If the nation’s current economic hiccups are affecting travel and meeting attendance, you couldn’t tell it based on the annual Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) meeting in Sacramento last week. A heapin’ helpin’ of cowboy hats was on hand to learn the latest in genomics, genetics and cattle improvement.

To help emphasize the usefulness and importance of genetic improvement on the ranch, BEEF magazine annually sponsors the BIF Commercial and Seedstock Producer of the Year awards. This year’s winners were clear examples of how the use of genetic improvement tools can help produce quality beef.

The 2009 Commercial Producer of the Year is JHL Ranch of Ashby, NE, owned by Art and Merry Brownlee. The family has run cattle in the southwest corner in the Nebraska Sandhills since 1885. The JHL brand is reputed to be one of the oldest used in Nebraska having been legally registered in the state in 1920.

The Brownlees took the reins of the operation in 1995 and spent the past 14 years working toward their goal to apply research and analysis principles to ranching. The ranch runs 1,300-1,400 Angus- and Braunvieh-cross cows, utilizing 80 paddocks in an intensive, managed rotational grazing system on approximately 30,000 acres.

The complete tracking and analysis of two end products – replacement females and carcass merit – have driven the spring-calving operation. These actions have been made possible by the computer-based use of DNA, ultrasound and linear measurement technology, as well as EPDs.

The majority of the cows are bred through artificial insemination (AI) and calves are weaned at 150 days of age. The calves are backgrounded and supplemented on grass at the ranch and then custom fed with ownership retained to the rail. The ranch has marketed a USDA source and age verified product since 1995.

After years of tracking, verifying and incorporating the progeny in the commercial herd, the JHL Ranch purchased an existing Braunvieh herd in 2009, launching its seedstock division.

For more info on the JHL Ranch, visit www.jhlbeef.com. To read Brownlee’s remarks made before the 2008 BEEF Quality Summit in Colorado Springs, CO last November, go to: beefmagazine.com/breeding.html; Or listen to an audio of his talk at: beefmagazine.com/-art-brownlee/.

In the Seedstock division, the BIF Awards Committee recognized two producers – Harrell Hereford Ranch of Baker City, OR, and Champion Hill, Inc. in southeastern Ohio.

Harrell Hereford Ranch is family owned and operated with Bob Harrell Jr. and his wife Becky and their daughter Lexie sharing the duties with his mother Edna Harrell, and his sister and brother-in-law Beth and Wannie Mackenzie, who are also involved as partners in the Harrell-Mackenzie Quarter Horse operation.

The cattle ranch originated in 1870 with 100 Hereford cows and 80 acres of land. Today, the operation has grown to six ranches, consisting of 300 registered Hereford cows, 400 black baldy commercial cows, an 800-head feedlot for backgrounding cattle and 45 Quarter Horse broodmares. The cattle run on 8,000 acres of high-desert, native range and 3,000 irrigated tillable acres on which alfalfa and meadow hay, corn silage, earlage and small grains are raised.

The Harrell herd has been performance testing since its inception in 1970, and for nearly four decades the goal has been to produce performance cattle that work under a variety of management systems and branded beef programs.

More information on Harrell Hereford Ranch is available at www.harrellherefordranch.com.

Champion Hill, Inc. Paul Hill and Marshall Reynolds of Champion Hill, Inc., run 220 breeding-age registered Angus females and 630 mostly half-blood Angus females, used as recipients, on 4,000 acres of owned and leased land in southeastern Ohio. Each year, the operation sells 300 females in two production sales and 200 bulls through a genetic partnership.

Reynolds owned the land, and formed Champion Hill, Inc., in 1993, naming Hill as its president. Their philosophy has always been to breed the kind of cattle that will not only perform in the show ring, but will also make a positive contribution to the beef cattle industry. The team at Champion Hill has selected females from the top cow families in the Angus breed to use as foundation donor cows in order to consistently produce the quality of cattle that their customers have come to expect.

For more info, visit www.championhillangus.com.
More info and news on last week’s BIF meeting, hosted by the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the California Cattlemen's Association, can be found at: www.bifconference.com or www.calcattlemen.org/bif2009.html.