Saturday, March 7, 2009

BeefTalk: There Is No Profit From Calves That Cost $2.80 Per Pound?

Source: Kris Ringwall, Beef Specialist, North Dakota State Ag Extension

I found this article of great interest. There is NO mention of the breed of bull chosen to cover these 26 heifers. However, great care was given to selection in terms of documented EPD's, and this bull's numbers fell in the sought after top percentile for key EPD's.

Despite this, the Dickinson Center had a miserable ~30% dead or difficult calving percentage. That costs money, not just the $2.80 a pound ceasarian births, but the assists, and the deaths, as well. Such calving results are virtually unheard of in any British White herd of cattle. And we certainly don't have to worry about 'ornery' heifers that want to hurt us -- another potentially costly event.

In today's economic environment cattle producers should start thinking more about the costs of these 2000 pound plus high pedigree, drowning in EPD's bulls. The cost of their potentially big calves born, or not born, successfully to heifers, is not a cost any small producer can bear.

The British White breed is small in numbers, we do not have sophisticated EPD's for use in choosing sires and dams -- but do we really need them to add value to our breed? I don't think so. The British White breed naturally puts low birth weight calves on the ground that grow off with vigor, fatten well on grain or grass, and grade 80% plus choice and better under traditional feedlot production.


"The Dickinson Research Extension Center started calving with mixed results. The weather has not been horrendous and the first-calf heifers are up close. the first calf born, however, was dead. The feeling of seeing the desire and efforts of a cow that wants to be a mother and is licking and nudging her dead calf is not good.

The second heifer was calving and having difficulty, so life moves on. The birth was assisted, but she ended up with a 96-pound calf. However, the heifer was belligerent and ornery. Her intent on inflicting damage to us or the calf was obvious, so out of the pen she went. She will spend her remaining days with us in the feedlot, but with us out of her reach.

Fortunately, heifer 7037 was still looking for a calf and adopted the calf with no questions asked. Sometimes things actually do work out.

The center has tried to keep birth weights low and calving ease high when selecting bulls for heifers. This year's sire of the calves was listed in the top 15 percent of the breed for calving ease and the top 45 percent of the breed for birth weight (the smaller birth weight expected progeny differences (EPD), the better).

The bull was a high-growth bull that is in the upper 15 percent of the breed for weaning weight, upper 10 percent for yearling weight and has very good carcass EPD values. The bull is a good bull, but is he a heifer bull?
In this case, the four calves that had difficult pulls or cesarean sections have averaged 84.5 pounds. Out of 26 heifers, we have lost three calves and assisted five births (one light assist). of the dead calves, two were born dead and the third was a cesarean section. Of the four difficult assisted births (other than the cesarean section), they are doing fine, but had big calves.

The four calves that needed assistance averaged 98 pounds and ranged from 92
to118 pounds. Of the 21 heifers that had no birthing problems, their calves averaged 82 pounds at birth and are doing fine.

Although hard to document, when a set of calving heifers are slow to recoup after calving and the calves are cumbersome at best, you should know you are pushing the envelope. We pushed the limits and created a manageable, but difficult situation.

Is the return for the added performance of the calves worthwhile? We will wait and see, but I can tell you it costs $2.80 a pound to produce a calf through cesarean section. There is no profit from calves that cost $2.80 per pound and have no heartbeat."

Your comments are always welcome at

Flip Video - A Great No-Brainer Tool for Cattle Promotion

A few months back, Morris Halliburton, of Halliburton Farms in Bells, Texas, told me about about a neat little camcorder that was easy to use. I checked it out and knew I'd really like to have one. Well I got lucky, and Santa Claus brought me one for Christmas! I've only lately started putting it to use, and it has been fun and really easy to work with.
It's smaller than a pack of cigarettes; it's so small you might even lose track of it in your purse! So I highly recommend a good case for it. I'm using a hard leather cell phone case for mine; and the clip comes in handy to keep it safely handy in one spot in your purse, your pocket, or your belt.
You can also make still photos from it, and oftentimes they are better photos than I can take with a standard still camera -- at least better posed फोटोस।The video quality is not perfect। The really really nice HD video camera I have takes awesome quality video in comparsion -- but, that doesn't much matter if the software is too much of a pain to work with to get it from the camera to the computer and then to the web!
For a video of my handsome herd bull, JWest's Elvis, follow this link to it's location on Youtube captured from my Flip Video camera

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Old18 - Still Hanging in there and I really think she's Enjoying Her Life

Well it has been much too long since I’ve posted a blog, and it’s been a longer than normal several months for me as well! Does that ever happen in your life? Time just seems to stand still and fast forward all at the same time – no doubt that’s a sign of age, and I suppose approaching that ‘half a century mark’ gives me a bit of an excuse for a blip in my blog posts.

Life is just a big old box of chocolates as old Gump’s Mom would say, of late it’s been mostly those tart cherry filled chocolates that I don’t much like! One after another seems to come my way some days, and those nasty ones that you can’t even identify what’s actually in the middle, they really make me cringe! Yuck, just what is supposed to be likeable about some of those confections? I much prefer nut-filled chocolates, identifiable nuts (gee, if only humans were!) -- a good solid crunch to accompany my enjoyment of chocolate.

And I like the events of life to be a good solid crunch, things I can identify and enjoy, rather than chew on a while and decide to just spit out. Some of life we need to spit out and go on down the road – it’s just a bit hard to recognize those times and we chew too long, while with unacceptable chocolate confections we make the decision just real quick, a few chews and we’re done if it’s just not satisfying those taste and texture buds – it’s one big YUCK.

I sold a bull recently to some folks and they came by and picked him up, which was a good thing, I’m always happy when one of my bulls finds a forever home. But what struck me most, was the lady buying the bull recognized my ‘Old 18’ cow at pasture, she had read my blog about her from last October and guessed correctly that she was Old 18.

Old 18 has shuffled along this past year with no complaints about finding herself sometimes alone, sometimes with young heifers, or young bulls, and both young groups seem to irritate her at times, and sometimes she’s with the whole herd. Trying to rotate pastures and keep this old girl happy and close by creates times when most anything can happen. When she was first with the large bull crop of calves at weaning this fall, she actually seemed to enjoy that. There were two bull calves that were often found resting right at her side, enjoying the comfort of her age and gender, I have no doubt. I could tell Old 18 liked being needed by these weanling bulls, and that was a good period for her and me.

Yesterday, winter set in and left a calling card. We had probably 5 inches plus of snow, which is quite unusual for deep East Texas. The last time I remember a snow that actually stuck and was significant was 1973, I was in junior high in Woodville, Texas about 10 miles south of where I now live.

Regardless of the weather, Old 18 had it all worked out – she had been fed her special ration; she was tucked up in the shed by the big barn here close to the house. But, I put a kink in all that inadvertently. Last night the main cow herd was fairly vocal about this weird snow falling, and I, in sympathy and worry, opened up a gate and let them come on here to the pasture by the house, which also happens to be where Old 18 is always hobbling around.

These much stronger, more agile, cows very quickly usurped Old 18’s position under the shelter of the lean-to shed of the big barn. At about 10PM yesterday evening I checked everyone – as in, I buzzed around in my coveralls in the Ranger trying to see them all, and the windshield was clogging with snow, and I was afraid I could even run over a sleeping calf the evening was so blurry -- so it was a new check-on-the-cows experience. But, I did find Old 18 all the way down the hill with a small group of cows and couldn’t imagine that she would have gone so far from the shelter of the shed, or the wind break of the barn.

This morning Old 18 is not moving so well – she’s as stiff and slow as I’ve ever seen her. And yes I can understand that the colder weather likely has her stiffer and in more pain with her hip, but I think it’s more, and I think I see her faltering much more when she walks. Last night was a trial for her I have no doubt, and she’s appreciated all day every special thing brought to just her to eat, and she’s appreciated having the shed by the barn all to herself again to get out of the cold wind. But, nonetheless, this evening she was all the way to the fence line where I moved the main herd, sitting down and looking toward them, and I imagine wishing she was with them.

I don’t know anymore whether how I handle her age and infirmities is the best approach, the happiest approach, for her – maybe no one does as most old cows are sent to an auction barn. But, I think again of our elderly human loved ones that are in poor health, as I recalled last October when I spoke of Old 18, and I again wonder at our care of an elderly cow, or an elderly dog, or even a new young pup – in comparison to some folks’ care of their elderly and infirm human family.

Without a doubt, my Old 18 enjoys her time with the herd, and maybe even wishes she was with them regularly, she probably does – but her hip wouldn’t have survived all the walking and tussling that goes on regularly. Would she have cared? Does she care? Would she just rather be always with her peers no matter the trials of each day? I will never know – because I can’t ask her, I can only watch her and try to figure out what she needs from day to day.

But, we can ask our human family what they need, what they want, what makes them happy. And we should ask and listen with real sincerity, and we should try to make that answer happen if we can, or do the best we can in that direction. I imagine if Old 18 could talk, and listen, she would likely understand why she can’t be with the main herd all the time, that doesn’t mean she won’t sit at the fence and watch them and wish she was with them.

Too many elderly humans in this world are unappreciated by their children, are not respected for the trials of life they’ve endured to reach that elderly age of Old 18. That is a sad thing to get our heart and mind around, when you watch simple cows and their need and wish for companionship and attention from both their human caretakers and their herd peers, and the absolutely unrelated babes that find comfort with them -- babes that want only their company -- not some empty emotionless benefice from the elderly cow when it leaves this world for the next.

The understanding of the instinct for comfort and love seems quickly lost in humans when their elderly become fragile, as though their higher power of intellect gets in the way of the basics of the mammal’s instinct for family and protectiveness, this higher intellect leaves us with a human more like a cow from a breed that has little trust, runs from you, and hogs the trough – not that any cow wouldn’t hog the trough given the chance.

But, hey, humans are supposed to be of a higher intellect? Why is it that this base instinct of a cow to hog the trough, to not give a care about whether the cow next to them is their Mom or not, or their sister, just hogging up all the food they can becomes paramount, becomes so often today the higher power of humans? What does it say about them? About us?  I really like my cows, they are a fine bunch of girls, and it’s really cool when I see daughters long since weaned hanging out in the pasture with their Mom’s……..

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Are You Wishing for More Heifer Calves from this Spring's Breeding Season? I know I am! Maybe we're feeding them too well during hard times. . .?

Mom's diet may play role in whether baby is boy or girl
By LINDSEY TANNER (AP Medical Writer)
From Associated Press
April 24, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

CHICAGO - Snips and snails and puppydog tails ... and cereal and bananas? That could be what little boys are made of, according to surprising new research suggesting that what a woman eats before pregnancy influences the gender of her baby. Having a hearty appetite, eating potassium-rich foods including bananas, and not skipping breakfast all seemed to raise the odds of having a boy.

The British research is billed as the first in humans to show a link between a woman's diet and whether she has a boy or girl. It is not proof, but it fits with evidence from test tube fertilization that male embryos thrive best with longer exposure to nutrient-rich lab cultures, said Dr. Tarun Jain. He is a fertility specialist at University of Illinois at Chicago who wasn't involved in the study. It just might be that it takes more nutrients to build boys than girls, he said.

University of Exeter researcher Fiona Mathews, the study's lead author, said the findings also fit with fertility research showing that male embryos aren't likely to survive in lab cultures with low sugar levels. Skipping meals can result in low blood sugar levels.

Jain said he was skeptical when he first heard about the research. But he said the study was well-done and merits follow-up study to see if the theory proves true. It's not necessarily as far-fetched as it sounds. While men's sperm determine a baby's gender, it could be that certain nutrients or eating patterns make women's bodies more hospitable to sperm carrying the male chromosome, Jain said.

"It's an interesting question. I'm not aware of anyone else looking at it in this manner," he said. The study was published Wednesday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British medical journal. The research involved about 700 first-time pregnant women in the United Kingdom who didn't know the sex of their fetuses. They were asked about their eating habits in the year before getting pregnant. Among women with the highest calorie intake before pregnancy (but still within a normal, healthy range), 56 percent had boys, versus 45 percent of the women with the lowest calorie intake.

Women who ate at least one bowl of breakfast cereal daily were 87 percent more likely to have boys than those who ate no more than one bowlful per week. Cereal is a typical breakfast in Britain and in the study, eating very little cereal was considered a possible sign of skipping breakfast, Mathews said.

Compared with the women who had girls, those who had boys ate an additional 300 milligrams of potassium daily on average, "which links quite nicely with the old wives' tale that if you eat bananas you'll have a boy," Mathews said. Women who had boys also ate about 400 calories more daily than those who had girls, on average, she said. Still, no one's recommending pigging out if you really want a boy or starving yourself if you'd prefer a girl.

Neither style of eating is healthy, and besides all the health risks linked with excess weight, other research suggests obese women have a harder time getting pregnant. The study results reflect women at opposite ends of a normal eating pattern, not those with extreme habits, Mathews said. Professor Stuart West of the University of Edinburgh said the results echo research in some animals.

And Dr. Michael Lu, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and public health at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the results "are certainly plausible from an evolutionary biology perspective." In other words, since boys tend to be bigger, it would make sense that it would take more calories to create them, Lu said.

Still, Lu said a woman's diet before pregnancy may be a marker for other factors in their lives that could influence their baby's gender, including timing of intercourse.

"The bottom line is, we still don't know how to advise patients in how to make boys," he said.
On the Net:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Blanco Orejinegro & Bridel Cattle Farm in the Cauca Valley of Columbia

The unique markings of the polled British White, those eye-catching black ears and contrasting pure white coat, are found in a few other breeds of great antiquity around the globe. I have long been fascinated by the global reach of these markings and their antiquity. It seems to me there is a hint of a story, a long and fascinating one, in the wide-ranging presence of these markings and the absolute reverence that is held for the cattle.

One of those breeds is the Blanco Orejinegro (BON), and this very special Colombian breed has a strong future now with the Bridel cattle farm in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, which is dedicated to the preservation of this native Colombian breed. According to Jacques Diouf in August of 2007, ". . .the Blanco Orejinegro cattle breed, known for its longevity, tolerance to high altitudes, and resistance to parasites, is under threat; only 260 animals of this breed remain."
In a genetic study dated November 2003, the BON was found to be quite unique and differentiated from other heritage breeds in Colombia:
"BON is peculiar in that it lacks the most common T3 sequence seen in European cattle and in all the other criollo breeds (cattle breeds of Latin America) examined (Col1). Furthermore, five of the six T3 lineages observed in BON are unique to this breed, including the only sequences with transversions. The genetic distinctness of BON is also manifest in the PCA of CR sequence frequency . At the phenotypic level BON is unique among the breeds examined in having a white coat and black ears (Blanco Orejinegro means "white with black ears")."

Without a doubt, I can't tell you just what T3's and traversions are, but it doesn't surprise me that the BON stood out as genetically unique cattle individuals among the criollo breeds. The study referenced is worth a look, as besides the technical nature of the genetic testing, it provides good discussion on the possible pathways of today's domestic cattle to the Americas.

The following is an excerpt from Bridel's home page, translated into English:

"Bridel is a cattle farm, 100% proud of being Colombian, located in the Cauca Valley. It is dedicated to rescue the breeding, and the strengthening of the Full-Blood Colombian cattle breed " Blanco Orejinegro " as genetic source, in order to explore its hybrid vigor and take advantage of its adaptation to our tropical environment.

We cannot lose these 500 years of natural intervention.

The “Blanco Orejinegro => BON ” is a cattle breed in danger of extinction, therefore it's conservation is our number one priority as a company.

The advantages, characteristics and genetic resources of the BON breed are numerous and are usually under appreciated by the majority of the farms and the Colombian public due to the lack of understanding and marketing of the breed, since other foreign breeds are advertised and have higher commercial reach. Our Cattle farm was formed with special criteria of a company to guarantee its survival and maintenance throughout the years.

The BON has low production costs, great genetic value, fertility, resistance to the environment, adaptability, quality marble meat, and the ability to be cross-bred with other cattle breeds."

Bridel hasn't been wasting any time in ensuring the future of this endangered Colombian heritage breed. Care is taken to ensure the blood line remains pure, with BON Fullblood females always bred to BON Fullblood bulls. At the same time, Bridel is very conscious of the fact that the hardy nature and quality of the BON breed has much value to offer the commercial cattle farms of Colombia, and it is perhaps that value that will ensure the BON's continued existence.

Bridel has an ongoing cross-breeding program with the Brahman, Holstein, and Wagyu breeds. Documenting the hybrid vigor of calves, the quality of the carcass, and the quality of the resulting replacement heifers is the right path to ensuring that future generations continue to recognize the value of the beautiful Blanco Orejinegro cattle breed.

A visit to the Bridel web site is a must -- the Gallery of Photos is filled with beautiful scenery of the cattle and the Colombian countryside. After having a look you may well find yourself wishing for a Colombian vacation so you can visit this inspiring Cauca Valley cattle farm of green, mountainous pastures and quiet contentment.