It may seem simple: you put a frisky female with a bull and let nature take its course.
Any seedstock cattle producer will tell you there’s more to the story.
Today we kick off our month-long “Beef’s a Trip” blog series right where the magic all starts. And I use the term magic loosely, in a nod to last night, because it’s more about planning and calculating than witchcraft or spells.
Anyone who enjoys a good steak should care about the seedstock Angus rancher. They are the genetic engineers that drive the direction of the beef business. Kind of a heavy responsibility to carry, isn’t it?
We pay attention to what they’re paying attention to, because if marbling isn’t high on that list, we’ve got a problem. (That is the No. 1 barrier for cattle that fail to meet our brand.) If cutability isn’t on that list, packers have a problem. If mothering ability isn’t on that list, ranchers have a problem. And on and on and on.
The American Angus Association tracks 20 different expected progeny differences (EPDs) and indexes, on everything from birth and yearling weight to heifer pregnancy and marbling. That weekly update encompasses more than 20 million performance measures and 17 million pedigrees.
Point #1: If you don’t like data, don’t get into the registered business.
Breeders study all those numbers because it keeps them from making a mistake that might take several generations to correct.
When one decision is made, it takes several more years to really know if it worked. (Think breeding, gestation, calving. If it’s a bull, then it must be grown and sold, usually to work in a commercial herd where its progeny will be grown and either used as replacements or fed and harvested.)
Think of all the decisions made in the meantime. Today, DNA can give additional guidance, but it also gives more numbers to analyze.
Point #2: Don’t get into the seedstock business unless you can stomach risk, but have the patience of a preschool teacher the day of the class Halloween party. (As the mom of a preschooler who celebrated yesterday, let me just assure you that takes a HEAPING dose.)
I think Ben Eggers, of Sydenstricker Genetics, summed up the role nicely last fall: “The seedstock producer is in the research and development part of the beef industry. I feel a strong need to bring in several divergent blood lines and take the risk—some of them work and some of them don’t—but we owe that to our commercial producers so that they have a variety of blood lines to choose from and they can continue their program in a coherent, cohesive path.”
The research and development team. Stewards of the breed. Beef designers. It doesn’t matter what you call them, the point is, it all starts here. Tomorrow, we’ll introduce you to a few other hardworking, witty folks who represent this whole segment.
Thanks for coming on this tasty trip with us!
May your bottom line be filled with black ink,
Beef’s a Trip Archives:
Day 1: Starting at day one
Day 2: Who are these people?
Day 3: Stockholders
Day 4: The cowherd’s purpose
Day 5: Deciding to care
Day 7: Stocking for quality
Day 8: SOLD!
Day 9: What have you done today?
Day 11: Keep on truckin’
Day 12: Packers want quality
Day 13: The target
Day 14: Packers up close & personal
Day 15: It’s not all about the beef
Day 16: Further processors
Day 18: He’s on your team
Day 20: Getting quality in the carts
PS–We’re not the only ones who will be writing our crazy fool heads off during the next 30-days. Check out some of these other bloggers joining in. Such a wide variety of topics. I love it!
Beyer Beware: 30 Days, 30 Things You Never Knew About Food
Confessions of a Farm Wife: Life on our Farm
Le Jardin da ma Vie: 30 Reasons Why I Love Being a Farmer’s Wife
Go Go Bookworm: 30 Days of Farm Kid Stories
Kelly McCormick Photography: 30 Days of Thankfulness
Go Beyond the Barn: 30 Days of Farm Life Blessings
Rural Route 2: 30 Days of the Not-So-Glamorous Life of This Farm Wife
and, of course, My Generation: 30 days on a Prairie Farm