7X Ranches focuses on ‘efficiency’

Written by Jennifer Womack
Lingle — When the opportunity arose to test bulls for efficiency — how well they convert feed to pounds — Larry Morrison of 7X Ranches near Lingle welcomed the news. “You’ve got to work at it,” he says of improving feed efficiency, “but it’s one that has an actual dollar value.”
    Testing bulls at the Midland Bull Test and with the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association (WBCIA) test since the late 1990s, Morrison was already watching the numbers as they related to his cattle. Larry doesn’t have cattle on test with WBCIA this year, but his long-time involvement with the program and his commitment to quality seedstock production have earned him recognition as the WBCIA’s seedstock producer of the year.
    Raising show cattle and working as an airline pilot from Washington State, Larry and his family have a long history in the cattle business. When Larry, a Wyoming native and a University of Wyoming alumnus, returned to the state in 1996 he purchased a farm and ranching operation near Lingle. He also began the change from show cattle to seedstock production.
    A few year’s back when Larry came down with West Nile Virus, he asked his son Wayne to return to the family operation. He and his wife Carol have two other children who live in Texas. Wayne says he was glad to return to the family ranch.
    Establishing a family trust, Larry says there are educational and other requirements members of the family must meet before returning to the ranch. “You should always have goals,” comments Larry not just talking about his cattle, but life in general. “Once you have a goal you can talk about what you need to do to get there.”
    “I researched what bloodlines would work on what we had,” says Larry. “I got started with a Traveler bull. It’s a bloodline that’s worked very well for us. Most everything we have has 6807 in it.”
    “We can walk up to almost any cow out there,” Larry says of the 7X Ranch’s focus on docility. “If I need to pick up a calf and take it someplace I don’t have to worry about the cow.”
    The ranch collects its own bulls and then artificially inseminates the heifers and the cows. “We were starting to get strung out on our calving season,” says Wayne. “When you’re the night calver, that’s not any fun.” Beyond a goal to shorten calving season Wayne explains, “The bull that cleans up is the same bull the semen came from.” For paperwork reasons he says it makes it easier to determine sires.
    Larry says they choose high-quality bulls to add to their program. “On these bulls we buy we’ve competed with some of the AI people who have bid on them as well,” he says. This past year he says they used Rito Prime 1I5 in exchange for sending on of their bulls to Texas for the breeding season. “Rito Prime has been in the AI catalogs,” says Larry. Happy with the calves, he says, “We’ll go ahead now and bring one of our own bulls back in. It’s nice to have an animal out there that’s a sire when someone comes to look at the calves.”
    The top end of 7X Ranch’s bull calves go to test at Midland. The remainder sell via private treaty at the ranch. Larry says they only sell their best bull calves.
    With one of the top performing bulls through the second weigh-in at Midland last year, Larry laughs, “He must not have drank water the day the last weights were taken.” Despite the fact he fell back in ranking, he was still among the top-selling bulls at the test. Larry says with their cattle numbers increasing that they plan to participate in additional tests in the coming years.
    Wayne sees the information they receive on efficiency, based on a GrowSafe system that measures individual feed intake, becoming broader and increasingly more important. “They’re finding out that the big, punchy, chunky one might not be the one eating the most feed,” he says.
    “Efficient animals will always be popular,” says Wayne of their commitment not to chase fads. “Nobody wants to feed any more than they have to. Going forward we’re going to maintain the line.”
    “If you chase a fad,” says Larry, “you’ve lost what you’ve accomplished.”
    “You’ll see the fads go up and down and hopefully we’ll be right in the middle,” says Wayne. “There’s a lot to be said for staying the course.”
    Cows returning to the herd are an equal, if not sometimes greater, part of the plan to reach the goals they’ve set for the 7X Ranch cattle. Larry and Wayne spend a lot of time studying bloodlines, performance records and any bits of information that might aid in their goal to produce increasingly better cattle.
    “When I look at the production of the dam I want to see the calving interval, what their ratio was with the rest of the herd and just how much performance they’ve brought on,” says Larry. “This is a maternal breed. I spend a lot more time on the dams than the bulls sometimes. You can go back into those pedigrees and see what all of them have done over time.”
    He says he’d like to see more sale catalogs with in-depth information. “When they don’t have a full pedigree, it’s awful hard to make a decision on that.”
    Larry says that Wayne is beginning to take over the operation. “This is always something I’ve enjoyed doing,” says Wayne. “When we were five years old we got our first cow. At five you do what you can, but pretty soon that developed into a show animal. I didn’t have a skateboard, but I really enjoyed this kind of lifestyle.”
    Larry says he’ll still be watching over Wayne’s shoulder. There’s little chance, however, he’ll need to stress his belief in testing. Wayne’s likely to continue. “It’s a snapshot of where you’re at,” says Wayne, “and provides you the information to go forward.”
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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