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.

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