Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Education of Texas Regional markets on the British White cattle breed is Sorely Needed

A year and more ago I was thrilled that my neighbor, Mr. Brown, decided to give one of my British White bulls a try on his commercial cattle herd. Today, I'm not so thrilled, and I feel partly responsible for his taking a beating at the sale barn -- just because his calves were mostly white. (Pictured to the right and below are a set of twins, one day old, sired by a British White bull, pictures courtesy of Kristi Wynn.)

My neighbor took nine healthy calves to the Livingston auction barn and came back with $2200 and a sour taste in his mouth -- he took his bull the following week. Mr. Brown has been in the cattle business all of his life, and his father before him, and on further back I'm sure, even on the same home place. Besides raising cattle, he also raises and harvests a lot of the hay in this area, so his cattle always have a ready supply. So there is no question but that his calves were fit and healthy and comparable to the black and brown ones that sold much higher. Not to mention they were across the road from me and I could see them thriving with my own eyes since they first hit the ground last spring.

Mr. Brown remains very impressed with the crossbred calves from his commercial stock. He contends they were up and on their feet and lively much faster than any calves he's ever had. Despite his giving up his bull, he's considering talking to a major local buyer about the possibilities of selling his calf crop direct to them in the future, as well as questioning them on why his white calves took such a hit at the sale barn -- he wants to try to understand this hit to his cattle budget a little better.

I had already told Mr. Brown I was concerned that he would be disappointed at the sale price of his calves, as I had taken two cull bull calves, and one fat steer, to the sale barn several months back and was shocked at just how low they sold. Sure cattle prices are down, but it seems that what sold for a little less in good times, now sells for a whole lot less.

Mr. Brown, being forewarned by me, made sure he told everyone at the barn that his calves were NOT Longhorn, they were British White sired calves, but it didn't matter -- they still sold as Longhorns. Funny thing with this group of calves, only two of them had much black on them at all. His British White bull threw fantastic color, very classic British White markings, hardly a spot even on them.

Some time ago I explored the idea of tagging our calves with a breed identifying tag that would stay with them throughout the auction barn to feedlot process. And in addition to breed identification, have the tags fitted with electronic ID and the calves part of a Source and Age Verification program for members who wished to participate.

To my mind, this would increase the value of our white calves, as well as provide positive breed identification to the feedlot finishers. If in fact our British White sired calves fattened and graded well, then the feedlots would tell the order buyers and other middle buyers, and demand and price for our white calves would improve.

Perhaps this is just a local East Texas/Southeast Texas problem. If so, then the members/breeders in this region of Texas, like myself, have to address the problem themselves. If some of you have suggestions about how best to approach the education/marketing of this regional area of Texas on the desirable carcass traits of the British White breed -- please share them!