Are You Listening?

Written by: Matt Woolfolk, Director of Performance Programs

The title of the article is always my opportunity to grab your attention, hoping you’ll read my monthly column. In this instance, I’m not worried about if you are listening to me, but rather the customers that show up to your farms and ranches to buy cattle. There’s one media publication that is trying to get the bull customer to talk about what they want, and their report gives us a chance to listen. 

For the past six years, BEEF Magazine has put together a project titled The Seedstock 100. The project was printed in the January 2020 issue of BEEF Magazine. The Seedstock 100 sets out to identify those producers across the United States who merchandise the most bulls into the marketplace. This list of elite bull marketers ranges from selling 230 bulls in 2019 to almost 4,000 young sires, and can be found in 23 states coast to coast. Within the breeding programs of the Seedstock 100, there are 33 different breeds, composites, or hybrid breeds of cattle listed. Unfortunately, neither Shorthorn nor ShorthornPlus are included in those 33 bull breed types. 

As part of their publishing of the Seedstock 100 list, BEEF also included some findings from a producer survey in regards to genetic makeup, purchasing demands, and management practices in their operations. The summary article compiled by BEEF writer Wes Ishmael was pretty enlightening. I encourage you to go read the whole report, if you can. While treating the responses to any survey as pure gospel is always a cautionary tale, it is still interesting to look at the responses from commercial producers in hopes of identifying a potential trend.

According to respondents to this survey, 72% of their cow herds were classified as mostly straightbred British or British crossbred females. From that subset of cattlemen, 97% of those straight and British crossbred cattle were classified as Angus (73%), Red Angus (15%) or Hereford (9%). When it comes to bull purchasing, the responses to this survey indicate that those same three breeds make up 84% of the bulls most recently purchased. Those same three breeds also dominate the responses for the breed of choice for bull purchases in the next three years.  When asked if they planned to change the breed composition of their cow herd over the next five years, only 22% indicated that they were planning to do so. Eighty-five percent of responses indicated raising their own replacement females, while 68% market their feeder cattle at auction. In terms of retained ownership, 18% indicated that they keep ownership of their calves. 

When it comes to data and information to make a bull buying decision, birth and calving ease information are most valued in this survey. Seventy eight percent want to know the actual birth weight of the calf, while more respondents want the EPD for Calving Ease Direct (77%) than they do Birth Weight (71%). Buyers prefer an actual weaning weight (63%) over a 205-day adjusted weight (55%), and 62% of buyers want access to a WW EPD. Albeit by a small margin, more responses indicated wanting a disposition score over a yearling weight (54% vs 51%). When it comes to the use of selection indexes, 56% of the respondents “routinely” use these tools to identify potential bulls to buy. In terms of priority of index type, maternal (44%) was the most popular, followed by end product/carcass (39%) and multipurpose (31%). Eighty-two percent of responses say that the information provided to them by the seedstock producer is understandable, while only 14% say that the information is too complicated. Only one in four responses indicated they needed a genomic profile on a bull, while 46% of responses use genomic data in their bull selection. That tells me that while they may not require the information, if genomic information is available, they are fairly likely to use it. As Wes Ishmael said himself in the article, “The idea that about half of bull buyers use genomic data in selection would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.”

While this is a lot of information to digest, I think it lends some wisdom on what the customer is thinking. Truthfully, I don’t agree with everything that we see in the results of this survey, but that’s just the number crunching side of me showing. However, if gaining commercial acceptance as a breed is an avenue we would like to pursue, I feel that knowing the mindset of the customer can help you get there. That is the reasoning behind ASA collecting data at NCBA Convention and in our own commercial survey.  The dominance of British genetics is not a surprise, and certainly offers us a challenge as a British breed fighting in the 3% that the Big Three don’t occupy. However, with the survey indicating that one out of five cattlemen are looking to make changes to their herd’s genetic makeup, opportunity is available for a breed that offers unique, useful traits. With the increasing value being placed on docility (and Shorthorn’s natural propensity to for good docility), there might be an opening for the right kind of Shorthorn cattle to make a market impact. While nobody but your customer can tell you what the right kind of Shorthorn is, the responses to this survey show what type of information a bull buyer asks for and the type of cow herd most bulls are getting used in. Fortunately for you, being a part of the American Shorthorn Association offers you the opportunity to give them all the things they asked for through this BEEF Magazine survey.

ASA Board Elects First Female President

During the American Shorthorn Association Annual Meeting the board elected new officers to serve for the 2019-2020 term.

Nancy Grathwohl-Heter of Kansas, made Shorthorn history when the board elected her to serve as the first female president of the ASA.

Nancy has spent her life raising and showing Shorthorn cattle which has grown her passion for the breed. She served on the American Junior Shorthorn Association board of directors from 1994-1997, serving as president her last year. Nancy and her husband Ryan, run DTR Cattle Company in Raymond, Kansas. Their two kids, Josie and Ryder, exhibit Shorthorns at local, state and national shows. Her love for the breed is evident in her dedication to serving on the board and raising Shorthorns.

“I am very honored to serve as the President of the ASA board,” Nancy said. “Growing up in the Shorthorn breed, I have looked up to members of our association and feel the opportunities available to junior members have helped develop me into the person I am today. I am looking forward to this next year as I get to work with my fellow board members for the betterment of the breed.”

With almost 150 years of history, the ASA continues to develop a passion in its members to serve and grow the Shorthorn breed.

New Board Members and Officers Elected

During the American Shorthorn Association Annual Meeting on November 23, delegates from all over the country gathered to elect new ASA board members.

The nominating committee submitted three candidates for the available positions. Jerrell Crow from Oklahoma, Lee Miller from Ohio, and John Russell from Texas were elected to each serve a three-year term. The board elected new officers for the nine-member board. The new president of the board is Nancy Grathwohl-Heter of Kansas, the first female president of the American Shorthorn Association. The vice-president is Hugh Mooney of California and the executive director is Dave Greenhorn of Ohio. They serve alongside Joe Bales of Tennessee, Toby Jordan of Indiana, John Sonderman of Nebraska, Jerrell Crow of Oklahoma, Lee Miller of Ohio, and John Russell of Texas.

Annual Meeting Overview

On November 22 and 23 more than 100 attendees gathered for the 2019 ASA Annual Meeting – Forum & Awards Banquet at the Hilton Kansas City Airport in Kansas City, Missouri.

On Friday, November 22, attendees chose a workshop taught by ASA staff. Matt Woolfolk shared how selection indexes are created for genetic evaluations. Heather Lange and Emily Velisek explained the ASA registry and answered related questions. Shelby Diehm described the opportunities ASA provides to members to market Shorthorn cattle and Amy Sampson of Shorthorn Country spoke about magazine advertising.

After breakout sessions, members were encouraged to attend committee meetings. The ASA Genetic Evaluation Committee, ASA Commercial Acceptance Committee, ASA ShorthornPlus/Composite Committee, and ASA Promotion Committee had members eager to contribute ideas to submit to the ASA board and staff. The 150th Anniversary Committee is actively planning for the 150th celebration to begin at the annual meeting in 2021.

Later that afternoon, the “Building a Positive Breed Image” portion of the Annual Meeting began with a panel consisting of Virgin Huseman of Kansas, Marty Lueck of Missouri and Randy McCabe of Kansas. They discussed how to build a commercial image. The panel was followed by Patrick Wall of Iowa State Extension, reviewing the ISU Shorthorn feed efficiency heifer project. The evening concluded with Eric Grant of Grant Company showing attendees some of the new ASA marketing campaign his team has been working on since July.

On Saturday, the morning began with Matt Woolfolk, ASA Director of Performance Programs, giving a breed performance update. He was followed by Dwight Williams, of ABS Global, speaking about A.I. Sire Procurement. Next was Donnell Brown of R.A. Brown Ranch sharing Building Blocks to a Strong Breed. He was followed by a panel of Derek Jungels of North Dakota, Paul Hill of Ohio and Jim Husz of Missouri, discussing Breeders’ Impact on a Breed.

That afternoon following speakers, the annual meeting was in session. The ASA auditor began with a financial report and told members that ASA is in great financial condition. Montie Soules, Executive Secretary/CEO of ASA, gave the state of association report. The highlights of his report being a 65% increase in new junior and senior membership in the last year. The top five states for registrations are Ohio with 1,219 registrations, Indiana with 1,196 registrations, Iowa with 1,124 registrations, Kansas with 1,010 registrations, and Illinois with 940 registrations. Another major highlight is that ShorthornPlus registrations are 28% of total registrations. The nominating committee submitted three candidates for the available positions on the ASA board. Jerrell Crow of Oklahoma, Lee Miller of Ohio and John Russell of Texas were elected to serve a three-year term. The board met to elect new officers for the nine-member board. The new president of the board is Nancy Grathwohl-Heter of Kansas, the first woman president. The vice-president is Hugh Mooney and the executive director is Dave Greenhorn of Ohio. They serve alongside Joe Bales of Tennessee, Toby Jordan of Indiana, John Sonderman of Nebraska, Jerrell Crow of Oklahoma, Lee Miller of Ohio and John Russell of Texas.

On Saturday evening there were more than 130 people in attendance for the awards banquet. Members were recognized for Century Club, Pacer Performance Awards and Show Awards. Bruce E. Brooks of Oklahoma was awarded the Merit Award. Keith H. Lauer of Kansas was presented the Heritage Award. Mark W. P. Gordon and Phillip & Linda Bowman were recognized as Builders of the Breed.

The Annual Meeting will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, during the North American International Livestock Exposition, in 2020. We hope to see you there!

Milk for growing calves: Too much of a good thing?

Ask a rancher what his or her “dream cow” looks like, and you’ll get a lot of various answers. The cow’s breed, mature weight and genotype may differ depending on the producer’s goals, environment, production practices and marketing strategies.

However, no matter where you live or what your operational goals are, there are a few factors to selecting the ideal cow that I think everyone can agree on — quiet disposition, great milking ability, structural soundness, easy calving and fertility.

Read more of this article from BEEF Magazine

13 tips to increase cash flow during agricultural downturn – BEEF Magazine

Farmers and ranchers are no strangers to challenging times. From volatile markets to brutal weather extremes to the rising costs of operating an agricultural enterprise, it takes a lot of grit, dedication, determination and sacrifice to maintain a sustainable and successful business.

In particular right now, though, the slow and steady grind of the most recent economic downturn in the agricultural economy is taking its toll on producers.

Read More on this article from BEEF Magazine