Expect to Hang Two-thirds of the Cow’s Weight on the Rail

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

I enjoy pondering over numbers collected from the Dickinson Research Extension Center beef herds.

One number I ponder over, for example, is cow size and how it relates to carcass size. Just like the industry, the discussion of cow size is complex, and pondering includes searching for ways or numbers that help me understand and ultimately explain the impact of cow size within the industry.

Ultimately, the producer decides what gate to open and what bull to buy, and entwines all the pieces into a cow-calf operation.

We do know that carcass size is very relevant because it is a driver of income. Recently, the center dispersed two cow herds due to the lack of feed. The long-term essence of these two herds was a targeted 300-pound difference in the Continue reading

Do Some Selection Tools Result in Unintended Consequences?

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

You hear more about mature cow size and growth potential of calves, now that profit ebbs and flows with the cycle. We’ve written about mature size, but not much about how to use the relevant tools to change it. So now, let’s examine the strategies and tools available, and the unintended consequences of ignoring them.

Commercial breeders can draw on more selection tools than ever before to improve the next generation of cows to match the market and ranch environments. Genomic testing can identify sires in multi-bull pastures while indexing heifer genetic potential and sorting outliers for adaptability and docility. You could start with Continue reading

Finding the Right Cow Size is Not Simple

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

The beef industry has tremendous potential for growth within individual cattle.

But just because we can, does that mean we should?

Sound cattle management focuses on maintaining growth and efficiency and, in many operations, pushing for improvement. The fear of paths that may take an alternative route is real. Like life, management of alternatives with only a partial knowledge of the outcome amplifies concerns.

Without question, the incorporation of alternative management programs is Continue reading

A Cheap Bull May Be Just That

– Andrew P. Griffith, University of Tennessee

There have been several discussions recently concerning bull sales and expected progeny differences (EPDs) which is probably a factor of the impending breeding season. The discussions have ranged in topic and have included the timing of a bull sale, saturation of the bull market, bulls that should be steers, and matching EPDs to a herd of cattle or individual cattle to get the best end product from the dam. This is a wide range of topics, but they are all related to understanding the herd sire market and the intended market of the sire’s offspring.

Producers must first know and understand the Continue reading

Demand More When Buying a Herd Sire

John F. Grimes, OSU Extension Beef Coordinator

Bull buying season is well underway throughout the cow-calf regions across the country. If your calving season starts in January, you may have already made your herd sire selections for this year’s breeding season. If your calving season starts a bit later, you may be in the midst of making herd sire selections. If you have yet to make your bull buying decisions, there are plenty of opportunities available in the immediate future through public auction or private treaty.

As an Extension professional and a seedstock producer, one of the most interesting discussions I can have with a producer is Continue reading

Changes to National Cattle Evaluation Benefits Bulls Buyers in 2018

– Matt Spangler, UNL Associate Professor and Beef Genetics Extension Specialist

National Cattle Evaluation has never been static, and future changes are inevitable as science continues to advance. Photo courtesy of Matt Spangler.

The majority of beef breed associations have made (or are currently making) substantial changes to their National Cattle Evaluation (NCE). These changes ultimately benefit commercial bull buyers by providing improved Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) and improved economic selection indices. This brief article is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the changes to NCE by breed organization, but rather to highlight changes in general and the benefits Continue reading

Improving Cow Herd Reproduction Via Genetics

– Wade Shafer, Ph.D., American Simmental Association Executive Vice President (This article was originally published in March 2008 issue of the SimTalk written by Wade Shafer, Ph.D. Drs. Lauren Hyde and Jackie Atkins provided updates for this reprint)

A beef cow’s job is not an easy one. She is expected to conceive at slightly over one year of age, to calve by the time she is two, and rebreed shortly after that while weaning a healthy, viable calf. Furthermore, we demand that she consistently repeats this cycle for the rest of her life – one stumble and, hasta la vista, baby!

To be sure, producers are best served when the cow successfully performs her task for many years, as the longer her productive life, the more profitable she is to the enterprise. Is there anything that can be done to help her out? Certainly, there are Continue reading

Use the Numbers When Bull Buying

– Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

The future is now: the bull-buying season.

The future is in the numbers. The future requires knowledge, so study hard.

For me, bull-buying season means bull-buying workshops where I can meet with small groups of producers to look at numbers, the expected progeny differences (EPDs). EPDs have been around a long time, but the utilization of EPDs is still an ongoing process as more producers annually incorporate EPDs into bull selection.

Interestingly, the extent to which EPDs are utilized on individual operations varies widely. However, no better selection tool is available that will help a beef operation meet future goals.

Just as with buying equipment, the spec sheet informs potential buyers what is Continue reading

Behind the Static, 560-lb. Weaning Weights

– Justin Sexten, Ph.D., Director, CAB Supply Development

It looks like weaning weights have gone pretty much nowhere for 15 years. That’s according to a summary of North Dakota State University’s Cow Herd Appraisal of Performance Software (CHAPS) that presents genetic progress as functionally static since 2003. I couldn’t miss that summary, well-publicized and pointed out by just about every contact and source I know.

Static being a relative term – there were fluctuations in the data – weaning weight hovered around 560 pounds (lb.), weaning age was 193 days and average daily gain was 2.5 lb. Seeing the flat trends, author Kris Ringwall suggests genetic progress in the commercial cow-calf sector is “mature.”

The topic came up during a “Bull-Pen Session” at the Range Beef Cow Symposium in Cheyenne, Wyo., in December, where the discussion suggested the beef industry has gone astray, utilizing growth genetics while failing to Continue reading

What are Bulls Worth?

– Reprinted from CattleFax Mid-September 2017 issue of TRENDS, with permission

With winter and spring bull sales are not far away, it is time to start having the discussion about what to look for and how much to pay for a bull by taking a look at both the genetic influence as well as the economic influence to your cowherd.

Every decision that a cow-calf producer makes, with regard to adding/culling cows, which heifers to retain and which bulls to use to breed the cowherd, not only has implications for the following calf crop but has a genetic influence for 5 to 10 years at minimum. These influences accentuate when using Continue reading