The American Hereford Association’s staff and board members conducted a tour in late April, providing agricultural writers and broadcasters with visits to outstanding cattle operations and updates on the
Ford County Feed Yard Inc.
Our first stop on the tour is Ford County Feed Yard, outside
Established in 1973,
Hermann says he likes the performance of
Citing the efficient performance and carcass value of Herefords in the feedyard, Hermann told the group that a set of steers CK Ranch placed at
Asked about premiums for age and source verification on feeder cattle, Hermann says verifications are built into the price, and do not necessarily bring premiums. He will, he says, “push harder to get” cattle with age and source verification, and pays premiums for calves from some sources based on reputation. Some sellers, he says, have offered calves as age and source verified, but later could not provide documentation. Producers with a history of providing documents to back up their claims, and cattle that perform and stay healthy in the feedyard, he says, receive top bids.
Most of the cattle in the
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Kevin Schultz represents the fifth generation of his family on the farm, which raises irrigated corn, soybeans and hay in addition to registered and commercial herds of
Schultz says his grandfather began raising
The family sells about 60
Schultz says he selects for moderate size and thick bodies in
Schultz exhibits cattle at the National Western Stock Show in
the champion or reserve pen the last four years. Exhibiting in
Schultz believes DNA testing and marker-based selection will develop into a valuable tool as accuracy improves. He envisions using the tests to identify embryo donors early, and flushing heifers rather than two-year or older cows.
The family feeds pens of steers at
For more information on Sandhill Farms and their cattle, visit its Web site .
To finish the day, the tour turned north into the Smoky Hills region of Saline and Ellsworth counties where we visited the CK Ranch, owned by Jack and Donna Vanier and their son, John. Ray and Mary Negus manage the ranch, and Ray showed our group around and described the operation.
Negus noted that the area is known as one of the best cow-calf grazing areas in the country. Located in a transition zone between tall-grass and short-grass prairies, most native pastures feature a mix of short and tall and warm- and cool-season grasses, making for excellent forage production.
The ranch includes approximately 15,000 acres of native pastures and 1,000 acres of tillable crop ground, which, Negus, a true cattleman at heart says, “is about 1,000 acres too many.”
The ranch maintains a commercial herd of between 400 and 600 Red Angus and
The primary purpose of the commercial cows is to serve as a testing herd to prove the operation’s registered genetics. The ranch actively participates in the AHA National Reference Sire Evaluation Program. Negus says they sell calves through the Hereford Verified Program, allowing them to collect carcass data to apply back to the breeding herd. Negus says he maintains the registered herd in real-world range conditions, and sells bulls primarily to commercial producers.
In the commercial herd, Negus uses artificial insemination on crossbred heifers, with a system designed to build heterosis. Heifers with half or more
Using a fairly simple synchronization program, the ranch achieves a 70 percent first-service conception rate with Herefords and slightly less for Red Angus.
Between tour stops, Jack Ward, AHA’s chief operating officer and director of breed improvement, outlined the association’s continuing efforts toward genetic improvement, and the value of using
Ward says the association’s Whole Herd Total Performance Records continues to strengthen the
Hereford Verified, AHA’s traceable program that provides bonuses and data on cattle that meet Certified Hereford Beef requirement, was initiated August 2005. During fiscal year 2008 a total of 12,260 head were harvested through the program with 15,056 enrolled during the fiscal year.
Next, Ward described a series of projects the AHA has conducted to evaluate crossbreeding programs using
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
Economic models also predicted that after 10 years, due to increased fertility and longevity Hereford-sired females would generate a 20 percent advantage in herd size versus the straight Angus commercial cows due to increased calving and replacement options
Results of the study with Circle A mirrored those of another study with Harris Ranch in
The objective is to compare
Phase I results showed a $78 advantage in profitability to the Hereford-sired steers over their Angus counterparts. The heifer mates to these steers calved in 2008 and showed a 7 percent advantage in conception rates over the straight Angus heifers.
After the second calf crop was harvested and evaluated, the Hereford-influenced steers boasted a $45 advantage compared to the Angus steers.
The third set of steers will be harvested soon with a final report expected to be released this fall.