Thursday, September 16, 2010

My 1,017 pound babies

Have I mentioned I love cattle? I love looking at them, picking them apart visually, and breeding them to make them the best they can be. It's so exhilarating to take a bunch of cows and make them produce a superior product year and year. It's a fun challenge!

Every cow and bull has genetic triats, like people do. People pass traits such as eye color on to their children, and some traits are more heritable than others. Cattle are the same way, and through available information producers can select animals that have specific traits. That's what I do - select specific traits and make sure each bull we buy has the traits we like and doesn't have traits we don't like.

The result of all that time and energy are our cull heifers and steers we market each year, in addition to our replacement heifers we put back in the herd.

I believe you can have a herd that does it all and you can have high enough quality cattle to top any market you choose to sell them in. I think this is possible because there is so much information on the genetics traits cattle posses, and so many cattle to choose from.

My family has marketed our cattle in almost every way possible, with the exception of using the internet. We have sold weaned calves, backgrounded calves, grass fed yearlings, corn fed stockers and fat cattle. We've also sold cattle in the beef and on the grid. Let me know if you want to know more about these marketing options and I'll cover them more in depth or reference someone else who has.

We believe in being flexible, innovative and keeping up with trends, and it's starting to really work for us. Through selling our cattle in these different ways we have acquired a lot of data that tells buyers about the quality of our cattle before they even see them. We also keep a list of bulls we've used, which tells buyers about our cattle's pedigrees.

This year was the first time in about seven years we kept our steers home and put them on grass for the summer.

It worked well. The average weight of the bunch was 1,017 pounds each and they gained 2.64 pounds a day from May through September on just grass. The closest guess on weight was the buyer, who thought they would weigh 990 pounds each.

It's always nice when you're cattle perform better than even the buyer guessed!
The cattle buyer is a guy who has purchased our cattle several times over the last decade. He bought them sight-unseen. It's a wonderful thing when you can work with people you trust, and this was one of those situations.

Here we are loading the trucks. My mom took the first two pictures. Where I'm from is famous for it's gains on grass. Some places south of Lusk boast gains of over 3 pounds a day for yearlings on just grass. I'm ready to increase how much ours gain each day over the next couple years through genetic selection.

Some of the best cattle in the world are from my region of the USA. People work hard every day to produce a high quality, safe and wholesome product. My family is no different and these steers are the result of over a year's worth of work. We have nurtured and fed and doctored them since March of 2009, when they were born.

They will be fattened in a feedlot in central South Dakota and harvested in February of 2011 as black, implant free cattle. We are planning a trip out around Thanksgiving to go hunting and check on them.

Like I said, I love producing quality cattle, and these guys are result of my entire families work and dedication for the last year. Now it's time to move on to the next bunch, who are just about ready to be weaned from their mothers.

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