Bull Buyer’s Bill of Rights

I. All data is accurately reported and is being used.

It is vital when you are buying bulls that you are able to accurately assess the genetic merit of the bulls being offered. Only if all data is reported will this occur. If only the best cattle are reported, then half of the best will ratio below 100, and will not reflect their true merit relative to the cow herd. Long term, it will affect the performance values of their dams and future calves. In addition, you should be able to expect that your supplier is using the data collected to make true genetic progress in their herd.

II. My bull supplier provides Expected Progeny Differences for comparative value.

Not only is it important for you to be able to compare the relative merit between bulls in an offering, through weights and ratios, it is important to be able to evaluate the merit of the bulls being offered compared to all bulls available. The only tool available to compare bulls from different programs and in various locations and environments, are EPDs. Data turned in by your bull supplier and others, is compared in their breed’s National Cattle Evaluation and EPDs are reported.

III.  My bull supplier is able to explain the meaning of the various EPD values and offers council in their use.

There are many EPD values being reported by many different breed associations. Your bull supplier should be able to explain the various EPDs, their meaning in your program and their merits. In many instances bigger is not always better. Many traits are antagonistic and you should be aware of the consequences. For example, Yearling Weight EPD and mature cow size are highly correlated, how big is too big in your program? Milking ability, especially if carried to the extreme, or if nutrition becomes a limiting factor, is highly antagonistic to reproductive performance.

IV. My bull supplier is aware of my program and goals and is willing to assist in selection of bulls that fit my goals.

Part of the bond and trust between buyer and seller is the sharing of goals and information that becomes a two way street. Your producer should be attuned to your needs and assist you in selecting bulls to meet those goals. They raised the bulls you are buying, and in many cases, their dams and grand dams. They can identify the bulls with the complementary traits you seek, and keep you from getting into wrecks when working with multiple antagonistic traits, better than anyone else.

V. My bull supplier is using all applicable technology to help accomplish my goals.

There are many tools available today to assist you in accomplishing your goals. Ultrasound technology is useful in evaluating carcass traits, diagnosing pregnancy status and sexing pregnancies. Feed efficiency is being measured and tested, if you are using this in your operations. DNA technology is becoming more and more useful as additional markers are identified.

VI. My bull supplier is industry current.

Your bull supplier should be aware of the industry, trends in supply and demand, and market forces at work shaping long term trends. They should be aware of the technology available and adapt the useful tools when the cost and return justify the investment. In other words, when the amount of meaningful information and data produced by the technology and its value equals the cost, they should invest in the technology.

VII. My bull supplier develops his bulls with their longevity in mind.

Your bull supplier should provide an environment and plane of nutrition that allows the bulls to express their genetic differences for growth, while providing them with adequate exercise. The bulls should be well developed while maintaining their athleticism and cleanliness of joints.

VIII. My Bull Supplier has a comprehensive heard health program.

The health of your bull begins with the health of the cowherd. From a regular de-worming program to a preventative vaccination program, your bull provider should maintain good herd health. You should be assured that your bull purchase will not introduce disease into your program.

IX. My bull supplier stands behind his bull in case of product failure.

No bull supplier ever plans to have a bull he sells go bad. But as sure as death and taxes, some bulls will fail. Your supplier should recognize this fact and assist you in rectifying the problem.

X. My bull supplier is breeding cattle that fit my long term goals.

You should examine your long term goals. You should examine the long term goals of your supplier and be comfortable that you can build a long term bond and trust with that supplier as you continue to develop your program.

Value of Eared Feeder Cattle

Joe C. Paschal

When The Ear was first printed I was asked to write an article on how Eared cattle performed in the feedyard (ADG, health, and most importantly PROFIT). I used mostly the Texas A&M Ranch to Rail – South data that we conducted from 1992 until 2004 and fed several thousand head of Bos indicus influenced or Eared steers. Feeders in the South (and in the North I expect) know the value of these types of feeders especially if they are looking for cattle to come into the yards to gain rapidly and efficiently and remain healthy. In the recent past these cattle have in general been undervalued (in price) and it has made them attractive to feed in live animal based marketing systems that are looking for cattle to produce mostly US Select Yield Grade 3 or better carcasses and make money doing it.

Dr. Tom Troxel and Dr. Shane Gadberry, Extension Animal Scientists at the University of Arkansas, have been following and reporting on the value of feeder cattle in Arkansas (a snapshot of the of the type of Southeastern cattle in demand by northern stockers and feeders). Begun in 2000 and repeated every 5 years they looked at the prices paid in weekly livestock auctions in 12 locations in the state and the various phenotypic and genetic factors that affect them. Their phenotypic factors included gender (sex), group size, body fill, body condition and health (based on hair quality, eyes, preconditioning). As genetic factors, they included breed or breedtype (as best as could be determined), color, USDA feeder cattle muscle score and frame size, horn/polledness and weight. Price was converted to a standardized value and represented single lots only. The differences in value reported were those above or below the average for that year.

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and put sold in a premium program

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and sold in a premium program.

These results were reported at this year’s American Society of Animal Science Southern Section meeting in Orlando this past February. They found that as the number of lots with more than one head increased, the value of uniform multiple head lots, especially if more than 6 head, were worth $4.39 more per hundredweight in 2005 and $4.94 per hundredweight in 2010. About the same percentage of heifers were sold in each of the three years sampled (45-47%).  Fewer bulls were castrated in 2010 even though steers brought premiums of $5.18 (per hundredweight) in 2000, $6.00 in 2005, and $8.21 in 2010!Cattle that were gaunt or shrunk  were considerably more valuable than feeders that were full or tanked when sold. However feeder buyers preferred cattle that were in thin to average condition with significant discounts for cattle that were very thin or especially very fat. Very few cattle were considered unhealthy with 96-98% of the feeders being considered healthy each year. Documented preconditioning accounted for about 4% of the feeders sold. Healthy cattle were sold with at a premium but feeders considered unhealthy (dead hair, stale looking, sick, bad eyes, lame, etc) had discounts ranging from $8.95 (for sick) to $32.61 (for stale looking). Preconditioned cattle brought premiums of $4.68 in 2005 and $6.84 in 2010.

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

In their second report on the effects of genetically influenced phenotype on price, they reported that although the percent of Angus or mostly Angus-sired feeder calves have increased from 7.0% in 2000 to 18.2% in 2010, the average price premium declined 43%! Angus x Hereford feeders, which represented 5.1 to 8.1% of the cattle offered also saw a decline in premium the past 5 years of 36%. Angus x Brahman feeders, representing 9.7% of the feeders offered in 2010 increased in value with a slight premium in 2000 of $0.55 to $1.47 in 2005 to $3.03 in 2010, a 106% increase (and the highest premium increase for any breed or type)! The discounts for ¼ blood Brahman, representing 5-7% of the feeders sold had reduced discounts from 2000 to 2010 (-$3.64 in 2000 to -$2.05, a 43% reduction). Hide color was still important but less so. With 26.6% of the feeders black hided in 2000 and 45% black hided in 2010, premiums for black hides were only $1.86 in 2005 and decreased to $1.70 in 2010. Black hided cattle with a white face (9.8%, 11.1% and 11.9% in 2000, 2005, and 2010) had increased premiums from $0.68 to $2.62 to $3.01 during those years.

Other genetically influenced factors that they reported on included muscling, frame score and horn status. Percentages of cattle increased in the higher muscling categories, larger frame sizes and polledness (either genetically or dehorned). More value was attached (greater premiums or at least no discounts) to cattle with more muscling, larger frame size, and polled or dehorned feeders. Although these premiums may not have been great, the discounts for undesired types (muscle score 3, small framed, and horned cattle) were severe at -$21.78 for muscle score 3, -$16.42 for small frame, and -$4.25 per hundredweight for horned cattle in 2010. Less than 1% of the cattle offered were muscle score 3 or small frame in any of the three years while horned cattle dropped from 25.1% in 2000 to 9.2% of the cattle offered in 2010.

It won’t be enough to just breed Eared cattle. They will sure enough have to be good ones and fit the demands of the market based primarily on muscling (where the greatest discounts can occur) but the market is definitely interested in Eared cattle and will pay more of a premium for them than they have in the past.

In visiting with Dr. Tom Troxel about their work (disclaimer: Tom was our Extension Beef Cattle Specialist in Uvalde for several years before he went to Arkansas 21 years ago to head up their Animal Science Extension group – he is a good scientist as well as a good extension specialist!), Tom said that buyers were looking for cattle to go back on grass as stockers and their interest was in putting more Brahman or Bos indicus into the cattle since they have a real problem with endophyte infested fescue. The Bos indicus genetics and to a lesser degree, through hybrid vigor or heterosis, allows these crosses to be less affected by the endophyte toxicity and they tend to graze and gain and not show the more serious side effects seen in non Bos indicus cattle. Regardless of the reason for the increase in popularity (and value) of the Brahman crosses, they are definitely bringing more! If you are interested in visiting with Tom you might give him a call or email him at (501-671-2188) or ttroxel@uaex.edu .

Dr. Paschal is a livestock specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is based in Corpus Christi, Texas. He can be reached at (361) 265-9203 or j-paschal@tamu.edu

Salacoa Valley Farms

by:  Belinda Hood Ary


Reprinted from Cattle Today, May 15, 2010, Volume 23,  Issue 17 Modified October 1, 2012


Few people in the purebred cattle business today can match the commitment and experience of David Vaughan, owner of Salacoa Valley Farms in Fairmount, Ga. He has weathered the highs and lows, from severe drought to extreme floods, from the times of record high cattle prices to the days of rock bottom lows.  All the while, Vaughan’s Brangus operation has thrived, keeping a single purpose in mind….to produce the top Brangus females in the country.

David Vaughan (Right) visiting with Doug Williams and Jim Latham

David Vaughan (Right) visiting with Doug Williams and Jim Latham

“We have concentrated on our females for over 25 years,” Vaughan explains. “We have focused on cows that are fertile, and will not only have a calf, but raise a high performing calf, as well. That commitment sets our herd apart from many herds ”

From the beginning, SalacoaValley has emphasized how important the influence of the female is to the herd. Many in the Brangus breed are familiar with SalacoaValley’s focus through the years on 12 cow families, known as the “Dynamic Dozen.”  One of the predominant families currently being used is the “23’ cow family that goes back to the 23U cow bred by Vineyard Cattle Company in Texas. It continues to be one of Vaughan’s primary goals to get more females from the “23” family into production in the SVF herd.

“By concentrating on just a few cow families, we are able to put emphasis on uniformity in our cow herd,” Vaughan continues. “Of course, the bull is half your herd, but if you don’t have a good set of females, it doesn’t matter what bull you use. You have to start with a good set of females.”

Overseeing the cowherd and day to day operations at Salacoa Valley is general manager Chris Heptinstall who has been in that position for almost three years. Heptistall is a graduate of Auburn University, and grew up in Alabama on his family’s commercial cow calf ranch. Chris spent time over the years working with Debter Hereford Farm and Camp Cooley Ranch before coming to Salacoa Valley.

Chris Heptinstall, General Manager of Salacoa Valley Farms

Chris Heptinstall, General Manager of Salacoa Valley Farms

Salacoa Valley Farms is located in the foothills of the PineLogMountains (the last major mountains in the Appalachian Chain) near Fairmount, Ga., and has been in the Vaughan family for over 80 years. Initially, the family operated a thriving mule business, but in the 1950’s they turned to row crops, cotton and cattle. Vaughan’s love for cattle started early.  As a teenager he judged cattle on the 4-H Livestock Judging team and showed Angus steers at the Georgia State Fair where he took home the Grand Champion Steer trophy a record three times, a Georgia state record that still stands today.

Vaughan received his degree in Animal Husbandry from the University of Georgia and was a member of their judging team.  He also received his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1959 and started his practice in Cartersville, Ga.  He served as Assistant Solicitor General Cherokee Circuit for a year.  Then he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly and represented the 14th District for two terms. He served as the District Attorney for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit for two terms and has been in private practice since leaving public service.

In 1960 Vaughan took over the operation of the farm from his father, and continued to breed Angus and commercial cattle.  Through the late ‘60’s, ‘70’s and early ‘80’s Vaughan began using “exotics” and put together a purebred herd that he terms “too big to feed and breed.”

It was during that time that Willow Springs Ranch in Texas was looking for pasture to graze cattle on due to the drought, and they asked if Vaughan would be willing to bring some of their cattle over to Georgia.  “Those cattle were thin, had been fed very little hay, were eating milo stubble and they still cycled!,” he remembers. “We were wearing the wheels off the feed wagon trying to keep our cattle fed.  It was then and there that I decided that was where I needed to be with my herd.”

In 1985, he made the decision to disperse his purebred herd, and entered into a joint venture with Willow Springs Ranch, the “herd that wrote the book” in the Brangus breed. Just one year later, in 1986, Willow Springs dispersed their entire operation, and Vaughan saw this as an opportunity to start his own Brangus herd, using Willow Springs cattle and genetics as the foundation.

“Once we started dealing with the Brangus cows, we really fell in love with them,” he remembers.  “We wanted our own Brangus herd….they work really well for our area.” Building on that base, SalacoaValley’s influence and respect has grown as they have increased both numbers and quality. Recognized by the International Brangus Breeders Association as the Breeder of the Year in 2006, Vaughan has served two terms on the IBBA Board of Directors and in 2008 completed a term as President of the association. He is also a member and past president of the Southeastern Brangus Breeders Association and a member and past secretary/treasurer of the Georgia Brangus Assoc.  Vaughan’s wife, Susan, has also been an active supporter of the breed, and is a past president of the International Brangus Auxilary.

Almost 25 years after starting the building process, the SalacoaValley herd is one of the largest and most respected purebred Brangus programs in the country.  Before the major drought in Georgia a few years ago, the SVF herd numbered over 800 head.  Today, they are calving around 500 head of momma cows all under the age of 7 years of age. Vaughan says his goal for the future is to build the herd back up to their pre-drought numbers while keeping it young.

Over the years, additions to the herd have been made through outside purchases and growth from within.  In the early years, major influences came for the addition of WSR Firecracker, GLC Mainline, Special Addition of Brinks, and SVF Pine Log.

Today, Salacoa Valley is injecting new genetics to the herd by having an extensive AI and embryo transfer program.  This year’s offering at the October 26, 2012 sale, will include the first offspring of a joint venture embryo program with Three Trees Ranch.

Salacoa Valley Farm and  Three Trees Ranch partnered on flushing and collecting a battery of 20 of the most superior genetically identified donors in the Brangus breed.  Three Trees purchase of these ELITE cows in the 2008 Camp Cooley Ranch dispersal, cornered the market on the top 10% of carcass x growth cows in the Brangus breed.  “We were very fortunate to have a chance to collect these breed changing cows like Ms. Brinks Brightside 209L11.  We feel this will continue in securing Salacoa Valley’s genetic commitment to the pasture and the plate,” Heptinstall  commented.

“We have an extensive artificial insemination program here at Salacoa Valley.  All 500 cows and 200 heifers receive a straw of semen.  Over 80% of our calves will be either AI sired or ET,” explained Heptinstall.

Bull buyers will have the opportunity to see the reward of this intensive breeding program in the Salacoa Valley Fall Bull Sale, which will be held October 26th at the farm.

Salacoa Valley will also host a tremendous female sale October 25, 2012 the evening before this year’s bull sale.  This year’s female offering will include everything from top proven donors, to cutting edge genetic open heifers. Also, they are excited on offering  full possession and ½ interest in their senior herd sire DDD-UC Gentelman 804S21.  Gentleman as they call him is the #2 trait leader in the entire Brangus breed  for REA, #11 for SC and #23 for IMF!   He is the most powerful son of  Uppercut of Brinks 14J8 and out of the high marketing value, SG Fancy 804H33 cow.

The breeding program is centered around one goal – to construct a cow herd capable of producing predictable, high quality range bulls in volume and superior genetics for the Brangus breed.

Their bulls are also conditioned to work from an early age. “Our development of these bulls is to not singly geared to establish performance measurements. We believe our ultimmate success is in how these bulls hold up and perform when turned out on cows.” Heptinstall explained.

All bulls produced on the farm start a 140 day growth test the day. Bulls are kept on green grass continuously and rotated traps, where the terrain is steep and rugged. “Feet and leg problems are weeded out early around here,” Heptinstall explains, while looking down into a 300 foot deep rock filled canyon the bulls travel up and down daily.

“We condition our bulls to go to work,” Vaughan adds. “They are raised on grass and required to walk and climb to feed and water while on test.”

That conditioning for the extreme climate changes is what makes the SVF bulls so popular with buyers and why Vaughan chose to raise Brangus cattle almost 25 years ago.  The success he has seen with the Brangus breed has made Vaughan quick to recommend Brangus bulls to potential commercial bull customers.

“First of all, producers looking to buy bulls should purchase a Brangus bull,” he says. “Our bulls are conditioned for this area.  You put them out and they go right to work. They have no problem adjusting to the extremes of this climate.  Brangus can handle the heat as well as the cold.”

This commitment to producing top notch bulls for the commercial market has kept SVF bull buyers coming back on a regular basis to make their bull purchases.  Through the years, buyers from all across the Southeast, especially Alabama, Georgia and Florida, have added the SVF genetics to their herds, and continue to come back to make their bull purchases.  Salacoa Valley has also tapped into the growing international market, making a big splash with their highly sought after genetics on the world stage.

Without question, the focus on excellence and customer satisfaction has made Salacoa Valley’s annual Bull and Female Production sale a huge success. Brangus producers and commercial producers across the country have been able to add some of the elite Salacoa Valley genetics to their herds in the past, and this year will be no different.  Salacoa Valley’s “BUY THE NUMBERS” Sale will be held October 25th and 26th at the farm in Fairmount.

Obviously, David Vaughan has made a lifetime commitment to the cattle business, and more recently to producing some of the best Brangus genetics money can buy. By setting definite goals and a purpose for his breeding and management decisions, Vaughan has positioned Salacoa Valley Farms as one of the elite programs in the country.

SVF Brand

SVF Brand

For more information on Salacoa Valley Farms or their upcoming “BUY THE NUMBERS” Bull and Female Sale, visit their website at www.salacoavalleybrangus.com

The National Beef Quality Audit: What it means for Eared cattle

Over the past 6 months or so the results of the most recent National Beef Quality Audit (funded by your Beef Check Off dollars and conducted by several land grant agricultural universities) were presented and explained (first at the NCBA meeting and later in the press). The audit was conducted last year and I would encourage you to go to the website http://bqa.org/audit.aspx and read all the results, many of which are positive but some less so. The concept of auditing the beef product of the cattle industry is not new, the idea originated in the early 1990s, and the audit has provided data that have allowed the industry to make significant positive changes in the way we produce, handle and market our product for today’s consumer.

Nolan Ryan Carcasses

Nolan Ryan Carcasses

This past Audit included face to face interviews with government or allied industry (agribusiness), retailers, food service, packers and feeders. All were asked how they defined “quality” based on their rating of seven specific quality attributes. These attributes were 1) How and Where the Cattle were Raised; 2) Lean, Fat and Bone; 3) Weight and Size; 4) Cattle Genetics; 5) Visual Characteristics; 6) Food Safety; and 7) Eating Satisfaction. They were also asked to provide quality related details and practices that are important to them. Finally they were asked a “willingness to pay” and a “best-worst” ranking for the industry for these seven quality attributes.  The table below indicates the ranking of these attributes for each group.

Ranking of Attributes by Interview Group for Quality Attributes (High to Low)
Allied/Govt Retailers Food service Packers Feeders
Food safety Food safety Food safety Food safety How and where raised
Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Weight and size
Cattle genetics How and where raised Lean, fat and bone Lean, fat and bone Cattle genetics
Weight and size Visual characteristics How and where raised How and where raised Lean, fat and bone
How and where raised Weight and size Visual characteristics Cattle genetics Food safety
Visual characteristics Lean, fat and bone Weight and size Weight and size Eating satisfaction
Lean, fat, and bone Cattle genetics Cattle genetics Visual  characteristics Visual characteristics


The closer you get to the end product the higher food safety and eating satisfaction are in the list of quality attributes (as they should be) and cattle genetics is in the top three only twice for the Government/Allied Industry types and the Feeder classification. In an overall weighted ranking, genetics is fifth, behind Visual Characteristics and tied with Weight and Size. Food Safety is three times as important and Eating Satisfaction is twice as important as Cattle Genetics as an overall quality attribute.

When asked to define Eating Satisfaction, the top two most frequent descriptions by the Allied Industry/Government and Retailers were tenderness and flavor. Retailers indicated that the amount of marbling desired to mean “USDA Select or higher” and about half used “predominately black hide” to describe the desired visual characteristic quality attribute. Of particular interest was that 13% of retailers interviewed (no mention of which ones or how many pounds of beef were sold) reported “not Bos indicus”. Whether or not that means no Bos indicus or not 100% wasn’t asked but should have been. The primary reason for this response when asked was “toughness associated with Bos indicus beef” which is why some purchase product from the Midwest and not Texas. Even though this was at the bottom of their list of rankings, it seems that some work needs to be done here to show these folks how much the Brahman and Bos indicus influenced breeds have improved tenderness in their product.  Brahman was one of the second breeds in the US to have a Tenderness EPD and my own research over the past 20 years with many of the Bos indicus influenced breeds and crosses has shown average shear force to be very acceptable.

When Packers were asked about Cattle Genetics, about half defined this quality attribute as “having a black hide” and about one in four as having the “genetic potential for marbling” or “quality grade”. I disagree with the findings of the Audit though when they say that “Based on these frequently mentioned attributes by packers, it could be concluded that packers prefer black-hided cattle that grade USDA Choice or better”.  Of the Packers interviewed, 88% participated in branded beef programs and half or more of those interviewed indicated that requirements should include marbling, hide color, hump height and yield grade. It is interesting that hump height should be included since work done by Dr. Don Franke at LSU a few years back concluded that there was no genetic correlation between hump height and tenderness in Brahman cattle but maybe the word hasn’t gotten to the Packers yet. In their definition of Visual Characteristics and at the bottom of their list of concerns, 29% of Feeders indicated “predominately black hide” and 12% indicated “no eared cattle”. This discrimination against Brahman or Bos indicus cattle may have been well deserved at one time but not now.

The refrain of preferring predominately black hided cattle echoes throughout this audit as if the color of the hide truly represented anything about the eating experience of the meat it covers. How many breeds of cattle are black hided now? It is easier to count those that are not: Charolais, Hereford, Red Angus (the only beef breed that matches marbling in Angus but is discriminated against in CAB), Brahman, Braford, and Santa Gertrudis. In one of the presentations a slide indicates that for Cattle Genetics one of the top three answers (across market sectors) was “primarily British”. I never saw that response from any sector in the Audit report. It may have been assumed by the authors that most black hided cattle were primarily British but it sort of leaves out a lot of non British breeds that ought to have been included that will grade Choice.

There are other parts of this Audit, including the Carcass Quality Survey and Instrument Grading Assessment (new to this Audit) and the Quality Enhancement of the Seedstock, Cow/Calf and Stocker Sectors. The increase in percent Prime and Choice over previous Audits is noted as is the similarity between instrument grading and human grading. Beef Quality Assurance practices and principles are being followed and more folks are interacting with their veterinarians in a timely manner. This is good for all in our industry.

The good news is that much of the audit shows all segments prefer the type of cattle being raised by Eared breeders and commercial Eared cattlemen. All want a good eating experience, adapted cattle raised in a healthy environment, cattle that have been treated humanely and beef that is safe to eat. And if we look at the other details expressed about cattle genetics; lean fat and bone; and visual characteristics, Eared cattle fit. They will grow fast and efficiently in the feedyard, will be healthy and profitably, will provide a product that is acceptable in carcass weight, ribeye area and fat thickness, will quality and yield grade (Select or better, 3 or better), be tender, safe and provide an excellent eating experience. Don’t let anyone tell you different!

Why Artificial Insemination?……………. Why Not?

Artificial Insemination (A.I.) is a technique that has been around for many years.  Livestock systems around the world have recognized the economic advantages of utilizing A.I. as well as many other technologies to enhance productivity.  However, the United States’ beef industry has been hesitant to broadly adopt this technology which has the potential to produce higher rates of return on investment than creep feeding, growth promoting implants, ultrasound, embryo transfer, etc.  What is the reason for the slow adaptation of this technology?  Concerns over cost, labor, results and the application of A.I. to smaller herds appear to be the most common reasons for the hesitancy.

The most commonly mentioned factor that affects the willingness for one to utilize A.I. is the perceived expense.  The cost per A.I. pregnancy can approach and sometimes be reduced below that of natural service (Johnson, 2003).  In herds where more than one bull is required to service the herd, the advantage associated with reducing the number of bulls required is itself an improvement in efficiency.  In order to compare the cost of A.I. to the cost of natural service, we must first know the cost of natural service.  When all factors are considered, the cost of producing a natural service pregnancy/calf can be surprising.  Costs for producing a pregnancy via natural service range from $16.00 ($1500  bulls are exposed to 50 cows per sire) to $90 ($3000 bulls exposed to 15 cows per sire) (Johnson, 2003).  Compare that to the cost of producing a pregnancy using A.I.: $40.00 -$55.00 in herds of 100 -300 cows with a 50 – 60% pregnancy rate.  This figure includes the cost of the cleanup sires.

Research is currently being conducted to address the issues regarding the potential of increased efficiency/profitability of A.I. sired females used as replacements compared to that of replacements sired by natural service.  It appears that the potential for increasing return on investment utilizing A.I. has the potential to go beyond simply measuring the phenotype of the resulting progeny.

Second, addressing the issues that additional labor/inputs involves, begs the question concerning the expected increase in returns.  An A.I. program requires additional labor in the form of synchronization, estrus detection, and insemination.  The following table summarizes the results/returns that could be expected as a result of the use of an A.I. program including increased reproductive efficiency of the herd, earlier weaning age and increased weaning weights.  Combined, these factors account for a very significant increase in pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed.

Results of short-term estrus synchronization Artificial Insemination Trial



Natural Service






Calving Rate




% Calving 1st 30 days




% calf crop weaned




Weaning Age



10 days

Weaning Weight



72.6 lbs

Lbs. calf weaned/cow exposed



109.5 lbs


Source: Anderson and Deaton, University of Kentucky


Poor results are often cited as a reason for not pursuing an A.I. program.  Poor results can often be attributed to manageable factors such as post-partum nutrition, proper vaccination and disease control and good A.I. program management.  Thoughtful preparation and planning, in conjunction with reasonable expectations, will often lead to very good results, even for someone incorporating the technology into their herd for the first time.

Lastly, one of the characteristics unique to the A.I. industry is the amazing flexibility in the methods of application.  In other words, an A.I. program can be designed for almost any situation.  There is no “restriction” when it comes to herd size for A.I.  For example, one might consider for a small herd (25-50 head), a one-time timed insemination program scheduled to occur on the first day of their breeding season.  A reasonable expectation would be ~50% conception rate to the A.I., and the herd would have 4 subsequent opportunities to become pregnant to the clean-up sire in a typical 84 day breeding season.  One-half of the herd could calve in the first 20-30 days of the calving season with no reduction in reproductive efficiency for the herd.  In fact, most data indicates that reproductive efficiency improves under Estrus Synchronization/A.I. programs.  For herds of fewer than 25 head, there are options for using A.I.  A conventional program such as the normal synchronization, breeding and use of a cleanup sire works very well.  In some situations, “A.I. only” programs are very successful.  With this option the need for a cleanup sire is eliminated altogether.  Regardless of herd size, reproductive efficiency continues to be the single most important measure of profitability, so no A.I. program should be designed that would result in fewer pregnant cows at the conclusion of the breeding season than what might be achieved under normal breeding conditions.

There is no more applicable, user friendly technology for achieving increased reproductive efficiency and genetic improvement than Artificial Insemination.  I would conclude with the thought that one should identify “genetic” goals, identify animals with the genetics that move the program in the correct direction and incorporate these genetics using A.I.

TALL Program

by Kelley Sullivan

Here is your question of the day:  How can you put farmers, ranchers, horticulturists, regulatory agencies, scientists, bankers and attorneys in one room and expect peace and harmony?  This may seem impossible but Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service offers such a forum in TALL – Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership – and I am a proud member of the 13th class being held over the next two years.

TALL XIII Class Photo

TALL XIII Class Photo

My name is Kelley Sullivan and my family has been in beef cattle production for over 100 years, primarily along the Coastal Bend of Texas.  I am a sixth-generation Galvestonian and grew up “down the island”, where cattle grazed in the salt grass during the winter months.  My PawPaw, John R.A. Sullivan, ran the backgrounding yards for Lykes Bros., the Hutchings and other wealthy families on the island.  He would drive the cattle along the beachfront into town and turn them north through the heavy residential areas of the city.  They eventually arrived at the Galveston Wharves and loaded onto cattle boats, bound for Haiti and Cuba.  My father, Gerald Sullivan and Uncle John still tell stories about their father but, as the oldest grandchild, I was lucky enough to spend my earliest years with PawPaw and Nana and develop my love for the cattle business.  Like most little girls, I also love horses and still find my greatest peace in the saddle.

Our family now owns Santa Rosa Ranch, a seedstock and cow/calf producer of Brangus, Angus and Ultrablack Cattle.  We are based in Navasota and Crockett, Texas and, under the expert oversight of General Manager Kent Smith, have developed a breeding program where we feel we are “Making the Best Breed Better”!  Considering that I spent my youth with PawPaw before he passed away, I am honored to continue the proud legacy that our family has developed over so many years.

I was introduced to TALL several years ago through Dr. Charles Looney, a graduate of TALL X and came to admire the initiatives of the program.  During the early 1980′s, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service had pondered the need for a new kind of adult leadership program, similar to those underway in a number of states. Through years of development and garnering support from industry leaders, TALL welcomed the first class in 1987.  The TALL Mission Statement reads “TALL will create a cadre of Texas leaders to help ensure effective understanding and encourage positive action on key issues, theories, policy and economics that will advance the agriculture industry.”  For Agriculture to remain dynamic, well informed leaders must emerge. The Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership (TALL) program prepares men and women, dedicated to agriculture, for the leadership challenges ahead.

Following my graduation from Texas A&M University, I enjoyed a career in marketing and real estate development in the Houston/Galveston area but I was drawn to my agricultural roots.  I decided to become a student once again and entered the TCU Ranch Management Program in Fall 2011 because I wanted to dedicate myself to an industry that had given my family such great opportunities.  This intensive nine-month program at TCU teaches our future producers how to assign a dollar figure to every production decision that is made – I compare it to an MBA in Resource Management and Production.  Through the program, I developed some wonderful friendships and was honored and humbled to be nominated to TALL by Amanda Dyer (Texas A&M Class of ’03, TCU Ranch Management Class of ’09 and TALL XII graduate).  Additionally, I received letters of support from the Director of the TCU Ranch Management Program, Kerry Cornelius (TALL VIII) and Missy Bonds (TCU Ranch Management Class of ’03 and TALL XI graduate). TALL gives producers the opportunity to understand all segments of this industry and the impact that the global climate has on our ability to feed the world.  Through my experiences thus far, I can say that the future for Agriculture is very bright – I have met some wonderful young producers and their dedication and commitment to this industry will ensure great success in the future.


TALL – at a glance


Following an application and interview process, TALL features 25-30 men and women who make a two-year commitment to participate in the program.  Participants come from all segments of the industry and include farmers, ranchers, bankers, regulatory agents, attorneys, horticulturists and association executives.  The “curriculum” is designed with the intent to make each participant have a greater awareness of the complex economic, political and social systems that affect Agriculture and develop an appreciation for how Agriculture must interact with society as a whole.


Eight seminars are held during the two year program which enhances the participants’ knowledge and understanding of key subjects that affect our current agricultural leaders.  These seminars are held in different areas around Texas as well as destinations in California, Washington DC and New York.  However, the goal of the program is to emphasize the impact that Agriculture has on the global economy; therefore, the second year of the program focuses upon a certain foreign country or region and the opportunities that exist for producers.  Our class is excited to have Brazil as our international focus, particularly during a time when this country will have a significant impact on domestic production.


TALL – Session 1


Our introductory seminar was held in College Station and, as an Aggie, it is always good to return to the Motherland!  I am excited about our group because everyone offers a different perspective –we even have a vegetarian!  However, when you consider production agriculture as a whole, we must consider the cultures and habits of all global populations so I am excited to learn more from this gentleman…except I already explained that a vegetarian diet is not in my future!


During each seminar, we enjoy on-site tours and studies of agriculturally-related businesses and industries while discovering the procedures and problems in production, marketing and financing.  Session 1 featured visits to places such as the Texas Forest Service, Blue Bell Creameries, Brazos Valley Recycling, ABC Equipment Company, Wiggins Watermelons, Ellison’s Greenhouse and the George Bush Library.  We also had speakers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Agriculture Division, Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Medical Laboratory and two retired military officers who spoke of the global challenges we all face as the world population increases to 9 Billion by 2050.  Each presentation was fascinating and showed the global reach and effect that Agriculture has on the world.


The most interesting experience was a mock press conference that we did with the Agricultural Communications Program at Texas A&M.  We were divided into groups and given a topic with 2 minutes to prepare an opening statement and talking points to use with these members of the “press” (actually, they were Ag Communication students who should get an acting award for their performances!).  These topics covered current issues in Agriculture and some participants were not familiar with some of the issues because they were “outside of their industry segment”.  But, what it exemplified was that, as agriculturalists, we are obligated to stay aware of what is happening in our industry, regardless of whether or not it affects our area of interest.  We are all in this together and we need to be Advocates for Agriculture!  So, it brought home the point that we need to stay constantly aware of everything that can potentially affect our ability to feed our neighbors.

What’s next for Session 2?

The Ear has asked for me to chronicle my TALL experience over the next two years so stay tuned for more experiences!  Our next stop will be the Texas Panhandle in October.  We will be starting in Lubbock and end up in Amarillo as we visit various farming and feedlot operations.

To learn more about TALL, log on to http://tall.tamu.edu/ or contact the program at (979)845-1554.  If you would like to ask questions about my participation in TALL or as a student at TCU Ranch Management, please feel free to contact me at Kelley@srrtexas.com.

New Cattle Traceability Rule Question & Answer: What you need to know

A requirement for adult cattle in Texas to have an approved form of permanent identification in place at change of ownership will go into effect January 1, 2013 according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Commission amended its rules in June of this year to enhance the effective traceability of beef cattle movements in Texas, which is the cornerstone of disease control activities. Implementation of the changes was delayed by the Commission to ensure cattle producers understand the requirements and can prepare for the changes.

The amended rule permanently cancels the brucellosis test requirement for adult cattle at change of ownership, which was unofficially suspended in the summer of 2011. Although testing of adult cattle is no longer required with the rule change, all sexually intact cattle, parturient or post parturient, or 18 months of age and older changing ownership must still be officially identified with Commission approved permanent identification. This change primarily affects beef cattle, as dairy cattle in Texas have had an even more stringent identification requirement in place since 2008.

Before August of 2011, official identification devices such as eartags were applied automatically at the time a brucellosis test was performed. The inadvertent loss of the identification devices applied to cattle when brucellosis testing stopped has threatened TAHC’s ability to effectively trace cattle as part of any ongoing disease investigation.

The TAHC routinely performs cattle health investigations where the identification and location of exposed/infected animals is critical to success. For example, 30 Brucellosis reactors, over 300 Bovine Trichomoniasis affected bulls and 22 bovine tuberculosis cases have been investigated by the TAHC to date in 2012. The new traceability rule will help preserve the TAHC’s ability to identify and trace animal movements quickly and effectively, no matter which disease is involved.

A complete list of acceptable identification devices/methods may be found at www.tahc.state.tx.us, but the most commonly used devices include USDA metal tags, brucellosis calfhood vaccination tags, US origin 840 series Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), and breed registration tattoos or firebrands. Producers are encouraged to contact their veterinarian or TAHC to determine which method of tagging will be best for their operation.

Free USDA metal tags, and a limited number of free applicator pliers (dependent on available funding) will be provided by the TAHC to producers wishing to use them. The tags and/or pliers may be obtained by contacting local TAHC field staff and USDA APHIS Veterinary Services representatives. The TAHC is developing tag distribution partnerships with interested veterinary practitioners and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices. Partner contact information will be published as it becomes available. Producers may locate the closest tag distributor online at www.tahc.state.tx.us.

Q: What age/class of cattle must have acceptable permanent identification?

A: Sexually intact adult beef cattle 18 months and older and Mexican origin event cattle of any age. Nursing calves, steers, spayed heifers, bulls and heifers under 18 months are exempt (unless heifer has calved). Dairy cattle have been under more stringent identification requirements since 2008.


Q: Do I need to tag all of my cattle?

A: No. Only the classes of cattle mentioned above changing ownership will need to be tagged.


Q: Where can I find the complete listing of all Commission approved permanent identification devices?

A: Producers may access the complete list at www.tahc.state.tx.us or by contacting any TAHC office or personnel.


Q: Do I have to use the free eartags offered, or can I use other acceptable methods of identification?

A: No. The free metal tags are not required to be used, but they are one low cost option.


Q: Will ear tag pliers be provided at no cost or will I have to purchase them?

A: A limited supply of eartag pliers is available at no cost. Because of the limited supply, producers are also encouraged to consider purchasing tagging pliers from any Ag supply outlets. Many participating Tag Distributors have metal ear tag pliers available on a check-out basis.


Q: What happens after January 1, 2013 if a sexually intact adult beef cow and/or bull arrives at the sale barn without one form of the acceptable official ID?

A: Identification is required at change of ownership, regardless of where the change happens. The TAHC recommends that owners contact their local sale barn before hauling their cattle to determine available options for handling cattle not already tagged at that facility. Some markets are conducting voluntarily brucellosis testing of cattle as well, and a tag would be applied when the blood sample is taken. Some markets may provide a tagging service, and some may require the animals to have official ID upon arrival. The TAHC may restrict the movement of animals not in compliance with identification requirements. For private treaty sales, producers can contact their private veterinarian for assistance or ensure the animals are properly identified themselves.


Q: If an animal already has a silver test tag, orange vaccination tag, or other official ID device, will it need to have a new tag applied if sold?

A: No. Animals presented for sale with an approved official ID will not have to be retagged.


Q: What do I need to do if one of my cows has lost her orange brucellosis calfhood vaccination tag, but still has the ear tattoo?

A: The calfhood vaccination tag is an acceptable ID but the tattoo alone is not. Owners can have their veterinarian retag an animal with another orange vaccination tag if the animal has a legible tattoo, or the animal can be retagged with any other acceptable ID device by the owner, vet, or at most markets if it is being sold at one. A calfhood vaccination tattoo alone is not traceable, and is not an acceptable form of identification.


Q: Is my ranch brand that is registered with the county an acceptable form of official ID?

A: No, although registered ranch brands are considered official ID for ownership purposes, they are not considered official ID by the TAHC rule for traceability purposes. Ranch brands are not traceable, because identical brands can be registered in multiple counties in Texas and ranch brands usually do not individually identify each animal.


Q: If selling cattle with a breed association registration tattoo, registration firebrand or registration freeze brand, what information do we need to present to prove they are registered?

A: It is recommended when selling registered cattle to present the animal’s registration certificate and/or have their registration number listed on a certificate of veterinary inspection. It is also recommended that owners discuss this issue with the local TAHC inspectors and market management in advance if the cattle are to be sold at a market with this ID type.


Q: Are buffalo (bison) subject to this rule?

A: Yes, bison must meet the same ID requirements as cattle.


Q: On which ear should the tag be placed?

A: Although the rule does not specify, care should be taken to ensure that any calfhood vaccination tattoos in female cattle are not covered up when applying a button type RFID tag. Vaccination tattoos are found in the middle section of the right ear.


Q: Are custom tags acceptable?

A: Yes, if they meet certain criteria. Acceptable custom tags are those commercially produced with the ranch name and an individual animal number printed or embossed on them at the factory. It is recommended that owners discuss this issue with the local TAHC inspectors and market management in advance if the cattle are to be sold at a market with this ID type.


Q: What about official ID for other species? I no longer have sheep, but still have scrapie tags and applicator. Can I use my Scrapie tags on my cattle?

A: No. Scrapie tags are designed for the smaller, thinner ears of sheep and goats, and should only be used in those species.


Q: What if an owner that has been assigned tags moves? Do they need to report it and if so, to whom?

A: Metal tags are assigned to an individual and not necessarily linked to a location. Owners may call the TAHC to update their contact information, but this is not a requirement. Texas tags should not be applied to cattle located in other states.


Q: If more than one person has cattle on one farm, does each individual need their own tags or just tags for the farm location?

A: Traceability is more reliable if each owner uses their own assigned tags. It is recommended that owner specific records be kept if animals are identified with shared tags.


Q: When does change of ownership “legally” occur? 

A: Change of ownership at a market occurs when the auctioneer indicates a buyer. For private treaty sales it occurs when the animal changes hands.


Q: If a producer from another state sells their cattle in Texas, should tag distributors issue tags to them?
A: Texas tags should not be issued to a producer in another state. Sexually intact beef cattle 18 months and older must have official identification to enter Texas, as do Mexico origin event cattle and dairy cattle of any age.


Q: Why are sexually intact adult animals the only ones that need to be tagged?

A: Some other classes of cattle must be officially identified, as described in the previous question. However, identification requirements are focused on breeding animals because they have a longer production life and tend to move between operations more than feeder animals.


Q: Is this rule a federal rule?

A: No, this is a Texas rule, but it will put the beef industry in compliance with the anticipated USDA Animal Disease Traceability rule for interstate movement when released.


Q: When does this Texas rule go into effect?

A: The rule goes into effect January 1, 2013. The TAHC has been working since the rule was passed in the summer of 2012 to ensure that the cattle industry understands and is prepared for the change.


Q: Do I need to keep records of individual identification when I sell my animal(s)?

A: While keeping records is not required when animals are sold as part of a livestock breeding or production operation, producers are strongly encouraged to do so. Dealers are required to keep records, including individual animal identification, as part of a separate rule.


Q: Who is responsible for maintaining the information related to eartag distribution?

A: All metal tag numbers assigned will be maintained in a TAHC-managed database. The TAHC does not track individual change of ownership transactions.


Q: What is the legal obligation of the livestock market in the mandatory ID program?

A: A change of ownership is a transaction between a seller and a buyer, and the seller is responsible for assuring his animals have official identification. The market however can be considered as an agent representing the seller. Animals that do not meet the identification requirement can be restricted from being moved and therefore held at the market.


Q: If a trace back occurs, can the TAHC require a market to release its sales records? What if there are no records of individual identification?
A: TAHC rules require markets to keep certain records for a minimum of five years, and to make the records available for inspection by TAHC representatives. One of the requirements is to keep records of individual animal identification numbers of animals sold. The TAHC anticipates market operators will voluntarily keep records correlating eartags and backtags on their own accord, to provide the best service to their customers.


Q: Can I move my cattle directly to slaughter from my farm or ranch without an ID?

A: Yes, ranchers can move an animal from their premise directly to slaughter without an ID because these animals can be traced through plant records. Breeding cattle otherwise changing ownership by private treaty sales, through a market or video auction must have acceptable permanent identification.


Q: What happens if my cattle are too weak to be safely tagged at market?

A: The Commission proposed an amendment at the September 2012 meeting that would allow some flexibility in application of the rule. If the amendment passes as proposed, a TAHC inspector in consultation with market ownership or management may exempt beef cattle at a market if the animal’s physical condition makes the handling required to apply permanent identification unsafe or injurious in nature. Exempt cattle must be sold and consigned to an approved slaughter facility, and movement may be permitted by the TAHC.


Q: Who has violated the rule if a non-slaughter buyer takes possession of an exempt (untagged) animal?   

A: The seller is technically in violation of the rule, but if a buyer or the livestock market is knowingly violating the requirement then the TAHC can take compliance action on them if necessary.


Q: Can the auctioneer refuse to accept a higher bid on an exempted animal if he doesn’t know whether the bidder is buying for slaughter?
A: This process is similar to the sale of bulls not tested for Trichomoniasis. Accepting the bid is the personal choice/discretion of the auctioneer. TAHC inspectors will help enforce the identification rule at the time of sale when possible.


Q:  If an exempted animal is sold to a non-slaughter buyer, who is responsible for stopping them from paying for and taking the animal?    

A: The seller is responsible for assuring his animals are properly identified. However, if a buyer or a livestock market knowingly takes action that facilitates violation of the requirement, the TAHC can take compliance action on all appropriate parties.


For additional ear tag information, including the nearest distributor of free  

USDA tags, contact the TAHC Traceability Team at 1-800-550-8242 ext. 733,  

visit www.tahc.state.tx.us  or contact your local region office.

Some Reflections on Fall Meetings and Crossbreeding

Joe C. Paschal

I missed the opportunity to include my thoughts last month in The Ear and I regret it. September through November are busy months for me as there are many Extension educational programs in the 37 counties in South Texas I am responsible for plus several others. Some of these educational programs have a long history going back to the early 70’s and even in the 60’s. In addition I had the opportunity to speak at three “eared” breed associations educational programs at their national meetings (this in addition to my regular duties and of course the ranch where we began calving in mid-October). This month I’ll cover some of the things I picked up at these meetings and then wrap up with some comments on a white paper currently making the rounds about crossbreeding.

In many of these meetings the most often discussed topic was about the ongoing drought and whether or not some rebuilding of the cowherd should occur if rain had fallen and pastures were returning to normal. I was “googling” some drought information and came across numerous NBC affiliate stations up in the Illinois area with a video clip about a farmer named Ken Wiseman in Golconda, Illinois who had been raising Angus until a few years ago when he decided that he would switch to Brangus and breed his Angus Cows to Brahman bulls. In his own words: “The Brangus cows that we have, they will stay out on top of the hill in the hot sun and keep eating. The others go to the shade or to the pond,” Wiseman said. “The breed,” he said, “developed a natural tolerance to heat and drought. If they’re out eating, they’re putting on weight and that’s money in the farmer’s pocket.” Wiseman said the hardier animals “are engineered to survive – and even thrive – in this weather.” You can’t pay for an ad like that even if it is in Illinois! I emailed it to Dr. Joe Massey, Executive Vice President at International Brangus Breeders Association, tweeted it on my Twitter account (#Joe_Paschal) and was immediately picked up by Certified Angus Beef. I guess they wanted to know what I was up to!

Mr. John Ford, the Executive Vice President of Santa Gertrudis Breeders International held a Mexican Cattlemen’s Field Day in Kingsville, Texas to present new data to potential buyers of Santa Gertrudis cattle on the maternal ability of the Santa Gertrudis cow and the potential of Santa Gertrudis and Santa Gertrudis cross feeder calves. John had really done his work; he had current data from various sources that indicated the current level of performance and particularly the performance of Santa Gertrudis crosses, both maternally, in the feedyard and as carcasses. I reviewed the Texas A&M Ranch to Rail Program that we conducted from 1991 until 2005 and presented feedyard, carcass and financial performance of percentage Bos indicus crosses and specifically Santa Gertrudis steers, including some tenderness data. John had a large international as well as a domestic group of breeders and the meeting was very successful.

In mid October I was asked by Dr. Tommy Perkins, Executive Vice President of Beefmaster Breeders United, to speak and judge at their National Beefmaster Convention in Branson, Missouri. Tommy had a terrific crowd at his “Meet in the Middle” meeting and in addition to working I got a chance to ride (and drive) one of the DUKWs that we toured on one afternoon. During World War II these were used to ferry troops from the ships in the invasion forces to the beachhead and then onto land. The top speed in the water was about 5 mph and the bottom and sides were made of pretty thin metal that might stop a BB pellet. My hat is off to anyone who rode them in under fire but that day it was strictly for fun! But I digress. Tommy had set up an excellent educational program to discuss ways to prevent cattle theft (seems to be a big problem in every state!) and I gave a talk on animal ID methods and we demonstrated freeze branding to a large crowd of folks! One thing that impressed me was that the quality of the cattle and the locations of the cattle in the Open and Junior Beefmaster Shows. There was a significant contingent of good cattle from Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and more northern climates as well as Texas and other warmer states.

Crowd at Anderson Beefmaster Ranch Field day in October listening to brush control demonstration and helicopter spraying.

Crowd at Anderson Beefmaster Ranch Field day in October listening to brush control demonstration and helicopter spraying.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Membership Convention in Galveston, Texas. Mr. Chris Shivers, the Executive Director of ABBA had asked me to talk on “Understanding the End Product” and with a little help from my colleague Dr. Dan Hale (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Meats Specialist in College Station, Texas) I put together a credible presentation using Brahman cross steers and showing how the value of a carcass is determined and what detracts from its value. Since I also assist with the ABBA’s Carcass Project where straightbred Brahman steers consigned to the program are fed at Grahman Feedyard in Gonzales, Texas and processed at Sam Kane Beef Processor in Corpus Christi, Texas I pointed out how straightbred Brahman steers fit. It might surprise you but most of these straightbred Brahman steers will fit mainstream fed beef supplies very well, mostly very high yielding (YG 2) USDA Select carcasses. Chris did discuss the ABBA F1 Certification Program. The program, begun in 1979 by then Executive Director Wendell Schronk, promoted the use of an already widely recognized and highly regarded F1 female and has seen resurgence in interest and applications for both the Certified and Golden Certified F1 Female Programs.

Crowd at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Educational Convention watching a chute side demonstration.

Crowd at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Educational Convention watching a chute side demonstration.

The idea of marketing the crossbred females of the Eared breeds may have begun with the ABBA F1 Female Program but it is certainly not new and it has been adopted by several breeds and not all of them would classify as “eared breeds”. The International Brangus Breeders Association has their “Brangus Gold” Program, BBU has their “E6” Program (which can include up to full blood Beefmaster females) and SGBI has their “Star 5” Program (which can include progeny from registered and nonregistered parents).  There is even a program begun by a NON-EARED breed to emphasize the importance of crossing it with Eared breeds to ensure a high level of productivity in more tropical climates, the Southern Balancer Program promoted by the American Gelbvieh Association. The Southern Balancer must be at least 25% Gelbvieh and can be anywhere from 6.25 to 50% Bos indicus (depending on how much you need for your environment or how much hybrid vigor you want or need to make a profit!). I am sure that there are other programs in other breeds that highlight the F1 female, especially if produced by sires or out of dams of a particular breed since the greatest benefit of the F1 is that it exhibits 100% hybrid vigor or heterosis for EVERYTHING – from the cradle to the grave – which brings me to my last topic.

A few months ago a white paper written by Dr. Nevil C. Speer, an agricultural economist from Western Kentucky University, entitled “Crossbreeding: Considerations and Alternatives in an Evolving Market”. This paper, supported (paid for) by Certified Angus Beef, LLC, made the rounds of the popular press and was either praised or cussed. I have never met Dr. Speer but I have read a lot of his stuff in many different venues and he is a logical thinker even if this is a “bought and paid for article” (some might consider mine in the same vein).  You can access the full article here: http://www.cabpartners.com/news/research/CROSSBREEDING_WHITE_PAPER_2.pdf

I encourage you to read it and especially the last graphic (Figure 5: Crossbreeding Decision Maker) where he makes four important points in evaluating whether or not a crossbreeding system is useful or beneficial. First is has to be easily conducted. Second you must have readily available superior bulls for a terminal cross. Third it won’t cause you to lose money due to loss of herd size, type of cross or uniformity. And fourth, it will improve maternal performance (or not impact functional traits). If these four criteria are met then crossbreeding proves beneficial. I agree!


Dr. Paschal is a livestock specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is based in Corpus Christi, Texas. He can be reached at (361) 265-9203 or j-paschal@tamu.edu

Bee Synch can help boost beef quality and ranchers’ profits

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Gary Williams, 361-358-6390, glwilliams@tamu.edu

BEEVILLE – With national beef cattle inventory at lows not seen since the 1950s, the time could be right for producers of Brahman-influenced cattle to adopt a fixed-time artificial insemination method which could add thousands of dollars in net value to a calf crop, according to researchers.

Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said the shortage of cattle nationwide has resulted in an increased demand for feedlot calves and a shortage of high-quality beef. This has created the perfect opportunity for beef cattle producers to consider adopting technologies that may improve production efficiency and profits.

“Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent and makes the use of AI more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program,” Williams said.

Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent. Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said this makes the use of artificial insemination more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent. Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said this makes the use of artificial insemination more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

The research to develop the procedure was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Randy Stanko, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and Dr. Marcel Amstalden, Texas A&M University-College Station, and supported by Pfizer Animal Health and Select Sires.

“If you have the right genetic background in feedlot-destined calves, and retain ownership through the feedlot, the difference in price at slaughter between those and the average South Texas-sired calf can be as much as $350,” he said. “Multiply that out by hundreds and you are making some serious money. We are seeing some of the national steakhouse chains having problems getting high-quality certified beef. This synchronization method could be a lucrative option for some beef cattle producers to consider.”

The synchronization process is a modified five-day protocol developed previously at Ohio State University, Williams said. That procedure, known as “5-day Co-Synch + CIDR” has been shown to be “highly effective” for synchronization of ovulation in Bos taurus beef cows (English and Continental-derived breeds), yielding fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of 60 percent or greater.

However, this and similar procedures have not worked well in the Bos indicus-influenced composite breeds and crossbreeds used commonly across the southern U.S. The Bee Synch process that Williams developed calls for an additional injection of prostaglandin at the start of the five-day synchronization protocol, which reduces the lifespan of a hormone-producing structure on the ovary.

“This improves synchrony and boosts pregnancy rates,” Williams said. “Importantly, the modified procedure does not involve additional cattle handling and utilizes synchronization products already available from Pfizer Animal Health.”

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination.

“This is more attractive to ranchers wanting to use AI to improve herd genetics and marketability, but also wanting to limit the amount of cattle handling required to achieve it,” he said.

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Synchronization of ovulation and fixed-time artificial insemination is becoming an increasingly prominent choice for astute cattlemen, Williams said.

“Although it is unlikely in the near future for such technology to overtake traditional South Texas management that uses natural service, the expansion of the national and international market for quality beef, and the current shortage, is creating increased opportunities for producers,” Williams said.

Natural service sires representing Angus, Hereford and other similar breeds noted for meat quality are already being used extensively in southern beef herds. Using semen from superior artificial insemination sires from these breeds is the next logical step. Alternatively, Brahman-influenced composite breeds carrying genes for increased meat quality can also be used.

“If Brahman-influenced cows are handled in a minimal-stress environment, are in good body condition (a minimum body condition score of 5, on a 1 -9 scale), and are at least 45 days post-calving, you can routinely get 50-55 percent of these cows pregnant with a single insemination.”

Williams said cleanup bulls, turned in seven to 10 days later, can be used to service those not conceiving  beginning about three weeks after artificial insemination as they will still be synchronized. Alternatively, another round of artificial insemination can be used before bulls are turned in.

“Using Bee Synch, the ability to infuse highly-desirable genetic traits for meat quality into commercial beef cattle production in the southern U.S. should become an increasing reality,” he said.

Beef in Australia

by Brad Wright

Australia’s beef industry is thriving and looks to get better as the world population is increasing exponentially.  Australian beef producers are taking “feed the world” to a whole new level as 65% of all beef produced within the country is exported.  The major export markets for beef are Asia, primarily Japan and Korea, and to the U.S.  Australia has only 26 million beef cattle and calves compared to Brazil’s 185 million head, but Australia is a narrow 2nd in beef exports to Brazil, exporting almost 3 billion pounds per year.  Australia also exports a tremendous amount of live cattle, predominantly to Indonesia.  As the world population grows and Australian breeders become increasingly efficient, the export opportunities will continue to grow.

Domestically, recent advancements of the MSA (Meat Standards Australia) grading have put a new focus on quality beef.  The retail markets have responded favorably with many only selling MSA qualified beef.  This has improved profits for those breeders that are selecting and breeding for improved carcass quality, and with further improvement, could lead to more quality meat export markets for Australian beef producers.

Over 70% of the beef cows used to meet these demands are Bos indicus or Bos indicus influenced.  The most prominent cow, especially in herds located in Northern Australia, is the Brahman cow.  Bos indicus cattle are a necessity due to their adaptability to harsh environments.  These cattle have an innate ability to survive extremely hot summers while having an inherited resistance to ticks, flies, and other insects as well as the diseases they transmit.  Bos indicus animals also have the ability to travel the long distances for forage and water.  The other factor that cannot be discounted is the Bos indicus female’s ability to regulate birth weight.  This allows these cows to be managed in very extensive conditions left to survive on their own.  Herds in the Northern Territory of Australia can exceed 100,000 head with mustering, or gathering, only happening once or twice per year to sort off and sell the progeny.  Replacement heifers are retained in almost all herds so that there is an inherent selection for cattle suited and adapted to their environment.  In most of these herds, the conditions are so tough that a 50% calf crop is considered acceptable.  However, selection for fertility and efficiency are primary selection criteria to help improve on those numbers.  Dr. Peter Barnard, a leading economist for Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), stated that a 1% increase in percent calf crop weaned, across all breeders, could add more than one billion dollars to the Australian beef industry.   There is even ongoing research for improved fixed time AI protocols that can hopefully be used in these large herds to increase pregnancy rate and reduce the number of cows that bulls must cover, similar to large programs being run in Brazil and Argentina.

The size of these operations allow for a wide variety of marketing avenues.  Many breeders are not focused on one single marketing channel, but rather many channels that allow the producer to select which market will net the most dollars depending on environmental and market value conditions.  These large breeders can export cattle live, or harvest cattle for a wide range of markets.  In good years, with plenty of grass, these calves can be grass finished to meet Japanese markets or in tough years, the cattle can be sold immediately.  Small breeders can use the store sales, similar to our sale barns, to access stockers, feeders, and packers willing to take their cattle through the next phase of production.

The important thing about Australian beef producers is that most make their living off the land.  Managing these vast amounts of land and the large numbers of cattle is definitely a full time job.  These producers are sound businessmen and cattlemen that manage risk, manage loss, and work diligently to improve their efficiencies and hopefully their bottom lines.  As the cattle numbers continue to grow and research allows for greater efficiency, Australian beef producers will continue to lead the charge in feeding beef to the world.