Did your kids or grandkids open a present this last Christmas that they didn’t really want? Sure, they jumped to open the biggest present under the tree, or the one with the shiny wrapping paper. But once they opened it they were disappointed to find someone had given them something they didn’t even ask for.

Maybe you feel that way when you make genetic purchases, whether buying bulls or semen to breed to your cow herd. You think you bought a bull that would improve carcass traits, and when those calves reach yearling weights, you find out that they require too much supplemental feed to be raised efficiently in your environment.

If you’ve experienced that disappointment, just know that you can raise the types of animals you want. Many of the industry’s genetic providers have created breeding stock that will give you the best of both worlds, but they can’t provide you what you need unless you can tell them your goals.

Know what you want

Garth Gardiner, at Gardiner Angus Ranch, says that their philosophy is to produce an animal that meets the customers’ requirements. “We’re trying to produce the bulls that meet our customers’ needs in the right package.”

To get the right package, however, he says that they ask customers to define the goals, then they help find the bulls that will help meet those goals.

Kit Pharo, owner of Pharo Cattle Company, also wants to provide customers what they need. And his philosophy remains to optimize production, as well as produce cattle that fit the environment and deliver a desirable end point.

“We not only want a cow that fits her environment, we also expect her to produce a desirable and profitable end product. Her calves must be able to feed efficiently, as well as meet the requirements established by the current beef industry,” he says. “The industry wants a steer calf that can produce a 700- to 800-pound Choice carcass with a Yield Grade less than 3,” he says. In addition, he knows it is possible to produce ideal replacement heifers and terminal animals from the same sire.

Tools to get there

New EPDs provide ways to take advantage of additive genetic differences between animals, says Matthew Spangler, at the University of Tennessee. Within breeds, the EPD tools help make selections, but, he says, it is challenging for one breed to do it all efficiently. “One of the oldest and truest methods of finding that balance is through crossbreeding.”

That crossbreeding results in hybrid vigor, which boosts reproductive performance and growth in animals. Be careful, however, to choose a crossbreeding system that compliments the ranch’s forage resources. To learn more on crossbreeding programs, read his presentation from the 2007 Range Cow Beef Symposium at www.rangebeef cow.com; then click on “newsroom” and scroll down to see his crossbreeding presentation.

Also watch for genetic antagonisms and understand how making a change in one area might detrimentally impact another. If you’re unsure, work with your genetic provider. These guys live to analyze data and evaluate potentials. They can be a tremendous resource to help you find the genetics that will give you a herd that fits your resources and produces calves that fit the market.