From the Fall 2009 issue of the Isa Informer
Lorenzo currently serves as President of Beefmaster Breeders United. In this capacity, he has written a monthly column for the Beefmaster Cowman. We thought we’d share a few excerpts.
I am proud and honored to serve as President of BBU. Beefmaster cattle are a very personal thing for me. As you probably know, the breed was founded by my grandfather, but the beginnings actually go back to herds of cattle developed by my great-grandfather, Ed Lasater. My family has been working on this project for about 120 years, and I am looking forward to my sons (and their kids) seeing it through the next 125 years!
Beefmasters are completely unique in that they are the only beef breed with a guiding production philosophy. These principles are called the Six Essentials, and they give us road map by which to maximize production efficiency and improve our cattle. We talk about the Six Essentials a lot, but what do they really mean?
Disposition—Gentle cattle are cheaper to manage, sell better, breed better, feed better and calve easier.
Cull any animal displaying problematic behavior and their offspring because this trait is highly heritable. As a result the herd will be gentle, intelligent and responsive.
Fertility—This is the first among equals and the cornerstone of the philosophy. Cows that do not have a calf every single year are not economically viable. The simple way to select for fertility is to have a defined breeding season, and then cull any female that does not breed in that time—every year. A breeding season longer than 90 days makes it impossible for a cow to have a calf and breed back in 365 days.
Weight—Of obvious importance—ranchers sell pounds. Weight is another highly heritable trait. We select for cattle that produce optimum (not necessarily maximum) weight with minimum input.
Conformation—This refers to the visual appraisal of a live animal with regard to carcass merit. We select for long, trim, well-muscled bulls, and smooth, feminine cows that meet industry demands. Cattle must be physiologically equipped to do their job, with proper feet and legs, udders, and the correct size for their environment.
Hardiness—It is critical for cattle to be able to thrive under tough conditions. Beefmasters excel in calf livability, low death loss, low maintenance costs and resistance to disease and parasites. These things give us an important competitive edge over our competition.
Milk Production—Next to genetics, milk production is the single most important factor in weight. When asked to describe the perfect cow, my grandfather said, “She’ll look like a cow that gives a hell of a lot of milk.”
I mentioned that fertility is the cornerstone, and I have a challenge for you. How long are you leaving your bulls out? I mentioned that if it is longer than 90 days, all the cows can’t physically calve and rebreed in 365 days. The single most important thing you can do to improve your herd is shave a few days off the breeding season. If you are breeding 120 days, shave a couple weeks off this year and a couple next year. It doesn’t have to be too drastic, but the results will be fabulous. The ones that miss when you raise the bar are the ones that are costing you money anyway. We need to focus our selection and resources on those that calve early and raise a good calf every year.
A piece of terrific news came from JBBA: Beefmasters had the largest breed representation at the three largest stock shows in Texas in Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Congratulations to the JBBA folks on a terrific accomplishment!
I maintain the Beefmasters are a homozygous beef breed. We have some wonderful traits in common with “eared” breeds, such as heat tolerance, insect resistance and hardiness. But we also share common traits with English breeds (fertility and meat quality) and Continental breeds (muscling and feedlot performance). We need to vigorously object to being labeled as anything other than a Beefmaster, and we need to start proving scientifically Beefmasters’ superiority in the pasture, the feedyard and the packing house.
In the final analysis, we are either raising genetics for the beef industry or we are raising pets. While there is plenty of room for all of that within BBU, our problem lies in the fact that we have allowed the industry not to take us seriously. We are often grouped in with Longhorns, which are raised strictly as backyard cattle. That may be fine for them, but I don’t think it works for Beefmasters.
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