After reading the “Reader's Viewpoint” letters in your February issue, I just had to put in my two bits. I'm getting so tired of people complaining how the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) doesn't represent them and they need an organization like R-CALF, which they say is a “true” cow-calf organization. I say, “BS.”
After attending the NCBA convention in San Antonio, TX, at which there were probably 6,000 attendees compared to the 400-500 at the R-CALF convention, I can say NCBA, without a doubt, represents cow-calf interests. And it could do an even better job if more people would join.
I realize not everyone can go to the convention and that's OK. Montana sent a great group of people to the meeting and they are looking out for the best interests of our producers. If we could have two of three more votes, I believe we could do quite a bit more for our fellow producers.
Heterosis can do the job
The February article, “Gone Flabby” (page 56), points out fed cattle are getting “flabby” — more tallow and a mite less ribeye and steak meat. It's been coming.
A January BEEF article, “Guarding Heterosis,” (page 38) warns the industry may be going too strongly to black-hided cattle, thereby losing heterosis and cutability in the bargain. From time to time, I see reports of Certified Angus Beef's difficulty in finding carcasses that meet its specifications.
While the American Angus Association has more performance data than any other breed organization, apparently not every breeder is using it. Trimmed-off backfat has a lot less dollar value than muscle meats.
The article, “Gone Flabby,” includes charts showing there are breeds with a fair percentage of bulls that will not only add muscling and carcass value but heterosis from black-hided cows.
John H. Barton
Looking over your shoulder?
I'm shaking my head after reading your January issue story, “Guarding Heterosis.” For the past 20 years, the Angus breed has been promoting and selling the concept of hybrid vigor by crossbreeding Angus bulls on colored cow herds.
Now, after reading this article, I find it very interesting the Angus breed and apparently BEEF magazine are promoting the notion that producers can get all that heterosis without crossbreeding. It appears they've either been shoveling some stuff at us for the past 20 years, or they're shoveling it to us now.
Heterosis article is on the money
I believe your January article, "Guarding Heterosis,” is right on the money regarding hybrid vigor and the rush toward black-hided cattle.
My father and I operate a 1,500-head commercial cow-calf operation in South Dakota. In this area, the march toward black cattle has been rabid the last dozen years. Many of the operators used to be predominantly Charolais-cross cattlemen.
During the calf price depression of the mid 1990s, many people saw Angus as the way to turn their operations around. What we're starting to notice more is how people have totally disregarded the benefits of crossbreeding. Most use Angus bulls on Angus cows, nothing else.
Most operators have become blind to their cattle actually getting shorter, fatter and losing overall length. All this is in the quest to stay as close to their Angus bloodlines as possible. This type of cattle is usually very efficient and can handle northern winters well, but cattle feeders often prefer animals with more exotic blood to improve carcass traits.
We've developed a breeding program that meets our environmental conditions as well as the demands of cattle feeders and the beef industry as a whole. There are many things a producer can do to produce an animal that not only handles the seasonal conditions but yields and grades well.
Unlike most producers, we ran mostly pure or high percentage Charolais cattle. We made a slow switch to black-hided cattle in the mid '90s. We realized Angus was a good base to build on and, over several years, we added slight amounts of Limousin and Gelbvieh to get the product we have today.
We try to keep a ¾-Angus base, with the rest a makeup of the other two breeds. We were able to retain the mothering and efficiency of the Angus and add a little more milk and a slightly longer frame, without getting big and inefficient cattle.
We calve in April and still average 540-lb. calves the end of October. Most of our calves go to the same buyer every year.
The calves have a lot of performance and gain very well. One buyer grid-marketed the calves and 96% of 120 calves rated Choice.
Crossbreeding is the easiest way to add quality to a herd without a lot of sacrifice. People are doing themselves a big disservice by not exploring their options and staying with a one-breed state of mind.
Timber Lake, SD