PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF FOR SANTA GERTRUDIS NUGEN PROJECT

by: Belinda Hood Ary

By perseverance the snail reached the ark. – Charles Spurgeon

Webster's definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

Dr. Burton McDaniel of MC Ranch in Ringgold, Ga. understands perseverance and can most definitely relate to Spurgeon's reference to the snail's determination to survive the flood. After 20 years of hard work, his vision to create a new gene pool for Santa Gertrudis cattle by breeding up from the original 3/8 Brahman X 5/8 Shorthorn, called the NuGen project, has become a reality. On April 18 the first Santa Gertrudis NuGen cattle will be sold at the NuGen Foundation Sale and Celebration at the farm in Ringgold, Ga.

The NuGen project was originally conceived and financed by McDaniel and Mrs. Ann Upchurch of Grey Rocks Ranch, Selma, Ala. In February 1995 the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International (SGBI) Board of Directors approved the project 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. The SGBI Board appointed a committee to oversee the project including Joe Jones of Briggs Ranches, Victoria, Texas; Wylie Taliaferro, Double TT Ranch, Rosser, Texas; Richard Hood, Double Circle Ranch, Franklin, Texas; and Executive Director Jim Reeves. Unfortunately, Mrs. Upchurch passed away in March 1996, just days after the first NuGen F1's were inspected at MC Ranch. Prior to her death, however, Mrs. Upchurch had given McDaniel the charge ‘to keep this project alive.”

McDaniel has done just that, providing the day-to-day management of this time consuming project. He also enlisted the help of two new partners, Wendt Ranch, Dan and Jane Wendt, Bay City, Texas and Goodin Farms, Terry and Jerry Goodin of Indiana.

“Our goal has always been to combine some of the best genetics of these breeds with performance traits and carcass traits on the Shorthorn side,” McDaniel explained. “We want to make them thicker and improve the underline….just basically improve on some of the misconceptions about the Santa Gertrudis breed.”

Some of the big questions that were answered by this project was whether a true 5/8 X 3/8 animal could be produced using present-day Shorthorn and Brahman genetics, would the color hold true and would it still possess the positive traits that are recognized as strong points for the Santa Gertrudis breed. According to McDaniel, the answer to all questions is a resounding “Yes.”

“It did take us about 20 years to get there and we never released anything along the way,” McDaniel said. “It has been a long process because there were so many variables, but through trial and error we finally established our foundation animals.”

Fortunately, through it all, McDaniel could see the progress and knew that they were headed in the right direction with the project.

“The ones we didn't like or just didn't work, we beefed them,” he explained. “But we also kept some ribeyes and cooked them and they were really good. We could see we were headed in the right direction.”

Once they got through Phase 3 and the foundation females were established, it was time to move to the final step, Phase 4 where the NuGen females were bred to a purebred Santa Gertrudis bull. Early on in the project it was determined that it was important to the committee to keep the genetic tracings back to the foundation herd sire of the Santa Gertrudis breed, Monkey, intact. MC 423 or “Earl” is the bull they chose to use to complete the project. Most of the females in the upcoming sale will trace back to the genetics of the NuGen foundation female “Miss Jane” and “Earl.”

According to McDaniel, this combination has produced exactly the animals he had envisioned, moderate, high-performing cattle that will work in any herd. The pick of the NuGen bulls from that mating is “Legend.” McDaniel and the other NuGen partners decided to breed him to several of their own Santa Gertrudis females to be certain that his offspring would pass the color test, and would exhibit the solid red color of Santa Gertrudis cattle. They were thrilled with the results, and the 40 plus heifers being sold in the sale are all half siblings and the result of those matings.

You could say “Legend's” place in this experiment was solidified for McDaniel because of his perseverance as well.

“We were in the path of the tornadoes that came through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia in April 2011,” he recalled. “Legend was in the trap beside our barn that was completely destroyed and he came out of that just fine. A few weeks later we had a terrible lightning storm and a tree was struck right next to where he was penned. Again, he was fine. After that, I knew he was the bull we were supposed to use.”

McDaniel readily admits that getting here has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster, but finally he can be excited about the upcoming opportunity to display and sale the NuGen cattle for the first time.

“There were times I was afraid we wouldn't make it,” he said. “I was nervous about the color issues, that we couldn't get the color to work. In every phase, all we had was a very expensive commercial animal that we were eating. But I can tell you, I love these cattle, I love the genetics we have created and it is exciting every day that we get a new calf.”

The NuGen Foundation Sale and Celebration events will begin Friday, April 17 with cattle viewing at 2 p.m. and a Southern Hospitality Dinner at 6 p.m. On Saturday, April 18, cattle will be available for viewing from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. The NuGen Foundation Celebration will be at 6:30 p.m. and the Sale will begin at 8 p.m. For more information visit their website at www.MCRanch.com.







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