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

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. 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.

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.
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.

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.

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.

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!

Sustainability: Trusts that stand, myths that fail

From the Spring 2016 issue of the Isa Informer

Sustainability: Truths that stand, myths that fail

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

Sustainability is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. It is defined as “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and hereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” This definition seems like an awfully good description of what cow-calf producers do every day. Sadly though, there are those who accuse our industry of being unsustainable. This claim has less to do with reality than the hidden agenda of groups who wish to end production agriculture. But perception can become reality in the minds of an uninformed public, so ranchers have a duty to stand up for themselves and share the wonderful story of grass-based ranching.

At Isa Beefmasters, cows spend virtually their entire lives on native pasture. We occasionally supplement nutrition during times of stress, but Mother Nature provides the vast majority of their diet. A cow is a fabulous creature, harvesting energy from the sun, in the form of plants that are not usable directly by humans, to produce tasty, nutrient dense BEEF. And the plants they are harvesting are native perennials which, under good management, will produce year after year using only the rain and sunshine that God gives them. Now if that’s not sustainable, I don’t know what is!

Antibiotics and growth implants are another area of concern to our customers, but often more because of lack of understanding or downright misrepresentation by those who wish to harm our industry. At Isa Beefmasters, cattle are given standard immunizations for disease, just as we immunize children against measles and tetanus. The use of these vaccines has worked miracles in lowering death loss in calves, which is an important step towards sustainability.

In the larger Beef Chain, grain obviously plays an important role. The majority of beef consumed in this country is grain-fed in the final stages of production. But a typical beef animal is two years old or less at harvest and often spends as much as three-quarters of its life on pasture or in fields. One of the real ironies of grain use in agriculture is that it began due to the overproduction of grain caused by the Farm Program, paying farmers to grow crops America didn’t need for human consumption. Faced with tremendous oversupply, ranchers began feeding it to livestock rather than burning it.

Animal welfare is another common catchphrase in the modern lexicon. Any rancher knows we spend each day focused on our livestock’s welfare. If cattle are mistreated, sick, undernourished or deprived of water, they cannot be profitable. Healthy, happy cattle will gain weight, reproduce and raise quality calves. Ranchers love their livestock, much as a city person would a dog, but this relationship generally is not conveyed properly to consumers.

We use simple antibiotics occasionally to doctor a sick animal, much like giving children antibiotics when they have strep throat. Being able to treat sick animals successfully, and prevent illness from spreading, is a critical part of ensuring their welfare. Isa Beefmasters never feeds antibiotics or mass treats animals. This practice is simply not necessary in a pasture environment—and would be cost-prohibitive anyway.

In addition, we never use growth implants (hormones) in our operation. Because we carry our seedstock through to breeding production, any short-term advantage in weight gain is negated over the course of time. My own personal opinion is that the Beef Industry should voluntarily and collectively stop using growth implants. This is not because they are bad for consumers—in fact science has repeatedly proven that they are not. But the buying public doesn’t like the idea, and no amount of science is going to change that opinion. The Beef Industry has more important battles to fight. If we give up their use collectively, no one loses the advantage.

No discussion about sustainability would be complete without a word about ethanol. This biofuel was foisted on the American public under the guise of sustainability. It sounds good right? Burn “renewable resources” instead of fossil fuels. But like many ideas born of good intentions, the program came with a whole host of unintended consequences. To begin with, some studies estimate that it costs one gallon of diesel to produce one gallon of ethanol—so it’s just a feel-good pass-through with no real benefit. Ethanol also completely upended the market prices for livestock grains, which in the end, raises the price for the Beef you love. The high price of corn caused by ethanol also raises land rents, and its higher production massively increases the use of chemical fertilizers and water from aquifers needed for irrigation. In a real twist of irony, ethanol also greatly reduces biodiversity, as huge amounts of croplands are converted to corn production. The point here is that sustainability is not always what some folks would have us believe.

As a fifth-generation rancher (working to raise the sixth), I take offense when people point fingers at the ranching industry. As I’ve outlined above, Beef cattle in America are raised in a very sustainable way. Those who claim otherwise either haven’t taken the time to learn about what we do or have a different agenda, such as ending production agriculture or promoting a vegetarian lifestyle. The point they overlook, though, is that people have to eat. Cattle are “farming the corners”—taking energy from the sun in the form of plants and converting it to nutrient-dense, protein-rich and super-tasty Beef. And this is being carried out on millions of acres of land not useful for other types of agriculture, especially farming. That is pretty darn sustainable, and I am proud to be a part of it.

50 Shades of Beefmasters

From the Fall 2015 issue of the Isa Informer

50 Shades of Beefmasters

By Lorenzo Lasater, President

People unfamiliar with Beefmasters often wonder about the lack of a defined breed color. Beefmasters are commonly thought of as red cattle, but there are folks breeding blacks, duns, paints and everything along the spectrum. While I don’t necessarily agree with this because it hurts our credibility in the commercial bull market, I believe breeders should be free to select the cattle

Many breeds are identified initially by their coat color. Angus are distinctively black, Charolais white and Santa Gertrudis cherry red. Longhorns are wildly painted, and Belted Galloways prove there is no limit to what we can achieve through color selection. Breeders obviously attained this incredible variation through the expenditure of genetic progress, but at what cost? Each characteristic we select for takes generational time, and often moving the needle for one trait comes at the expense of another.

To understand the color conversation in Beefmasters, we need to go back to the beginning. Actually even before that. The Hereford component in the breed came from a herd of 20,000 Hereford cattle developed by my great-grandfather, Ed Lasater. The cattle were selected specifically for having red coloration around the eyes, which protected them from sunburns around their eyes. Those burns can lead to eye cancer, to which Herefords are particularly susceptible. Even today, if a Beefmaster cow has a white, blaze or mottle face, there will almost always be red around the eyes, a throwback of more than 100 years to Ed’s selections. That is the power of genetics!

As my grandfather Tom Lasater was developing Beefmasters, he simultaneously developed the breeding philosophy we know today as the Six Essentials. These unique guiding principles separate Beefmasters from others, and BBU’s mission statement shows the importance they hold to Beefmaster breeders:

BBU’s Mission is to enhance the breeder’s ability to raise and promote cattle based upon the founding Six Essentials. Disposition, Fertility, Weight, Conformation, Hardiness and Milk Production.

The core concept underlying the Six Essentials is that breeders select cattle only for traits of economic value. This excludes the selection for aesthetics, including color. This revolutionary concept occurred at a time when most breeds were developed with an aesthetic or purpose in mind, such as size, double muscling, heavy milking, draft work, etc. This focus was usually coupled with selection for color.

The innovative step Lasater took was selecting just the good cattle, even if their hair coat was undesirable. My grandmother Mary Lasater’s famous quote on this subject is “hide color doesn’t matter when the T-bone is on the platter.” Now I can assure you Lasater would have much rather just selected the pretty red ones, but he instinctively knew that some of the genetics his developing breed needed would be found in the paints, brindles or blacks.

Throughout his career, Lasater never used color for selection, and generations of breeders adhered to this concept. As a result, Beefmaster breeders collectively soaked and imprinted all the important genetic traits for efficient Beef production into the breed. There are other breeds that were developed around the same time that made color a priority, and they paid dearly for it in one or more of the Six Essentials (think Fertility and Disposition).

Fast-forward to the modern U.S. beef industry: The commercial sector rewards uniformity of both color and type, and the marketplace heavily discriminates against any color variation, especially paints. One of the most heartbreaking scenes I see in commercial calf sales is when some multicolored piece of junk walks in the ring, they identify it as a Beefmaster and then discount it. This is not because it is a Beefmaster, but because that is a quick and easy way to label it.

People often ask me about my position on color. The L Bar herd is mostly red. I have been selecting for red for more than 15 years. The color runs from very light red to deep cherry red. We still have some cattle with white on their faces or bellies, but we have actively culled any paints, blacks, brindles or other off-colors.

In my opinion, my grandfather, father and their generations endured the difficult task of tolerating off-colors. Now, after almost 80 years of selection, I feel we have the luxury of refining and making more consistent some aesthetic traits, such as color and type. While I value slight variation in color, I want my herd as a whole to look red.

As I said in the opening, cattle breeding is a very personal endeavor, and I think people should be free to choose what feels right for them. It is, however, detrimental to the breed as a whole to propagate color patterns that the Beef industry dislikes. All Beefmaster breeders would be better off if we didn’t have to address constantly the distraction that off-colored cattle create.

From the Archives: Rancher Develops own Breed

From the Fall 2015 issue of the Isa Informer

From the archives: Rancher develops own breed

Editor’s note: Ron Wentz in Florida shared this article from 1982 that relates some history even we didn’t know! It ran in the September 10, 1982, edition of The Anniston Star, in Anniston, Alabama.

By Tad Bartimus
Associated Press Writer

MATHESON, Colo. (AP) — One of America’s shrewdest judges of beef steak on the hoof claims cowboys are the dumbest people in the world.

He ought to know. He’s been one for 51 years.

Tom Lasater is a member of this country’s landed gentry, the big cattle ranchers whose great herds and bull-headed grit tamed the West.

He sprang from the sweltering scrub land of south Texas, where his father amassed holdings of nearly 400,000 acres before he lost most of it in the 1920s. When Tom was born, his father, Edward C. Lasater, a onetime gubernatorial candidate in the Lone Star state, ran 20,000 head of Hereford and Shorthorn range cattle and held title to the world’s largest Jersey herd.

But when Edward died in 1930, Tom dropped out of Princeton to become a traveling salesman for the family creamery. He spent weekdays driving dusty backroads on a butter route, then jumped on a horse on weekends to help his older brother tend what remained of the ranch. He earned $75 a month.

In 1933, Tom Lasater gambled on his good name and struck out on his own in the cattle business.

Today the bandy-legged grandfather is boss of 28,000 acres of prime eastern Colorado grazing land. With only three hired hands, two pickup trucks, and a 1949 tractor to help him, Tom Lasater rides herd on 125 miles of fence, a river, 48 windmills, and more than 1,200 head of cattle.

His bulls, cows and calves comprise a unique breed of bovines. They are Beefmasters, a name Lasater patented in 1949 for his own three-way cross of Shorthorn, Hereford and Brahman cattle. In 1954, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officially recognized the Beefmaster as an American Breed.

After the first Beefmasters were developed between 1931 and 1937, the herd was “closed.” There has been no new blood introduced into Lasater’s foundation stock in 55 years.

At 71, Lasater is not a conglomerate or an appendage of some multinational company. He’s a widower who’s raised five sons and a daughter. He’s made money, and apparently enjoys spending it. He’s a gentleman of the old school, a connoisseur of fine art and aged liquor, a man who’s spend his life wedded to the land, appreciative of the growth and renewal that springs from it. He’s ridden many a horse hard, but he’s never put one away wet.

Lasater calls himself “just a cowboy” who roams his vast range in a scuffed Stetson, dusty boots and faded jeans. But under that favorite old hat there’s a brain that combines the acumen of a businessman, geneticist, nutritionist, naturalist and inventor.

He’s created a suspension fence that needs little maintenance and fewer posts than the average range fence; he’s come up with special high-protein food pellets designed specifically for his herd; he’s initiated systematic performance testing of bulls, and he’s banned all hunting and poisons from his land because “ever since the white man threw the Indian off, it’s been horribly mistreated.”

Lasater only half-jokingly maintains that his peers are “the stupidest people in the world” because they consistently refuse to recognize Mother Nature and their own collective clout.

“Ranchers carry the biggest stick in this country because they’re food producers, and everybody’s got to eat,” says Lasater.

“And everybody else has a union except us. We could sit down and work out a live-and-let-live deal with Mr. Safeway and Mr. A&P and come out ahead, but we don’t. The packer, the feedlot, and the wholesaler all get their cut, but the rancher winds up on the losing end every time.”

Lasater’s breeding and management program is based on the survival of the fittest. When he was first starting out in south Texas, he wrote to stock shows for the scorecards on prize-winning cattle.

“I discovered that 90 percent of the characteristics for which our leading shows were judging cattle had nothing to do with the efficient production of beef,” he recalled. “I sat down and listed what I thought was essential in a good beef animal. I boiled 25 traits down to six. There’s no way to get along without any one of them.”

Those characteristics, which have been emphasized in the Beefmaster herd, are: disposition, fertility, weight, conformation, hardiness and milk production. If any one of Lasater’s animals fails to become gentle enough to eat out of his hand, or doesn’t drop a calf according to schedule, or grows up with misshapen hooves, they are culled from the foundation herd.

“It’s a long pull to let the natural breeding selection take over, and it takes many generations to accomplish, but somebody had to start,” says the blue-eyed, chain-smoking stockman. “Perfection is always the horizon, and anybody who sets their goal so low they can reach it is a fool.”

Lasater says he’s always been a man in a hurry, “and everything I’ve done has worked out well if I do it quick. I got engaged on a first date, was married two weeks later, and it lasted 39 years. It took me three days to buy this ranch.

“Life won’t wait for you to make up your mind.”

A Golden Legacy: Laurie and Annette Retire after Career Spanning Five Decades

From the Fall 2014 issue of the Isa Informer

A Golden Legacy:

Laurie and Annette retire after career spanning five decades

What started in 1964 as a dream of ranching and marketing cattle grew into an illustrious career spanning 50 years with three generations of ranchers: Laurie and Annette; their children, Lorenzo and Isabel; and now five grandchildren.

With a goal of establishing the Beefmaster breed in Mexico, Laurie and Annette moved there with their wedding gift of 35 Beefmaster cows and two herd bulls to a one-pasture lease. In 1966, they organized their first bull sale in Múzquiz, which was “the bull sale nobody came to,” so they quickly adapted to selling cattle via private treaty. During their 10 years in Mexico, they established a Beefmaster herd on Rancho Santa Cruz, located in the Sierra Madre mountain range near Múzquiz, Coahuila, and today Beefmasters are Mexico’s largest breed registry.

In the early 1970s, Laurie and Annette relocated to San Angelo, Texas, to pursue the feeding and marketing of cattle. Their concept of marketing Beefmaster bulls evolved into annual—and, for a few years, even semiannual—auctions. They have sold more than 17,000 females and 20,000 bulls, and this year marks their 53rd bull sale! In addition to selling hundreds of bulls and females private treaty each year, they also focused on the introduction of Beefmasters into new international markets. Today, they have customers on four continents.

During his 50 years of ranching, Laurie served as president of FBA, as well as director of BBU, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers and National Cattleman’s Association. He is also a stockholder and former director of Nolan Ryan Tender Aged Beef. In 2000, BBU honored Laurie with the Beefmaster Breeder of the Year award.

Throughout the years, Annette ran the office side of the business—doing the books, managing the advertising and keeping the herd registry. She was always the practical and steady voice of the team, keeping Laurie out of more than one wreck.

Laurie and Annette are both elders of the First Presbyterian Church and have volunteered as tutors in local schools and with the Adult Literacy Council. Annette also served as president of the local and district library boards.

Both are published authors: Laurie wrote The Lasater Philosophy Cattle Raising and Tailwind Both Ways. Annette wrote of their 10 years in Mexico in Two to Mexico and penned three children’s books, Lorenzo and Don Clemente, Granddad’s Farm House, and School Days and Book Learnin’.

Today, Laurie and Annette are the proud grandparents of Lorenzo and Leslie’s sons, Watt (19) and Beau (16) and Isabel and JC’s children, Luke (11), Ben (7) and Sabella (7).

Isabel and I would like to honor Mom and Dad for their remarkable run—both in life and in business. They have been incredible parents—loving us, teaching us how to lead an exemplary life and giving us an incredible legacy of ranching knowledge.

Still Mothering to the End

From the Fall 2013 issue of the Isa Informer

Still Mothering to the End

Editor’s note: This story was recently shared with me by a friend. It perfectly exemplifies how ranchers feel about their cattle and the remarkable job those cattle do

When we returned home from Kerrville this afternoon, we found Cookie had died. She passed last night or early this morning.

We had had her penned for the last six to eight weeks or so, as it had become too much effort for her to come to feed every night. So, she had her own water, daily bucket of sweet feed, and small barn, without having to work too hard. Not a bad retirement for an old cow.

We purchased Cookie in 1991, one of eight yearling purebred Beefmasters heifers we bought to get us started. She and the others were “culls” from a large registered breeder north of us.

She was bred in 1992 and subsequently produced a healthy calf every year for the next 17 consecutive years. She was a heavy milker and a first-rate mother cow in every regard.

In July, if you will remember, she was in a small trap. We had an abandoned calf last summer and put this (blind at the time) calf in with Cookie for company. Cookie’s mothering instincts kicked in immediately. She assumed the nurturing role in every way possible, except milk, of course, which we provided. She cooed that low guttural motherly coo to the calf, which the calf would come to, and they bonded immediately. She was a mother cow to the end. I pulled her out of the barn area tonight, and to a place about a quarter mile away and in the brush. As I pulled her away and past the other cows, which had been watching the activity with unusual interest, they all fell in behind and followed along. Once I left Cookie behind, the cows remained there with her. Never heard of or seen such a thing.

I’ll sure miss taking Cookie her bucket of feed every night. She was more than a good cow.