Charged with both anticipating and reacting to market signals and customer demands, it’s easy to understand why the most successful seedstock producers are those who understand the cattle business end to end. They know what drives customer profitability, as well as the marketability of their customer’s calves, whether sold at weaning, retained through the stocker pasture or retained clear through finishing.

“The challenge for commercial cow-calf producers is finding genetics that will complement their cowherds in their unique environments, while maintaining or reducing costs, and adding value to the calf crop at the same time,” says Bob Prosser of Bar T Bar Ranch, based at Winslow, AZ. “Simple as that sounds, making it happen depends on forging a relationship with a seedstock producer who is committed to helping his customers reduce costs, add value to their product, and increase marketing opportunities while producing a quality product for the end consumer.”

The Prossers serve as an example of seedstock producers based in commercial production. In addition to their seedstock herd, they maintain a commercial one. They run stockers, feed cattle, and are involved in value-added branded beef programs.

Demanding customers

The only customer a commercial producer must face is the sale barn or order buyer. If seedstock producers are going to stay in business, they must face a lot of customers and prospective customers, all with different personalities, goals, resources, wants and needs.

Bull buyers can be a fickle lot, too. They’ve been known to cuss breeders for selling them bulls that melt in the pasture when turned out the first time because they were over-conditioned. Then they’ll go buy fat bulls again next year because they  are more appealing to the eye than harder, pasture-ready ones.

Industry Resource Page: Bull Management

Of course, seedstock producers can be a fickle bunch, too. Some have been known to single-trait select for the purposes of marketing at the expense of balanced production.

“The seedstock sector is at a crossroads where more than superior pedigrees and outstanding EPDs will be required,” Ritchie said in his 2000 paper, “Where is the Beef Seedstock Industry Headed?”

“Commercial customers are continually expecting more from their genetic providers. In order for mainstream seedstock breeders to ensure their sustainability well into the future, it will be necessary that they strive to become full-service genetic providers,” Ritchie says.

My View From The Country Blog: Where's The Seedstock Sector Headed?

Though seedstock producers of all sizes are successful, selection dynamics, production and marketing costs, and customer service favor larger seedstock herds. That doesn’t mean the same herd, necessarily; alliances between individual herds offer similar advantages.

Richie explains, “A number of seedstock producers have already positioned themselves as full-service providers. The services they offer are similar to those provided by the genetic companies and mainstream independent breeders in the swine industry.”