“Just Good Cattle”

Wow. I was beginning to think I’d seen it all, when out of the blue comes a double-sided, full color ad flyer for a ranch “up north” publicizing their upcoming bull sale. No, it wasn’t an Angus ad, but I won’t name the breed represented, either. But it’s one you’d all know, don’t doubt me there. Pictures of the rancher and his family, pictures of the cattle under range conditions. Actually, it was a very nice ad, done very well. But you know how most ads tout EPD’s and performance information; perhaps carcass data, actual birth weights, and other pertinent information? Well, this one had NONE of those attributes. Instead, it had statements like these:

  • “Just good (insert breed name here) cattle.”
  • “No birth weights, no weaning weights, no records.”
  • “Stout, rugged, dependable cattle”

OK. The first and the third statements are what my old professor Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh at K-State would term “value judgments.” There’s nothing to back up the claim. Good cattle from whose perspective? Are we going backwards by selecting cattle solely on the basis of phenotype? I think I can assess whether or not they are stout and rugged by looking at their frame, muscle, depth of side, bone structure, and hoof size. But, does that tell me ONE THING about calving ease, or how fast his calves will grow, or whether or not his daughters will milk, or much less breed back? Does it tell you that his daughters will attempt murder on your person while calving or shortly after giving birth? Will their carcasses command premiums in the marketplace?

Can we tell by looking?

Can we tell by looking?

Folks, I don’t need to tell you, this is backwards thinking. God bless his customers, because they’ll need it. I thought we were past this as an industry. I know, probably an isolated incidence. But if you subscribe to that school of thought, you’d better attend another school.

Everybody likes good-looking critters; balance and eye appeal, muscle, correct feet and leg structure; soundness when they move out. But they’ve got to have performance and proof and numbers. I was incredulous when I read the ad. I wished that I had kept it. The cattle industry has been stuck in tradition for too long. We don’t want to give some things up.

And, that’s OK, as long as we don’t look past the traits of economic importance, but to expect people to buy your seedstock based on your value judgments is ludicrous, especially in today’s fast-paced, record-breaking market.


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Always passionate about beef quality and cattle, my position since 2004 as a Beef Cattle Specialist for CAB has been a great fit. I grew up on a farm in Kansas, learned about beef quality grades in high school, meats courses in college and as an Ag Education major, taught meats and coached a meats judging team. After earning an M.S. in ruminant nutrition at K-State, I held regional and state Extension posts in Iowa and Ohio before moving home to Kansas where I live my deep-rooted passion for the cattle business and farm lifestyle every single day.
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