• Robert Girling

Don’t Discount Your Gut!

The last post I touched briefly on why we use and are critical of our genetic enhanced epds, this one is about eye appeal and ”going with your gut.”

The Boxer 21D was the first red bull that my gut told me I needed to use, Chief Justice C205 was the first black one that made me feel the same. There are a lot of good cattle around, but in selecting sires, just going by the numbers without falling in love will leave you with cattle that may perform okay, but leave you unsatisfied as to their appearance. This is fine when it comes to selling commercial cattle, because let’s face it, we get paid for live calves on the ground and the weight they are in the fall. There is no real premium for “pretty” and if there is, it’s not going to be a whole heck of a lot. But, that being stated, when selling and Marketing seedstock, it’s much more satisfying when you know the animal leaving your yard is going to make someone elses yard a lot nicer. The point of this blog is to find what you love and stick with it. Every year I get bull fever, and heifer fever and we see these animals that we like and could help our program, but how many are so amazing that we fall in love with them? That’s important. If you are Constantly trying to find the next great thing you’re never going to develop your own thing. And that’s important. Developing cattle that are consistent is crucial. Find your type, enhance and improve your type, but stick to your type. I think the key is to improve on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths. If you don’t have foot issues, don’t risk using something that does. If we are always chasing the outliers we are going to lose the base quality. My opinion is to establish a really firm base and improve on that base over time, like flooding an outdoor rink. If you don’t patch the holes before you add another layer of water, the holes are going to resurface and perhaps even make your ice crack when the weather changes. My goal every year is to find the ingredients to improve any weaknesses found, while sticking to our type, and ensuring that we aren’t sacrificing docility for tenderness, or fertility for growth, we aren‘t bumping milk up too high and we aren‘t sacrificing efficiency for size. Top 1% for weaning and yearling is great if you’re trying to add a little size, it isn’t great if you’re producing 2000 pound infertile replacements. The number one cost to producers is feed and if we start chasing that top 1% number year after year we are going to go broke creating animals that are too big, milk themselves to death and eat us out of operation. My goal is to have a reasonable birthweight around 80lbs, to a weaning weight of 700 lbs but a yearling weight around breed average. It’s not easy to do, but that’s where i like to be. That way, when we keep replacements, we aren’t keeping animals that will grow up to be the size of our power bulls. Some people say that you can’t do both, you have to do one or the other, run separate programs for developing power bulls and replacement heifers. I have always had trouble with this logic because of the end consumer. Do I want to sell something that is awesome at one thing but not so awesome at others or do I want to sell something that is balanced so that way the end consumer can go either way with it. Because we are small producers, my strategy is based on balance. I have seen lots of epds all the way to the right, but very rarely do i see 50% all the way down the line, that’s much harder to achieve, but so important to have kicking around to round out the extremes. Top 25% is sometimes more important and more valuable than top 1%. Also, an analogy, if you’re the absolute best jiu jitsu practitioner in the world but you have the worst boxing, your success is going to be based on a gamble of who gains control first. That means, with the wrong opponent or the wrong cattle, you risk getting beat pretty badly. I think of this when Leachman talks about feed efficiency. You might have a big beautiful bull that weans off at 1000 lbs, but if that animal also puts on that weight inefficiently, what’s the residual value? Would it not be better to wean at 700 or 800 lbs efficiently and with no fertility issues? My steers averaged 747# through the sale ring this year with no creep and no steroids or hormones. The cows also kept their bcs score and I had no foot or bag issues, nothing got sick and nothing got broke. I will take that any day over gambling on something that may make me bigger but less attractive overall. We prefer the “cross-fit type” cattle rather than the bodybuilder type and we know thats not everyone‘s cup of tea, but it is our type and I think if you stick to your gut and stick to what you like, being consistent will pay off in the long run.

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