As a seedstock producer, Kevin Schultz says he serves as the initial link, with a direct connection to every segment of the beef chain. He needs, he says, to keep his cow-calf customers happy. But he also notes that if consumers, retailers, packers, feeders or backgrounders are not satisfied with the result of the genetics he sells, their dissatisfaction will filter back through the chain and he will lose a customer.
With the full chain in mind, Schultz, along with his parents Ron and Arnita Schultz, strive to produce cattle that offer a full package of production traits for the cow-calf producer, performance at the feedyard, carcass value at the packer and high-quality beef for the consumer.
Schultz and his wife Vera manage the registered Hereford operation at Sandhill Farms, a fifth-generation cattle and crop farm near Haviland, Kan. The farm raises irrigated corn, soybeans and hay in addition to registered and commercial herds of Hereford cattle.
Schultz says his grandfather began raising Hereford cattle in the 1940s. Kevin got his start with registered Herefords as a 4-H student and has since built the purebred herd to over 300 cows. He collects embryos from about 90 cows for embryo transfer and has used artificial insemination, ultrasound and embryo transfer in the registered herd since 1994. The Schultzes have had most of their sires tested in the American Hereford Association’s National Reference Sire Program.
That program, he says, has helped him prove the performance of bulls at a younger age and use proven bulls in his own breeding schemes. Accurate EPDs help him predict the effects yearling bulls will have in his customers’ herds and also predict the traits of embryo transfers from specific matings.
Schultz says he selects for moderate size and thick bodies in Hereford bulls, with a balance of maternal and carcass EPDs. He believes most buyers still rely largely on appearance in their bull purchases. “EPDs bring buyers through the farm gate,” he says, but they buy bulls that look right to them.
The family sells about 60 Hereford bulls in their annual sale, with about 70 percent going into commercial herds. Most of his commercial customers, he says, use Hereford bulls in crossbreeding systems with Angus-based cow herds. Schultz is an advocate of crossbreeding and participated in a 2007 research project the American Hereford Association conducted with Circle A Ranch, Iberia, Mo., to measure the effects of using Hereford genetics on commercial Angus cows. Schultz supplied four of the 10 Hereford bulls in the trial. Throughout the project, researchers measured weaning weight and economically relevant traits such as feedlot gain, feed efficiency and fertility of the black baldy females compared to straight commercial Angus cattle.
Dan Moser, associate professor of genetics at Kansas State University, analyzed and interpreted the collected data. Results from the project indicate that heterosis in the crossbred females provided a 7 percent increase in conception rate, along with improved feed efficiency and average daily gain.
University of Missouri economist Vern Pierce evaluated the performance differences between the Hereford and Angus groups including birth, weaning, feedlot growth and carcass data on the steer calves, and pregnancy rates from the female progeny of the sire groups. He developed an economic model projecting the added value of Hereford heterosis over a 10-year period and found that using Hereford bulls on Angus-based females would add $514 net over the life of a cow or approximately $51 per cow per year to a rancher’s bottom line.
Schultz exhibits cattle at the National Western Stock Show in Denver and has had the champion or reserve pen the last four years. Exhibiting in Denver, he says, helps generate business with other seedstock producers who purchase registered cattle. At the family’s most recent sale, Schultz says, about 30 percent of buyers were seedstock producers purchasing bulls to use in registered herds.
DNA testing and marker-based selection, Schultz believes, will develop into a valuable tool as accuracy improves. He envisions using the tests to identify embryo donors early and flushing heifers rather than 2-year-old or older cows.
The Schultz family has fed pens of steers at Ford County Feed Yard in Kansas for years, collecting individual performance and carcass data to apply toward genetic selection. Last year’s steers were some of the most efficient pens in the feedyard. They gained an average of 3.93 pounds per day, converted feed at a 5.4-to-1 ratio and graded 60 percent Choice.
Schultz says he culls aggressively to maintain the genetic traits that work best for his customers. “Two things I enjoy most,” he says, “are selling bulls and culling cows.”