Getting used to their new digs, Larry, Moe and Curly are getting a little TLC before going to work on December 1st. Three nice bulls from Mrnak Herefords West will add a little more heterosis to our predominantly Angus cowherd.
Fifty-five years ago, our cowherd was mostly Hereford when my Dad began breeding our first-calf heifers to Angus bulls because the Angus calves came smaller, and thus made calving easier on our heifers. But the resultant hybrid vigor, or heterosis, of the cross is what caught his eye. Bottomline: the black white-faced calves were heavier on sale day.
Much has happened since here on the ranch and in the cow-calf business in general. Today’s market prefers black-hided cattle that can bring as much as a $10/cwt premium in the sale ring, though that spread has decreased in recent years. With technology and DNA testing, bull selection for all breeds has become data driven, a scientific and complicated formula that purports to project the performance of progeny all the way to the consumer’s plate. It includes a bull’s birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, rib eye measurement and marbling among a dozen more factors to consider, right down to how much more money a bull’s calves will bring than the average for the breed.
I remember buying bulls for $400-500 each based on what I saw in a bull, his structure, movement and temperament, on my subjective eye. Starting price to today begins at ten times that to where a $7,500 bull is commonplace. In the end, I depend on my eye. But with intensive breeding and feeding for the numbers, to create attractive data, a bull’s ability to acclimate to a new environment, to work and hold up, is often lost along the way.
Our cattle harvest grass that they convert to protein that we sell as calves. Perhaps the most important factor of all is that we are raising cattle that can thrive on this uneven, and often unforgiving, ground. In that respect, each bull breeder has a reputation for performance and longevity. Mrnak Herefords West has been at the top of our list for over a dozen years.
Yes, ability to acclimate to a new environment is definitely important. Here is a little true story.
In 1958 my husband and I went to work on a “cattle ranch” in Wyoming. The owner, a business tycoon from Illinois, bought a $10,000 (lot of money in “58) Champion Hereford bull and turned him loose with his range cows. When we were posted to a part of the ranch along the river the cowboy who checked on the cows came by one day and asked had my husband seen the bull. He hadn’t, and wasn’t even told there was supposed to be a bull there. They went looking for him. Found him dead in the willows along the river where he had gotten stuck in the mud. No cows got bred and the boss lost his money. No insurance on livestock in those days. The cowboy’s comment was; “Well I guess he got a big tax write off out of that.”
They’re looking good, John. I’m anxious to see their off-spring!