Getting Back to the Simple Things/Genetic Trends

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Getting Back to the Simple Things/Genetic Trends

by Chip Kemp

Evaluating the basic principles of the beef business and profitability

Many have written endless articles on the varying pitfalls of our chosen profession. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m guilty of that exact thing. But, in truth, we can boil it down to controlling those things we can control to set ourselves up to better navigate the challenges of those things we cannot control. Complex? Yes. But, at the same time it can often be elegantly simple as well.

The reality is, if I’m addicted to shiny metal and wheels this business gets hard. If I’m trying to build a profitable beef business while paying suburban property prices this business gets hard. In a commodity-based business model long term profits force to zero. What are you doing to buck that trend?

On the other hand, there are some easy and evident truths:

1) The “short-term cow” is a long-term problem. Lack of female longevity will cripple an operation. She can’t make a fancy enough calf or a heavy enough calf to make that okay. Lack of cow “stayability” has become rampant, as many have forgotten the value of responsible crossbreeding as they chase terminal benefits without regard for a whole-enterprise profit picture. Maybe this isn’t true at your ranch. However, I’d wager that if most of us did a thorough business analysis, we would find that we have built an unsustainable business trajectory by not being honest with ourselves about the maternal merit of our cow herd.

2) Certain truths are nearly never spoken about in our business. They are taboo. We know them to be true, but we live in a world where blue ribbons abound, and as such, everybody bites their lip and side-steps the truth. One such truth: some breeds struggle to provide the feedlot performance, or carcass merit, or consumer measurables that are presently demanded to get top dollar for feeder calves. Another truth: NO ONE BREED corners the market on all those traits. Additionally, responsibly crossed cattle prove to be the most consistently profitable cattle. I could compile numerous academic articles, papers, and research summaries. But, maybe it is more meaningful when we realize where the industry puts its dollars. In 2020, calves from Continental sires (SimAngus and Charolais) topped the large Superior Livestock Auction summer sales. Or, when one dissects the Tri-County Carcass Futurity data from Iowa, those same sire groups (Simmentalinfluenced and Charolais-influenced) generated terminal calves that garnered larger checks from the packer than any other sire group. To be clear, these two things are linked. When feedlots make more on responsibly crossed cattle, they tend to pay to get more of those calves into their yard. Simple business sense.

3) Neither #1 nor #2 happened by accident. It takes serious commitment to data collection, and credible and humble scientists to analyze the data. You can benefit from those efforts by demanding multi-breed EPD that allow you to directly compare bulls of different breed types. Additionally, demand a credible whole-life-cycle index and a reliable terminal index so that you have the appropriate tools to fit your management approach. Use the wholelife-cycle index if you are retaining daughters. If you purchase your females, put the terminal index to work. Indexes make the complex straightforward.

4) Ask your seedstock provider how they can help you balance breed complementarity and heterosis to add female longevity in your environment and feeder calf value to your family’s business. If your seedstock provider ignores these facts or denies the benefits of crossbreeding to your commercial program, then ask them to defend their position. If they can’t suitably do that, then why are they your seedstock provider?

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