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NU-GEN PROJECT ENHANCES SANTA GERTRUDIS BREED

Ringgold, Ga.—Members of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Nu-Gen Standing Committee met at MC Ranch in Georgia on February 17-18, 2008 to discuss the Nu-Gen project and to inspect and approve two new animals resulting from the project. The animals are both 3/8 Brahman X 5/8 Shorthorn, and are representative of Phase 3 of the Nu-Gen Project.

All committee members were present as well as Dr. Burton McDaniel of MC Ranch, who has provided the financial support and on-the-ground management of the project; Joe Jones of Briggs Ranches in Victoria, Texas; Wylie Taliaferro of Double TT Ranch in Rosser, Texas; Bill Barrett of Five Oaks Ranch in Valley Mills, Texas; Richard Hood of Double Circle Ranch in Franklin, Texas; and SGBI Executive Director Ervin Kaatz. All committee members were appointed by the SGBI Board of Directors in 1995 as a standing committee which would remain in place until the completion of the Nu-Gen project. The committee was authorized at that time to approve the inclusion of offspring resulting from the mating of Nu-Gen animals to registered Santa Gertrudis into the SGBI herd books and registry records.

The committee was excited and enthusiastic to evaluate the latest Nu-Gen animals, especially because one of the calves was a much-anticipated bull! Committee members first gave their discerning “eye-appeal” test and then evaluated the structural correctness of both animals, resulting in unanimous approval to proceed with these animals within the project. The bull will soon be gain-tested at Briggs Ranch and that evaluation will then be followed by the ultimate test—his ability to produce quality offspring.

“This project has been in the works a long time,” Bill Barrett commented. “I think sometimes people have been impatient for results, but we went into this venture knowing it would take many years to come to fruition. I believe we are definitely on the right path.”

According to the Minutes of the SGBI Board of Directors meeting on February 25, 1995, the original proposal approved by the SGBI Board was to create a new Santa Gertrudis strain or gene pool by reconstructing the original 3/8 Brahman X 5/8 Shorthorn animal currently recognized as a pureblood Santa Gertrudis. Initial funding for the long-range project was provided by Mrs. Ann Upchurch of Grey Rocks Ranch in Selma, Alabama; and Dr. Burton McDaniel of MC Ranch. Unfortunately, Mrs. Upchurch passed away in March of 1996 just days after the first Nu-Gen F1's were inspected at MC Ranch. Prior to her death, however, Mrs. Upchurch had given her younger partner Dr. McDaniel the charge “to keep this project alive.” McDaniel has provided the day-to-day intense management of the project, supported completely by other members of the Nu-Gen committee. Dr. McDaniel has forged ahead, keeping the project free of impure shortcuts and moving forward under the guidelines of the SGBI Board mandate.

Founding fathers of the Santa Gertrudis breed and SGBI were visionary in their inclusion in the breed association constitution of the mandate that the herdbook forever remain open to the inclusion of new genetics, providing the basis for an ongoing grading-up program still being utilized today. Registration Number 1 in the Santa Gertrudis herdbook belongs to the King Ranch bull known as Monkey and he became the foundation herd sire for the breed, with every purebred Santa Gertrudis animal in the world tracing back to that one superior individual. The final step in the Nu-Gen project will be the mating of Nu-Gen cattle to registered, purebred Santa Gertrudis, keeping the genetic tracings back to Monkey intact. If the resulting calves meet the SGBI Standard of Excellence, they will be awarded purebred registration status and entered into the breed's herdbook.

One of the big questions being answered in this exciting Nu-Gen project is whether a true 5/8 X 3/8 animal could be produced using present-day Shorthorn and Brahman genetics. What would the animal look like? Would the color hold true? Would it contain the positive traits that are recognized as strong points for the Santa Gertrudis breed?

“The calves we inspected at MC Ranch in late February have the phenotype of regular purebred Santa Gertrudis,” said Nu-Gen committeeman Joe Jones of Briggs Ranches, “and we are excited at the prospect of eventually infusing these Nu-Gen genetics into the breed population. That's still a ways off, more evaluations need to be done, but we're getting there.”

The Santa Gertrudis breed, developed on the King Ranch, is and has been since 1940 a true “American Original,” having been the first breed of beef cattle developed in the United States and recognized as a distinct breed by the USDA. The Nu-Gen project was developed and is being maintained to produce a new “germ plasm” that will improve and enhance the breed with the infusion of outstanding new genetics.

The Nu-Gen Committee members are excited and eager to share the details of the project with other Santa Gertrudis breeders and beef cattle producers who may not be familiar with the scope and progress of the project. In an effort to spread the word, the Committee will host a round-table discussion of the project and its bright future at the SGBI Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April.

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