The Quest For Data
We get several inquiries each month from breeders and folks just interested in Lowline cattle looking for data to document the functional efficiency of Lowline cattle.
I have always contended that the use of fullblood Lowline cattle in commercial beef production is unlike most other breeds. Our cattle are most useful precisely because they are so entirely different than other breeds. So in some ways it's in our best interest as Lowline breeders NOT to mimic other breeds. In commercial beef production one of the greatest overlooked production tools is cross breeding - the heterosis gained from using our incredibly "pure" DNA parentage verified fullbloods on the homogenized cows of modern American beef herds. The results are like no other crossbreeding ever attempted here.
1. Tremendous hybrid vigor and calf survivability which ranks high on the list of economic traits especially on calves from first calf heifers.
2. Incredible carcass traits in terms of rib eye area, marbling and the un-measured but significant trait of fine textured, tender beef.
3. The production of a low maintenance cost halfblood female that brings the ability to consistently wean in excess of 50% of her body weight to commercial beef production, especially when bred to relatively easy calving non-Lowline bulls.
The third quality of Lowlines in a crossbreeding program is what you won't find from other breeds that claim to want to have all cattlemen use their breed for all things. As Lowline breeders we should willingly stand out from that crowd and promote the fact that cross breeding, especially crossbreeding with strategic use of Lowline genetics, is a good thing!
The Meat Animal Research Center of Clay Center Nebraska is an USDA experiment station has been scientifically analyzing beef cattle production for several decades. They generate tons of data over the years. For example, one of the recent studies shows that at their station the average Hereford cow weighs 1,419 lbs., Angus 1,410 lbs., Red Angus 1,409 lbs., and Simmental 1,404 lbs.
In our herd, this fall, our average Lowline fullblood cow weighs 939 lbs. and our average halfblood weighs 1123 lbs. These weights are very similar to the NDSU Dickinson Experiment Station Results.
I think it's important to emphasize to commercial breeders that we are not advocating the use of fullblood Lowline cows to replace the 1400 lb. commercial cows but rather use Lowline bulls in a strategic crossbreeding program to enable those commercial breeders to increase their stocking rate and lower their cow size while simultaneously increasing their pounds of weaning weight per acre.
In a summary of the use of Lowline genetics to manage production costs down and lower labor input costs, Dr. Kris Ringwall, director of the NDSU Dickinson Experiment station, states that one can use Lowlines to:
• Reduce cow size
• Reduce calving issues
• Produce more ribeye/cwt
• Produce more gain/acre
• Create management options
To sum it up, Dr. Kris Ringwall says the net result of using Lowlines is…
Shave 300 pounds off cows while maintaining muscle and producing mainstream industry beef carcasses.
The Journal of Animal Science reported that:
Heterosis achieved through continuous crossbreeding can be used to increase weight of calf weaned per cow exposed to breeding by 20% (Gregory and Cundiff, 1980).
Comprehensive programs of breed characterization have revealed large differences among breeds for most bioeconomic traits (Gregory et al., 1982;Cundiff et al., 1986).
Fluctuation in breed composition between generations in rotational crossbreeding systems can result in considerable variation among both cows and calves in level of performance for major bioeconomic traits.
The Dickinson Research data shows that Lowline cross cows increased weaning weight per acre by a whopping 37%! Just imagine if you could sell someone a variety of seed that would increase their crop yield by 37% per acre. You would run out of seed and would have a hard time producing enough of it for years to come!
Right now, best estimates are that there are about 1,700 to 2,000 active fullblood Lowline cows in the American Lowline Registry that are getting bred or have calves by registered Lowline fullblood bulls. If we are going to make the impact that we are capable of in the commercial beef sector there will be a tremendous demand for more fullblood bulls and consequently more fullblood cows. In preparation for this we should be accelerating the production of our best fullblood Lowline females with techniques like embryo transfer, the use of satellite cooperator herds and other methods to be able to offer the commercial industry more breeding age (18 to 24 month old) fullblood bulls. We should be evaluating these bulls to the best of our ability for their production traits…scrotal circumference, birth weights, rate of gain and feed efficiency.
With that in mind, members of the Breeder Services Committee have organized a forage based bull test at Colby Community College in Colby (western), Kansas starting in late April of this spring. The 140 day test will feature a forage based pelleted ration fed in "Grow-Safe" feed efficiency bunks to measure individual feed consumption. Individual ultra sound carcass data will be gathered and individual Igenity Angus Gold Profile DNA tests will be conducted on each bull. The test will end in late September and a bull sale will be held at the CCC sale facility in early October. Watch the ALR website for update information or if interested in consigning registered Fullblood Lowline or Moderator bulls contact us at email@example.com.
Let's all cooperate to gather more data on this great breed to enable us to significantly contribute to a more prosperous and globally competitive beef industry in North America.
Effertz EZ Ranch
By Neil Effertz
There seems to be a prevailing thought by some on the internet…”Let’s do SOMETHING, even if it’s wrong!”. The truth is often you are better off not doing anything until it can be done right.
There have been no EPD’s developed yet to enable Lowline breeders to efficiently optimize retail beef product value per acre on a forage based production system.
However, there are some efficiency bench marks that very well are worth measuring according to Gordon F. Jones, Professor of Animal Science, Western Kentucky University (Retired) in his article, “Beef Production Efficiency”:
Goal 1: 95% live calves weaned per cow exposed to a bull.
Goal 2: Wean 50% of the cow’s body weight at 7 months of calf age.
Goal 3: Keep cows that calve regularly (every 12 months) for 10 to 12 years.
To do this, we should encourage our breeders to weigh their calves and weigh their cows at weaning time, approximately 200 days of calf age.
The key point to make to commercial cattlemen is that using a Lowline cross (Moderator) cow is the fastest way to become more efficient.
How to efficiently become more efficient in beef cattle production….use Lowline genetics!
Why waste a lifetime trying to change your cow herd from big framed, heavy milking, high maintenance cost cows when one cross of Lowline genetics will produce more moderate, easy fleshing cows. The current US beef cattle industry is chock full of those high cost cows.
It is a well-documented, proven fact that these big cows are less efficient, shorter lived (less longevity and stayability) and consume more and demand more higher level nutrients to function and continue to contribute to quality beef production.
What do we know about the science of brood cow efficiency? Dr. Jones goes on to say we clearly know that as cow size increases the nutritional requirements for body maintenance increases. Maintenance requirements increase at the 0.7 power of body weight which means that an 1100# cow has a 7% greater requirement than a 1000# cow and a 1400# cow would have a 28% greater requirement for maintenance than a 1000# cow. Dr. Gene Rouse, Professor Emeritus of Animal Science at Iowa State University, shared that 70% of the feed or nutrients used in the US beef industry is for body maintenance and only 30% is actually used for production. Consequently, any time the maintenance requirement for cattle is reduced, there will likely be an improvement in efficiency.
What about milk?
Cows with more milk production potential have greater nutrient requirements during lactation but researchers at the University of Nebraska and at the Meat Animal Research Center have shown that cows with higher milk production potential also have higher maintenance requirements during the dry period as well. Adequate supply of milk is necessary to provide nutrition for the calf until it becomes capable of grazing or consuming enough stored roughage for optimal growth. The ratio of pounds of milk for a pound of calf weight gain for low, medium and high milk producing cows was 11.6, 15.2 and 52.6 respectively. Consequently, meeting the nutrient requirements of cows with high milk production potential may be a wasteful use of feedstuffs. Another concern about cows with higher milk production potential relates to what may happen if feed/forage supplies are limited such as in a drought.
Dr. Lane Lalman’s work at Oklahoma State University shows that cows with high milk production potential may actually produce less milk than cows with lower milk production potential in situations where feed resources are restricted.
How can America’s beef producers become more efficient quicker?
How about one shot of Lowline genetics on the first calf heifers of America? There are about 4 million beef heifers that get bred each year. Most importantly, if those heifer calves with Lowline influence are saved as replacements (that is their greatest long term value), those replacements can and will improve the efficiency of beef producers throughout the US.
In order for Estimated Progeny Differences (EPD’s) to have any value as a selection tool, thousands (not hundreds) of field records (actual birthweights, weaning weights, yearling weights) must be taken and submitted to a central data processing facility (ie the breed registry) for the data to be adjusted (for age of dam, environmental factors etc), processed and EPD’s calculated. Where typical Lowline breeders have so few cows (some fullblood, some percentage crossed from a very wide genetic base) the data collected would seldom have meaningful contemporary groups for comparison.
I think at this time we would be much better off to concentrate our efforts on maintaining good calving and breeding records to select for the number one economic trait…reproduction. Breeders should then try to gather data on percent of cows body weight weaned if and when scales are available. Some county agents or beef improvement associations have access to portable scales that could be used to collect this data. By doing this, we will be able to begin to measure the efficiency of our Lowline herds.
To have EPD’s just so we can say we are like other breeds at this time for Lowlines is a meaningless waste of time, effort and money. Let’s concentrate on doing what we can to make the cattle in our breed better and more efficient by following Dr. Jones’ suggestions.
For those who want more data, Dr. Kris Ringwall’s presentation is available. The NDSU Animal Science Department is working on a long range research project that measures frame size and a host of other production traits like birthweight, weaning weight, ADG, ultra sound carcass measurements and DNA to determine which of these traits are positive and which are counter productive for efficient, high quality beef production. A number of the cattle in this study are Lowline Moderator cattle.
To all who are involved with the youth projects associated with the livestock industry, there is a passion and a desire to do something that will instill a sense of responsibility and respect among our upcoming younger generations. We all want them to learn what we may have learned from caring for animals and watching and learning from the life cycle of the animals in our care. Winning the show is a lot of fun but what is learned is the biggest and best prize of all!
A good friend and very experienced stockman wrote the following astute observations about the value of youth projects. Warren manages one of the very high quality Lowline breeding establishments in the west. He also was the shepherd to the world revered BYU sheep breeding flocks in Utah for several years during their "hay-day". Warren Kuhl has the reputation of being the greatest Suffolk breeder in the U.S. With Warren's permission, here is what he wrote:
Are Youth Breeding Projects of Value?
By Warren Kuhl
“While the number of youth breeding projects have declined over the years, the value of their positive impact on youth becomes ever more obvious. This in a world where there is an ever increasing struggle to live without toil and where common sense becomes increasingly uncommon.
There is something curiously unique about those who have grown up with the responsibilities in the agrarian culture that causes them to be wired differently for the rest of their lives. In my travels over the world, I’ve noticed that there is a common thread among peoples who grow up with the responsibilities in the agrarian culture. Whether you’re in the rice patties of SE Asia, the little farming hovels in parts of South America or on a cattle ranch in West Texas, there are common treads that apply. While the indigenous people might be of a different race, language or religion (or no religion) universal factors seem evident. I have noticed no welfare system, little or no crime and an automatic willingness to reach out to help. Most are too brave to lie and too generous to cheat. Their nobleness and humility runs all the way from wealth to poverty.
Likewise, a breeding project can be a transitional microcosm of life where common sense is built by experience and character tempered by the fires of adversity.
In my own case I grew up lucky. My parents said I could have anything in the world I wanted. There were two prerequisites – make the money and save up and buy it.
Our father did give my brother and myself each a heifer calf. He said it was up to us to make something of it. As our little herds grew over time, we worked on the ranch to pay for our cattle’s grazing and feed. We both had bank accounts and paid for most of our possessions. The money I made and saved help pay for a used car and college. As I look back on the material side of life, I’m thankful for what my parents didn’t give me. The older I’ve become, the smarter they seem to have been.
Youth who do their own work at their own level of maturation are empowered by their own experience. Experience is the best teacher and education without experience is like dancing on the books and often engenders a learned helplessness that nurtures a tendency to take people and things for granted.
Building or running a breeding project usually does not come easy. It takes planning, focus, patience and perseverance, none of which builds expectations for immediate self-gratification. The TV, internet, cellphones and video arcade seem to be better at that.
For 27 years I hired students into jobs at the university, was advisor to the Block and Bridle Club and facilitator to the rodeo team. Overall, I found the strongest work ethic, ingenuity and a willingness to put service over self, strongest among students who had grown up with responsibilities on family ranches and farms (a family unit activity).
I have a high respect for those parents who guide their children to do most of their own work and allow them to learn and strengthen from their own failures. Where the show ring is involved, they restrain their egos from showing through their children for notoriety. They also know that their child may be competing on an uneven playing field where high tech fitters and handlers do much of their competitors work for them. For win, lose or draw, what has this experience really added to their child’s lifetime to come?
As a side note, I’ve noticed that in many of today’s job openings, there can be a sizeable list of educated applicants. When one requires a strong work ethic and high level of integrity, along with education, the size of the list may be reduced significantly.
Someone once said that to keep a child’s feet on the ground, it is necessary to apply a weight of responsibility upon their shoulders. In the final analysis, it’s not what we do for our children, but what we lovingly exemplify, inspire and teach them to do for themselves that make them the most successful. The rewards and challenges of a breeding project is a great environment for this to happen.”
Well said, Warren!
Effertz EZ Ranch
To EPD or not to EPD, that is the question.
When we started this Lowline adventure about 19 years ago, we contacted the American Angus Association and asked them if they would maintain our herdbook and register our Lowline cattle here in America. Since these fullblood Lowline cattle are absolutely pure Aberdeen Angus genetics I thought it was a logical question.
Their answer was no. And after thinking about it for a while I now understand that the answer was for purely logical reasons. These cattle, while being maintained in an absolutely pure breeding program in the Trangie Research Centre by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, were recorded in the Research Centre's herdbook but not in the Australian Angus Society's herd book so there was a gap in registrations for several decades that would not allow the American Angus Association to recognize Lowlines as Angus. I still felt that they could have contractually registered our cattle in our own herdbook like we are doing now but they were not interested.
So, for the first few years the registry was kept on our computer in the basement of our house in Bismarck, ND. My wife, Jan, served as a volunteer registrar for the Lowline breed for several years until we bankrolled enough in our treasury to hire someone to keep the herdbook. At that time it was moved to Kansas City and an agreement was made with Jim Spawn, Attaché International, to keep the ALR records. Since 2010, our herdbook has been maintained by the registry office run by Sherry Doubet in Parker, Colorado and the records actually kept, somewhat ironically, by ABRI, an Australian company that specializes in livestock breeding records, herdbook maintenance for several breeds of livestock across the globe.
From the start the question has come from many breeders …what about EPD's?
I my opinion, the bigger question is "What traits do we want to measure that have significance to selecting cattle that optimize retail beef product value per acre on a forage based production system?"
I have asked some of the leading animal scientists in the United States that very question and have yet to get a definitive answer. In other words, I would like to know, in order of importance, which traits should we be measuring to make this efficient breed even more efficient. I am not interested in making Lowlines into some other breed by selecting for all the same traits that all of the other breeds are selecting for because Lowline cattle have some unique characteristics and advantages that differentiate them from other breeds. We don't need to lose that difference that can serve as a tool to many cattlemen to help them become less labor dependent and lower the maintenance costs of their cowherds. These Lowline cattle can be used across all commercial herds to improve beef cattle production if used intelligently.
There are a lot of measurements taken in the beef industry today that are purely measuring extremely good management and premium quality nutrition. These excellently prepared cattle are sold annually for top dollar across the bull sales of this continent and the breeders are rewarded for their stewardship but true genetic progress is slow. I remember selling a bull in another breed for $120,000 in the early 1980's that was going to save the breed… for that matter he was going to revolutionize the cattle business. He was very well managed by a talented caretaker and marketer and really never sired much for exceptional cattle.
Most EPD's are misused in most breeds. They are trendy and are more of a marketing buzz word than a breeding tool in the 'real world'. Purists will tell you that they can be used to make genetic progress IF the measurements or samples taken are accurate and there are enough of them taken in a wide variety of environmental settings to produce numbers that are meaningful. Often these measurements are taken with the objective to create the "right" numbers on the papers to develop a marketing opportunity. Hence, artificial contemporary groups are formed to make a young bull look good against a "high accuracy" proven sire with high accuracy numbers to give that young bull and his progeny that are coming up for sale a boost in their EPD's.
The other peril that we have witnessed in several other breeds is that because of marketing of EPD's, some breeders with a lot of computer help breed this sheet of paper to that sheet of paper to create the perfect sheet of paper with marvelous numbers on it….without ever bothering to look up to see the beast they have created!
Measurements can be taken for all kinds of traits but the key is to be able to determine whether we are measuring good genetics or good management (feed).
Fundamentally, Lowline cattle excel in ribeye area per hundredweight. But selecting for that trait alone will ultimately make the cattle smaller and smaller and hence less applicable to the real beef cattle business. Obviously low birth weights and calving ease are keys to the success universally experienced by breeding fullblood Lowline bulls to first calf heifers of all breeds. Halfblood bulls of a wide variety of backgrounds are seeing a mixed bag of results largely dependent on their non-Lowline bloodlines. Reproductive efficiency or fertility or live calves weaned per cow exposed to a Lowline bull might be the most economically significant trait but is hard to measure, especially in small herds. Calving interval is management sensitive. Scrotal circumference is a key measurement in breeding age bulls (14-18 months) but is also affected by nutrition. Ribeye area per hundredweight times weight per day of age per unit of feed consumed might be a useful selection tool but again …hard to measure!
Not a lot of answers but a lot of ideas to discuss. You can't improve what you don't measure.
With that in mind, the Breeders Services Committee is contemplating developing a forage based bull test for bulls at least 12 months old that would run from April or May through September of 2016 in the central part of the United States. The test would measure some of these traits and then the bulls would be sold in a sale in late September or early October in 2016. Concurrently, progeny groups of grass fed steers would also be tested, feed efficiency data collected, ultrasound data collected and post-harvest carcass evaluations done on sire groups of 3 to 5 head per sire.
So to EPD or not to EPD that is still the question.
Effertz EZ Ranch
At times, there's a fine line between being too big for your britches and being big enough to get anyone's attention.
Some very big things have happened in the Lowline business this past year - big enough to brag about. As a good friend of mine and former chairman of Continental Oil Company , L.F. “Mr. Mac” McCollum, used to say, "If you done it, it ain't bragging!".
These three things really helped get some folks’ attention. But there are still a lot of folks in the cattle business who don't even know what a Lowline is.
In my home town this is bull sale season. There is a bull sale nearly every day in February, March and April and buyers come here for all different breeds from all over the United States. Most sales offer a hundred or more bulls - and the bigger the sale, the better the prices. Recently a sale averaged over $18,000 on 480 yearling bulls, all from one ranch and the 200 heifers in the same sale averaged over $11,000!
I've recently had prospective buyers from several states ask where they can find a group of Lowline bulls to breed several hundred commercial heifers. Most of these ranchers are used to getting their herd bulls from one or two sources and are hesitant to pick up one here and one there without the ability to put together a set of half-brothers or a uniform group of bulls.
Another rancher recently asked where he could put together a set of 30 to 50 halfblood or lower percentage Lowline heifers for commercial replacements. To tell you the truth I couldn’t find him any within reasonable travel distance to his ranch. It's kind of like which came first the chicken or the egg - without a demand there is no supply and without a supply the demand goes elsewhere.
There seems to be a fear among some Lowline breeders of "bigness". Maybe that is why they choose Lowlines - to stay small and to be a small producer. But for the breed to have a real impact on commercial beef production, we seriously need more bigger breeders.
The effect of having high volume Lowline producers will not and I repeat will not ruin the market but will in fact increase demand for all Lowlines, especially among the real cattle producers of North America!
Effertz EZ Ranch
Logistics can be described as how you get a product or commodity from point A to point B. We, as Lowline cattle breeders, are at point A on the map of our progress as a breed of beef cattle in North America. Compared to other breeds, we are in our infancy and still very much misunderstood, not only by the mainstream beef industry but also, in many cases, by our own breeders.
We have made great strides with the research that Dr. Kris Ringwall has done at the NDSU Dickinson Research Center in North Dakota to define the real world application of using Lowline genetics in a commercial beef cattle production scenario. But this has done little to “bring home the bacon". In other words. the data clearly shows how to efficiently use Lowline genetics to lower costs, improve efficiency and increase profitability but virtually no commercial cattlemen have adopted this production model.
Why? Well, first off, ask any commercial producer if he wants to use a smaller bull and he'll think you've obviously lost your mind. He'll say something like "Around here we still sell our cattle by the pound!", with heavy emphasis on the word pound. That's when I ask how many pounds of weaning weight per acre he produced off his ranch this year?" I get some really puzzled looks and if I could read his mind at that point it would no doubt be something like…”What, you want me to do math?”
At that point I ask if he raises (pick a commodity) wheat or corn or soybeans on his operation. If he answers yes I proceed with "How many bushels per acre did you harvest?". I always get an answer to that question to which I reply, “Then why don’t you know how many pounds of weaning weight per acre your cows produce?”
My brother, Roger says there is a very logical explanation for this phenomenon. He says, “Neil you've got to remember most of the guys out here raising these cattle are the ones who didn't like to study for tests… that's why they are here…. instead of having a good, high paying job like their more studious brothers and sisters got who are no longer on the ranch. They just simply don't like to do the math!
Here is a the sort of story we need to tell our commercial producer friends when we can get their attention long enough to really have them think about what Lowline cattle are truly good for:
A friend of mine traded me some big cows for some Lowline Moderator heifers, halfbloods through purebreds and a fullblood bull to breed the heifers because he was no longer going to be able to spend as much time with his cattle during calving season because of his job. That's why he chose Lowlines. After breeding his Lowline females to Lowline bulls for a few years his cow numbers began to grow.
Last spring he had a set of calves sired by a Charolais x Salers/Angus Optimizer bull out of those young Lowline cows. The cows weighed from 850# to 1100# and he had no problem calving them out. The most remarkable thing is that the calves out of those small framed, easy fleshing, low maintenance Lowline cows weighed over 600 pounds this fall…and topped the market! And, I might add, with no creep feed.
With more cows per acre and weaning a higher percentage of the cows’ body weight, that’s a lot more pounds of beef per acre – NDSU proved it’s 37% more. That's a story even a guy who doesn't like to do math can relate to.
Lowline cattle are the best thing that has happened to beef cattle production in the last fifteen years. Ask a guy like Kirk Duff. Now it's our job to tell the cattle industry about it. There is only one way to get from point A to point B. Spread the word!
It's often said the future is in their hands and all too often people my age let that statement go in one ear and out the other without really considering its truth and stark reality. Furthermore, we don't consider our obligation to truly help these young people prepare for that future with a great foundation of values and experiences.
I am thoroughly impressed with the leadership exhibited by the "older kids" at our Junior Nationals. They run this terrific event themselves. They make the decisions and live with the consequences, good or bad. This in itself is a fabulous, teaching life lesson. They get some guidance, of course, and for that we breeders, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts need to thank Dean Pike, our youth advisor who is incredibly patient yet passionate about that part of his multi faceted job.
When you think of the examples set by Shea Esser, Hailey Pike, Bridgett Hoffman, Courteney and Zoe Walker (just to name a few) and how they influence the younger kids, you have to smile and think that our future is in good hands.
One of those young, impressive leaders is Jessica Burson from Roswell, New Mexico. She showed the Junior Champion and Reserve Grand Champion Lowline Moderator Heifer at the Houston Stock Show last March. She also exhibited the Reserve Champion Market Lamb at the 2013 National Western Stock Show in Denver. Jessica is the reigning Miss New Mexico and will compete in the Miss America pageant in September. Her slogan is "Planting Seeds for a Better Tomorrow." I can't think of a better example for the youth of America. Jessica and her fellow junior livestock exhibitors understand the current disconnect between consumers and growers of our food in this country. They are the best communicators to help bridge that gap.
We just had the first Lowline show at the North Dakota State Fair in almost a decade. It was great exposure for the breed and a very fun event. It was the younger bunch of kids, following these "older kids" lead, who wanted to "have a show". There were about 15 head of fullblood and percentage Lowlines there for the first time since John Reed and I quit exhibiting against each other at the North Dakota State Fair about 10 years ago. In most of the open Lowline show classes that day, it was all kids, less than 13 years old, filling up the show ring. The judge commented about this being one of the first Lowline shows he had judged and that it looked like we had a bright future based on the quality of the cattle and the kids! The Wilking family from Minnesota and the Skor family, the Chupp family and my 12 year old nephew Sam were all working hard and, more importantly, having fun doing it.
I just returned from the Iowa State Fair. What a great show! Same story, led by the kids...92 head entered, over 15 steers in a highly competitive show and a terrific junior show after the open show. Thanks to all the volunteers, parents and advisors.
The Iowa State Fair gave me an opportunity to travel for a few days with my nephew Sam. Sam is a bright and talkative kid so we never had a dull moment. We talked about the growing population in China, how 4 out of 100 people on earth are Americans and 20% are Chinese. (Sam is really good at looking stuff up on Uncle Neil's smart phone.) We discussed the growth of the world population from 3 billion to over 7 billion over the last 50 years, since I was a kid. We discussed how it might just grow to 15 billion when he gets to be my age and how are we going to feed them all?! We also talked about the country music on his I-pod and the repetitious themes in new country music of trucks, down by the creek and (he brought this up all by himself) drinking. We both decided it's time to write some new songs in this world and these kids are just the ones to do it!
Effertz EZ Ranch
It is this time of the year when farmers all over the country are busy in the fields and in their haste they tend to take chances when it comes to getting through wet spots no matter what they are driving! When we get stuck, first instinct is to give it the gas and try to power your way through the mud hole. That seldom works and usually gets us even deeper in the mud. To get unstuck we must broaden our base to get more traction.
Since arriving in the United States some fifteen years ago this June, the image of Lowline cattle, as perceived by mainstream American cattlemen, has been stuck in a rut. Many cattlemen thought that we were nothing more than a hobby breed.. a novelty. And up until this spring we have been giving it all the gas we can give it and we have been spinning our wheels. We needed to broaden our base and give what we have been saying more traction. Sometimes when others say it, the news seems easier to spread and more believable.
Two key events have happened this spring that have opened the eyes of commercial cattlemen in American to the value of Lowline genetics in real world beef production. Congratulations to the Pennington family of Kiowa, Colorado for first exhibiting the Grand Champion Pen of “Rangemaster” heifers at the National Western Stock Show Commercial Heifer Show in 2012. It may not have seemed like a big deal to a lot of Lowline breeders at the time but I think history will show that it had some lasting impact. This group of heifers caught the attention of Newley Hutchison of the Chain Ranch, Canton, Oklahoma. He stepped up to see what would happen in his herd if he tried a fullblood Lowline bull on his first calf heifers. He thought he should buy the sire of those Pennington heifers and see what happens. He did and the rest is history. He not only won the Rangemaster division but also won the whole National Western Commercial Heifer Calf Show with his pen of 730 pound halfblood Lowline heifers. This accomplishment not only added to the credibility of Newley’s decision at home among the rest of the Chain Ranch crew, it also helped Lowline cattle gain a lot of credibility among the sales management staff at the National Western and commercial cattlemen in general. One of the best quotes of the day was from sales manager, Alan Sears who stated from the auction block, “those of you who have been fighting with all of the drought and dry weather and tell me that what you really need is some easier fleshing 1100 pound cows....well here they are... 730 pound heifers that will grow into 1100 pound cows and they are in some of best condition of any heifers here!”
Duff Cattle Company in their sale catalog this spring stated that for 20 plus years they have been looking for an easier way to calve out first calf heifers. They tried Lowlines about three years ago and now they calve their first calf heifers out in the pasture with their cows, checking them once a day to tag the calves. Kirk Duff says “the results have been very satisfying.” He calls Lowlines “the best low maintenance, easy calving Angus genetics available”. He further states that birth complications have been minimal with birth weights from 50 to 69 pounds and the calves are vigorous and grow well.
Duff Cattle Company went on to sell several Lowline halfblood bulls under their Aberdeen Plus banner in their sale this spring for an average of over $10,000 per head. About his high selling $85,000 halfblood Lowline bull, Kirk stated, “I can’t say too much here! I’ll bet this bull will sell more semen before it’s done than any other P+ sire has to date!” This is, without question, one of the best bulls ever produced at Duff Cattle Company. He is very complete and well balanced and will sire great, low maintenance females in any breed. He outperformed all of the other fall bulls, even the purebred Angus bulls! How can you argue with that? Low birth, performance and tons of eye appeal.
That, my fellow Lowline breeders, is what will give this breed some real traction! By broadening our base with unsolicited endorsements like these, we can ease on out of the mud that we have been spinning our wheels in. These events have created a much better than ever demand for Lowline and Lowline Moderator bulls. Lowline semen sales to commercial breeders breeding first calf heifers have surged. I’ve heard just this week of semen orders of 30, 100, 600 and 1000 straws of semen. This is not going to novelty breeders. The cattle industry is taking note of the Lowline breed in an entirely new perception. This broader base will translate to real value for Lowline seed stock all the way up and down the line, Moderator Plus to fullblood Lowlines, in all parts of the country.
There is a new effort being launched to keep the ball rolling. As you all know, if you lose momentum you just might get stuck again. Dr. Craig Walker, Roswell, NM and other members of SLABA are planning to organize a Moderator Bull Battle at the 2015 Houston Stock Show.
This unique event is to feature the top virgin Moderator bulls in the country in head to head competition for a winner take all prize estimated to exceed $50,000! May the best bull win. All participants will be winners as well. For a $1000 entry fee each ranch can enter 2 registered virgin Moderator bulls from 1 to 2 years old. These bulls will be evaluated by a panel of three noted livestock judges to select one Bull Battle winner and each ranch that enters will receive 20 straws of semen from the Bull Battle Champion. But here’s the rest of the story - each ranch will also have their name in the hat for a drawing to see who wins possession of the champion bull. The top twenty bulls, excluding the champion, will then be eligible to be sold in the Houston Lowline Sale. The exhibitor gets all of the prize money but is responsible for paying the semen collection costs for the bull’s semen obligations to the rest of the participants. Breeders who don’t have a bull to compete with can still participate in the drawing and the semen offer by paying the $1000 entry fee up until show time.
These recent and planned events no doubt have broadened our base and enabled the Lowline breed to tell its real story to the rest of the livestock world and we have gained a lot of traction in the last 4 months. Let's all work together to keep it up. That’s my “No Spin Zone.”Neil Effertz
Lowline Logistics by Neil Effertz
Seeing is believing.....sometimes.
We suffer as a breed from an identity crisis. The North American beef industry can greatly benefit from an infusion of Lowline genetics, which is clearly indicated in this issue by Dr. Kris Ringwall's comments and data from the Dickinson Beef Cattle Research Station. Yet most traditional beef cattlemen scoff at the idea, even when they see it for themselves.
I just had a visit from a Lowline breeder who bought some heifers and maintained them at a fairly large northern plains commercial ranch as he bred them to his fullblood Lowline bull. This commercial rancher kept the heifers for the Lowline breeder and calved them out. At first the rancher believed "that little bull will never get them bred." But that proved to be untrue as the preg check was all good at the end of summer.
Then, the rancher expected "those little calves will never amount to anything" after they were born to the first calf heifers (without any calving assistance). But at weaning, the halfblood calves weighed right with the rest of the calves on the ranch, even though they were slightly smaller framed, they were beefier.
I asked the Lowline breeder if he thought the commercial cattleman would ever use a Lowline bull on his heifers. His response was, "Probably not." The big question is why?
Most commercial ranchers are not used to asking that very question of themselves or of their management decisions. I often tell them if they grow wheat or corn or soybeans, they would know how many bushels per acre they were producing. If they are truly interested in beef production for profit, shouldn't they also know how many pounds of feeder calf per acre they are producing on their ranch? Not many, if any, can answer that question.
We as Lowline breeders need to do two things to establish our identity as a breed that can truly help commercial producers become more profitable.
1. Expose commercial cattle producers to what Lowline bulls can do in a commercial operation. Get the bulls out there where the skeptics have to see them. Even if you have to loan them a bull, lease them a bull or even buy a few heifers and run them on their commercial ranches to breed them to a Lowline bull and have the commercial rancher calve them out. This can be done very profitably and for a smaller Lowline producer, it is a great way to produce some very marketable halfblood calves without using all of your limited forage resources. It is also a great way to expose this great breed to commercial cattlemen.
2. Create a positive image for our breed every chance you get. Always do your best to present and talk about our breed as real cattle for real commercial cattlemen, not just toys for hobby farmers to play with. In order to do this, read and fully understand the data in the article in this issue about the research done at the Dickinson Beef Cattle Research Station by Dr. Kris Ringwall and his staff. Be able to challenge cattlemen you visit with to truly evaluate their beef operations to optimize their pounds of beef per acre by using Lowline genetics. We need to know this subject matter inside and out. Learn how to talk to ranchers in their language. Know the facts.
Be able to show those commercial cattlemen what a good first cross Lowline steer calf or heifer calf looks like. Have photos available on your cell phone to show them. Know what they weigh, they will ask you. Have a brief summary of the data that shows how Lowline cross cows can produce 37% more calf weight per acre when bred to the same non-Lowline bulls. Put it on the back of your business card. Show the link to a website that has that data and a full discussion of the study on it.
If we are united in this effort to define our identity, it will lead to spectacular growth in the demand for Lowline seedstock in all areas of our breed.Neil Effertz
I just had the good fortune to witness the enthusiasm of a "sell out" crowd at the Grassfed Exchange Conference, "Grassfed Rising: Building the Soil - Grass Connection", held here in Bismarck, ND.
North Dakota is home to some nationally and internationally renowned experts in the field of grazing and soil health:
- Gabe Brown and Paul Brown, Bismarck, ND, holistic farmers that practice high density stock grazing and raise cover crops to improve the soil health and forage quality in their grass fed beef operation
- Jay Fuhrer, Bismarck, ND, the leading soil health advocate in the NRCS.
- Josh Dukart, Hazen, ND, a noted speaker, practitioner and facilitator of holistic management.
- Ken Miller, Fort Rice, ND, a rancher who practices intensive rotational grazing on native ranch land and irrigated pastures used for grass finishing beef
The seminar was a living testimonial for all things that the Lowline beef breed can contribute to the mainstream commercial beef production sector.
One of the keynote speakers, Bill Helming, a well known commodity specialist and macroeconomic agribusiness consultant, gave a speech entitled "Is the Current Beef Industry Model Broken?". He essentially said that the cattle feeding industry as we know it today is unsustainable because of high input costs and health and environmental concerns. He addressed many challenges that some Lowline influence in a commercial beef herd would go a long ways towards solving by lowering production costs and creating less dependency on high cost grain inputs.
Neil Dennis, another noted grazing specialist from Saskatchewan, Canada, discussed "Utilizing High Stock Density to Improve Soil Health". Lowline influence commercial cattle will increase stocking density in any grazing scenario and produce an incredibly high quality beef product with very low input costs.
Dr. Don Huber gave a very thought provoking talk about the influence of glyphosates on human and animal health and reproduction that strongly endorsed forage based beef production. Once again, right up our alley as Lowline breeders because our breed is so well suited for that production model.
I couldn't help but leave that conference feeling extremely energized about the future of our Lowline breeding stock and excited to be able to contribute to the solution of one of industry's greatest challenges - to really be part of what changes the static and stagnant beef production model that we have in North America today.
Never before has there been such a ground swell of activity from emerging markets for grass fed beef, from commercial cattlemen that are simply trying their hardest to develop a strategy to become low cost producers. This trend spells good times ahead for Lowline genetics if we can focus on our advantages and promote and enhance them. Like Dr. Kris Ringwall, director of the Dickinson Beef Cattle Experiment Station, said at the recent seminar at South Dakota State University, “We have proven that Lowline cattle can really work at this experiment station. The rest is up to you.”Neil Effertz
Opportunities and Responsibilities of the Moderator® Program
The American Lowline Registry has recently launched a promotional campaign about our new Moderator® Program. I know that some breeders are confused and, like anything new, some will resist the change. The well intended purpose of the Moderator® Program, developed with the support of Lowline breeders, is to boost the image of Lowline genetics to the mainstream commercial sector of beef producers in America by verbally describing in a word what Lowlines can do for them. To answer the question of many traditional cattlemen... "What are they good for?".
A lot of thanks need to go to Cindy Jackson and Shelly Dodd for their hard work in designing an advertising program to answer this question and present a very professional image for Lowline Moderator® cattle. This promotional piece (on page 11 of this issue of the Ledger) is available for use by our breeders. It can be found on the home page of the ALR website and also in the "Forms" section on the left hand column on the home page in the subheading " Marketing".
To explain Moderator® and Moderator Plus®, breeders must first understand it themselves. Larry Watkins, who was instrumental in coming up with the Moderator® concept, explains it best:
A Moderator® has to have two registered Lowline parents, (at least second generation) even at 50%. Moderator Plus® can be 50% with only one registered Lowline parent or first generation Lowline (F1). The thought process was that a Moderator® should have Lowline on both sides of the pedigree making it look more like a Lowline and have more of the Lowline characteristics such as fleshing ability, carcass quality, etc.
Moderator® and Moderator Plus® cattle can help us capture a larger commercial market share and thus create a much larger market for our fullblood and purebred Lowline cattle because it takes those cattle to make the foundation stock for Moderator® and Moderator Plus®. These cattle will also bolster the registry with a much greater reason to keep records and pay to register the lower percentage Lowline cattle.
Caution should be used in breeding and promoting Moderator® and Moderator Plus® cattle. It is important to know what you are promoting. They are not purebred or fullblood Lowlines and do not exhibit the characteristics of purebred or fullblood Lowlines. It is important to remember that as a breed that was kept incredibly pure by the Trangie Research Center scientists in New South Wales, Australia, fullblood Lowline cattle, to the best of our knowledge, are free from all commonly recognized genetic defects at this time.
Caution should be used when Moderator® and Moderator Plus® cattle are bred up from the popular "club calf" bloodlines and especially when they combine those genetics on both sides of a Moderator® pedigree. Beware of calving difficulty and beware of the dreaded genetic defects, some of which are lethal, that are present in several of the most popular club calf sires. PHA and TH are the most common defects in the club calf lines. These defects will be labeled in many of the semen catalogs or advertising with THC (TH Carrier) or THF (TH Free or non-carrier).
Other breeds like Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, Charolais, Chiangus, Limousin,and Maine Anjou have their share of genetic defects as well. Here is a chart that details many of the genetic defects that it is wise to consider when incorporating other genetics into your Moderator® and Moderator Plus® cattle. This is from a very good article from the University of Nebraska titled "Genetic Defects in Beef Cattle" that is available at the following link: http://ianrpubs.unl.edu/live/g2055/build/g2055.pdf
If we, as Lowline breeders, do a good job of using the genetics that are available, we can make a lot of progress with the Moderator® program. With this opportunity comes the responsibility of being aware of what might be coming along for the ride and explaining those details to our customers.
Effertz EZ Ranch
Efficiency is the name of the game.
by Neil Effertz
The numbers speak for themselves. Fifty percent of the total energy used to produce beef goes toward cow maintenance. There is a 16 to 22 percent variation in energy requirements among various breeds of beef cattle, and within breed variation is at least that high. That means, within a herd, the energy cost required for maintenance could vary as much as 30 to 50 percent between animals. The cost to the industry is huge.
Scientists have been studying various aspects of feed efficiency for years. However, most of that research has focused on selecting animals with bigger appetites for rapid rates of gain, and not for more efficient animals. There has not been a lot of progress in the area of improving feed efficiency through genetic selection. Any reduction in feed costs, either through improvements in management or genetic selection for feed efficiency will have significant benefits for the beef industry. Management changes to reduce feed costs are available and relatively easy to identify if we are willing to change paradigms and open our eyes to some non traditional options. In other words you don't simply have to feed cows expensive hay. There are other feed supplements that may do the trick if there is any other kind of "filler roughage" available.
I know a man in North Dakota that doesn't feed any hay to his cows in the winter. They calve later in the year (May - June) and graze out all winter no matter how deep the snow is. He does feed some sunflower screenings as a supplement once every two days and only at a rate of about 4 pounds per cow per day....much cheaper than owning a baler, hay cutting and windrowing machinery and baling and hauling hay all summer and fall. And it's much cheaper than buying hay, especially this year. Reducing feed costs by genetic selection on the other hand is difficult and very tricky to measure.
Recently there has been a lot of attention given to "Grow-Safe" bunks to measure intake and calculate net feed efficiency. The DNA markers or the more commonly used marker assisted "EPD's" for feed efficiency have yet to prove their true value in genetic selection as a practical tool to make true genetic progress.
It is true and has been proven in studies done by Dr. Chris Dinkel at South Dakota State University in the 1970's, there are efficient, big framed cows and inefficient big framed cows and there are efficient little framed cows and inefficient little framed cows. So selection for frame score alone does not make a cow herd more efficient unless you can make a smaller framed cow be all she can be.
Some fullblood breeders of Lowline cattle can't see the reason for registering percentage Lowlines and often feel like the percentage Lowlines should be of lesser value than fullbloods. Other fullblood breeders think that if Lowlines are good because they are small then they should be even better if we can make them smaller. I happen to differ with both those opinions. For a Lowline cow or Lowline Moderator cow to be truly efficient in beef production she maybe should be bred to either a bull of a different breed or a lower percentage Lowline bull than what she is. This will allow the smaller framed, lower maintenance cost cow to easily wean more that 50% of her body weight. This is an accomplishment which is very hard to do for a larger famed cow.
Eventually, when there are enough fullblood and higher percentage Lowline cows around to saturate the registered breeding stock needs for this country (which may well be thirty or more years from now), the ultimate efficiency minded cattleman will likely breed high percentage Lowline cows to non Lowline high value carcass bulls to optimize carcass value per acre or per unit of feed input cost. This is the real reason the Lowline cattle were brought to America in the late 1990's and the true reason for their continued and highly valued contribution to the beef production industry in this country today.Neil Effertz
ONE: You can't starve a profit into your cattle.
No matter how hard you try to make cattle take care of themselves, there is no substitute for good animal husbandry and nutrition. This is especially true when it comes to breeding season. I have noticed that some breeders tend to get over-stocked before they think about selling. They end up trying to sell females that are old enough to be bred but are not bred, not because they are infertile but because they were inadequately cared for prior to breeding season. The key word is prior. You cannot change a cow's nutritional metabolism overnight to stimulate her reproductive tract. Lowline cattle are very fertile if well cared for but you must plan ahead. Either keep them on a good mineral program year round or start them on good minerals and an accelerated level of nutrition at least six weeks prior to the start of breeding season. By the way, cattle that are too fat will also have trouble getting bred. Limit their nutritional intake 90 - 120 days before breeding season then take them off their diet about 30 days before breeding.
TWO: Change herd bulls every two years.
Many of the females offered for sale from smaller breeders are the result of sire:daughter matings. This is not strategic linebreeding. It is often said, "It is linebreeding if it works and inbreeding if it doesn't." The fact is most breeders don't want to select sire:daughter replacement females for their herd unless some very specific genetic traits have been prioritized by DNA gene selection long before the mating is created. Most know these matings are either accidental or the result of poor planning.
THREE: If you're not in the breeding bull business, band 'em.
It has been scientifically proven that the most stress free way of neutering a bull calf is to band them, either at birth with an elastrator (small green rubber bands) or when the bull calf is older with a Caltrate bander. For small producers with limited pasture space and a limited number of pens, this prevents unwanted pregnancies (brother:sister matings). Only the most exceptional male calves should be kept for breeding purposes. The steers can be marketed as feeder cattle or locker beef and are much, much easier to manage than bulls.
These three tips will go a long way towards improving your marketing efforts and the quality of your breeding stock.
See you in Denver!
Effertz EZ Ranch
The times, they are a changin'!
We are on the cusp of a great revolution in the beef production infrastructure in North America. No longer can we expect to produce beef with the "cheap corn" mentality that has dominated our beef business for the past 70 years. We as cattlemen and women must re-visit our production paradigms and focus on low cost, forage based beef production utilizing some of the wasted co-products and by-products of the crop production systems so dominant in American agriculture.
This situation, so unique in agriculture, presents an golden opportunity for the utilization of Lowline genetics in commercial beef processes to lower maintenance costs and overhead by reducing cow size and improving the natural fleshing ability of cattle while raising very high quality beef.
Our Lowline cattle can do more in one quick, convenient cross to improve efficiency than any other breed out there. Part of this is because of our natural high marbling characteristics and phenomenal tenderness and texture, insuring a very highly rated eating experience on a low input grass based finishing ration. The other part is due to the incredibly high ribeye area per hundredweight, even in our first cross Lowline cattle, that insures a very good retail product yield from the Lowline cross carcasses. This presents the opportunity for us to potentially see some Lowline genetics in a majority of beef cow herds in America.
For the future growth of the breed it is imperative that Lowline breeders are conducting business in an honest manner and with the highest degree of integrity. The golden rule needs to be the guiding principle for our code of ethics as Lowline breeders.
When we represent animals as Lowlines we must get our home work done and have them registered and parent verified to make sure that they are, in fact, what we say they are. If we sell them as breeding stock we must guarantee them as breeders and stand behind our bulls and heifers with a industry standard breeders' guarantee. If you don't know what that is, here is a classic, time proven example:
"Bred females in this transaction have been pregnancy examined by a veterinarian and found to be safe in calf. Females in that are represented as pasture exposed have been running with the bull but are not necessarily pregnancy examined or guaranteed pregnant but are guaranteed to be breeders. Open females are guaranteed to be breeders. If a female appears to be a non-breeder within 6 months of the sale (or within 6 months of when she reaches breeding age) she may be returned to the seller at the buyer’s expense. The seller will then reserve the right to prove the animal a breeder within a six month period, using any fullblood registered Lowline bull of his choice through AI or natural service. If successful, seller will return animal to buyer, again at buyer’s expense. Should the animal fail to prove a breeder, the seller at his option may either return the purchase price to the buyer or replace the animal with another of equal value in full settlement and satisfaction of all claims. In no event shall the seller be responsible for more than the purchase price.
In case the animal in question should develop to be a problem breeder due to negligence or improper management by the buyer or if the female has been subjected to any hormonal or surgical reproduction techniques, the seller’s guarantee does not apply. No guarantee is given that bred females will deliver a live calf. No guarantee is given that a female will produce eggs suitable for transplant.
Breeding age bulls have passed a semen test at the time they are sold and unless otherwise stated no guarantee is given that a bull will produce freezable semen that will settle cows when thawed. Bull calves that are sold as breeding animals are guaranteed to be breeders when they reach puberty, approximately 14 - 16 months of age. A guaranteed breeder means he will pass a semen test and settle a healthy cow of breeding age."
These are good policies to adopt as breeders. We will begin to sell more and more cattle to existing cattlemen who have had lots of experience buying and selling cattle. These customers come with an expectation of how they will be treated as a customer. Remember that your customer's experience will have a lasting effect on how they talk about the breed and how many people they will encourage to become involved with Lowlines in the future.
Effertz EZ Ranch
We are all in the cattle business together...but we are not all in the same business.
Numerous attacks on business of all kinds have been happening lately. Seems to be fashionable to "run some else's business" having never spent a day in their shoes. And that includes everything from the big bad "oil companies", the chicken farmers, the hog producers and the cattle business. It sure gets a lot of press but my advice is don't believe all you read.
There are a lot of good hearted people who donate to organizations like the HSUS ( Humane Society of the United States) without realizing that they are on all out, "tax free" campaign to destroy animal agriculture. They don't seem to realize that livestock producers are good stewards of their stock and of the land. That without animal agriculture we'd have no heart valves, cosmetics or insulin. That medical research of all kinds would be set back to the dark ages without all that has been developed to keep our animals healthy and has subsequently gone on to be adapted to some of the greatest developments in human medicine. That without animal agriculture we would have continuous cultivation of our soils which tends to destroy the bio-life beneath the surface of the soil. That without animal agriculture we would not be able to harvest high quality proteins for human nutrition from virtually indigestible plants that only ruminants can digest that make up such a large part of the earth's landscape.
My brother-in-law recently asked what I thought of all the bad stuff that Monsanto was doing to us in the food and ag business. With limited knowledge of agriculture he presumed that I would jump on the band wagon and condemn the corporate giant, but I didn't. As I said in last issue of the Ledger I believe we should all walk a mile in their moccasins first.
As I have mentioned in several previous articles, I don't believe in selling my cattle by putting someone else's cattle down. Tell them what is good about your cattle or your beef and your service but if you fall into the trap of slamming your competitors in the Lowline business or in the main sector cattle business or the beef industry in general, you are really just taking a big slap at your own face! This goes for selling grass fed or all natural beef as well.
We need to remain united but we are not all in exactly the same business. Keep in mind that if you're in the feed business you are in the cattle business. You can be a cow-calf producer, a yearling stocker operation, a feedlot, a purebred seed stock operation, a show stock producer (or fitter and trader as is many times the case), or a grass fed beef producer. One thing is universally true of all of these entities. A wise man once told me that the business of business is getting and keeping customers. The keeping part involves follow-up and that is sometimes the hard part. Are you ever afraid to call someone that you have sold something to because you don't want to hear about it if they didn't like how the cattle or the beef worked out? Pick up the phone and make the call. It's the best thing you can do for your business.
We have made some moves in the Registry recently with our Moderator and Moderator Plus program to hopefully enhance your ability to sell percentage Lowline bulls to the commercial cow-calf sector of the beef business. We have a well deserved reputation for easy fleshing cattle and as a great calving ease breed for use on first calf heifers. As producers and marketers of percentage bulls we have a responsibility to our customers and our breed to be careful not to sell a low percentage Lowline bull with some hard calving genetics in his background as a bonafide "heifer bull" that will end up tarnishing our good reputation and that of the breed as the perfect bloodline for breeding heifers.
I had a very knowledgeable fellow tell me the other day that he knows a lot of folks that are thinking of getting out of the cow-calf business. He asked them what they disliked the most about the cow-calf business. They replied... cows that get thin and don't stay in good shape and don't do a good job of raising their calves, getting up nights every two or three hours and trudging through the mud or snow to check the cows that are calving, treating sick calves (scours and pneumonia) that were stressed at birth. He then asked them what they like the most about the cow calf business. They replied...going out and checking the cows with nice healthy calves at side, cows that are in good shape and have done a nice job of mothering their calves, watching those vigorous young healthy calves run around bucking and being frisky. To which he replied "YOU NEED TO GET SOME LOWLINES, QUICK!"
The cattle business is an ever evolving, multi-faceted landscape and we must remain united in the face of the current onslaught of negative press about beef. Sell your product by touting the positive attributes of your Lowline genetics without running down the competition! Take the higher road.
Effertz EZ Ranch
Lowline Logistics by Neil Effertz
Selling...the key to profit.
Know what you are selling, and you will sell more and have more fun doing it!
I have a sign in my office that reminds me..."SELLING IS THE ONLY THING THAT CONTRIBUTES TO PROFIT...ALL ELSE CONTRIBUTES TO COST!"
To sell you have to be ready to sell. This process starts with record keeping and knowledge of your product.
Know the sires and dams of your cattle and keep accurate breeding records. This is a weak link in many herds and we are all guilty of slacking off in this area because we just don't think of the consequences at the time that we find a bull in the pasture with some cows that shouldn't be there. That is the day to write it down!
We recently had a "fullblood" heifer consigned to a sale whose DNA didn't parent verify to the submitted fullblood sire. "Oh yeah, but I thought I got those percentage bulls out of there before they bred anything." Oops...no, double oops! "I shipped those bulls to the market and didn't take a DNA sample from any of them." Now that "fullblood" heifer lost significant value since she can only be registered as a lower value halfblood with an unknown sire...maybe Lowline, maybe not.
DNA parent verify your calves early, long before you are ready to consign them to a sale. This prevents the loss of income associated with consigning an animal as having one pedigree and then later trying to explain to a potential customer that she is really something else! In an auction setting, this is the kiss of death. It almost always significantly hurts the sale price and makes a potential bidder sit on their hands.
Have production records available to the footnote writer, auctioneer, private treaty customer or for your website that helps establish improved value for your breeding stock. Weights and measurements are nice, DNA tests for carcass or efficiency traits, show records of the ancestors or even a track record of sales of previous siblings may help establish a better price for your seed stock.
Know the advantages of your breed and in particular your bloodlines. Be able to quote recent sale prices, show winnings or other competitive advantages of your breeding stock as well as the advantages of why Lowline cattle are, like one pharmaceutical company used to say about their product, "LITTLE, DIFFERENT, BETTER!"
If you are selling beef, know your product. Whether grain fed or grass-fed, know the advantages of Lowline genetics... tender, fine textured beef, higher carcass cutability because of their inherent higher rib eye area per hundredweight, superior marbling. If you are selling grass-fed beef, know the Lowline advantage in grass fed beef production...a smaller frame leads to easy fleshing ability and low maintenance requirements make them easier to finish on a forage based production system. Here is a well written excerpt from a grass fed website that does a very good job of describing the grass-fed advantages:
"Because meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, it is also lower in calories. As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits. Just by switching to an all grass-fed product diet, you could lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to grass-fed meat, our national epidemic of obesity has a much better chance of diminishing.
Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. Of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of Omega-3's in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are also 50% less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3's are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in Omega-3's are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, ADD, or Alzheimer's disease.
Another benefit of Omega-3's is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. Studies show that these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading. Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that Omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.
Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that have extreme, sometimes fatal allergic reactions to these foods. The good news for those folks, is that Omega-3’s are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3's are formed in the green leaves of grass/forages. 60% of the fatty acids in grass are Omega-3's. When cattle are taken off Omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on Omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of Omega-3's is diminished.
It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of Omega-3 fatty acids. 20% have blood levels so low that they can’t even be detected. Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet."
Enjoy your Lowline cattle and their profitability. Keep selling and contributing to profit!Neil Effertz
"A Logistical Nightmare!" This catch phrase is widely used in all business but most appropriately used in the emerging grass fed beef business.
K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid! Another widely used catch phrase that is the key to your success in the grass fed beef business.
To avoid the logistical nightmares and take your slice out of one of the fastest growing segments in American agriculture... the simpler, the better.
According to Wayne Rasmussen of The Grassfed Exchange, the market for grass fed beef is expanding at a 30%+ annual growth rate. In 2010, retail sales of grass fed beef in the United States totaled more than $1.5 billion. To put that in prospective, in 1998 grass fed beef sales were under $5 million annually. This a clear message that consumers want more choices in their beef products, desire healthier alternatives and are willing to pay for it. They also want to know where their beef came from, opening up a world of opportunity for ranch to retail sales.
This is where the logistical nightmare part comes into play. There are a multitude of beef products that can be sold in the grass fed beef industry. If you are doing your own marketing work, this is where you need to keep it simple to keep it profitable. As my wife says "you just can't be all things to all people". My advice is to develop your product line in accordance with your production, processing and delivery resources. Leave it at that. One successful producer sells one product...Steakburger... the whole carcass in a very high quality lean ground product - steaks and all are all in the same package. With this product he provides three choices: 1 pound packages, 1.5 pound packages or, for the restaurants, a 5 pound package. The price is all the same per pound.
Selling halves at so much per pound hanging weight is another way to keep it simple. Here is where you can let your customers help you do the selling. You will no doubt have a request from someone to buy a smaller portion, not a whole half. We tell them that we don't sell smaller portions but would be happy to have our processors split a half of beef into separate boxes for them if they can find a partner to go in with them in purchasing a half of beef. This has led us to many more happy customers and the word of mouth advertising with Lowline grass fed beef is an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
A good high yielding Lowline or Lowline cross grass fed beef carcass can easily be worth from $1400 to $2200 per head if marketed this way.
You will have the very rewarding experience of developing extremely satisfied customers because of the taste, tenderness and fine texture of the Lowline influence grass fed beef. Be sure to recommend that they don't overcook it. Because of the naturally lean nature of the grass fed beef, caution needs to be taken not to dry it out by overcooking. The grass fed Lowline steaks we had last night were cooked to a perfect medium rare - warm but still pinkish-red on the inside - they were so lean, yet sooo... great tasting and so tender, they were incredible! Yet on a USDA quality grading scale, which doesn't really fit the job of measuring grass fed beef quality, they would not have even made the Select quality grade for marbling. The flavor was so intense and robust and no waxy after taste that can remain from over fat beef.
There is probably no beef breed that stands to gain more market share in the dynamic changing world of beef production than Lowlines. When you can couple cutting production costs, cow herd maintenance costs, lowering labor especially when calving heifers, drought tolerance, increased hoof action to stimulate good soil health with the incredible market for Lowline influence grass fed beef, the future has nowhere to go but up for the fastest growing little beef breed in America.
Effertz EZ Ranch
by Neil Effertz
One of the most satisfying parts of the Lowline business is to sell someone a half of beef from a Lowline steer or cull Lowline heifer. The reviews are incredible. It is noteworthy how many comments we get about the tenderness and texture of our Lowline cross beef. It is even more notable when you sell someone a half from a fullblood steer. "You can cut the steaks with a fork!" This brings me to my point.
If the Lowline breed is going to improve and become recognized in the real world of commercial beef production, we must exercise extreme quality control, especially when it comes to selling fullblood and percentage bulls. In any given herd, half the male calves are above average and half are below average. At this stage in the development of our breed no one needs to be using a below average bull as a breeding animal, no matter what his mother cost! This is especially true when selling at a public auction where many cattlemen come to watch what Lowlines are bringing and what quality is available. You never get a second chance to make a first impression! There is a world full of skeptics out there in commercial beef production, putting a critical eye on Lowlines because of the successful sales that we have had in the last couple of years. Many are seasoned veterans in the cattle business and they generally suspect anything that provides such a radical departure from the norm as do Lowlines.
This breed stands to see phenomenal growth if we can resonate among these kinds of cattle producers with our calving ease on first calf heifers, our docility, our ability to make a more moderate framed, easier fleshing, lower maintenance cost cow in one cross, and the incredible taste, texture and tenderness of our Lowline beef on a largely forage based production system. We won't get that done selling sub par bulls as breeding animals.
Keep in mind that no matter what the selling price, the breeder is still obligated to guarantee the fertility and provide registration papers on that bull. Semen testing is always recommended when selling or buying a breeding age Lowline bull. Most vets do a standard breeding soundness exam which includes general physical examination, a detailed examination of the reproductive organs, a scrotal circumference measurement and a semen evaluation. Most bulls of all breeds should pass a semen test at 14 to 15 months of age. There is a positive relationship between scrotal circumference and testicular size and sperm production in beef bulls. Yearling bulls of most breeds should have a scrotal circumference of at least 30 cm. This is attainable in Lowline bulls that have had adequate nutrition. I have seen Lowlines as large as 36 cm at a year. For comparison, I have seen some bulls of other full-sized breeds as large at 42 cm at a year. Even in Lowlines, as a rule of thumb, a scrotal circumference below 30 cm at breeding age (14 to 15 months) is too small and those bulls should probably be banded and not sold a breeding animals.
Financially, many producers will be better off selling halves or split halves of beef than they are selling a mediocre bull for a discounted price. We have been selling our grass fed beef carcasses for $3.00 per pound hanging weight and many of our Lowline steer carcasses weigh in at approximately 550 pounds generating $1650 with minimum feed costs. This is a much better return, much better for the future of the breed and better for the Lowline bull market than selling a cheap, marginal quality bull whose offspring will represent the breed and its reputation.
This brings me to my next point. It is a well known fact that Lowline cattle are easy keeping and do very well on a forage based diet. That being said, proper nutrition, especially when developing breeding bulls, is still critical even when cattle are raised on a "grass-fed" basis. Young bulls raised for breeding purposes need adequate protein for muscle development and adequate vitamin and mineral nutrition for proper sexual development. The trace elements are of particular importance, especially a well balanced mineral program with optimum levels of zinc, copper, selenium and manganese. Chelated minerals are more easily absorbed by the animal's digestive system and can enhance the overall fertility and development of young growing beef cattle.
Just because you may happen to be an advocate for "all natural" or "grass fed beef", it doesn't mean that it is good animal husbandry to deprive these animals from their nutritional requirements. This past year I purchased a young Lowline bull out of a sale at a national level show that had never eaten a bite of grain, yet he was in perfect "show shape". He had been raised on mother's milk and grass until weaning and then very good quality grass hay and alfalfa pellets for protein supplement. He had free choice access to a good quality mineral supplement.
When we merchandise our cattle we can extol the virtues of low cost beef production but It is critically important to have our cattle looking their best and to expose their genetic ability to grow and produce quality beef by properly managing their nutritional needs to optimize their appearance. I have seen Lowlines presented at sales and shows that were undernourished and also several that were "too fat for their own good". This shortens the longevity of the animal and our breed has a great reputation for added longevity. No sense ruining it by over feeding.
When preparing Lowline animals for shows and sales where do you go for advice? Good question and no easy answers, as most traditional cattlemen familiar with showing and selling beef cattle are dealing with larger beef breeds with much greater caloric needs than Lowlines and almost always end up over feeding Lowlines until they become accustomed to their easy fleshing ability. Consult with other successful Lowline breeders in your area.
Selling Lowline breeding cattle is a large responsibility and will impact the future development and acceptance of our breed. Individuals who want to short cut these responsibilities will negatively impact the image of the breed as well as their own future as a breeder. There is certainly no need for irresponsibility when there is such a great market for our high quality Lowline beef!Neil Effertz
by Neil Effertz
Getting the right words out about our breed is a logistical challenge. Feel free to plagiarize anything in this article that can help you explain to the askers of the inevitable question ...
What are they good for?
I was recently asked to do a short one or two paragraph summary, for a developing website about all breeds of beef cattle, of what Lowlines are good for.
Here is what I wrote:
"These cattle were developed in an Australian agricultural experiment station, by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, in Trangie New South Wales. They started the herd with registered purebred Aberdeen Angus in 1929. They bred the cattle for smaller frame size for several decades and developed a modest framed breed of very well muscled cattle with all the desirable maternal traits of traditional sized Angus but with higher carcass yield and exceptional tenderness and fine textured beef.
Cattlemen can increase their stocking rate by 20-30%, sell more pounds of calf per acre at a higher price and increase the profitability of your ranch. USE LOWLINE BULLS.
University research has proven that Lowline composites are more efficient, have higher carcass merit and retain the positive Angus characteristics. Lowline bulls excel at calving ease, sire vigorous calves and have longevity in a heifer breeding program. You will also find a higher percentage of pregnant first calf heifers.
We have no epds in the Lowline breed because, quite frankly, we have yet to meet an animal scientist who has really understood the utilization of Lowline genetics well enough to develop EPDs for what these cattle are good for and that is to optimize red meat value per acre in a forage based production system.
Breeders across the country have breeding age bulls available that have been stockman selected for calving ease, fleshing ability and carcass on a forage based management system.
For more information on the Lowline breed contact the American Lowline Registry at www.usa-lowline.org or visit with a Lowline breeder in your area."
The real value of Lowline genetics is to incorporate them in your cow herd. Keeping Lowline cross replacement females in commercial beef production is the best thing you can do with Lowline genetics to improve your profitability. After those Lowline cross females have had their first calf( preferably sired by a Lowline bull) then you can breed them to a larger framed but still relatively easy calving bull (we use low percentage bulls on some of our high percentage Lowline females) to make them wean 50% to 70% of their body weight at 200 days. We have a customer who emphatically claims that Lowline cross females are more valuable than standard sized beef cows on a per head basis as commercial cows because he can run more of them and is weaning up to 680 pound calves out of 910 pound Lowline cows. He uses an easy calving, standard sized, registered Angus bull on his Lowline cross cows. The smaller framed, easy fleshing Lowline cross cows will enable you to increase your stocking rate, increasing the hoof action in your rotational grazing system thus improving your soil health and the carrying capacity of your land.
by Neil Effertz
In the last six months we are finally starting to see some market penetration for the acceptance of Lowline genetics in commercial beef production. With that, a tremendous market has sprung up for more and more of our Lowline breeding stock.
Late last spring some commercial producers started using Lowline bulls to eliminate calving difficulty on their yearling heifers. The "Grass Fed Beef" seminars all tout the value of smaller framed, easy fleshing beef cattle as the type that work best to finish on grass and to lower maintenance cost of a cow herd. They are all saying "Lowline" without ever using the word.
More and more larger breeding operations are starting to build herds of registered Lowlines. As a breed, we are gaining between 2 and 10 new members a week making us the fastest growing breed registry in the beef cattle business, based on a percent of our current membership.
Recent Lowline sales have been nothing short of fantastic even in these unstable economic times. I know that many were worried that some of the bigger sales were going to "use up all of the customers" for Lowline breeding stock but on the contrary, they have provided an opportunity for new breeders to get a start and have widened the selling opportunities for all Lowline breeders, big or small.
Many breeders new to selling cattle in the good consignment and regional sales that are springing up in many areas of the country to service the marketing needs of big and smaller breeders alike can use some help preparing their cattle for sale. To properly prepare sale cattle, keep these points in mind:
1. Remember when consigning to a sale you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your herd may be judged sub par for a long time if you don't start early to prepare your sale cattle for their first outing in a consignment sale.
2. Nutrition is the key to allowing your animals to express their optimum genetic beef production advantages. This will insure that your animals bring top dollar at the sale.
Many of you are in grass fed production systems but that does not mean that you can't manage your sale consignments to optimize their value at the sale. When your grass is in the dormant stage or in semi drought conditions, it is generally low in protein. Some protein supplementation is allowed in many grass fed protocols. Alfalfa hay can be fed. Some protocols allow the use of molasses based lick tubs that will not only improve protein but also the mineral supplementation of your animals. You will be surprised to see the difference that this added nutrition will do for your sale animals, not only in their condition and hair coat but also in their breed back rate. Regardless of pedigree, an early bred, fleshy, shiny haired heifer almost always sells much better than a thin, rough haired, late bred heifer that has been deprived of adequate nutrition. Small things like allowing your sale consignments into your rotational grazing paddocks one rotation ahead of your main cow herd so that they can select the "goodies" out of the paddock first will vastly change the way they look and the way they breed and if you start early, will return you big bucks on sale day.
Remember the key is to start early! You can't just feed your cattle supplement or improve your management a couple of weeks before the sale and see enough change to make any difference. Ninety days ahead of sale day is a minimum amount of time to prepare an animal for a sale in terms of their nutritional needs and that is if they are already in reasonably good shape. You should really start to select your spring sale consignments in the fall and begin to increase their level of nutrition.
3. Working with the animals to make sure that they are gentle, if not halter broke will also pay very good dividends. Nervous animals shrink more, especially when moved to new surroundings for a sale and consequently look rougher and sell for less regardless of the quality of their pedigree. Wild, flighty sale consignments sell poorly and hurt your reputation as a breeder. Work with them!
4. When you decide early on your sale consignments, commit to the process. This will allow you the time to take a good photo of your animal. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is especially true here! The quality of the photo makes a big difference. You can spend a thousand words making excuses for a bad photo or let a good one do the talking.
Good sale photos take time. Be patient! Have someone help you. It is usually a two person job. Good sale photos are usually a side view with the head of the animal facing straight ahead. A 'heads up' photo is always the most attractive look. The legs should be fairly square on all four corners. Usually the animal looks best if the closest hind leg is placed back a couple of inches from the opposite hind leg and if the closest front leg is slightly forward of the opposite front leg. It is also very beneficial to have the front legs on a slightly higher plane of elevation than the hind legs. When photographing loose cattle, have your helper stay in front of the animal and get their attention by making a unusual noise or flashing a small mirror when the animal stops with it's legs properly positioned. This is where that patience deal comes in to play. Stay calm and don't rush the animal and you will get a better photo. Remember to slightly over expose photos of black cattle to show more detail and always keep the sun at your back, even on cloudy days. It's a tedious and time consuming process but a good photo is really worth it, especially with so many folks looking to buy over the internet. If your sale consignment gets cataloged with a good photo you are a step ahead of the rest in getting more competitive bidders!
5. Another no-no is to consign an animal and then sell it privately before the sale. Sales managers and the sale sponsors (regional association leaders) will find out about this and your reputation as a reliable breeder will be severely damaged by that kind of trick. I know it is tempting when a buyer contacts you before the sale offering a good price but to optimize the value of your cattle in an auction, competitive bidding is the key. So if you tell that buyer that he must bid on your animal at the sale, you have brought a competitive bidder to the sale to push your price up. If you sell out early you risk selling your animal for less than what you might have gotten in the auction and have irreparably damaged your reputation as a consignor for all future sales. Regional board members volunteer to work hard to have these events to give you an opportunity to market your stock and to learn more about all of the great things that are happening in our breed. It is a slap in their face to pull your animal out of the sale because you have sold it privately because someone called you after seeing the ads for the sale or receiving the sale catalog identifying your listing. You will forfeit your entry fee but more than that, you will alienate the buyers that do come a great distance (many times at great expense) to the sale expecting to see your consignment only to find out that you sold it ahead of time. Pure and simple.... not good business and not the reputation we want for our breed.
6. Get your paperwork in order. Register your cattle well ahead of the sale. Fertility test your breeding age bulls. Pregnancy test your bred females. Transfer the registration papers promptly after the sale. Be sure you and your vet are aware of the health requirements at the sale location and comply with them. The best sale preparation cannot make up for sloppy paper work. Customer service is of paramount importance in the registered cattle business - take the time to do it correctly and promptly.
These kinds of activities are the lifeblood of our breed and especially give smaller breeders a chance to see the various bloodlines in our breed and buy or sell prime Lowline breeding stock right in their market area. Many new customers come from attending these sales. Even those who don't buy at the auction will follow those breeders with good, well prepared stock home for private purchases after the sale.
Remember there are 32 million beef cows in the United States and only a few thousand Lowlines... market penetration is just now starting to occur but as good and as functional as this breed is.... market saturation is well beyond our lifetime!
by Neil Effertz
Cows - It's not how small you make them, its how you make them smaller...profitably.
I hear a big concern among some Lowline breeders, both here and in Australia, about the size of Lowline cattle and the size of some of the show winners.
Most often it is small breeders that are concerned that we are getting Lowline show cattle too big. One thing to keep in mind is that show cattle are cared for differently than most beef cattle. I recently asked a friend of mine "How does he look?", while looking at a show bull. He replied, "He looks like he has never had a bad day!" Many of these same show cattle under normal conditions would be a frame score smaller and lighter weight.
I think it is important to realize that for our breed to become accepted for use in the mainstream beef industry as a breed to be used in cross breeding, especially to eliminate calving difficulty on first calf heifers, we must first be able to get a commercial cattleman to consider our bulls. One of the big drawbacks is the first impression of their size. Little do they realize that the halfblood calves that they get out of their typical sized heifers and these small framed (frame score 0 to frame 1) fullblood Lowline bulls will actually be frame score 4 to 4.8 cattle.
Kit Pharo says it best when he says that a frame score 4 is not half the size of a frame score 8. The difference is 8 inches in height at 24 months old but the frame score 4 bulls still can be heavy for their height, in some cases up to 2200 pounds at maturity. That's heavy enough.
The quickest way to get your commercial cattle to a frame score 4, which is what a lot of the nation's best grass managers are advocating to improve efficiency and lower maintenance costs, is to use fullblood Lowline bulls and keep your replacements from their offspring.
It is in the best interest of all Lowline breeders, big and small, to become acquainted with the universally accepted Missouri Frame Score Chart. This chart generally goes from frame 0 to 10 but I have adjusted it to include some of the smaller frame score cattle sometimes found in our breed. This chart is for bulls. Heifers are generally about 2 inches shorter that their male counterparts. Under 12 months the difference will be less and over 12 months it will be greater.
Frame score is just one measurement of a beef animal's growth curve. In reality, what makes Lowline cattle especially appealing to me is that for their frame and weight they have an incredible ribeye area, which is the best measurement we have at the moment to predict retail product yield (red meat yield).
Back to my original premise - to get a non - Lowline cattle person to use a Lowline bull on his or her first calf heifers is the biggest challenge to the long term growth of our breed. I am measuring growth of our breed in terms of members and registrations and transfers not in the frame or weight of the animals!
To overcome this marketing hurdle, knowledge of frame score charts and the typical growth curve of beef cattle is important to all of our breeders. When you market it is critical to view what you are saying, printing and promoting from the listener's perspective. You know that there will be plenty of skeptics and naysayers so arm yourself with knowledge and remember that those commercial breeders that need Lowline genetics the most may be the last to try them. I know from experience that the first bulls to sell to commercial cattlemen out of my fullblood Lowline bull pen are my biggest, tallest Lowline bulls. The bull customer is just more comfortable with that. When they keep replacements out of these Lowline bulls and their big framed heifers, they may find the medium framed Lowline bulls would be more likely to produce the desired sized replacements.
When it comes to selling something as new and thought provoking as Lowlines, it's all about education. As my dad says, "If you have the ability to make 'em think like you think, you will succeed in selling your product." To have that ability you have to have a passion for what you are doing. It is great to see the Junior Lowline Association in its formative stages generating such passion in our Lowline leaders of tomorrow. I hope you can make it to the Lowline Junior National in Muscatine, Iowa June 22-25th to witness and encourage their enthusiasm.Neil Effertz
by Neil Effertz
A fresh start .... a new beginning.
As our breed registry has grown from its humble beginnings in the basement of our home, the need to be frugal was imperative to survival. Our growth has been steady, with lots of new breeders, and its time to take the registry to the next level of service. Our breeders will now have the opportunity to have a group of seasoned veterans as a resource.
We have a new general manager of the office of the American Lowline Registry. The office will be moved to Parker, Colorado this spring. The transition has begun and will proceed until the new office in Colorado is ready to begin processing registration work - watch the website for updates. Members will be notified when work should be sent to Colorado. In the meantime, registrations will continue being processed in Kansas City.
First an huge thank you is in order for all of the past efforts of Jim Spawn of Attache International and his capable staff, Sharon Bosley and Carl Palermo, for their work in processing our registration papers and in helping us develop and grow this young breed for the past ten years.
Successful purebred cattle breeders have known for a long time that the cattle industry is a people business first and a breeding business second. We are very fortunate to have Sherry Doubet as our new executive director. Sherry knows the people business as well as the cattle business and will be a very valuable asset for our breed as we continue to grow and flourish.
Sherry Doubet was raised on a diversified ranching operation in Lodge Grass, Montana, where her family, Jim and Mary Brown, raise 1250 beef cows, including purebred Salers, Herefords and South Devons, along with a large commercial herd. The family also farms a large wheat acreage in addition to alfalfa. Growing up, Sherry was active in 4-H and the American Junior Hereford Association where she served on the board of directors, as secretary and as president. While on the board, Sherry helped organize the Australian Junior Hereford Exchange.
Sherry attended Colorado State University where she was an active member of Block and Bridle, Alpha Zeta and the CSU Livestock Judging Team and where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1988. After a 6-month tour of Australia as a participant in the Junior Hereford Exchange, she began working for the American Salers Association in 1989 as the Director of Communications. She served in that capacity for 4 1/2 years before taking over as the Director of Advertising and Registrations in 1994. Sherry became the American Salers Association Executive Vice President in 1996 and has been in this capacity for the last 16 years.
Sherry and her staff have also been in charge of registry services for the North American South Devon Association since 2001.
Sherry has also been an active member of the Livestock Publications Council. She has served on various committees in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and as a BIF board member for 2 terms.
Sherry is also kept busy, along with her husband Jim, raising three boys, Curtis (18), Cody (16) and Justin (10). Her sons are active in livestock showing and judging.
We are also fortunate to have Dean Pike as our new Director of Breeders Services. Dean also enthusiastically brings a wealth of experience to his new position with the Lowline breed. Dean has worked with youth organizations since he was state president of the Nebraska FFA and served as a national officer of the American Junior Hereford Association. He was an advertising salesman for the Dakota Farmer publication before working for the American Polled Hereford Association, the American Angus Association, and as a marketing manager for a purebred ranch in Missouri. Dean has been Director of Field Services for the American Salers Association for the past several years and has worked closely in selling advertising and producing their breed publication as well as working with their junior organization. Dean and his wife, Jillian, live on a small ranch outside of Mitchell. Nebraska.
Sherry Hartley is another valuable member of our new office team. She has worked for the American Salers Association for 5 years as their registry expert. Sherry is a licensed pilot and previously owned and operated an airport in southern Illinois with her husband Larry. They have 3 grown children.
Lowline breeders will enjoy the expertise, enthusiasm and professionalism of the new staff. Welcome to the ALR!!
Many thanks to outgoing President, Brian Walters, for a job well done. Thanks as well to John Floyd for all of his continued hard work with our national headquarters staff and his devotion to a very successful national banquet. Volunteers are seldom paid, not because they are worthless but because they are PRICELESS! They are best paid with a compliment!
by Neil Effertz
Three big questions:
1. How many customers do you have?
2. How many customers does the Lowline business potentially have?
3. How do we get to those potential customers?
Ranch Management Consultants' mission is to help farmers and ranchers improve their land, their lives and their bottom line. In his monthly newsletter, Ranch Management Consultants' Dave Pratt says:
"Since 1970, input costs have risen 5 times faster than cattle prices. From that same time the price of oil has increased 8 times faster than cattle prices. These trends have resulted in more reliance on off farm income and a significant reduction in the number of family ranches in the past 10 years. "
He talks about the "Agriculturally Insane". He cites "Conventional Wisdom" as a leading source of security for most ranchers but also as a reason so many of them keep the same production practices and expect the results to finally come around next year. Here is what Dave has to say about the...
by Neil Effertz
Lowlines... not just another ornamental breed of livestock.
Lowline cattle... real cattle for the real world.
WE ARE IN THE DRIVERS SEAT.
As Lowline seedstock producers we have a unique and rare opportunity to contribute to a changing paradigm in beef production that will favor cattle that are lower in maintenance cost and will produce high quality beef efficiently on a largely foraged based production system.
I just got off the phone Friday with Greg Mantz, animal scientist from the NDSU Central Grasslands Research Center in Streeter, North Dakota. You may have met him at our Discover Lowlines Weekend and Sale last June. He was so excited about his halfblood Lowline carcass data that he called me from the packing plant. Here's the deal:
10 head of spayed halfblood heifers were ultra sounded on November 11, 2008 and selected from 31 head of halfblood Lowline steers and heifers that were all calves from bred heifers the year before. They were harvested on January 13, 2009 and were 100% yield grade 2’s and 80% choice at 20 months old and no grain until last fall. When they came off grass on October 20, 2008 they were supplemented with only 4 pounds of byproduct supplement (approximately 25% sunflower screenings, 25% oat hulls, 25% barley malt sprouts, 25% distillers grains, and a small amount of low sugar beet molasses) per day in addition to free choice, cafeteria style grass/alfalfa hay and alfalfa hay. So they were fed 85 days on hay and 4 pounds of by-product supplement that was designed to enhance the CLA content of the grass fed beef. Their carcass weights averaged 482 pounds. The carcasses were 80% choice and all yield grade 2’s on approximately $32 worth of commercial by-product feed, the rest was grass and hay! And they would qualify for some grass fed labels. The steers and the balance of the heifers are going to slaughter soon and I will update you with their data when it becomes available.
It is well known that, in terms of stocking rate, you can run about two Lowlines for each bigger animal. Can you imagine producing 964 pounds of carcass weight for $64 of commercial feed plus hay? Isn’t that amazing!
If the commercial beef cattle industry wants to remain competitive in tough times with the chicken and pork business and with imported beef, we should take some lessons from this. This is low labor, low overhead, high quality beef production of a lean, health enhanced beef product for an increasingly health conscious consumer!
Wes Ishmael, noted beef production expert and author recently wrote: “According to the July 25 mid-year Cattle Inventory report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), beef cow numbers were 1% lower than a year ago (33.2 million) and beef replacement heifers were 2% fewer (4.6 million head). The inventory of all cattle and calves July 1 was estimated at 104.3 million
head, down slightly from a year earlier – milk cow inventory was 1% higher, and 1% fewer than 2006. Keep in mind, the combined cow numbers of the U.S. and Canada also continue to decline, 1% lower than a year earlier as of August 19. According to the report
from NASS and Statistics Canada, all cattle and calves in Canada had declined 4% during the past year, 5% from two years prior. For Canada, beef cow numbers were down 5%.
“July 1, 2008, U.S. cow inventories are at or below cyclical lows reached on July 1, 2004. This follows the January 1, 2008, inventory, which was the lowest January 1 inventory since 1952,” said ERS analysts. “A major reason for this decline is that grain prices have persisted at relatively high levels, suggesting a new livestock feeding paradigm. Cattle prices, while at historically high levels for all but feeder cattle, are below costs of production for most cattle sectors.” Since then, beef heifer and beef cow slaughter have run heavier than average. According to analysts with the Livestock Market Information Center (LMIC) as of early November, Federally Inspected (FI) cow slaughter was about 9% higher than last year, on a weekly average basis, and nearly 15% more than the 2002-2006 average. FI beef cow slaughter averaged about 14% higher than 2007 from January through early November. What’s more, beef cow slaughter is running heavier in the second half of the year. The folks at LMIC say some of that is seasonal but also reflects increased culling rates in the U.S. and Canada due to economic conditions as well as poor pasture and forage conditions in some regions such as California. Imports of Canadian slaughter cows have accounted for about 30% of 2008’s yearly increase in U.S. cow slaughter. Likewise, Cattle on Feed numbers continue pointing to tightening beef cattle supplies. The November 21 Cattle on Feed report indicated placements were down 11% compared to the same time in 2007, while Cattle on Feed numbers were 7% below the previous year. By July 1, 2008, total U.S. cow inventories, beef and dairy, had declined to 42.4 million head, a level achieved only twice since sometime well before the July series began in 1973.”
Last summer, Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University explained, “The numbers are another sign that the industry is returning again to a more yearling based production system and more dominated by the annual forage cycle. In general it appears that the beef industry is adding 3 to 5 months of age to most cattle in order to utilize more forage in beef production.” Of course, volatile commodity prices, economic recession and continued drought in some parts of the country have conspired to accelerate liquidation since then.
Depending on who you talk to, the beef cattle inventory January 1 of this year is expected to be down as much as 2% compared to the same time last year. From there, expectations are that the herd will lose another 2% or so through 2011.
Whether it’s a new cycle or the continuation of the last one, cattle numbers are down, which means supply will continue to be supportive to price. That’s why record high fed cattle prices are predicted for the next year.
This article reinforces the advantages of commercial beef production using Lowline genetics that we have been touting since their arrival in America over 10 years ago. At that time we were so new and so small, in terms of breeders and breeding stock numbers, we could not have any effect on the beef production systems of the US. Even now, we need more numbers of Lowline and percentage Lowline seedstock to provide enough breeding cattle to make an impact on the beef industry here in America.
If you know anyone who is interested in cattle, we need all the good breeders of both fullblood and percentage we can get to be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity for growth that this dynamic change in beef production is making available to us. Others are well aware of this as I see that even Genex is bringing over some pure Scottish “old style” Angus to answer the potential demand for smaller, more efficient breeding cattle. Our key advantage is that Lowline cattle are unique in that they have a 30% larger rib eye area per hundred weight than standard Angus cattle and nearly half the surface fat. This is why the Central Grasslands cattle finished grading 80% choice and still remained yield grade 2’s!
There are more good times ahead for Lowline breeders of all sizes and all percentages...keep spreading the word. Tell everyone.Neil Effertz
by Neil Effertz
Lowlines... not just another ornamental breed of livestock.
Lowline cattle... real cattle for the real world.
Do we know what we are selling?
As our breed and breeders grow in numbers, many new folks will get involved in marketing their Lowlines. They say, in marketing, that perception is reality. My involvement in registered livestock sales management and promotion since 1973 has taught me this is very true.
Not every Lowline breeder wants their Lowlines to be perceived in the same way nor will they be all used for the same purpose. Therefore, it is important to find out what your customer’s intentions are before you try to sell them something that they don't need and won't help them accomplish their goals.
Lowline cattle are extremely well suited to small acreage beef production, whether for the locker beef trade or for producing breeding stock … both can be profitable and very rewarding for the small acreage producer.
This perception of Lowlines as “hobby farm” stock is a dilemma for those who are more inclined to produce for large scale beef producers. These breeders are promoting Lowlines to eliminate calving difficulty and improve the breed back rate on first calf heifers and to moderate cow size in one cross in this current day’s squeeze of increased production costs and smaller margins.
According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, there are 38 million beef cows and heifers that will calve in the United States in 2009. More importantly to the Lowline industry, there are 4.6 million beef heifers that are being held for replacements. Do you have any idea how many bulls will be needed to breed 4.6 million beef heifers? At 30 heifers per bull, which in a lot of the country would be normal, over 150,000 bulls per year would be needed to breed the nation's beef heifers. No other breed can do so much for first calf heifers in the commercial beef production world as Lowlines.
So, when some one asks you when will the market for Lowlines become over-saturated you can assure them that it will be a long, long time!
What I have just described is the potential. Our challenge to reach this potential is the perception. If the commercial beef sector thinks that we are nothing more than a bunch of hobbiests playing with our remote control airplanes and that we can't fly with the big jets, they will never use us.
We need to collectively think of ways to get the message out to the mainstream beef producers that Lowline genetics are for real and can significantly have a positive impact on their bottom line by simplifying their lives while simultaneously lowering their production costs and increasing their productivity. University research shows that Lowlines are not just pets!
All of our regional groups should address this in their advertising plans in their market area and discuss any and all possibilities to get their message out to mainstream beef producers and most importantly to juniors via 4-H , FFA and Ag clubs (not just about the show ring but about the beef production possibilities using Lowline genetics).
If you have not already done so, look at the possibility of getting a youngster started with the Junior Herd Starter Loan Program that is described on page 32 of the 2008 Spring Edition of the Lowline Ledger and will be listed on the Members Resources section of the ALR website.Neil Effertz
by Neil Effertz
Lowlines... not just another ornamental breed of livestock.
Lowline cattle... real cattle for the real world.
Logistics- according to Merriam's- is the activity of providing or supplying something.
The job of the American Lowline Registry is to provide an accurate record of our genealogy of Lowline cattle in America. Pure and simple, that is the first and sole responsibility of the Registry. However, as Board members of the ALR, we feel that it is our obligation to insure growth and sustainability of the breed and its herd book, which requires growth to replace the natural attrition of members that occurs in all breeds. They say that the average turnover in a purebred cattle breed is seven years per member (some longer and some shorter, but that's the average). This means that we need to grow by 14% new members each year to make up for the ones who fall out.
So how do you grow membership in the Registry? Obviously, new breeders, which can be broken into two categories: 1) new breeders unfamiliar to the purebred cattle business and 2) new breeders who have been involved in other breeds. Each of these prospective new breeder categories have different needs, interests and trigger mechanisms that determine whether they get involved in our breed or go elsewhere. The logistics (the activity of providing or supplying something) are different for each group. Education and information on how to produce, promote and market breeding stock is critical for both groups but more necessary among novice breeders. Experienced breeders entering the Lowline business still need to learn the unique production and marketing advantages to be promoted about the Lowline breed.
The next major potential growth sector is the juniors. If you grow up being a Green Bay Packers or Dallas Cowboys fan, you will most likely always be a Packers or Cowboys fan. The same holds true for cattle breeds. Junior breeders can also be broken down into two categories: 1) Junior showmen, this is the most obvious and noticeable group and we need to get organized with the state and regional organizations like the Texas Junior Livestock Association and their show circuit and points system to get these kids involved, 2) Junior producers whose projects are of production emphasis (our junior loan program, mentorships, and networking with the FFA and 4-H leaders can help us grow this category).
As a board, we are striving to provide support and guidance to our regional groups and individuals who are interested in getting involved in helping our breed grow. We have recently passed a cost share program to advertize and promote the benefits of Lowline cattle on the regional level to encourage regional groups to help get the word out about Lowline cattle.
We are in the process of designing some ads that can be used by regional groups and placed in publications in your area that explain some of Lowline advantages in three primary areas:
1) The commercial utilization of Lowline bulls on first calf heifers to eliminate calving difficulty and to produce smaller, more efficient, percentage Lowline replacement females to lower input costs for the commercial beef industry,
2) The management, handling, feed efficiency, and carcass advantages of smaller Lowline cattle for small acreage, high quality beef production,
3) The natural advantage for youngsters to get involved in showing and handling smaller Lowlines for their first beef projects.
The one greatest thing that Lowline cattle can supply to the beef industry in this challenging time of managing higher input costs, is a smaller, more efficient Lowline crossbred cow that can be produced quickly and painlessly in one cross by using a Lowline bull.
If you get a chance read Dr. Kris Ringwall's BeefTalk article: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/beeftalk/beeftalk-with-cow-size-one-can-t-forget-production-potential/ . I think it has a lot of meaningful information in it because although it does not say so in the article, several cows in the lighter weight and more productive group are Lowline cross cows.
These are trying times in agriculture that will require a dramatic shift in paradigms to remain efficient and profitable. We all will be required to learn something new in order to thrive if not just to survive in this new economic environment.MIT's Peter Senge wrote, "What makes learning something new so difficult is not the new ideas but giving up the old ideas."
by Neil Effertz
Lowlines... not just another ornamental breed of livestock.
Lowline cattle... real cattle for the real world.
In its 2004 Annual Report, before the current run up in oil prices and subsequent feed grain price increases, the USDA Research Center in Miles City Montana reported on its research project “Develop Beef Cattle Better Suited for Sustainable Production.” (www.ars.usda.gov:80/research/projects/projects.htm?ACCN_NO=405856) The report states, “The central theme of this project is to lay a foundation for accelerating genetic improvement toward more efficient, profitable and sustainable beef production in a production scenario characterized by reduced use of harvested feeds. It is predicated on the assumption that cost of external energy needed for farmers and ranchers to produce harvested feeds will increase markedly causing a concurrent increase in costs of traditional production systems. In current production systems used on the Northern Great Plains, much of the external energy used in beef production is attributable to the use of harvested feeds during winter. Reducing feed inputs during winter is expected to result in females having lower energy reserves before calving and in marginal opportunity for recovery before breeding.”
“Judging from genetic trends for growth traits in major beef breeds, seedstock producers continue to target increasing productivity, presumably assuming that greater income is equivalent to greater profitability for their commercial customers. The thesis that it is food eaten that allows successful biological function has as a corollary the observation that selection for increased production has increased nutrient requirements (primarily energy). Failing to meet these increased energy requirements typically sacrifices reproductive performance in the cow-herd. Successful reproduction is the single largest determinant of biological and economical efficiencies of cow-calf production. Although importance of reproductive performance has been recognized for many decades, little progress has been made towards improving the 70 - 71% national average calf crop weaned reported almost 20 years ago.”
Only one breed of beef cattle currently in America has been developed by avoiding the genetic trend for selection for increased growth traits…..Lowlines... and they can get your commercial beef breeding program back in line in these times of reduced feed resources and increased feed costs in one cross better than any other breed.
How do you use Lowline genetics in commercial beef production? Use Lowline bulls on your first calf heifers and keep your replacement females from your first calf heifers’ halfblood Lowline calves to improve your cow herd efficiency.
Lowline breeders, copy this message and pass it along to your friends in commercial beef production. Continue to select for heavy muscled, easy fleshing Lowline genetics and I predict that in a matter of a couple of years we will not be able to keep up with the demand for our bulls. We just need to get this message communicated throughout the beef industry which is currently going through the biggest paradigm shift that has ever occurred in this country. We can and will be the leaders into a more sustainable beef production era. Keep spreading the word.