By Brandi Buzzard Frobose on August 17, 2020
We raise purebred Gelbvieh and Balancer cattle, which are commonly called “seedstock.” Our purebred cows and bulls all have their own individual pedigrees, very similar to the kind of pedigrees carried by dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The bull and heifer calves we raise are marketed to other cattle farmers and ranchers to increase and improve their herd.
Since it is important for our prospective customers to know how our cattle stack up against other seedstock, we spend a considerable amount of time and effort collecting and recording data on our animals throughout the year. The process starts immediately when the calf is born and doesn’t end until the animal leaves our ranch. Much like bookkeeping, accurate data collection helps us make informed decisions when it comes to managing our cattle herd.
On our ranch, we abide by the motto, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure,” so the more data we can collect, the better.
For example, we collect performance records such as weaning weight, yearling weight, hip height, scrotal circumference, docility score and ultrasound measurements to determine ribeye area and intramuscular fat percentage. The data from these measurements are recorded in a massive, breed-wide database and is used to calculate expected progeny differences, more commonly known as EPDs. Basically, EPDs are the bovine version of Ancestry.com – they provide insight into how future sons and daughters of our bulls might perform in terms of growth, maternal capabilities and carcass quality potential.
While it may seem like we are attempting to master the art of reading a crystal ball, these measurements provide our customers with the information they need to make informed decisions when they are shopping for a new boyfriend for their cows. All of the bulls that we sell are also genomically tested, which provides an additional layer of accuracy to their EPDs. We want our customers to be confident the bulls and heifers or cows they purchase will meet their expectations for improving their cowherd.
Our data are also invaluable when it comes to marketing our sale cattle. Similar to how Apple touts the features of its newest watch or iPhone, we use statistics derived from data collection to promote and market the most favorable aspects of our bulls. Some customers may be looking for a bull that yields fast-growing offspring, whereas other customers may be looking for a bull that yields females with highly desirable udders and milk performance. Based on the strengths of each bull, we can help our customers find the perfect match.
Every cattle operation is unique in its goals and management style, as there are many pathways to success. Therefore, the way we collect and utilize data on our ranch may be different from our neighbor’s way of management. The beauty of the farming and ranching community is there are more than 100 ways to raise cattle, however, we are all the same in that we want to raise the best cattle possible to yield the safest and most nutritious beef in the world.