Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's your Daddy?

I guess I will try and get something posted here tonight. This last week was busy but productive and although everything did not go as planned it was mostly fun. I really was hoping to get away for a bit of elk hunting last week but it just did not happen. My uncle had invited me and it was something he and Dad did together for years and I really wanted to make it. I will damn sure make it next year though and least for a day or two, life is too short. I did turn a year older since the last time I posted here and was able to have one night away in a hotel room with my bride. I would go into detail but she would probably be embarrassed that she caught herself such a great man.

I have gotten a few more cow calf pairs purchased lately. They seem like a decent value as compared to anything else. I do think I am going to part with my spring calves early though. The prices are just too good to hold the risk into 2011. I will still keep a few heifers and the lighter calves but when a weaned calf is worth over $700 it just is time to cash out in my perspective. My Dad and Grandfather always preached that “nobody ever went broke taking a profit”. In the cow calf business making a profit is rare enough, making a decent profit is all too rare. Buying more fall pairs keeps some money invested yet offers a fairly low risk liquid asset if need be and is how I am rolling these days.

Today I attended a bull sale and you could certainly see and feel the positive energy in the beef business. Last year at this same sale I purchased two bulls at an average cost of $2500 each. I purchased one bull of comparable genetics today and paid $3800. Paying the increased price is a catch 22. The cattle business has gotten better but now a few more people want to be a cowman which drives up the price. The positive side is I have placed my cow herd in a pretty decent position of youth to take advantage of the better prices as long as they hold on. I do not have many more cows than I had 2 years ago but what I do own is much younger and of higher quality. The cattle business just really needs this level to hold on a few years to help cure the industry from the purge of equity and players from late 2008 through middle 2009. I am just happy to still be in the game.

Bull sales are something I have always enjoyed. The breeding bull sale season is just starting and will run through early April in this part of the country. Registered purebred breeders of many different breeds will offer for sale their bulls they raised from the past year. Most of these bulls are coming yearlings but some producers wait until they are 2 years old. The unaware would be aghast at how much thought and research goes into the purchase of bulls each year even on a commercial cow ranch like ours. Remember that ever calf that is born next year and his performance, physical looks (phenotype) carcass potential etc will be 50% determined by whom his or her Daddy is. I had a great breeding season last year as far as bulls go but then had two bulls get injured and culled two more because of age and for genetic reasons.

A bull sale catalog is not only full of pictures, weights and other measurements it has so much information it can drive you almost nuts. If you are interested here is a link to the catalog in PDF from today’s auction.

I will explain some of the terms and what I look for in a bull over today and tomorrow. Cattle people who read this may be bored by this but maybe you will see something that is flawed in my thinking and make me aware of it next week at state convention. If you opened the link go to page 10 and then scroll down to lot 23. This is the bull I purchased today. He was my second choice but my first choice sold for $6000 and was out of my cattlemans fantasy world. At the top of the page is a picture of his Daddy (sire) and the family tree. The information under the lot 23 column is the family background of his mother (dam). I have mentioned before that if we put as much thought into human mating as we do bovine mating I am pretty sure the world would be a better place. As you look across you come to “performance epds” Expected Progeny Differences is what epd stands for. For example lot 23 has a “WW” epd of +54. This means that his offspring should have weaning weight (WW) that is 54 pounds above the breed average. This is determined by records of similar matings in the past of both the sire and the dam. These numbers change and achieve a higher degree of accuracy the more an individual is mated. His sire SAV Final Answer 0035 has been mated artificially to thousands of cows and is one of my personal favorite sires to buy sons of.

CED is “calving ease direct” which is based on the number of first calf heifers with unassisted births. Our ranch is very calving ease focused as labor resources are limited and live calves are worth quite a bit more than dead ones, +14 is very good and I will feel very confident using this bull on first calf heifers. BW is “birthweight” as compared to breed average expressed in pounds. Calves from this bull should sire calves 1.9 pounds less than breed average. YW is yearling weight is a sires ability to transmit pounds to his calves at yearling time. SC is “scrotal circumference” yes, how big will his testicles be which is an important factor in fertility. Ladies please do not try and get a reading on your husbands. Milk is just that, the amount of the sires ability to pass on milk production which affects weaning weight. Remember, calves are usually sold by the pound so you want the most pounds at the most efficient cost. $EN is related to the energy or feed needed to keep an animal in good condition.

If you are bored at this point I will save the rest for tomorrow. I will pass on a bit of amusement to end tonight’s post. I stopped at a farm and ranch store today to purchase a few new ear tags. As I was walking down the aisles I saw a pretty woman with a tight shirt with the word “Guess” printed across the chest. As I walked past her I said to myself, “hmmmmm, 38C and real?"

Today’s real environmentalist species found on the ranch is the Double breasted cormorant aka Phalacrocorax auritus.

Today’s picture is cow 207y with her calf 0207y born on Valentines Day February 14, 2010 and with her calf on Halloween October 31, 2010. This shows just how important genetics can be in growth and profitability.