So why always the fat ones? I know that generalization isn't fair for everyone that buys and or sells seedstock, but it's often the case. When you consider the cost to everyone involved, all that extra environment creates an unrealistic ideal and is a purely, unnecessary expense to the cattle business.
As an industry, why do we offer overly fat seedstock cattle for sale, and then regularly reward those cattle with premium pricing? There is no doubt that seeing cattle that are in better condition than those we have at home is pleasing. Many of us have had experiences
Even external influences like buying based on photos or videos, your 4-H judging team coach's influence or watching the judge at Denver, often sends a terrible message to producers about what condition is desirable for cattle in order for them to be evaluated as ideal. It is absolutely part of our upbringing and psyche that we are the caretakers of the cattle. When they are in great condition at home for whatever reason, there is a sense of pride and comfort that goes with it. Unfortunately, when we purchase seedstock using those same criteria for condition and with dreams of pastures full of fat cows regardless of the situation, we are probably not being terribly realistic nor doing ourselves any favors economically. There is no doubt at times, fat is a very good thing.
Finished market cattle with appropriate external fatness (historically .35 to .6 inches of back fat) and highly-marbled, are the gold standard for the majority of the US beef business. Females that hold their condition during production tend to breed and settle better than those whose body is in a substantial energy deficit. Even in those two cases however, once an optimal level of fatness is achieved, the rest is just expensive and actually can be counterproductive both to fertility in females and when Yield Grade deductions and excessive trimming are needed for marketed carcasses. Sure, when all of the animals have been reared in the same environment, it stands to reason those with more condition probably adapted better, but when a group is fed to obesity, does the most obese one really offer any additional value?
Jimmy Holliman of Marion Junction was raised on a cattle and cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta. He received a B.S. in Animal Science and a Master’s Degree in Animal Nutrition from Mississippi State University. Holliman was employed by Auburn University for 38 years at the Black Belt Research and Extension Center in Marion Junction. He was named Director of the station in 1989. Jimmy started Circle H Cattle Farm in 1982 where he raises outstanding Black Simmental cattle. He is a member of the Next Step Cattle Company where he serves as President.
Holliman is widely known as a local, state and national leader in the beef cattle industry. He has served as director of the Dallas County Cattlemen’s Association for 35 years, serving as President in 2003. He is currently President of the Dallas County Farmers Federation.
Holliman served as a Regional Vice President of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and President of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He was President of the Alabama Purebred Breeds Council in 1990-1992. He was elected as the 68 th President of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.
Jimmy has been an officer in the Alabama Simmental Association and served as Trustee for the American Simmental Association. In 2004 Holliman was elected President of the Beef Improvement Federation, an international organization promoting the use of performance evaluation. He serves on the Policy Division Board of Directors for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and is Chairman of the important NCBA Animal Health and Well Being Committee. Holliman has received numerous awards for his service to the beef cattle industry.
He and wife Kathleen enjoy living on their farm where they raised a son Bret who is now married to Mary Ellen and live in Austin, Texas. They are active members of the Marion Junction Baptist Church where he serves as Deacon.
Minnesota Cattlemen's Association Recognizes Wulf Cattle | Wulf Cattle of Morris, MN was awarded the National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Cow/Calf Award by the National Beef Quality Assurance Program during the 2017 National Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, TN. The National Beef Quality Assurance Cow/Calf Award recognizes an outstanding beef farmer or farm family that best demonstrates animal care and handling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective farm, as well as a strong desire to continually improve BQA on their farm while encouraging others to implement this farmer education program.
“Ensuring beef safety and quality is the primary goal of the BQA program. Wulf Cattle embraces all aspects of BQA and takes their employee trainings far beyond the simple certification by creating and implementing a Be KIND and Be SAFE training program. The dedication displayed by Wulf Cattle for beef quality assurance is exemplary. We are extremely proud to have Wulf Cattle as part of the Minnesota Beef Industry and are grateful for their dedication and commitment to Beef Quality Assurance, says Ashley Kohls, Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator for the Minnesota Beef Council.”
Check out this video highlighting some of the great work Wulf Cattle does to maintain high quality and safety standards.
Moser Ranch | Wheaton, Kansas | By Audrey Hambright
Harry and Lisa Moser of Moser Ranch near Wheaton, Kansas, have made an excellent team. From performing all aspects of physical labor around the ranch, to making management and business decisions, their approach has helped create a thriving, family-run operation.
Harry, born and raised in North Dakota, was attending a Block & Bridle Conference in Fargo as an animal science student from North Dakota State University, where he met Lisa, an animal science student from Kansas State University. Both were raised on diversified agriculture operations engraining in each of them a love for beef cattle, leading them to pursue common educational endeavors and eventually getting married in 1982.
The Moser’s started their journey together working on Harry’s father’s operation before they were presented with an opportunity to manage a ranch in Kansas, four years later. The move allowed them to bring their own cow herd with them, giving them the chance to continue to build their genetic lines. Eight years later, they set out on their own and moved north of Wheaton to establish their own operation.
Since striking out on their own and continuing to pursue avenues in the purebred seedstock business, Moser Ranch has come to sit on a solid, 35-year foundation. The ranch herd is comprised of Simmental, Angus and SimAngus genetics. Last November, they held their 25th annual bull sale. The largest portion of their customer base, which numbers 375, is within 200 miles, but they have sold cattle across the U.S. and Canada. Their product is very commercially oriented, according to the Mosers, with 99 percent of their bulls sold to the commercial cow-calf man.
Their customer’s success and loyalty is how Moser Ranch defines their own success. Each year, 85 percent of their bulls are sold to repeat buyers.
“By the customers coming back, we feel like we’re raising the right product,” Lisa said.
However, not only providing the right product has increased return buyers, but their level of customer service. Follow-up visits, customer suppers and meetings as well as creating a market for their bull buyer’s products, are just a few of the way they have built customer loyalty.
“If we can add value, they see a reason to buy breeding stock from us,” Harry said.
The lifestyle can be challenging, but ultimately they find it to be the biggest reward for their family.
“It’s a great way to raise kids,” Lisa said. “It teaches them responsibility and a love for the land.”
“It’s a great way of life,” Harry added.
Since their first year of marriage, they’ve set targets and have been detailed in their decision making, carefully considering new opportunities. Each major decision that has been made on the ranch included a list of pros and cons to evaluate whether that opportunity was in best interest of the future of the ranch.
Harry and Lisa regularly guest speak in classes in the K-State animal science department and host livestock judging team workouts at the ranch. One piece of crucial advice they share with their senior classes is applicable to anyone.
Janelle Atyeo, Tri-State Neighbor Reporter | Photo by Janelle Atyeo |
The barn on the Eichacker farm near Salem, S.D., gets plenty of use.
This time of year, it’s a cozy place for newborn Simmental and red Angus calves, but it also has served as a space for family gatherings and community fundraisers. Just before the new year began, it hosted a wedding rehearsal dinner for Steve and Cathy Eichacker’s son.
Standing beside a 3-day-old calf in its pen, Steve Eichacker recalled with a laugh the family Christmas when Grandpa fell asleep in the recliner under the powerful heater in the barn, proof that the barn long has been a comfortable place for more than just calves.
It often is transformed into a welcoming space for people. Cathy has a knack for decorating. Once the barn is clean, she goes to work stringing icicle lights and setting tables with seasonal decorations. It’s shotgun shells and straw bales for the St. Mary’s Ringneck Classic that the family hosts in early December. The team pheasant-hunting event and auction raises money for the Catholic school where the three Eichacker children graduated.
Preparing for the sale
For the past few months, the Eichackers have been getting ready for the barn’s next transformation – the operation’s annual bull sale March 3.
The Eichackers raise registered Simmentals and a smaller herd of registered Red Angus. For their sale, they combine with Tri-State Neighbor livestock representative Jeff Kapperman, who brings his Angus bulls to sell. This year will be the 10th time for hosting the bull sale at the Eichacker home place.
“It’s a busy time,” Steve said.
Preparations start in earnest in December, grooming animals and taking photographs and video footage of the bulls. For the evening sale, Cathy prepares a spread of food with help from her siblings. They typically serve 300 people.
“They just like to come Friday night and have fun,” she said.
“It’s an evening out. It’s our way of saying thanks to everybody that helps with the sale,” Steve added.
It takes about 35 people among those serving food, parking cars and running the bulls through the ring in the converted calf barn.
‘You need to contribute’
Eichacker has dedicated his life’s work to bettering the Simmental breed on his farm, and now he’s working to promote and improve things on a larger scale.
Eichacker was elected this winter to the American Simmental Association board of trustees. He is one of four representatives of the board’s north-central region and will serve a three-year term and be eligible for one more term. Eichacker said it’s important to give back.
“You need to contribute,” he said. “The association and the Simmental breed have been good to us over the years.”
Eichacker said he has a lot to learn about the national association, but he’s not a stranger to board work. He served as president of the South Dakota Simmental Association in the early 2000s. Friends encouraged him to get involved at the national level. It wasn’t possible after his dad died four years ago, he said, but now enough time has passed since the transition that he feels he has the time to dedicate, and the much-needed support to allow him to do so. “The bottom line is, if you want to be on the board, you’ve got to have people at home,” he said.
He and Cathy farm with his brother, Greg, and two employees raising cattle, corn and soybeans.
Their kids help out, too. Their daughter, Amanda Buttemeier, works at a bank in Sioux Falls. She and her husband have two kids. Son Nick is newly married. He works in real estate with a Sioux Falls company but recently moved to his grandparents’ acreage in the Salem area. The youngest, Adam, is a sophomore at South Dakota State University in Brookings.
Steve and Cathy live on the farm where his grandpa first moved the 1940s. It was a dairy until Steve’s parents, Raphael and Judy, turned their focus to the Simmental breed in 1970.
By Greg Henderson |
Improved genetics, management and attention to detail, some of which began a generation ago, are paying dividends for America’s cattlemen. Those changes give today’s consumer more beef products they desire, and reward stakeholders in every industry segment.
Advancements in genetics and management are most evident in the significant improvement to the quality grades of cattle offered for harvest. Last month USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) reported the percentage of cattle grading Prime and Choice for the week ending Jan. 7, was a whisker shy of 79%. That’s the highest percent Choice and Prime ever.
Additionally, the Choice-Select spread is consistently higher, says CattleFax analyst Lance Zimmerman.
“The Choice-Select spread has been relatively consistent in the $8 to $9 per cwt range,” he says. “We see steeper discounts for an animal that can’t grade Choice, and the Prime versus no roll spread is $420 per animal.”
Efforts to improve beef quality began with the landmark 1991 National Beef Quality Audit. That study involved producers, packers, processors, retailers and consumers, identifying the quality defects and missed opportunities at the root of diminishing demand. That audit famously found $280 per carcass in lost value (using market prices at the time), with $200 of loss due to excessive fat. Yet, while the industry needed to eliminate waste fat, there was a clear signal more taste fat (marbling) was desired.
Subsequent quality audits revealed the industry made progress in the 1990s and early 2000s, reducing bruises, injection site blemishes and other management-correctable defects. A greater emphasis on genetics was also underway, but quality grade concerns remained. Over the past decade, however, that has changed.
“Beginning in 2007, the industry saw annual advances, with the exception of 2012, in the percentage of fed cattle carcasses grading Choice,” says Paul Dykstra, beef cattle specialist with Certified Angus Beef LLC. “The 2006 average of 51.7% Choice remarkably improved to a 2015 average of 69.1%.”
Dykstra recently published a white paper, “Why Quality Grades are Improving,” which examines the trend, its causes and implications. Along with gains in the Choice category, Dykstra notes the percentage of Prime carcasses—locked in the 2% to 3.5% range for years—“jumped to 4.2% in 2014 and 5.1%” in 2015.
“People may recall hearing about higher quality grades several decades ago, but in the 1970s and '80s many carcasses were not offered for USDA grading,” Dykstra says. “Today’s U.S. cattle herd is producing the largest amount of high-quality beef ever.”
Dykstra says a shortage of high-quality beef was prevalent a decade ago, with the share of Choice carcasses often dropping below 50%. “That led to market incentives, fueling the turnaround in grade. The 2015 average of 69.1% Choice was a 17.3-percentage-point improvement in annual grading since then."
Imagine you had to find bulls for your operation but you didn’t know any breeders, nobody used EPDs, or even shared actual data. It’s obvious to anyone interested in building quality cattle and maximizing profit this would be a major blow to the bottom line.
Yet, this is how the feeder calf business exists today. Frequently, when purchasing quality feeder calves, we can receive crucial information regarding environmental factors such as management and health protocols, weights, etc. However, when it comes to genetic awareness, color and polled status are often asked to substitute for true knowledge. A common scenario, and at times the best-case scenario, is that the calf buyer has a previous relationship with the seller and has owned and experienced the performance of the seller’s calves before. In more rare cases, we may have some information on the seller’s bull purchases. Again, this is a powerful step forward. It provides at least some insight into a portion of the genetics within the program. However, in a data-driven world, this level of genetic awareness is woefully inadequate. Especially since the financial stakes for feeder calf procurement are even higher than the stakes for bull procurement. Understandably, most large cattle buyers have technology to estimate genetic and environmental performance on feeder cattle but that information is not public and, for obvious reasons, is kept to those companies. Therefore, price discovery as we know it today, most often does not take account the actual performance potential of a producer’s feeder cattle.
Attempts to determine relative value of feeder cattle have been made for a long-time; however, certain issues have made it difficult. The foremost limitation has been accurately gauging the profit potential in the largest genetic group within the beef industry — the crossbred calf. It is a known scientific fact that commercial beef producers wishing to maximize cowherd fertility and longevity must crossbreed. This not only provides them a sustainable and profitable cow base, but fortunately generates an end product that is known to be the best combination of growth potential and carcass merit — the crossbred calf. The history of the Feeder Profit Calculator (FPC) has its roots in ASA’s Terminal Index ($TI). The $TI was developed over a decade ago by ASA in collaboration with Dr. Michael MacNeil, who was a USDA research geneticist at the time. The $TI is an economic selection index designed for selecting terminal sires. Though $TI could do a reasonable job valuing feeder calves, it was determined that evolving $TI into a tool that could account for such things as a current accounting of prices/costs, heterosis, and non-genetic factors (e.g., vaccination status), would improve the accuracy of predicting feeder calf values. Dr. MacNeil, now with Delta G Genetics, was tapped to evolve $TI into that tool — the FPC. Many of the FPC’s non-genetic components were sourced by Dr. David Lalman of Oklahoma State University. Providing the most robust genetic awareness of crossbred calves requires the most robust multi-breed genetic evaluation. Fortunately, International Genetic Solutions (IGS) provides the ideal platform to generate unparalleled information on crossbred and composite feeder calves. IGS, along with its’ member associations, the science team at Theta Solutions, and scientific contributions by Dr. Matt Spangler of the University of Nebraska is ideally suited to provide the industry’s benchmark in gauging feeder calf value. The IGS Feeder Profit Calculator empowers producers to market with confidence and allows feeders to maximize their purchasing dollars.
Capitalizing on novel technology usually requires a tremendous learning curve and a major outlay of dollars. Not this time! The IGS Feeder Profit Calculator is unique. It will offer a level of genetic awareness of crossbred feeder calves that has not been previously possible in the beef business. The IGS science team, the IGS partner associations, and the world’s largest beef genetic evaluation database allows the IGS FPC to be delivered at no cost to producers. That is correct. No Cost!
Beef producers looking for a transparent and straightforward assessment of their calves will harness the power of IGS by simply making a call, sending an email, or visiting the IGS website. IGS and/or breed association personnel will request information on herd health, basic management protocols, the bull battery used in previous years, and insight into the makeup of the cowherd. The more thorough the inputs from the producer, the better the predictive ability of the FPC. While individual sire identification isn’t required, identification of the bulls used in the operation is required. Producers will be asked to share preconditioning information and the health program in place. The IGS FPC will be demonstrated at the 2017 NCBA Convention in Nashville, TN, and be made available to the public shortly thereafter. Three short demos will be held at the IGS booth each day of the convention. For producers who have interest in having their calves evaluated through the IGS FPC please contact one of the IGS breed partners or contact beef@internationalgeneticsolutions. com. Cattle feeders who are interested in integrating the capabilities of the IGS FPC into their purchasing decisions please use the same email. Additional information and highlights will be provided in the coming months.
Article written by Will Townsend and Chip Kemp
Jim Berry, Scales Mound, Illinois
An advocate for Simmental genetics since 1983, Jim Berry has maintained an on-going emphasis on collection of data in his pursuit of beef cattle performance. Weights are recorded and reported on all cattle at birth, weaning as yearlings. He also collects weights on his cows each year. In addition, he was among the earliest proponents of ultrasound technology as a tool for making advances in carcass quality. Early on, Berry recognized the significance of the development of composite cattle to improve performance and longevity. His Wildberry Farms, located in the rocky, hill region of the northwest corner of Illinois, has been a destination for countless international and domestic tour groups. An accomplished speaker, he has willingly extolled the virtues of Simmental cattle to visitors from agriculture, education and curious city dwellers. Berry was born in northern Illinois where his family started out in the dairy business, later moving to central South Dakota and switching to commercial Angus. As a young man, Berry returned to Illinois when he enrolled at Northwestern University in Evanston. After graduation, he elected to stay in the Chicago area and joined the Chicago Board of Trade in 1966, remaining there until retirement in 1997.
From 1973, when he purchased a small farm, his “day job” required a 110-mile commuter train round trip each day between the farm where the Berry family lived and his work at the Board of Trade. “But, I was very happy with that arrangement,” he said. Deeply involved in agricultural organizations, he served two terms on the Board of the Illinois Beef Association; has been active in several levels of the Farm Bureau; was a member of the Chicago Farmers Club; and was named Breeder-of-the-Year by the Illinois Simmental Association in 2011. In 2013, out of respect for his good friend, Dr. Bob Walton, former CEO of American Breeders Service, (now simply “ABS”) he funded the Walton-Berry Graduate Student Support Grant, which pays tribute to Walton’s lifelong efforts in animal breeding and devotion to Simmental cattle. The Walton-Berry grant is earmarked in support of graduate education in research programs to improve applied livestock genetics. Berry and his wife, Ann, are the parents of three grown children: Robert, Christine and Elizabeth.
Dr. Calvin Drake Manhattan, Kansas
A profound belief in the science of cattle production has marked the long career of Calvin Drake, Ph.D. A native of Kansas, Drake was an early proponent of Simmental genetics, producing his first halfblood calves in the late 1960s. He promptly joined the fledgling American Simmental Association receiving membership 643, and has been an avid promoter and progressive breeder ever since. Drake’s education and broad-based career revolved around his relationship with Kansas State University (KSU). After earning his B.S. degree at KSU and serving a two-year hitch in the US Army, he then enrolled at the University of Arkansas, where he picked up his Master’s degree, followed by his Ph.D. from KSU. In 1963, he was hired at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech University) where he taught beef science and coached the livestock judging team. Four years later, Drake returned to KSU, where he also taught beef science, coached the judging team and added management of the beef cattle research unit to his job description. His 1967 judging team won the national championship. By 1971, he had departed from KSU to manage three commercial feedlots. After eight years, he returned to KSU as Executive Director of the Livestock and Meat Industry Council. He again coached the judging team, winning a second National Championship before retiring in 1999. In 2010, Drake was elected to the ASA Board of Trustees, serving two three-year terms. His tenure on the Board was highlighted by three years on the Executive Committee and four years as chairman of the Breed Improvement Committee. During that time, the committee was an essential factor in the formation of International Genetics Solutions (IGS) and its eventual status as the largest genetic evaluation system in the beef industry. His background as judging team coach, university teacher and researcher, and manager of commercial feedlots brought a unique and varied experience to the Board. As a Simmental breeder, he frequently consigned bulls to the Kansas Bull Test, and in 2003, was one of six breeders who joined forces to form the Gold Bullion Group, which holds an annual sale. Active in his community, he’s been involved in the Methodist Church and as an advisor to FarmHouse Fraternity at KSU which he joined as an undergraduate student. He is widely known and respected within the livestock industry in Kansas and much of the nation.
Bill and Jane Travis of Pine Ridge Ranch, Athens, Texas
After a number of years as commercial cattle breeders, Bill and Jane Travis of Pine Ridge Ranch (PRR) sat down one day and outlined a specification for producing the most heat-tolerant, efficient, high-quality carcass and tender beef. Their list contained 35 characteristics identified as “opportunity loss” such as horns. In 1981, frustrated by their inability to find any animals that met their rigid specifications, they determined to create their own specified cattle and settled on a pathway of crossbreeding registered Brahman and Simmental.
As a result, PRR, located at Athens, Texas, currently maintains a herd of 750 registered Simbrah cattle within its 1,000 acres. They were first exposed to Simmental genetics when two bulls were purchased from a Kansas breeder in 1977. In 1983 they joined the American Simmental Association and enthusiastically embraced a role as registered, seedstock producers. Since that time, they have stayed true to their original vision to develop a Simbrah herd for an exceptionally tender, healthy beef for the consumer. The PRR goal is to produce a 1,350-1,450 pound steer at 14-16 months without use of growth promotants. Because their cattle tend to marble later, they do not gain excess backfat. The PRR program has proudly, consistently produced tender carcasses grading at 85% Choice with no Yield Grade 4s or 5s. Strong support of ASA and the beef industry have been hallmarks of the Travis legacy. They have participated in numerous events and have thrown their support behind research and development along with youth programs. Bill has served as ASA’s representative to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and together, they have been intimately involved in the World Simmental-Fleckvieh Federation and numerous international events. Jane holds a BA degree from Southern Methodist University, while Bill obtained a B.S. degree in engineering from the University of Texas, and later an MBA from the Harvard Business School. Bill and Jane, whose primary residence is in Dallas, roughly 60 miles northwest of the ranch, have been married for 58 years and are the parents of four children: Toby Lynn Travis, Karen Zachary, Diane Jolley, and Bryan Travis.
The World Simmental-Fleckvieh Federation (WSFF) Golden Book Award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the development of the Simmental/Simbrah breeds.