Why Beefmasters?

Why Beefmasters?

Our family has been following a very balanced approach to cattle selection for more than 80 years. We call our road map the Six Essentials, and we have tried doggedly to share it with anyone who will listen for three generations. So it’s refreshing to see a renewed interest in practical and productive cattle and a focus on economics rather than aesthetics.

Breeders sometimes ask, “Why Beefmasters?” It’s an important question because these wonderful cattle often don’t get enough credit for all the subtle things they do so magnificently. Following are a few of the things that make Beefmasters truly unique in beef cattle production.

On the Ranch

  • Low-maintenance females
  • Gentle and responsive handling
  • Excellent mother cows
  • Heat, disease and insect resistance
  • Longevity
  • Built-in heterosis
  • Outstanding replacements

In the Beef Chain

  • High weaning weights
  • Fast-growing yearlings
  • Low sickness and death loss
  • Incredible feed conversion
  • Long-feed efficiency
  • Grade and yield
  • Lean, tender and tasty BEEF

Lasater receives 2021 Texas agricultural award

Lasater receives 2021 Texas agricultural award

By Isabel Lasater Hernandez, Vice President

Congratulations to Isa Beefmasters founder, Laurie Lasater, on his induction into the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor! The award recognizes Texans who have made a significant contribution to the state’s agricultural heritage. Laurie’s nomination cited his efforts establishing the first Beefmaster herd in Mexico and promoting the breed in that country, as well as his travels around the word to expand Beefmasters into new countries. Laurie’s father, Tom Lasater, who developed the Beefmaster breed, was also inducted into the Hall of Honor in 2004.

From the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor press release:

DALLAS–September 9, 2021–With agriculture at the foundation of our organization, the State Fair of Texas is proud to announce its two newest inductees to the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor. The program was established in 1992 as a biennial program to recognize men and women who have made significant contributions to the agricultural heritage of Texas. They have made their marks as farmers, ranchers, drovers, inventors, innovators, educators, authors, legislators and preservationists. Their achievements span 170 years, reaching back to the birth of the Texas Republic and extending out into a limitless future.

Beginning in 2019, the induction of nominees both living and deceased are considered annually. This year, two deserving individuals join more than 70 men and women previously inducted into the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor. Today, we celebrate Laurence M. Lasater and Frances Richmond Cooper for their achievements and contributions that helped establish Texas as a premier agricultural leader of the nation.

Laurence M. Lasater of San Angelo was born to Tom and Mary Lasater, the founders of the Beefmaster breed. In 1964 he and his wife, Annette, moved to Coahuila, Mexico, where their cattle became the foundation herd of the breed in Mexico. In 1974 they moved their family to San Angelo, where they established another Beefmaster herd and founded Isa Cattle Co.

He is the author of The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Raising, which was first published by the University of Texas at El Paso in 1971 and now is in its 16th edition in multiple languages. He was elected President of the Foundation Beefmaster Association and Director of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers. In 2019, he was inducted into the Beefmaster Hall of Fame. Laurence and Annette’s children, Lorenzo and Isabel, have since taken the reins of the family business and continue the Lasater legacy.

The State Fair of Texas is a celebration of all things Texan, and there is no better way to learn about agriculture and Texas heritage than by taking a walk through the livestock barns of the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center during the State Fair. Be sure to stop by the Heritage Hall of Honor inside the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center or visit https://bigtex.com/supporting-texans/agriculture/hall-of-honor to check out all of the inductees and learn more about the program.

Extreme conditions no match for Beefmasters

From the Spring 2021 issue of the Isa Informer

Extreme conditions no match for Beefmasters

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

As I write this article, the temperature outside hovers around 16 degrees. We are undergoing a historic winter storm that has turned the entire state of Texas completely on its ear.

Amid all this unpleasant weather, something really jumped out at me: Cattle are incredibly tough! Our Beefmasters remained outside in overnight temperatures around zero, with brutal wind chills and snow. These incredible cows managed to give birth and come in with a live calf through it all. Prolonged exposure to these temperatures would kill humans. But aside from being hungry and thirsty each day (we have to break ice for them to drink when it gets this cold), they endured the record storm just fine.

With temperatures near zero for several days, Isa foreman Todd Bannert breaks ice twice a day on several different ranches for the cattle.

Although Beefmasters are typically thought of as warm-weather cattle, they actually do very well in all but the most extreme northern climates. My grandfather, Tom Lasater, founded the Beefmaster breed in South Texas. He later relocated his herd to Colorado in the 1940s. The Foundation Herd has thrived in two very different, very intense climates. In addition, you’ll find Beefmaster herds in other colder U.S. states, such as Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Wisconsin.

Our L Bar herd lives on the other end of the extreme weather continuum: West Texas gets exceptionally hot in the summer, as you can see in this graphic of a typical summer forecast. Even in these tough temps, Beefmasters go about their business of grazing and producing and raising calves without complaint.

These healthy L Bar Momentum-sired calves were born near San Angelo during the recent historic winter storm that devastated Texas.

Isa Beefmasters also partners in a small Beefmaster herd in Costa Rica, a country that presents a different set of extremes from West Texas. Yes, it is also hot, but high humidity and high annual rainfall intensify the challenges. Although the grass is abundant and can be green year-round, it’s very poor quality, creating serious nutritional stress. And don’t forget the insects! But the L Bar Beefmasters have adapted with amazing ease. In just over two years, the cattle have mastered these challenges: a new climate with extreme heat, humidity and almost daily rainfall; new grasses that tax the entire digestive system; and new parasites and ticks that don’t exist in Texas. These incredible cattle have not only endured these changes, they have flourished—raising healthy Beefmaster calves and even producing embryos.

These Beefmasters in Costa Rica battle high humidity, different insects and poor-quality grass.

In addition to these extreme climate swings, I often think about the amazing pain tolerance cattle have. When we brand, we apply four numbers plus the L Bar. If I had to endure just one of those brands, I would be screaming bloody murder, then crying in the fetal position for days. Yet cattle handle it without a great deal of reaction and seem to recover almost immediately as they exit the chute. This tolerance extends to all manner of routine management procedures that we would find unbearable, such as dehorning, castration, pregnancy testing, etc.

And what about Covid-19? The entire world seems to have ground to a halt in trying to deal with the historic pandemic, but cattle remain healthy and unaffected. The herd certainly isn’t fretting about masks and social distancing like their goofy human counterparts.

So, “cheers” to the incredible cow! These remarkable beasts convert the sun’s energy—in the form of forages unusable to humans—into tasty and nutritious beef. It is truly miraculous. And they do it without complaint 24/7/365.

These two screen shots illustrate the extreme (literal) 100-degree swing in weather the L Bar herd faces in a given year.

L Bar En Fuego having a scorching-hot impact on beef industry

L Bar En Fuego having a scorching-hot impact on beef industry

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Only a couple of times in a career is a breeder privileged to raise an influential bull like L Bar En Fuego. His impact has been dramatic and will be felt long after he is gone. My dad once told me it takes 1000 bulls to raise a truly game-changing herd bull. L Bar 5002 was the first, and he was in the first calf crop that I bred and raised after joining Isa Cattle Co. We have raised many good bulls since then, but these two are without a doubt the most impactful bulls I have raised.

By what metric do we measure the impact of a herdsire? Obviously, we start with progeny, which is his legacy. En Fuego has 196 progeny registered in BBU, but he has sired many more calves both internationally and commercially. Plus a great many more in the pipeline will be counted as his influence grows.
L Bar En Fuego is a real game-changer.

For me, an even more insightful measure is how well a bull’s sons perform in our annual bull sale. En Fuego has sired the high-selling bull in four sales since his sons first came online, along with many other valuable bulls. And I expect there will be many more. Raising the high-seller out of the 200 bulls we sell annually speaks to the confidence our customers place in his progeny.

Three of En Fuego’s sons have been collected within the Isa network: L Bar 4519, L Bar Habanero and San Pedro 7069. We only collect the superstars, so to have three sons reach this pinnacle is truly remarkable.

His daughters are fantastic as well—thick, feminine and highly productive. En Fuego sired one of our top donor cows, L Bar 3404. She is a three-quarter sibling to semen sire L Bar 4519. That kind of tightly knit productivity is exactly what makes line-breeding such a powerful tool.
Donor cow L Bar 3404

This spring I attended the Bar T Bar Gelbvieh bull sale in Arizona. They produce Balancer cattle (Gelbvieh hybrids), including what they call a Southern Balancer, made using Beefmaster genetics. Pictured is an L Bar En Fuego grandson along with the catalog listing. Beefmaster aficionados know you will gain efficiency, explosive growth and hardiness just by using a Beefmaster, without having to sacrifice the yield grade, health and longevity of English genetics.

This En Fuego grandson sold recently in the Bar T Bar Gelbvieh bull sale.
In Oklahoma, the Noble Research Institute is currently running an experiment on their commercial cows for their “Integrity Beef Alliance” program. They used two Beefmaster sires last year, including En Fuego, and they were so pleased with the results that they doubled the number of Beefmaster straws they put in this spring. Even the Beefmaster sceptics on staff couldn’t believe how good the calves were. You can see the quality in the photo—making those Angus cows look good!


L Bar En Fuego boasts tremendous EPDs, with eight of 12  in the top 20% of the breed and three in the top 1%, including the all-important marbling score. And you can take that number to the bank as literally hundreds of his progeny have been scanned with high marbling scores. If you are looking to improve carcass traits in your herd, En Fuego will definitely move the needle.

L Bar En Fuego is still in production at the age of nearly 12 on Gene Harmon’s Pine Tree Acres in Arkansas—a fitting way to round out a great career, though we will feel the ripples of his impact long after he is gone. A tip of the hat to this game-changing herdsire.

This En Fuego x Angus calf impressed scientists in an Integrity Beef Alliance study.

More than just a pretty brand

More than just a pretty brand

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

A pretty brand on a pretty bull … but there is a lot more to the story.

We will start with history: My great-grandfather first registered the L Bar brand in Brooks County, Texas, in 1890. My immediate family has used it continuously since 1964 in northwestern Mexico and West Texas. We currently have it registered in the 12 Texas counties in which we operate.

Mechanically, we use 4” L&H Electric Irons. I have experimented with every alternative, such as 3” brands, freeze brands, no brands, etc. My dad always let me experiment, and I always had to come back and say the way we had done it my whole life was the best.

The key to effective branding lies in the numbering system. Using this photo as an example, the top number is the year of birth (2020). The second and third numbers indicate this is a male calf out of a mature fall-calving cow. I can tell sex, calving season and whether it is out of a first-calf heifer or a cow on every animal, even on paper.

A four-digit series allows for 1000 calves in given year. It’s not that we have 1000 calves (I wish!), but it allows for a very organized approach to ID within different herds as described above.

Branding is critically important to preventing theft; visually managing cattle; and establishing permanent visual ID for banks, partners and breed associations. Plus, it plays a major role in marketing. Having a simple, well-thought-out strategy that allows room for growth is very important.

Isa Beefmasters is very proud of the “L Bar” and the history and genetic progress it represents.

Accelerate genetic progress with A.I.

From the Fall 2020 issue of the Isa Informer

Accelerate genetic progress with A.I.

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

One of the most gratifying things in cattle breeding is effecting desired improvement in phenotype and performance. One of the best tools at our disposal, and one which is often overlooked, is artificial insemination, or A.I.

At Isa Beefmasters, we have been using A.I. to step on the genetic gas for decades. Dad first learned the technique in 1964 at the Graham School in Garnett, Kansas. He began using A.I. in our registered herd in Mexico in 1965. This year marks 55 years of continuous use of this technology!

One of the great things about A.I. is it allows you to multiply the influence of great bulls way beyond what they could contribute naturally. We are fortunate to sell the semen out of the sires we use, so we are often able to use the same bull on different herds simultaneously.

The synchronization protocols have improved dramatically in recent times, allowing for simplified logistics and improved conception rates. We find that the use of synchronization in heifers has several key benefits:

• Roughly half of the calves are born the first couple weeks of the calving season.

Imagine using a bull like this in your herd! A.I. allows any-sized operator to harness the same genetic power that leading feedstock producers use.

• The second heat, though not A.I., results in a good number more pregnancies.• We achieve higher overall conception than we experience with natural breeding only.

• Assuming a 50% pregnancy rate, you need half as many natural-service bulls.

Pro Tip! If you breed your heifers to calve at two years, they still fit the carcass sonogram scanning window when you run them for A.I.
Although the labor cost is a significant component in A.I., having someone experienced handling the procedure pays off with higher conception rates.

These benefits alone point to the fact that every cattleman should carefully consider the use of A.I., but the real value lies in the genetic punch. You can use the very best bulls in the breed, likely ones that you could not (or would not) afford to own. You can also fine-tune your genetic selection for traits such as calving ease and carcass quality. And unlike virgin bulls, whose EPDs can move significantly as they produce offspring, the EPDs of widely used semen sires are highly accurate and predictable.

At Isa Beefmasters, we synchronize and A.I. every heifer on the first day of the breeding season when she is about 14 months of age. We also do many mature females, particularly those that are being bred for sale to add value. Cows are more challenging logistically because of the calves, but the rewards are significant.

Two groups that typically do not use A.I. who would benefit tremendously are small registered breeders and commercial operations. In the case of the former, imagine using the same sires that the leading seedstock outfits are using? How about adding that same kind of sire-power to a commercial herd? In a commercial setting, the semen is often very reasonably priced; we sell several of our top sires for $10 for commercial use.

Producers often cite cost, labor and facilities as the usual reasons why they do not use A.I. I will admit that it is a bit labor intensive, with most protocols requiring three or four trips down the chute. But the rewards far outweigh the work, and you will likely be working them at least once pre-breeding anyway. The cost is manageable especially when you weigh the benefits. I have included a sample of a protocol we use and approximate costs. You can see that it is roughly $47 per head for commercial use and $82 for registered. If you do the A.I. yourself, you can save a good bit of that, but I believe it pays to use someone who is in cows continuously.

A.I. is a tremendous tool for making faster genetic progress in any herd that is willing to put in the extra effort. You will be able to use superior genetics, tighten your calving window, increase your pregnancy rates and reduce your bull needs. It is not without some extra labor and expense, but it really is a winning strategy if you are serious about moving the needle in your herd.

Taking a measure of herd’s accountability

From the Spring 2020 issue of the Isa Informer

Taking a measure of herd’s accountability

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Accountability noun | [uh-koun-tuh-bil-i-tee] — the state of being accountable, liable or answerable

In simple terms, accountability means accepting responsibility. We are personally accountable to many things in life: our God, our family, our banker, our job. The list goes on….

But how often do you think about accountability on the ranch? One thing is certain: if you don’t hold your herd accountable, you can’t make genetic progress. This is especially true of seedstock producers, who are theoretically held to a higher standard as genetics producers.

The most fundamental standard we should demand of our cattle is fertility. For example, the absolute best a cow can achieve from a productivity standpoint is having one calf per year. This rigorous plan assumes 283 days’ gestation and roughly 45 days for involution, which totals 328 days. This leaves only 37 days to rebreed, which means we really need to hustle (as do our cows). On the flip side, in a breeding season of longer than 90 days, the whole herd cannot possibly rebreed annually.

At Isa Beefmasters, we have used a 60-day breeding season for as long as I can remember. This schedule has a nice rhythm: All the cows have a chance to rebreed annually, the calves are tightly grouped and the cows should have three chances to cycle and conceive.

Sixty-day breeding seasons ensure every cow can produce a calf annually. In addition, calves are tightly grouped with their peers, making performance evalutions that much easier.

If your seedstock provider utilizes a season of longer than 90 days, their entire herd cannot raise a calf every year, which means they not placing selection pressure on fertility. Some breeders list many excuses for a longer season: climate, embryo program, etc. But if they don’t hold their own herd to a higher standard for fertility than their commercial customers, who’s ahead of whom?

Genetic progress demands responsibility from both rancher and animals

Calving ease is closely connected to fertility. We breed our heifers at 14 months to calve at two years old and then every year thereafter. It would be much easier to give them an extra six months to develop prior to breeding and calving, but if we intend to be accountable for calving ease and early fertility, we must forge this path to genetic improvement.

Another important component of accountability is nutritional efficiency. We strive to optimize nutrition while minimizing costs and still achieving reasonable reproductive rates. It is easy to claim 95% pregnancy rates if the cows are in a pen eating free-choice, high-energy ration. But what if they are surviving on rough native country through the winter with minimal protein supplement? It seems to me that those cows are truly accountable and paying their own way. It also more closely mirrors the production system of most commercial operations.
To gauge production efficiency, we can measure pounds per calf weaned. But does that really tell the whole story? What about the costs to achieve those pounds? It drives me crazy to hear seedstock producers claim enormous weaning weights, when those weights were actually achieved on creep feed, wheat pasture or another intensive supplement.

What good are outrageous weaning weights if you spend a fortune to achieve them? We prefer low-cost weaning weights achieved the old-fashioned way. A cow weaning a quality calf in rough, native pastures exemplifies accountability.
The real question is: what did those pounds cost? I would rather have honest, low-cost weaning weights and then be able to identify the outliers for growth within that peer group. If a group of calves averages 600 pounds at weaning, you will find some 750 pounders and some 450 pounders. The accountability for each calf and their mother quickly becomes obvious.

As we have discussed, a cow under natural production can, at best, reproduce herself once annually. Even if she lasts many years—as Beefmasters do—and has a calf every year, her impact is limited to 10 to 12 calves at the most. Bulls on the other hand can breed 25 to 40 females per season and be used in multiple seasons annually. This larger scale means accountability for his genetic impact becomes paramount. If we are serious about genetic change, we can’t just pick for a fancy pedigree or a pretty smile; we must hold them accountable for many critical phases, including growth, calving ease, carcass quality, fertility, confirmation, pedigree, disposition and EPDs.

We breed our cattle in multiple-sire herds, just like our customers’ commercial beef operations. This competition allows us to identify dominant breeders and propagate their fertile genetics.

In the catalog accompanying this mailer, you’ll see our spring bull offering has been evaluated for 37 different data points encompassing all these categories. We use this data to identify the sires that will move the needle for the collection of traits important to our operation, while never losing sight of overall balance. If you are making critical herdsire decisions with less data, you might ask yourself why.

One of the most rewarding aspects of breeding livestock is seeing the promise of genetic progress. We cannot fully realize the impact of the breeding decisions we make today for months or possibly even years, but if we remain consistent in our vision and accountable to the process, the results can be fantastic.

The long and short of longevity

From the Fall 2019 issue of the Isa Informer

The long and short of longevity

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

You have heard me talking about the importance of longevity for years, and it seems commercial beef cattle producers are starting to take notice of this hidden threat. As the US beef herd has transitioned to largely Angus genetics, one of the unanticipated consequences is a dramatic decrease in the herd’s useful productive life.

We are not just talking about how long cattle can live, but how long they can successfully do their job. In the case of a beef cow, that means weaning a merchantable calf each year for as long as possible. Studies have shown that it takes about five calves to cover a cow’s development cost. A cow needs to have calved at two years old, calved every year and reach six years of age to break even. What percentage of your herd attains or exceeds this mark? These demands are compounded by the difficulty in getting them bred the first time and, especially, re-bred for their second calf.

Beyond age, another factor in a cow staying in the herd is her ability to stay healthy. She must be resistant to threats such as structural soundness, insects, disease, eye problems, bad udders and temperature extremes. Beefmasters are legendary for their hardiness and withstanding these types of threats.

Sixteen-year-old L Bar 3951 is the oldest cow in our fall-calving herd and raising this terrific heifer calf—her 15th.
Studies have shown the it takes about five calves to cover a cow’s development cost. What percentage of your herd attains or exceeds this mark?

How does longevity impact a cattle operation? Obviously, increased longevity reduces replacement development costs as well as depreciation. Additionally, the cows in the middle of their productive lives produce pounds of calf at higher levels than their younger herd mates.

Another benefit of increased longevity means culling fewer cows for age, which allows us to cull deeper for other traits such as poor productivity (raising a light or sorry calf) or defects such as bad udders, unsound feet and legs, poor disposition, muscling, etc.

We can apply the same longevity logic to bulls. We all know bull replacement costs are significant. If we can stretch their productive lives an extra year or two, we will dramatically impact the bottom line.The photo to the right shows Isa Beefmasters bulls just out of heavy service in south Florida. The yellow bull to the left is 12 years old. The manager of the ranch said they were getting 30–40% more useful life out of their Isa Beefmasters bulls than other breeds.

These L Bar bulls are just out of heavy service in south Florida. The yellow bull (left) is 12 years old. Our customer calls him “Moneymaker.”

On a recent circle through Nevada, I came across this great old Beefmaster cow, pictured at right. The ranch had switched to black bulls a number of years back. I asked the rancher about the cow, and he told me she was 16 years old. He said before the change they routinely had Beefmaster-cross cows lasting 12 or more years. Now, with a mostly Angus-influenced herd, he said they were lucky to get six or seven years out of them. Needless to say, they are switching back to Beefmasters!

The L Bar pair, pictured at the top, is the oldest cow in our fall-calving herd. She is 16 years old, and that heifer is her 15th calf. I doubt she will be able to sustain that level of production, but she’s already done her job and then some. That cow is truly a Moneymaker!

If you are looking for genetics that will improve the productive efficiency of your herd, we invite you to try Isa Beefmasters. We have been working for more than 80 years to develop efficient, profitable cattle, and now you can reap the rewards of our efforts.

Pregnant 16-year-old NV Beefmaster cow that has raised 15 calves is definitely a “Moneymaker.”

“Program” isn’t just a word—it’s a complete package

From the Spring 2019 issue of the Isa Informer

“Program” isn’t just a word—it’s a complete package

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Many producers casually label their cattle operation a “program,” and it is such a deceptively simple word to throw around. However, years of focused work and research go into a true seedstock program, and this diligence defines the genetic value of the bulls you buy. If your provider is not pushing the performance limits of their herd, they are not upholding their end of the bargain.

Herd Fertility

At Isa Beefmasters, we strive to push the performance envelope in every available manner. This may range from the time-tested practices as simple as weaning weights, to a much deeper dive into the latest technologies. We have always wondered how people could be in the genetics business if they don’t even take the most basic step of weighing their calves at weaning. To me, part of the fun of registered cattle is the ability to measure, benchmark and improve. By the time an Isa Beefmasters bull sells, he has been measured for 11 different data points. Together, this information tells us a great deal about his genetic potential and allows buyers to make highly informed selections. As BBU strives to add cow efficiency and fertility EPDs, we have responded by collecting cow weights at weaning and pregnancy check, which tell us a great deal about her productive efficiency.

The fertility built into a herd is of paramount importance in selecting the genetics to improve your herd. Does your provider employ a defined breeding season of 90 days or less? At Isa Beefmasters, we use a 60-day breeding season on both our fall- and spring-calving herds. We breed the heifers at 14 months old to calve on their second birthday, and then we require them to breed and wean a calf every year throughout their lifetime. Any cow that fails to do so is culled. Another area we emphasize in herdsire selection is the age of the dam: Bulls out of first-calf heifers or an older cow that has never missed pack a significant genetic punch. If your current provider is cutting corners—calving year-round, letting cows miss or holding heifers to breed later—think carefully about their commitment to herd fertility.

Two geographic halves basically divide the U.S. cattle industry: farmer-feeders in the northern states and grass-ranchers in the southern states. While there is nothing wrong with either group, they clearly require different genetics for production success. At Isa Beefmasters, we run our herd outside, on grass, year-round, with minimal supplement—just as you probably do. We raise calves without creep feed so weaning weights are a true measure of a cow’s performance. The cow’s unique ability to convert grass to protein is what makes her the superstar of food production. As grass-ranchers, we must identify the genetics that can convert most effectively.

Though Beefmasters are thought of as heat-tolerant cattle—and they truly excel in harsh, hot conditions—they are actually very adaptable cattle. Our home base, San Angelo, Texas, is characterized by a dry climate, with extremely hot summers and fairly cold winters. Cows must be able to tolerate 110-degree summer days but also the occasional snow or ice storm with wind chills in the single digits Fahrenheit. We have a lot of success selling genetics throughout the tropical regions of the world because our cattle adapt so easily, but the nice little surprise is how well they also do in cold climates, such as our northern states.

Health is another critical component of adaptability. Healthiness can take many forms such as insect resistance, respiratory health and resistance to infirmities such as pinkeye and foot rot. Ask anyone who has run both Beefmasters and other breeds, and they’ll tell you Beefmasters are exceptionally healthy cattle. Their hardiness extends from the ranch to the beef chain, where the feeder calves enjoy exceptional health, a primary driver in profitability. I attribute this to more than 80 years of selection using the Six Essentials, which pinpoints hardier, healthier genetics.

Performance Evaluation
The bulls we sell undergo a unique, yearlong performance test. Our test is comprised of two gain test phases: one on grass and one on feed. These phases mimic the production cycle of a feeder calf and demonstrates a bull’s genetics for growth in each phase. Many competing breeds are put on feed at weaning until they are sold. This “help” does a disservice both to the bull and to the buyer, masking the bull’s true capabilities.

We do a yearling carcass sonogram on every animal we raise and have since the technology became available many years ago. This technology allows us to measure intramuscular fat (IMF), or marbling, and ribeye area (REA), or muscling, enabling us to select individuals that excel in these important drivers of carcass value.

Isa Beefmasters recently put two sets of heifers through the Growsafe Feed Efficiency Test, which measures individual feed intake to give an indicator of feed efficiency, or conversion. I always knew in my heart that our Beefmasters were efficient cattle, but I think the results from the Genetic Development Center in Navasota, Texas, speak for themselves, with one of our heifers earning the #1 Feed Efficiency Index out of 335 head and 17 breeds. Isa Beefmasters also placed four of the top 10 individuals in the test for Efficiency Index and six of the top 11 for Residual Feed Intake (RFI). To have outperformed so many cattle in so many competing breeds is a wonderful validation of our cattle selection efforts over the past 80-plus years.

Another facet of performance evaluation is DNA technology, which we have used for many years for sire identification, allowing us to breed in multiple-sire herds and still maintain accurate pedigrees. This multi-sire approach ensures accuracy when selecting for bull libido and their ability to breed in competition with other bulls, which is pretty unique among registered programs. DNA technology today has advanced to the point that we now have Genomic Enhanced EPDs. This new specificity layers DNA markers for various traits over the traditional phenotypic measurements, giving us greatly increased EPD accuracies in young cattle with no progeny. Genomic Enhanced EPDs ensure much greater predictability when selecting bulls to improve your herd genetically. In addition, the current DNA allows us to parent-verify both sire and dam, giving you total confidence in the pedigrees you are selecting.

We are currently participating in several ongoing carcass progeny tests, validating our top sire lines’ strengths in gains, grade, yield and hardiness. Watch for these results to be published soon!

As you can see, there is a great deal that goes into a “program,” and we constantly work to stay ahead of changes and innovations in the beef industry. We strive to test all our cattle for genetic value using every available technology, ensuring your investment in Isa Beefmaster genetics moves the needle in a positive direction for your herd.

Beef Week ’18 offers view from Down Under

From the Fall 2018 issue of the Isa Informer

Beef Week ’18 offers view from Down Under

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

I recently travelled to Rockhampton, Australia, for Beef Week 2018, the country’s massive national cattle event held every three years. Following are some of my experiences and observations.

I was honored to travel with a great group of guys, including Texas Department of Ag personnel, Beefmaster breeders and BBU staff. We covered a lot of ground, had a lot of fun and, I think, represented Beefmaster breeders and Texas very well.

The Beef Week expo is huge—including a large cattle display, trade show and many educational seminars and networking opportunities. Held once every three years, the expo lasts only five days, so they take it very seriously and everyone is there.

Australia is a place of fantastic scale in terms of cattle ranching. In the hot, dry northern regions of the country, ranches, or “stations” as they call them, often exceed a million acres. During my short time there, I met two commercial operators with herds exceeding 100,000 head. The largest ranching enterprise, the Australian Agriculture Co. (AACo), is estimated to own 17 million acres and run 656,000 cows. I am certain there is nothing even close to that in the United States.

Australia’s climate is the reverse of ours, with cooler climates in the south and very dry and hot conditions in the north. The southern operators can get away with Angus genetics just like our northern counterparts in the US. But in the north, the Brahman is king. They crossbreed with adapted breeds such as Droughtmasters and Santa Gertrudis. The King Ranch once had a major ranching enterprise in Australia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more registered “Santa” herds in Australia than the US.

During the Beef Week expo, I attended an interesting panel discussion surrounding Australia’s export supply chain. Australia exports 70% of their domestic production, and they have both grain-fed markets such as the E.U. and Asia, grass-fed markets such as Indonesia and the United States, and feeder cattle exports for the Middle East. Their industry is much more focused on export markets than the US, but we have the luxury of a huge domestic population with a taste for high-quality beef. While exports are tremendously important, they occupy many niches, such as prime beef to Asia and variety meats we don’t eat to several countries, so we are not as laser-focused on them at the grass-roots level.

Because of their heavy reliance on export, Australia has a very solid national ID and traceability plan. It is as common as a number ID for us. Despite my distaste for anything government-run, I think the US beef industry would be smart to be more proactive in this area. The global market demands it, and we are being a bit shortsighted to resist. We must have traceability to ensure accountability and the ability to quickly control disease outbreaks.

I also watched a presentation by David Johnston of Queensland’s Nudgee College that was one of the most interesting university studies I have seen. They took genetics from high-profile cattle programs and created test herds of Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmasters—the dominant heat-tolerant breeds in Australia. They have recently incorporated some Beefmaster genetics and I think will expand that, so we have an opportunity to show what our cattle can do. They keep the females as replacements and are studying which breeds—and genetics within breeds—can adapt to the tough conditions and still breed on schedule.

Next we attended a fed steer contest and sale. It featured grass-fed steers and grain-finished steers of two common lengths, 70 days and 100 days. It was great to see how good those grass-fed animals could finish. A three-year-old grass-fat steer weighing 1800 pounds is an impressive sight!

Neil Donaldson, the Executive VP of the Droughtmaster Association, gave an excellent presentation about the development of the breed and their status today. Droughtmasters enjoy a very strong market in northern Australia, with very enviable sale prices for their commercial and seedstock bulls. There are many parallels between Droughtmasters and Beefmasters. In fact, Droughtmasters founder John Atkinson visited both my grandfather and Jan Bonsma of South Africa, all of whom developed national breeds in roughly the same era.

We had a meeting with the Droughtmaster Board of Directors to explore areas in which we might collaborate. Although the breeds share many similarities, they have divergent international market share, so I think there may be real opportunity to work together against the common enemy.

The animal rights movement has had a frightening effect on the Aussie beef industry. Activists have successfully pressured their largest export client, Indonesia, to enforce rules to phase out horns (and dehorning!) on cattle by 2025. This regulation obviously has dramatic implications for horned breeds. They are rapidly turning them polled, but at what I believe to be a cost. The polled gene has been linked to poor prepuce structure. Although I believe polled has its place, the rush to achieve polled quickly through indiscriminate selection can have a negative impact, as we often see in other breeds.

Another key difference between US and Aussie industries is the presence of hormones, which they don’t use—again because of their export markets. It is my belief that we have done ourselves a disservice by insisting on the continued use of hormones when our customers, both at home and abroad, have plainly stated they don’t like them. It doesn’t really matter what science may say about their safety—“the customer is always right.”

Additionally, I experienced some interesting new technology while in Australia. I got my first view of a “virtual fence,” something probably not unique to Australia. The fence consists of a collar placed on an animal with GPS controlling their location. Imagine the grazing management and handling this would allow, not to mention the possible maintenance and construction savings over the long term!

Something else I encountered that you probably would not find in the US is automatic cattle sorting. Many ranches sell grass-fattened steers straight off the ranch (oh, that we were so lucky!). Ranches constantly sort the loads as they reach desired weight. A scale unit automatically weighs each animal as it comes in to water. If the animal is above the desired weight, a gate opens to sort it off, allowing those underweight to remain in the pasture. A fabulous labor savings and stress-free way to accomplish this task!

Speaking of labor, Australia is the only place I have visited whose labor costs are even higher than ours. They have a very “union-style” labor setup in which every employee receives high pay, low hours in the form of a 37-hour workweek, and four weeks of paid vacation annually. This kind of pay scale makes it very difficult to hire low-skill agricultural workers, so the Australian ranchers are very focused on labor savings.

Australians are tremendously friendly folks, as is usually the case with ranchers worldwide. We share many challenges with our “mates” around the world, and yet we both face some unique ones. There is no doubt the Australian ranchers are both cowboys and cowmen. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to get back to see more of “the Outback.”

Isa Heifer Captures Top Spot in Feed Efficiency Test

From the Spring 2018 Informer

Isa Heifer Captures Top Spot in Feed Efficiency Test

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Isa Beefmasters, LLC, of San Angelo, Texas, is proud to announce that one of their Beefmaster heifers, L Bar 7102, recently won the Fall 2017 Efficiency Test at the Genetic Development Center in Navasota, Texas. She had the highest Efficiency Index among 335 animals of 17 different breeds.

Gustavo Toro, Manager at the Genetic Development Center, awarded L Bar 7102 the MVP (Most Valuable Performer) trophy of the test. According to Mr. Toro, “On top of that Isa Beefmasters had four of the top ten animals by Efficiency Index and 6 of the top 11 animals for Residual Feed Intake (RFI). Congratulations to Isa Beefmasters for the outstanding performance of their animals.”

Feed Efficiency is the talk in the beef industry right now. According to the GDC, “It’s no mystery the public wants ranchers to produce more environmentally efficient animals, but just as important is that rancher’s ability to stay profitable. Drought, diminishing land resources and feed costs are all factors that point to the need to develop more efficient and profitable cattle.”

The Genetic Development Center test is a 71-day gain test conducted on Growsafe Technology feeders, which measure each animal’s Individual feed intake. This revolutionary technology allows us to go beyond just assessing what an animal gains in a defined period but also what they consumed to make that gain. More information can be found at www.geneticdevelopmentcenter.com.

Isa President Lorenzo Lasater, the third generation of his family raising Beefmasters said, “This was the first time we had an opportunity to test a set of cattle using the Growsafe Technology, so I was hopeful but nervous going in. To have outperformed so many cattle in so many competing breeds was a wonderful validation of our cattle selection efforts over the past 80 years. My grandfather established a balanced approach through the Six Essentials, and the payoff is cattle that are optimal in all phases of their productive lives—whether that be fertility, efficient gains, foraging, maternal ability, longevity or carcass quality.

L Bar 7102 is a daughter of Escalade, one of Isa Beefmasters’ top semen sires in partnership with Dbl D Bar Ranch of Industry Texas. The bull is currently owned by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. L Bar 7102 will be bred May 1st at 14 months of age. If she breeds successfully in 60 days, she will join her mother in the herd.

For more information on Beefmasters and the Isa Program, please contact Lorenzo Lasater directly at (325) 656 9126.

Technology Guides Improvements in the Pasture

From the Spring 2018 Informer

Technology guides improvements in the pasture

by Lorenzo Lasater, President

Technology. This is not word typically associated with beef cattle production. But we might just surprise you. Beef cattle genetic production can—and should be—pretty high-tech.

Isa Beefmasters continuously crusades to improve and validate both our own herd and the Beefmaster breed. We are confident the cattle are high-performing and efficient, but we must demonstrate these strengths to the industry and strive for continual advancement.

One of the many things that makes Beefmasters unique among beef breeds is that they were forged through performance testing. Breed founder Tom Lasater, considered by many to be the father of performance testing, began systematically weighing his calves in 1936. This undertaking was unheard of at a time when cattle were still sold by the head. He knew that weight was a critically important component of cattle profitability. Amazingly ahead of his time, he also understood that how efficiently an animal achieved that weight was critical.

Isa Beefmasters continues the tradition of performance testing today. We are in the middle of testing our 65th set of Beefmaster bulls, which will sell at our annual sale on October 6, 2018. Our sale catalog contains 53 data points, allowing buyers to select their bulls precisely using an amazing range of performance criteria. Whether the rancher cares about pedigree, individual weights, breed-leading EPDs, grass and feed gains or carcass sonogram, he will find that information in our catalog.

We began using carcass sonogram technology when it first became commercially available in the early 1980s. We have now scanned many thousands of animals for carcass quality. Using this important tool has certainly moved the needle for our herd and is the reason we have many of the top bulls in the breed for IMF (marbling) and Ribeye Area (muscling) EPDs.

Another use of sonogram is pregnancy testing. We can use blood testing and sonogram pregnancy testing to accelerate the identification of open females, as soon as 28 days following the breeding period. This allows us to move open cattle out of the system faster, making more efficient use of our valuable resources.

In addition, we adopted DNA technology when it first became available in the 1980s. It was a natural complement to our commitment to multiple-sire breeding. Multiple-sire breeding means we use our bulls like our commercial customers do: We don’t hand them 25 pretty ladies to breed at their leisure—they have to compete to breed with other sires in large herds. This competition is a key reason that Isa bulls are more aggressive and reliable breeders, feedback we consistently hear from our customers.

DNA today has expanded well beyond sire ID, to genomic enhanced EPDs. We are now using DNA to enhance the accuracy of EPDs. Traditionally, EPDs on virgin bulls have been extremely inaccurate—basically just an average of a bull’s parents. Genomic Enhanced EPDs (GEPDs) allow us to use technology to overlay the bull’s DNA genetic merits with that of his parents to create very accurate EPDs, giving you greater selection confidence in the EPDs you are using.

As we have added EPDs through the years, it has become a bit overwhelming. The addition of indexes has allowed us to synthesize those data points into a meaningful index of our production goals, expressed in dollars. $T, or Terminal Index, is designed for the retained-ownership cattleman, feeder-cattle buyer or packer who is most interested in fast-growing, high-performing steers that will be sold to the packer on grids based on carcass merit. $T is a combination of WW, YW, REA and IMF EPDs.

$M, or Maternal Index, is designed to help ranchers select animals that will make top replacement females. $M accounts for growth, milk production and fertility and considers expected cow maintenance issues to arrive at an economic figure that is meaningful to the cowman. The EPDs considered and factored into $M are WW, YW, Milk and SC. These are balanced against cow maintenance costs as a result of mature cow size and milk production.

Another important use of technology in our breeding program is both Artificial Insemination (AI) and Embryo Transfer (ET). Isa Beefmasters has both fall and spring calving herds, and we synchronize and AI our yearling replacement heifers on the first day of the breeding season each year. This allows us to stack the genetics of our top sires onto our most advanced females to date.

We have also used embryo transfer to expand our numbers and propagate outstanding genetics on the female side more rapidly than nature allows. Cattle breeding is a frustratingly slow process, with one calf per year the absolute best they can achieve. We need to deploy technology to raise the best possible genetics in the fastest manner.

Isa Beefmasters participates in progeny tests any time they come available. This is all part of demonstrating and validating the genetics we raise. The current buzz in the industry is all about feed efficiency, or what an animal consumes to achieve gains. Following are the results of three recent progeny tests that we had sires participating in:

The USDA Agricultural Research Service recently conducted a feed efficiency evaluation at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE. The 18-breed study evaluated 5,606 head of cattle, composed of finishing steers and growing replacement heifers, and they were evaluated for efficiency using ADG during feed intake data collection. The feed efficiency test results ranked the Beefmaster breed second for Average Daily Gain (ADG) and Dry Matter Intake (DMI) in both steers and heifers, and they were far and away the best when the sexes were combined. Eighteen breeds and Beefmasters were the most efficient! The USDA would not share the sire-specific data, but Isa contributed two sires over the life of the project.

We also submitted our herdsire Escalade to a recent progeny test in West Texas and subsequently Kansas. Four Beefmaster sires were AI’d to commercial Angus females. They were taken to a feedyard in eastern Kansas post-weaning for a Growsafe Feed Efficiency Test, which recently concluded. I am pleased to report that the Escalade heifers were the most efficient in the test! The heifers will be returned to the herd in Texas and be tested for production efficiency, while the steers will be fed and slaughtered this year in Kansas. We look forward to seeing the results of both.

A third progeny test was done in partnership with the University of Arkansas Monticello, which has a registered Beefmaster herd. The females were AI’d to three top Beefmaster sires, including L Bar En Fuego, and then cleaned up to Angus bulls. The En Fuego calves had the highest average weaning weight in the test and were 14% heavier than the Angus-cross calves. The females will be returned to the herd and production efficiency traits like fertility and longevity can be measured. The steers were recently slaughtered in Kansas. We don’t have the sire-specific results yet, but the following chart shows how the Beefmaster steers performed relative to the Angus. Beefmasters were both higher marbling and more profitable!

Angus Beefmaster
Hot Wt 809 788
Yield Grade 3.07 3.05
Marbling 399 449
REA 12.42 12.40
Back Fat 0.69 0.68
Carcass $ $1,509 $1,530
$/CWT $187 $194

In addition to the progeny tests, we also recently concluded a feed efficiency test on a set of yearling heifers. There is more detailed information on page 1 of this Informer, but the important takeaway is L Bar 7102 had the highest Efficiency Index among 335 animals of 17 different breeds, and Isa Beefmasters had four of the top ten animals by Efficiency Index and six of the top 11 animals for Residual Feed Intake (RFI)!

While technology might seem far removed from the simple environs of the pasture, it should be viewed instead as a critical tool at a rancher’s disposal. More than thirty years ago, Isa Beefmasters realized cutting-edge technology, starting with sonograms and DNA, could have a swift and decisive impact on our quest for cattle improvement. They say knowledge is power, and we were able to harness this information to drive the direction of our herd ever forward. Today, nationwide progeny tests validate our efforts, proving that with technology, ranchers can make better informed decisions yielding better cattle.

Global Beef Boundaries Blurring

From the Fall 2017 Isa Informer

Global beef boundaries blurring

by Lorenzo Lasater, President

You hear it every day: “It’s a global market.” That could not be truer in the beef industry today. The free movement of money, information and hyper-efficient logistics have truly brought the beef industry into the modern age.

We have always had an international flair here at Isa Beefmasters. Mom and Dad ranched in Mexico in the 1960s, and Isabel (our company’s namesake) and I were born there. Dad sent the first Beefmaster semen into southern Africa in 1974. Since that time, we’ve shipped many thousands of straws to over 18 countries worldwide.

The United States is the world’s fourth largest beef exporter, while at the same time the number one importer. How is that possible? Americans prefer high-end cuts like steaks and don’t eat a lot of the variety meats like heart or intestines. This preference presents a problem when we harvest an animal. However, basically we are able to swap the high-demand cuts we want with someone else who has a different shopping list. This allows us to meet our domestic demand and still receive good value for the entire animal at harvest. In 2016, the value of U.S. beef exports was $6.343 billion, which is 14% of our total domestic production.

Things are happening in countries around the world that send ripples through the global beef complex, affecting prices and supply. Recently in the news we saw China (and its 1.4 billion people) opened to U.S. beef. The wealthiest 10% of Chinese residents have a net worth total more than all of Japan. The United States recently opened its market to Brazilian beef, then promptly closed it again last June over safety concerns. Japan recently raised tariffs on U.S. beef, a significant change as Japan is the largest destination for U.S. beef in both volume and value.

In addition, the U.S. is beginning the renegotiation of NAFTA. Mexico is the tenth largest exporter of beef, and many of their feeder cattle come to the United States. Isa Beefmasters proudly provides genetics in the form of bulls, females, semen and embryos to our counterparts south of the border. Mexico is a critically important partner in the U.S. beef chain and our own small business.

A massive drought in Australia (the world’s #3 beef exporter) has lowered their available beef export by 300 tons (that’s a lot of ribeyes!). Countries like the United States are benefitting by filling that gap.

Did you know that the world’s largest exporter of beef in 2016 was India? Did you also know that, last May they banned beef slaughter as inhumane? I am not sure how that is going to work, but it will clearly have an impact on the global market.

Recently, we have had inquiries for large numbers of replacement heifers for Egypt and many thousands of feeder calves bound for Turkey. Ten years ago, such a transaction would not have been possible due to logistics. Now there are specially fitted planes that will haul 1,000 heifers and specialty tanker ships that can handle 5,000 head. The establishing of health protocols between nations and the reduction of corruption have made these types of transactions viable in the modern age.

From the perspective of the Beefmaster breed, we are rapidly expanding our global horizons. Last year Italy celebrated the European Union’s first Beefmaster birth. And last week, Poland’s first Beefmaster was born, with the first in Ireland soon to follow. At the same time, the breed continues to expand and strengthen throughout Latin America: there are currently six established Beefmaster associations in Mexico, Central and South America. In addition, our first Asian outpost is growing well in Thailand, and southern Africa remains a strong and vibrant Beefmaster market.

You can see that occurrences thousands of miles from home are playing a critical role in the prices we receive for our own production. We often can’t affect these at the local level, but by participating with your state cattle association and NCBA on the national level, we can all participate. These organizations are thinking about global trade even when we are not.

The world is changing fast, and the old adage of “adapt or perish” applies to our industry now more than ever. The United States is uniquely positioned to be a global beef power for generations. More importantly, we are producing the genetics the rest of the world is using to improve their own productivity, efficiency and beef quality, ensuring our continued relevance in this great industry.

Navigate Road to Success with Six Essentials

From the Spring 2017 issue of the Isa Informer

Navigate Road to Success with Six Essentials

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

A dogged pursuit of economically vital traits defines the creation of the Beefmaster breed. My grandfather Tom Lasater crafted the Beefmaster breed under the guidance of his own Lasater Philosophy, or the Six Essentials, an economical roadmap for the selection of beef cattle. Although a common thread in all modern beef production today, his ideas were considered revolutionary—and some said crazy—at the time.

Today when cattle folks visit our ranch to see cattle and discuss ideas, the conversation inevitably turns to the Six Essentials and how we deploy them in daily operations. Although it is simple to profess allegiance to the concept, it is much more difficult to wield it as the powerful selection weapon it is. I thought it might be useful to outline a few of the tools Isa Beefmasters employs to weave the Six Essentials throughout our breeding program and management. While some are so obvious as to appear simplistic, others might come as a bit of a surprise.


Fertility is the cornerstone of the Six Essentials. With a fertile herd, all the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. So how do you build fertility into your cowherd? The first piece is so simple many fail to see it—a defined breeding season. If cattle are expected to raise a calf every year (meaning optimum and maximum production), they must have a breeding season of 90 days or fewer. Gestation length in cattle is 280 days, or nine months. This leaves only 90 days for involution (recovery) and rebreeding. In a breeding season longer than 90 days, a percentage of the females cannot calve annually.

The breeding season, of course, means nothing if you don’t take the next critical step—eliminating from the herd those females that don’t raise a calf each year. If you adhere to a defined breeding season, pregnancy test and cull accordingly, the fertility of your herd will begin to increase each year, as the less fertile are eliminated and the replacement heifers become increasingly fertile.

In the Isa Beefmasters herds, we follow a 60-day season. This shorter season balances the selection for fertility while still giving a reasonable timeframe for cows to become pregnant—they basically have as many as three cycles to breed.

For an added twist in the selection of individuals, we emphasize choosing sons and daughters of first-calf heifers. These cattle exemplify early maturity and calving ease, which amplifies the progress of fertility within the herd.

A final consideration regarding fertility—and one that makes Beefmasters completely unique among beef breeds—is population genetics. We breed our cattle in multiple-sire herds, meaning our bulls must compete to breed, just like they will in our customers’ commercial beef operations. We began using DNA for sire identification more than 20 years ago, when it first became commercially available. This information gives us the incredible luxury of employing population genetics and still knowing who the sires are. There is a tremendous variation in libido and breeding effectiveness among bulls. We want to identify those dominant breeders and propagate their fertile genetics.


Weight seems obvious: Cow-calf operations sell pounds of beef, so more is always better, right? Actually, no! Weight is a delicate balance, and we strive to produce optimum—rather than maximum—weights in cattle.

Extremely growthy cattle, Beefmasters easily move the needle for weight, which is a highly heritable genetic trait. We measure and select for weight in many ways: We take weaning and yearling weights and track the corresponding EPDs for both. In the Isa Beefmasters Bull Performance Test, we put all our developing bulls through both grass and feed gain tests. If we select the heaviest and highest gaining bulls in both those phases, what will happen over generations of cattle? They get bigger!

Large females require more maintenance and have difficulty rebreeding under tough conditions. We ranch in low-rainfall, semi-desert country, where conditions frequently are tough. So I constantly strive to balance optimum weight with performance, while trying to moderate extreme growth by selecting for type rather than pure weight. Tom Lasater called this selection for type conformation, the next of our Six Essentials.


Simply put, conformation refers to the visual appraisal of a live animal with regard to carcass merit and production efficiency. We critically examine animals for thickness and muscling, structural correctness, appropriate size and masculinity or femininity. Also especially important is freedom from structural or genetic cosmetic defects, for example a crooked nose, post legs, poorly formed testicles, long sheath, weak back, etc. Fleshing ability also falls under conformation. We deem a cow lacking if she is in poor condition relative to her peers.

Milk Production

We select for milk production in a couple of basic ways. It is important to note that, once again, we strive for optimum production. Too little milk and calf weight and quality suffer; too much milk and the energy required to produce the excess is stolen from other areas, such as the cow’s own body condition or reproduction.

The first and most obvious way of measuring milk production is examining weaning weight. If you are trying to reduce cow size, you can dig a little deeper by figuring what percent of a cow’s body weight her calf represents at weaning. A cow weighing 1000 pounds and weaning a 600-pound calf is much more efficient than a 1500-pound cow weaning the same calf. Milk EPDs also reflect her genetic ability to produce milk.

Another simple tool for managing milk production in the pasture is to identify and eliminate any cow that raises a poor-quality calf, an indicator of low milk and/or poor mothering ability. It goes without saying we must eliminate any dry cows and those that orphan their calves.


Hardiness refers to the animal’s ability to thrive in difficult conditions with low maintenance costs. Beefmasters absolutely dominate other cattle breeds in hardiness, which is one of the reasons for their popularity in many cattle regions world-wide characterized by harsh climates (desert, tropical, hot, humid) and low infrastructure. If you can’t easily buy cow feed, you need cows that can survive without!

Disease and insect resistance also fall under the hardiness umbrella. Beefmasters enjoy an innate “wellness” that stems from many generations of not being pampered. Tom Lasater quit using insecticides decades ago, with the theory that some cattle are more naturally resistant to parasites than others. He believed that cattle with lower resistance would fail to rebreed and, thus, remove themselves from the herd. Over many generations, this self-sufficiency will impact the herd’s genetic resistance to disease and insects significantly.

So how do we select for hardiness? Already we have discussed eliminating poor doers, such as thin cows or orphan calves and their mothers. Management also plays an important role. We all enjoy being good to our cattle, but we also must be mindful of the economics of pampering cattle, which has both a financial and genetic cost. If you pamper cattle too much, you allow less desirable individuals to remain in the herd and therefore lose genetic traction. Forcing cattle to succeed regardless of their conditions improves the ingrained hardiness of your herd most rapidly, allowing you to see which ones rise to meet the challenge and which ones fail.


Gentle cattle handle better, breed better, feed better, slaughter better and generally are nicer to spend time with than wild, nervous or ill-tempered cattle. We select for disposition by teaching cattle good manners when handling them and also by not tolerating bad behavior. We have all seen the wild cow teaching her young calf to act the same way. Part nature and part nurture, that behavior does not belong in our herd. You’ll find that if you eliminate the worst offenders, the rest of the cattle quickly settle down.

One other concept I’ll discuss under disposition is intelligence. I truly believe, and have seen it verified many times by others, that Beefmasters are smarter than other breeds. They are calm, responsive and almost eager to please. We have all had the experience of trying to put a herd of cattle through a gate. It always takes a calm and reasonable lead cow to start the flow in the way we are asking. We hope to propagate those pleasant, intelligent dispositions in our cattle.

A simple and effective roadmap, the Six Essentials guides us to economical cattle breeding and management. Incredibly, these tools are not limited to Beefmasters but can be applied to other types of cattle, or even other types of livestock. Success with the Six Essentials simply requires a willingness to work with nature to hold cattle accountable. Reaping both financial and genetic rewards more than justifies the extra effort.

Russia Warming to Beefmasters?

From the Fall 2016 issue of the Isa Informer

Russia warming to Beefmasters?

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Editor’s note: The following excerpt comes from an email inquiry we received from a Russian cattle producer who was interested in Beefmasters. Included below are the opinions he received from a local operator regarding the breed’s viability and then my subsequent response. I thought I’d share this exchange since it sheds light on some common misconceptions regarding Beefmasters in colder climates.


“… [Beefmasters are] not for cattle production in Bryansk or the neighboring regions. They are a composite breed of Brahman, Hereford and Shorthorn. They can be well suited for warm climates of the southern U.S. They usually have about 3⁄8 Brahman influence, similar to the Brangus and Santa Gertrudis. If they are good cattle, they can gain well in the feedlot, but their marbling will be low.”


Thanks for your response. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a couple things about Beefmasters that may surprise to you.

Beefmasters are typically thought of as warm-weather cattle, but they actually do very well in all but the extreme northern climates. My grandfather, Tom Lasater, founded the Beefmaster breed. He moved the Foundation Herd to the state of Colorado in the 1940s, where they have lived since. I have attached the average temperatures for both nearby Limon and Bryansk (see right), and you will see they are amazingly similar. In the winter, eastern Colorado endures cold temperatures, frequent snow and lots of wind. We also have many Beefmaster breeders in other colder U.S. states, such as Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Wisconsin.

Another critical point is that I assume you would be initially AI’ing to adapted “cold weather” cows such as Angus or Kalmyk. The 50% hybrids from this mating would have no trouble at all being raised in your climate.

Beefmasters originally were created from 50% Bos Indicus (Ghir and Guzerat from India, Nelore from Brazil) and 50% Bos Taurus (25% Hereford, 25% milking Shorthorn). One important distinction is that the Bos Indicus influence comes from three different breeds, not from the modern American Brahman. In fact, the Brahman was developed from many of the same strains at roughly the same time.

The most unique aspect of the Beefmaster breed is selection. My grandfather closed his herd to any outside genetics in 1937. It is thought to be the oldest closed herd in the world today. Nearly 80 years of continuous selection by a clearly defined philosophy has resulted in a homozygous Beef breed. It retains traits from each of the parent breeds, but through selection has developed a unique and wondrous animal unto itself.

The main difference between Beefmasters and the other breeds you mentioned is that Beefmasters are a 5⁄8 x 3⁄8 hybrid. This means they can be continually recreated from the parent breeds, which are also continually evolving, yielding much less consistency. There is also a good deal more heterosis in prepotency from a three-way composite than and two-breed hybrid.

Now to your final point: marbling. Beefmasters are not thought of as heavy marbling cattle. If that were the only target, we would just use Angus. But in the U.S., we find our profit in a myriad of factors, many of them more important than marbling alone.

Beefmasters grade acceptably well, especially when crossed on a fattier breed such as Angus, which is a very typical cross for our customers. In my brochure, you will find some of the numbers relating to feeding and carcass performance of our genetics.

The qualities Beefmasters bring to the cattle-feeding segment are rapid gain, efficient conversion, long-feed efficiency without getting too fat, and a low incidence of sick and death loss. Hanging on the rail, they provide acceptable grade (marbling) with higher yields (more beef, less fat), and a low incidence of cull carcasses. In the U.S. our industry is struggling with the huge overproduction of wasted fat due to the heavy Angus influence. We are striving to raise genetics that will produce lean, yet tender, and consistent beef.

The real magic, though, happens on the ranch, which explains why commercial operators throughout the world use Beefmaster genetics. You will find Beefmaster females to be much more efficient females for low-cost production. They are thriftier and hardier than other breeds and make wonderful mothers. While many in the industry take a discount for terminal-cross females, our customers place a much higher value on the replacement females than the feeder steers. The former is a factory—the latter a commodity.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about Beefmasters, but I appreciate your reading it!