the most efficient Angus bull on test in a recent test group at Midland. It's real, it's heritable, and it works. It sure makes getting older a lot easier knowing that you are right about at least one thing.
This spring we have another nice set of bulls to offer. As you look through them, you will find individual that are true curve benders. You will find bulls that grow, bulls with good pedigrees and EPDs, bulls that put that all together with good test and scan data, and doing all that while being efficient. These are the ones to find, and buy. These are the ones that can change, and advance the direction that your herd moves. Look for individuals that do several thing well, provide the traits that you feel you need to improve and that are on the efficient side of the equation.
The other day someone asked me what I thought about DNA testing and genomic enhanced EPDs.
I told them that I thought that they had the potential to be a good tool. They looked puzzled so I expounded. I think building a great herd of cattle is like building a house. If I told you to go build me a house and handed you a hammer, what would you do? You can't build a house with just a hammer.
You need tape measures and saws and levels and string lines and a truck full of tools along with a lot of materials to build a house.
A herd of good cattle is no different. If I only gave you a genomic test to build a cow herd you would fall sadly short of your goal. Why? Because that are many things and many traits that genomic testing does not and never will tell you. Just like you can't saw a board to length with a hammer. You need pedigree, EPDs, test data, phenotype, (what good is any of this if animals are not sound and fertile) and yes at some point genomic tests, to fill your tool box. You also need a lot of materials. (That's where we come in) You need to use all those tools and all that material to do what you need to do. But don't assume that any one of these tools can build your cow herd.
Let us know what we can do to help you build your “house”.
Kent, Kathy, Cole, Travis and Brady
Green Springs Bull Test