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Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:08 pm
by ncboy34
Any thoughts on best way to improve herd genetics using AI or natural service? I'm wanting to start improving genetics for the long term and have decided on doing this through a bull vs buying females. At the moment that works best for my finances. My dilemma is I think compared to buying a better herd bull, AI would be cheaper. I'm still going to have to lease a bull for cleanup. I have also thought about just leasing a neighbor's bull just to get by and saving up for hopefully next year buying a better quality herd sire for natural service. Im currently small scale but am looking to expand and get more into direct marketing. Has anyone found one system that works better or faster than the other as far as expanding while improving herd genetics?

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:20 pm
by jschoolcraft86
How many cows are you trying to settle? Are you trying to build numbers or just improve the quality? Are you a cow/calf producer?

My inclination would be to go AI for a year or two and just get what you can as a cleanup bull without putting much $$ into it. It seems to me like that would let you fine tune your females to be closer to your goal without having to rotate bulls here in a couple years.

I'm curious to hear other thoughts though, I may be doing something similar before too long myself.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:23 pm
by ncboy34
I am cow calf that is getting into more grass finishing. Most of my stuff is still being sold commercially. This year I'll be breeding only 10 but typically have bred anywhere from 15-20. That's about the max pairs that my land will support at the moment. As far as build numbers or improve quality I would say both. Probably cant accomplish both at the same time but ideally am trying to accomplish as much of both as possible.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:41 pm
by Ebenezer
You'll need great pastures and the right genetics to swing the grassfed deal. Are you able to plant annuals? You'll need them to make it really work.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:42 pm
by Aaron
ncboy34 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:23 pm
I am cow calf that is getting into more grass finishing. Most of my stuff is still being sold commercially. This year I'll be breeding only 10 but typically have bred anywhere from 15-20. That's about the max pairs that my land will support at the moment. As far as build numbers or improve quality I would say both. Probably cant accomplish both at the same time but ideally am trying to accomplish as much of both as possible.
Stick with AI. If your serious about buying the best and really advancing your herd in concrete ways, you will spend 1/4 of your calf check on a bull. $2000 does not buy you a game changer, it gets you a good steer with nuts.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:31 pm
by ClinchValley86
My mind has been in a similar place. Not the AI part, but on improving genetics for forage grown beef.

We are about to cull at least the bottom 25 percent of our cows. Just bought a handful of nice cows from a friend retiring. Much nicer cows than most we have now.

We are overdue a new bull. Used a commercial Angus the last 2 years. I think with our goals in mind, which are very similar to yours, we are looking for a Murray gray bull that is a reasonable driving distance.

Trying to grow animals on forage and finish on grain is the plan right now. Going to try a grass finished for ourselves soon, but have never tasted it before.

Do you see a premium for grass finished beef?

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:23 pm
by Katpau
There is a lot of poor quality grass finished beef out there. I think too many people fail to realize just how difficult it is to have the kind of forage that will give you a quality product. Those calves need to be gaining better than two pounds a day and there are studies that show a few bad days can really throw the quality off. It is much more difficult to get a product that compares favorably to grain finished, but it can be done.

I know a couple that does a great job at it. They have been at this for over 20 years and do both beef and lamb. They and their cooperators sell to markets in Portland and Seattle. They rotate those calves through lush irrigated pastures anywhere from every few days to just hours. Forages are carefully chosen for each season and are based on years of experience. She gets gains of +3 pounds per day, but it is a lot of work preparing, planting, irrigating, moving cattle and so on. You can't just throw them in a pasture and forget them. It costs more to do it right than traditionally finished cattle, but there is a premium if you establish the reputation for quality.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:29 am
by ncboy34
ClinchValley86 wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:31 pm
My mind has been in a similar place. Not the AI part, but on improving genetics for forage grown beef.

We are about to cull at least the bottom 25 percent of our cows. Just bought a handful of nice cows from a friend retiring. Much nicer cows than most we have now.

We are overdue a new bull. Used a commercial Angus the last 2 years. I think with our goals in mind, which are very similar to yours, we are looking for a Murray gray bull that is a reasonable driving distance.

Trying to grow animals on forage and finish on grain is the plan right now. Going to try a grass finished for ourselves soon, but have never tasted it before.

Do you see a premium for grass finished beef?
I definitely only dabbled in it at this point. I would say I'm getting a good price compared to selling commercially but probably not the premium others are receiving. I'm also still trying to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to finish on grass. That's one main reason I'm wanting to improve the genetics because it seems as though that is just as important as daily moves and forages being consumed.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:28 am
by Son of Butch
ncboy34 wrote:
Mon Jul 01, 2019 4:08 pm
Any thoughts on best way to improve herd genetics using AI or natural service?
I have also thought about just leasing a neighbor's bull just to get by... I'm currently small scale.
Hands down A.I.
The first generation will be the cheapest genetic advancement you'll ever make.
Dozens of options on genetics and bulls a small guy could never dream of affording any other way.
You can change 1/2 your genetics with a sire in just one generation, 3/4 in 2nd generation ect.

Get in touch with a local A.I technician to help sync and breed your cows and lease/buy a cheap
clean up bull. Keep only replacement females from the A.I. sired calves.... and repeat.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:52 am
by ClinchValley86
ncboy34 wrote:
Wed Jul 03, 2019 7:29 am
I definitely only dabbled in it at this point. I would say I'm getting a good price compared to selling commercially but probably not the premium others are receiving. I'm also still trying to learn the ins and outs of what it takes to finish on grass. That's one main reason I'm wanting to improve the genetics because it seems as though that is just as important as daily moves and forages being consumed.

I am in the same boat as you. Ive been allotting grass once or twice a day. Most of the cattle are doing well, but some seem to be slipping. I am taking that to mean they need to go and will not work with what i'm trying to do.

Hear you loud and clear on the income vs selling commercially. Got a taste of that and decided we're going to work towards not selling much if any at the sale barn. Just leaves too much money on the table from other people to make for me to be satisfied with. Feel like we're doing all this work and putting so much effort into these animals to turn around and let someone else make all the money.

Maybe i'm not looking at it correctly, but that's my current attitude towards the whole thing.


We're going to cull very hard, very soon. Keep only our best performers who raise solid calves. And be very picky from here on. I've wasted a good bit of time retaining heifers i should have hauled out of here. Learned a lot in the process though. So wasn't wasted completely. We all have to make mistakes along the way in order to get things right, or I do at least.

Let us know how things progress for you.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:56 am
by Ebenezer
If you switch to grassfed beef you suddenly have the option to have cattle of any color without sale barn discounts. That let's you use crossbreeding and hybrid vigor to make the program work even better. But you need to learn the type of cattle which will work for you before you buy a bull or semen. And I will repeat: you will need to learn to grow annuals regardless of what breeds you use to make the finish on animals more than an average or better spring flush. I think it is harder than it looks in articles when you make the efforts.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2019 10:59 am
by ALACOWMAN
I'm using a Occ bull now, not to target the grass fed market.but to produce easy fleshing smaller framed females, they do fine on fescue..stockyard owner said my calves looked like they've been on grain...

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 7:40 am
by ClinchValley86
Ebenezer wrote:
Thu Jul 04, 2019 6:56 am
If you switch to grassfed beef you suddenly have the option to have cattle of any color without sale barn discounts. That let's you use crossbreeding and hybrid vigor to make the program work even better. But you need to learn the type of cattle which will work for you before you buy a bull or semen. And I will repeat: you will need to learn to grow annuals regardless of what breeds you use to make the finish on animals more than an average or better spring flush. I think it is harder than it looks in articles when you make the efforts.
100 percent

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 4:57 pm
by Jeanne - Simme Valley
Katpau wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 4:23 pm
There is a lot of poor quality grass finished beef out there. I think too many people fail to realize just how difficult it is to have the kind of forage that will give you a quality product. Those calves need to be gaining better than two pounds a day and there are studies that show a few bad days can really throw the quality off. It is much more difficult to get a product that compares favorably to grain finished, but it can be done.

I know a couple that does a great job at it. They have been at this for over 20 years and do both beef and lamb. They and their cooperators sell to markets in Portland and Seattle. They rotate those calves through lush irrigated pastures anywhere from every few days to just hours. Forages are carefully chosen for each season and are based on years of experience. She gets gains of +3 pounds per day, but it is a lot of work preparing, planting, irrigating, moving cattle and so on. You can't just throw them in a pasture and forget them. It costs more to do it right than traditionally finished cattle, but there is a premium if you establish the reputation for quality.
RE-READ this. Very, very well said.
Also, TASTE grassfed beef before you think you want to raise it. Not saying it will be bad. There are producers that are able to produce good grassfed beef - just far & few of them. Yes, they get a premium. But, sometimes the premium isn't profitable over the length of time to finish and the work that is needed for quality GRASS.

Re: Genetics and Herd Expansion

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2019 5:16 pm
by ALACOWMAN
Don't think for a minute those grass fed types are allergic to grain... :cowboy: