However, in a genetic world that’s pushing the highly heritable production traits of milk production, weaning weight, yearling weight and carcass traits, finding the right genetic package is difficult.

“Probably the biggest challenge is finding the type of bulls that match what we’re trying to do,” Swickard says. “There’s so much emphasis in the seedstock industry in pushing higher numbers, pushing cattle real hard trying to get high EPDs.”

A Closer Look: Seedstock Sector Represents Both Beginning & End Of Beef Production

However, he says that seedstock producers are simply responding to market signals. “There’s certainly a large segment of buyers out there, that’s what they’re looking for,” he says. “But a lot of times, those cattle don’t work in our real rough system.”

As a result, Swickard looks internally. “We’re doing a lot of artificial insemination work, trying to choose our genetics, and we’re doing some embryo transfer on some of our own cattle and then raising them the way we want them raised,” he says. “So we’re trying to work on our genetics more internally rather than go outside to a sale.”

Kempfer agrees. While the ranch is primarily a commercial cow-calf outfit, they also raise replacement females, have a purebred Brahman herd and often retain ownership in their calves through a feedyard.

“Finding the right genetic package is difficult,” he says, because you’re trying to make a stew out of traits that can be antagonistic. “We’ve got to have a female that will work and have positive carcass traits to go with it,” he says. “You’ve got to have cattle that marble right and grid well, but they’re not the right kind of cattle that fit what you’re trying to do at home as far as the frame size of the cow or the body type of the cow.”

While that’s a challenge they fight continually, he says those types of bulls are out there. They’re just hard to see from the highway. “If you get out there and really look, in most cases, they’re out there. They’re just a little bit harder to find.” To that end, Kempfer recommends that cow-calf producers develop a close relationship with their seedstock supplier.

And he says the high-growth, high-performance bulls fit well in a terminal breeding program, something that seedstock producers should be commended for.

The key, Palmer says, is to have a plan for what you want to accomplish genetically and make sure it’s workable. “For commercial producers, if you’re going to make genetic change, know what you’re going to change. You really have to have a map of what you’re going to do,” he says.

But, Palmer adds, the important traits remain. “The first and most important thing you need to do is have a live calf,” he says. “And then some of the things we don’t have EPDs for, such as mothering ability, longevity, those kind of things. Then you can get into production traits.”

Swickard concurs. “The most important traits in our operation are moderation and economic survivability in the environment that we have. And I haven’t found an EPD that measures that.”