By Miranda Reiman
Carcass quality matters, and it is generally second or third generation producers who have a well-tested recipe for success. These are the farmers and ranchers who often appear in my articles.
They are good examples other people can learn from – the innovators and leaders by example. Many of them saw the movement coming before it really took off and helped make it happen.
But, these early adopters aren’t the only people in the cattle business.
I’ve visited with cattlemen across the country at various points of their journey. In Iowa, I enjoyed a visit with the first farmer in his family to take as much interest in the cows as they had in their corn.
There was also the middle-aged South Dakota man who left a career in another state to start over as a rancher. A producer in Montana talked about getting to make the bull selection decisions, nearing 70-years-old, and just taking over this chore from his dad.
These are the people I had in mind as I lobbed out a new story idea. What about an informational piece for those who have decided they want to improve the carcass quality of their cattle, but find the idea somewhat daunting?
I brought the idea to my team, saying, “The working title could be something like, ‘How to get started in aiming for quality.’”
A teammate quickly responded, somewhat in jest but also with bedrock truth, saying, “That’d be pretty short – Buy better bulls.”
Of course, it’s broader and more nuanced than this, because genetic improvement has so many ways and means. And what about natural service or artificial insemination?
The latter might get producers there quicker, but it takes labor and facilities. Maybe it’s a combination of both, applied strategically to different groups of females. There are variables like how much better the sire needs to be, and for what traits.
This all depends on how much a producer knows about their herd now and any benchmarks they’ve already established. Land and feed resources, final marketing method and even the level of recordkeeping make a difference.
Management affects the final measure, too – everything from health and handling to nutrition. With no shortage of factors to scrutinize, pretty soon the simple article could become a book or a semester-long class.
But, at the core, it really comes back to the simple beginning. A cattleman can’t improve something if they don’t have a starting benchmark and then make use of better ingredients and ideas.
At the foundation of a herd is a decision cattlemen probably only make a couple of times a year. Make sure it’s always one moving toward a target.
If we want better cattle, we have to buy better bulls.
Next time in Black Ink, Miranda Reiman will cover reevaluation.