BIF focuses on profitability and sustainability for seedstock producers

Jane Parish
North Mississippi Research and Extension Center

BIF President Donnell Brown said seedstock producers must remain focused on the needs of the commercial industry.

As a fifth-generation rancher from Throckmorton, Texas, Brown has spent most of his lifetime focused on the wants and needs of the commercial cattleman. Striving to produce seedstock that will help his customer be more profitable and sustainable in today’s beef industry.

After graduating from Texas Tech in 1993, Brown and his bride, Kelli, moved home to Throckmorton to help manage the R.A. Brown Ranch seedstock business. Brown said their goal when getting married in 1991 was to raise cows, kids and Quarter Horses and they continue to focus on those objectives today.

Breeding and genetics have been a passion of Browns since an early age. With this interest, he became involved in the Beef Improvement Federation, attending his first BIF Research Symposium and Convention in 1993.

“BIF is a beef organization without politics. BIF meetings are about finding the best way to produce the best cattle at the least cost using sound science.”

“Attending that first convention, I was amazed how I could sit down in a small session or visit in the hallways with the gurus of beef cattle genetics,” Brown said. “The people who wrote the research I read during my four years of college. Because of BIF I was able to build relationships with and learn from those movers and shakers, the great thinkers who help us keep our business based on sound science. BIF is my favorite convention each year.”

Brown was elected to the BIF board of directors in 2012 and is currently serving as BIF president. His term as president will end at the 2018 BIF Research Symposium and Convention June 20-23 in Loveland, Colo.

“Donnell brings a practical and forward-thinking approach to BIF,” said Jane Parish, BIF executive director. “He understands the importance of genetic improvement at the ranch level and is a tireless advocate for sharing science-based knowledge throughout the entire industry.”


For more than a century, west Texas has been home to the R.A. Brown Ranch. Named the 1993 BIF Seedstock Producer of the Year, the Brown family currently supplies Angus, Red Angus and SimAngus genetics to cattlemen across the country.

“Our mission at R.A. Brown Ranch is very clear,” Brown said. “We are striving to improve the efficiency of converting God’s forage into healthy, nutritious, great tasting beef to better feed His people.”

Brown’s parents, Rob and Peggy, have been proactive in estate planning for decades and in 2013 they led their family through a generational transfer. The couple successfully passed their ranch on to their four children while enjoying good health. Brown said his parents’ goal was to, “keep the ranch in the family and the family in the ranch.”

At that time, Donnell and Kelli assumed ownership of the R.A. Brown seedstock division, which they had managed for 23 years. Today they continue the tradition of raising and merchandising top-quality seedstock, along with their two sons, Tucker and Lanham.

Both boys work on the ranch, plus Tucker manages the R.A. Brown wildlife program and his wife, Karley, is a school teacher. Lanham graduated from Texas Tech in May and returned to the ranch where his passion is training and showing horses.

The R.A. Brown Ranch has been recognized for its excellence many times. The ranch received the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Cattle Business of the Century Award and American Quarter Horse Association/Bayer Best Remuda Award, and since 2015 has been named one of the top providers of seedstock genetics in the country by BEEF magazine. BREEDING PROGRAM

The Browns use the technologies available such as artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET), ultrasound, DNA and feed efficiency testing to produce superior genetics that fit the needs of the beef industry.

Brown said the strategy of their breeding program is to use a high percentage of proven sires in an extensive ET program utilizing young females as donor cows.

They DNA test all bulls and heifers. He said collecting the heifer genomic data is actually more valuable than the bulls. “With a DNA test, I can increase her EPD accuracy by about two lifetimes of production and we get that information before her first breeding,” he said. “When I am armed with that information, I can better produce cattle that fit our customers’ needs.”

A Grow Safe system was installed on the ranch three years ago. So today their genetic tool box includes three years of feed intake data on all bulls and replacement heifers.

“I am amazed with the genetic progress we can make in feed efficiency,” Brown said. “This information will help us produce more with less. The beef industry has worked for generations to increase performance/output, but with the measurement of expense/input traits like feed efficiency we can more effectively improve profit. Increasing efficiency is a must as we work to feed a growing global population.”


The Brown family has been marketing seedstock bulls since 1895. Currently, with the help of strong cooperating herds, they sell 850 bulls each year with their sales hosted at the ranch on the second Wednesday of October and second Wednesday of March. They also sell 150 registered females each year, including every 4-year-old female.

“Our goal is rapid genetic progress,” Brown said. “By selling every 4-year-old female we speed up the generation interval of our females.

“The benefits of this strategy (implemented in 2001) are threefold: 1) rapid genetic progress; 2) gives customer the opportunity to purchase females when they are entering the prime of their life; and 3) gives the Browns cash flow to sustain their extensive ET program.”

The strength of their program is shown by the high percentage of repeat customers, as well as by having 25 bulls in major AI studs.

An influential and effective leader since high school, Brown served as president of both the Texas FFA and National FFA. He has assisted with strategic planning for four different breed associations as well as the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Even before Brown became president of BIF, he showed leadership in the organization in many ways,” Jane said. “He energetically focused board discussions on strategies for the future and offered up new ideas that helped BIF continue its legacy of leading the industry in collaborative genetic improvement efforts. He led program development efforts for the annual convention that resulted in cutting-edge presentations to stimulate producers, beef industry stakeholders, researchers and Extension. Donnell is a strong supporter of the Young Producers’ Symposium added to BIF programming in recent years.”


“As seedstock producers our job is to make progress through selection,” Brown said. “EPDs can help us, but we need to make sure the tools we use to describe our cattle, specifically EPDs, continue to be based on the most advanced sound science — that is a must.”

In 1968, BIF was formed as a means to standardize programs and methodologies, and to create greater awareness, acceptance and usage of performance concepts in beef production. The organization’s three-leaf clover logo would come to represent industry, extension and research, just as the organization’s annual symposium would become the premier forum bringing industry segments together to discuss and evaluate performance topics.

“BIF is focused on the application of sound science to make a lasting impact on the beef business,” Brown said. “The BIF convention is the crossroads where academia, breed associations and cattle producers all come together.”

“BIF brings people interested in genetic selection together to apply science to the beef community. We help scientists get on track with what the producer needs, we help the producer get on track with what scientists have developed and we help keep breed associations relevant.”


“Today’s beef producer has a wide spectrum of challenges to face,” Brown said. “As BIF leaders, we need to go back to the basics and discuss accurate measurement and proper contemporary grouping. We need to address multi-trait selection indices. The application of all-purpose indices focused on long-term profitability in the beef business needs to be our focus.”

Brown has been researching and using selection indexes for more than 27 years. “My college adviser and dear friend, Dr. Ronnie Green, taught me how to build and use selection indices when I was in college,” Brown said. “I believe multi-trait selection index is the right tool to help us select for long-term profitability and sustainability in the beef industry.

“In the future, I am confident there will be breeders with sound genetic evaluations who will breed, market and influence the majority of the seedstock in the beef business. And their association will be with the organization that stays grounded in sound science and focused on profitability and sustainability of commercial cattlemen.”

Green, now University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor, said, “What has always impressed me about Donnell is that he is a holistic thinker about his mission. While an undergraduate at Texas Tech, he was focused on learning everything he could about genetics with the goal of using that information to build better cattle. He is authentic in his approach and every decision he makes he does so with his customers in mind.

“There are few people in the world like Donnell Brown, the cattle industry is very fortunate to call him one of its own.”


Brown will pass the BIF reigns to the next president on June 22, but there’s no doubt his passion and commitment to BIF’s principles and goals will continue for years to come.

“BIF is a beef organization without politics,” Brown said. “BIF meetings are about finding the best way to produce the best cattle at the least cost using sound science.

“Two things you won’t find at a BIF meeting is propaganda or politics. If this is appealing to you, I encourage you to attend the 50th BIF Convention.” ❖

Tough Lessons from the Bleachers…..Marketing 101!

Taken from –

Cheers and here’s to hoping that everyone had a blessed and joyful holiday season; and, that 2018 is off to a great start! As we precariously roll into the New Year, most likely we have started a list of mental meanderings as we contemplate these first few months. Perhaps the highly motivated have even scratched down a list of resolutions…most likely on the back side of a pink feed receipt.  With the New Year, we also usher in calving season along with short sleeps, cold fingers, frozen toes, and copious amounts of coffee. But ahhhhh there it is….the light at the end of the tunnel!  It’s that big check that we hope to cash at the end of Bull Sale Season!  From the outside looking in, it’s truly a magical time of year when fathers gather up their sons and daughters skipping school to attend “THE” sale.  For the producer, the day comes with pensive relief knowing that the preparations are complete.  The final relief comes when a he walks into the sale ring and sees the bleachers brimming with people.

The bleachers drive this month’s conversation!  Now, just to get us warmed up, I would like to tell you a story.  We’ve all seen it at the country fair.  In fact, it usually happens to the same kid every year!  I’m going to call him Jimmy.  Every year, Jimmy arrives at fair in an absolute whirl wind.  It doesn’t appear that he’s quite ready to be at the fair, but he qualifies this by noting that he has a job, basketball practice in the mornings and it is summer break after all.  Jimmy never quite knows where he is supposed to be, so mostly he follows the pack asking panicked questions.  He barely makes the show, but what the heck….he’s here to make money!  Sale day eventually rolls around and Jimmy walks his steer into the ring.  The auctioneer begins….someone eventually offers an opening the bid.  The auctioneer begs for bids, and for a few seconds, the bottom-bid-buyers help Jimmy with another $5.  Jimmy leaves the ring disheartened and talking disparagingly about the politics and such.  But you see, Jimmy didn’t come to the sale with any bids in his pocket.  He didn’t send out buyer letters, he didn’t market his steer…he didn’t do his homework!  He fed the lie that he didn’t have “time.” He came to the sale with hope and left all the rest to chance!  But here’s the catch!  He failed on purpose because he didn’t create any reason why he would experience success that exceeded that of his competition.  He didn’t purposefully place anyone in the bleachers; and, he didn’t give anyone in the bleachers a compelling reason to bid on his steer other than a low rate opportunity.  Jimmy’s success was a direct reflection of Jimmy’s choice to rely on hope rather than purposeful marketing.  Jimmy’s success was a direct reflection of the fact that he didn’t take the time to market his steer because “chance” seemed to be a reasonable shake of the dice….and other priorities won out!

So, long story short, this month’s blog is all about filling the bleachers on sale day….purposefully thinking about a marketing plan that will effectively target and interest the right crowd!  It’s about building success before sale day arrives!

The first objective is to determine what sector of the bull sale market you would like to target. For some it may be other seed-stock producers, but for the vast majority, it’s commercial breeders. At this juncture, you must be in tune with the objective of your breeding program and what characteristics will entice buyers.  Perhaps you are known for having a slew of sire groups which cater to those in need of a low maintenance calving ease winter. Or maybe your breeding is tailored to sire calves to cross the scales with weaning weights that drive hard at the bottom line!   Whatever your particular strengths…know them…drive your marketing toward them and capitalize on them. Buyers will become faithful when you clearly identify your product and you deliver what you promised for several years running. And now the magic starts!  Folks will begin filling in the empty spots in the bleachers because they’ve heard and the hype has taken hold!  Continue to build on it. But remember to think outside the box when it comes to promotion….

There are many different ways to promote your business in today’s age of technology!  Some avenues may cost you financially, while others may merely require blood, sweat, and tears.  Your message is critical and reputation is everything in this business!   In this era, you can’t afford to ignore social media marketing such as Facebook!  Facebook is a cheap way to provide tremendous amounts of exposure to your operation.  If you have resources and knowledge, be diligent and pay attention to the strategies of breeders whom you deem to be successful.  If you do not have the knowledge, seek out marketing firms or individual known for the quality work. Take the time to connect with other breeders by “liking” their pages and asking them to “like” yours.  As that happens, you gain access and exposure to their contacts as well as yours and the exponential result is simply astonishing!  Spend time interacting with folks on Facebook to gain exposure.  Social media is a great way to add polish and exposure to your operation.  Trust me!  This is time and money well spent!

Representing your cattle in photos and video is essential in our market.  We are blessed with a plethora of incredible talent when it comes to photographers and at the end of the day, good pictures sell bulls!   With that reality, however, comes a double edge sword!  We have all seen the shiny, jet black, head cocked off, hind-leg set just right, photos, one after another from well-known photographers.  When you move onto the video of the same animal you are left scratching your head wondering if they may have gotten something mixed up. When it comes to hiring someone to picture your cattle and design your advertisements, understand that a clone stamp or layer change here or there may seem necessary to some, however, it may come as a surprise, but to a lot of folks, a picture that genuinely represents the animal is valued far above a three-hour photoshop job after 300 action shots in the picture pen.

At the end of the day, this is a business of networking and personal relationships.  Staying in contact with your customer base is critical.  While electronic media is powerful, face to face contact, marketing phone calls, ranch visits to see and discuss the calf crop sired by your bulls and personal contact will pay dividends beyond your imagination.  Your customers want to feel that you care about their operation and they want you to be interested in their success.  If they are going to invest in your program, they expect you to be make an investment in theirs!

Equally important is learning how to reach out and always be striving to increase the size of the customer base. That means that whether you are a “people” person or not….you HAVE to be a “people” person.  If you are unwilling or unable to do this, put someone in your business structure or family in this role that is better suited than you!  You need to make a solid, consistent presence in your local community.  In this business, word travels fast…both good and bad!  Reliability and integrity are list toppers when it comes to growing a long term sustainable business.   Remember that you are in this business to market cattle.  Also remember, that while the bull sale business is immensely competitive, you will always be perceived better if you check your emotions at the gate and just get on with doing good business…always with integrity and character!

In closing, I assert that mostly, results are logical.  Generally we get the results that are completely appropriate and consistent to the foundation (or lack of foundation) that we have laid.  I guess you could say that mostly results happens predictably and on purpose.  Perhaps we purposefully lay a foundation for a desired result being ever mindful in every decision.  Or…we bumble through without purpose and act surprised when the results match the lacking vision and nonexistent effort.  This is true in all aspects of life, but it most certainly holds true to how your marketing plan will drive you bull sales.  Create what you want on purpose!   Remember why you do what you do; and, remember why you love the life you lead!  Reach out the people who tick for the same reasons you do! So if the light at the end of the tunnel is that big check at the end of Bull Sale Season….put some grease on the wheels Chappy!

New cost – effective DNA test available to beef seedstock industry

published: OCTOBER 17TH 2016

Neogen GeneSeek is introducing a new, highly affordable genomic profiling test for seedstock production.

“The new GeneSeek® Genomic Profiler™Ultra-Low Density (GGP uLD) will provide ample power for predicting traits that beef seedstock will pass
along to their progeny. Never before have seedstock producers had such an affordable and powerful genotyping tool,” said Dr. Stewart Bauck, general manager of Neogen GeneSeek Operations.
Bauck said the new test will give breed associations a tool to expand the
genotyping of seedstock replacement heifers.
“As we have presented this new product to our breed association customers, they have seen that the affordable power of the GGP uLD
will bean attractive addition to their genotyping portfolios,” he added.
The new product uses high-accuracy imputation to higher-density SNP arrays, but will cost about one-third the price, Bauck said.
“As you look at the evolution of these new tests, accuracy of genotyping tools is increasing while cost is dropping,” he added.
Genotyping of seedstock replacement heifers has big advantages to the seedstock industry:
Producers obtain predictions on genetic merit early in the life of replacement heifers, allowing for genomically assisted selection
of their future cows and cost optimization in heifer development.
Seedstock breeders can add value to heifers by selling them
with genomically enhanced expected progeny differences (GE-EPDs).
Commercial cattle producers can purchase heifers with accurate GE-
EPDs, improving their ability to manage the future direction of their own cow herd’s maternal, performance and carcass traits.
The cattle industry now has an affordable heifer test to
combine with phenotype data collection efforts, speeding breed improvement and increasing the overall accuracy of genomic predictions.
By profiling heifers, rather than depending solely on collecting maternal phenotypes from sire progeny, breed associations can reduce the number of years it takes to assess economically important traits such as fertility traits that show up late in life.
This latest addition to the GGP portfolio is designed to help beef breeders maximize the value of moving to “one-step” genetic calculations.
“We have received positive feedback from the seedstock industry about
this affordable new power in their genotyping tool kit,” Bauck said. “
We are optimistic that this new test will significantly expand the number of
beef seedstock that are genotyped.
This expansion will improve the beef industry’s overall competitiveness
in food production by helping shorten generational intervals
and improve selection accuracy.”