Category: Uncategorized

Let’s Talk Efficiency!!!

Taken from –

Welcome back to the “Final Sort Blog!”  We need to talk efficiency folks! It’s all about getting MORE for LESS…working SMARTER…not HARDER!

In spite of the work done here at MBT, efficiency STILL seems to be elusive to some folks.  We recently communicated about the efficiency of an unnamed herd.  A tremendous number of assertions were being made, but there was no measurement of INPUTS!  Now it is true that they had a great understanding who the “apparent” easy do-ers were in their herd, but they moved them right into the category of “efficient bulls.” Now we must agree!  It is certainly nice to see those nice, soft, round sided calves at weaning.  Those shiny buggers that pair growth and gain into a beautiful package that knocks your eyes out!  We’ll take that any day, but we’ve said it once, and we’ll re-assert!  The margin is in the middle…lodged right between the money you get and the money you give!

The whole conversation makes me think of two geldings Gus and Sam standing out under the big cottonwood tree swatting flies.  Gus and Sam are nearly a matched pair, both golden in the summer sun, fat and a bit sassy.  The only thing that separates Gus and Sam is a board fence that runs between the grass pasture that Gus stands in and the dry lot corral Sam lives in.  Gus grazes nearly all day long until the summer sun blazes down when he finds relief under the big oak tree.  Sam gets about three flakes of grass hay every morning and evening spending the majority of his day coveting Gus’s knee deep luscious green grass!  Now I assure you, we think the world of Gus, but he’s just an easy keeper. Sam is able to maintain the same body condition on less!  Hands down, Sam is the most efficient specimen in the herd!  Efficiency happens when each pound gained requires less than average input and ‘ol Sam nails it!

The fallacy happens when folks only focus on the gross.  It doesn’t matter if you gross your first million but you spent two million to make it happen.  The same is true when we feed cattle.  Here at Midland, we search out those individuals who require less feed (and therefore money) to gain each and every pound.  That trait must be paired by the same animal with the ability to also out gain their contemporaries!  That’s the combination we are looking for!  Simply spoken, it’s doing more with less!

It is mighty hard to refocus our priorities when we’ve programed ourselves for years to seek those 650 pound weaning weights.  Many a shiny bragging rights have accompanied those plump weaning weights here in our Big Sky country.  Those plump shiny calves do paint a pretty picture as they trot across the scale.  But!  Consider this….here at Midland, we focus on achieving those same goals, all the while minimizing your feed costs.

For Example…

Two bulls were tested at Midland and both came off the efficiency test at 1,100 lbs.  Their stats are as follows:

Bull A – ADG 3.47, Dry Matter Intake 28.73 lbs/day, Feed to Gain Ratio 8.28 lbs of feed/lb of gain, RFI 3.90

Bull B – ADG 3.26, Dry Matter Intake 22.45 lbs/day, Feed to Gain Ratio 6.90 lbs of feed/lb of gain, RFI 2.77

Without measuring their inputs, it appears that the bulls performed almost identically with Bull A showing a slight advantage in the raw ADG.  When the inputs are added to the equation, the picture changes radically!  Bull B consumed 6.28 pounds per day less than Bull A marking a 21% difference!  When we put the dollars and cents to it, that’s an $80-$120/head savings in the feedlot and $60-$80/year savings on daughters retained in the cow herd without impacting any weights of their calves!

We’re in a dog eat dog business and we can’t afford to have inefficiency unnecessarily inflating our costs by 21%; and we can’t afford to waste 21% of our grass, hay and silage!  The dirt needed to produce that grass is simply too expensive to throw away 21% of the crop!  And folks!  That’s just the cost side!  These savings create growth opportunity as that 21% is an unrealized opportunity allowing us to increase our carrying capacity and incremental revenue!   Imagine if your retirement planner explained that you could earn an additional 21% return on your investments!  We certainly wouldn’t leave that opportunity on the table!

Let me say that one more time!  You have a choice!  Efficient cattle will cut your incremental cost thereby increasing your margins.  At the very same time, in a static environment, you will find that you are able to INCREASE your carrying capacity!  Wow!

Long story short….fat does not equal efficiency and you can’t select for a trait unless you measure it! AND!!! EFFICIENCY PAYS!

Birth Weights… HOW LOW DO YOU GO!

Taken from –

Thank you Rachel Sutherlin for being our guest blogger!  Rachel is completing her internship here at MBT this month.  We sincerely appreciate her work at MBT and wish her the best of luck as she returns to her schooling!

Birth Weights… HOW LOW DO YOU GO!

We don’t want to give up power and torque when it comes to our vehicles because we expect optimal performance.  So…why do we select for below average birth weights and not push our cows to the same standards of optimal performance?  It is often said that too much of a good thing is bad?  In light of low birth weights, have we pushed too far?  Are they beginning to cost us too much?  Have we passed that pinnacle point of diminishing returns?  Where do we draw the line between low birth weights being a positive or negative attribute?

A dead calf is worth nothing…and no one wants to deal with a hard pull!  Keeping birth weights in check is important; but, are we putting too much emphasis on a negative birth weight EPD?  A cow should be able to deliver a calf weighing 7% of her body weight without assistance.  If she can’t, send her to the cull pen?  Recent trends are driving birth weights lower and lower resulting in much smaller calves… sometimes 60lb or less.  Producers are paid by the pound at weaning or on the rail and those ultra small calves NEVER catch up!   Why are we cutting ourselves short by not making our cows work for us?

If our goal is to save time and labor as we breed for small calves at birth; we must also assess how much extra work and effort a dink calf will require.  A dink calf can cost many long hours in the calf warmer because they don’t get up on a cold nights; followed by hours in the maternity pen suckling because they can’t get the job done!  The same dink calf may die because he is too weak to get up if he is born in the middle of the night.  Sometimes theses calves aren’t big enough or strong enough to sustain those first few hours. What is the point of these ultra low birth weights if they result in exponentially higher labor costs and cause your death loss to sky rocket?  You are then faced with the decision of breeding or culling those cows who lost their calf even though you purposefully bred her to produce that dink calf who was unstable to survive!  You are essentially undermining the stay-ability of your mother cows by setting them up for failure.

We need to make our cattle work for us to minimize cost and effort!  We must be especially mindful of undermining her ability.  Using a low BW bull on a cow sired by a low BW bull can produce a smaller pelvis in her female progeny.  As a result, you have just exacerbated your problem as the offspring will have an even harder time calving….even low birth weight calves.  We must consider the big picture and the long-term effects to determine whether we are hurting or helping ourselves.  Low birth weights are good for first time heifers and small framed cows; but, we need to push those bigger birth weights on cows to maximize our return….and they should be able to handle it!

We need to make our cows work for us.  Don’t lose money on the first day!  We have to focus on not turning these lower trending birth weights into a bad thing!

Bull buying checklist – EBVs

Your breeding objective

Before selecting a bull it is important that you have clear breeding objectives set for your herd. The following points should be used as a guide to determining your breeding objectives.

  • Traits of economic importance
  • Customer/market requirements
  • Herd production targets
  • Current herd performance
  • Breeding goals and selection criteria

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) can be combined into a $Index EBV which effectively ranks available animals with all traits weighted according to their effect on the profit drivers for the herd.

Make sure you keep your selection criteria in mind when selecting a bull. It is important that you rank your selection criteria in priority order. This will help you make a choice between bulls that generally meet your selection criteria. For more information see Breeding objectives.


Select genetically docile bulls to increase the probability that progeny will be quieter, have higher growth rate and transport better.

Temperament can be measured using ‘flight time’ or scored using a crush or yard test. The flight speed measure provides a more accurate and heritable measure of the trait to modify herd performance. For more information see Improving temperament and flight time.

Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation or BULLCHECK™

The Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation (VBBSE) was developed by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians to standardise bull fertility testing and to provide a consistent descriptor of bull fertility.

The report indicates whether a bull has met a set of standards for five bull fertility components. The components of fertility assessed are those that indicate whether a bull has a high probability, but not a guarantee, of being fertile.

The two components of the VBBSE are:

a) A summary of the five indicative components of bull fertility (see example below)

Bull number/name Age Yr:Mn Scrotum Physical Semen Morphology Serving
AACV Top of the Rack 2.02 37.0cm P Nt

b) A full report that identifies the bull, date of testing and by whom, where and comments associated with each test. A summary of the five components of bull fertility in the BBSE follows:

Scrotum – Scrotal circumference/size (SS) in centimetres (cm) where testes shape is within normal range. The current recommendations for tropically adapted bulls are a minimum scrotal size of 32cm (and average is 34–36cm) for a two-year-old bull.

Physical – Within the constraints of a standard examination, there is no evidence of any general physical/structural condition or of a physical condition of the reproductive tract indicating sub-fertility or infertility. This evaluation will identify structurally unsound bulls in legs, feet, sheath and general structure.

Semen – Crush-side assessment indicates that the semen is within normal range for motility, colour and per cent progressively motile and is suitable for laboratory evaluation.

Morphology – Semen examination of per cent normal sperm using high power magnification to ensure minimum standards for normal function are achieved.

Serving – The bull is able to serve normally as demonstrated in a standard test and shows no evidence of fertility limiting defects.

For more information see Bull breeding soundness examination (BBSE).

Serving capacity testing

Serving capacity testing provides:

  • an indication of a bulls ability to mount and serve a cow/heifer and includes both reproductive and structural soundness (legs, feet, sheath, penis and overall anatomy)
  • a measure of the sex drive (libido) or eagerness of a male to seek out a female on heat
  • an indication of the subsequent pregnancy rates achieved following a restricted mating period (more particularly in Bos taurus breeds).

The summary table (like the example) will indicate:

For this component, the bull met the fertility standards as published by the Australian Association of Cattle Veterinarians x The bull did not meet the standards for this fertility component
Na Not Applicable e.g. certificate not required to indicate status for this fertility component Nt This fertility component was not fully tested/evaluated
P (For Morphology only). The samples taken do not meet the full standards but indicate that the bull is very likely to be fertile under natural mating P=>50% and <70% N. Seek advice from your cattle vet. A ü = >70% Normal

Estimated Breeding Values

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are predictions of an animal’s genetic merit, based on available performance data on the individual and its relatives.

BREEDPLAN EBVs are expressed in the units of measurement for each particular trait. They are shown as positive or negative differences from the breed base (or breed average). EBVs provide the best basis for the comparison of the genetic merit of animals reared in different environments and management conditions. EBVs can only be used to compare animals within the same breed.

The differences in EBVs between animals are more important than the absolute value of the EBV. Particular animals should be viewed as being ‘above breed average’ for a particular trait only if their EBVs are better than the average EBVs of all animals born in their year drop.

EBVs are published for a range of traits including fertility, growth and carcase merit. When using EBVs to assist in selection decisions it is important to achieve a balance between the different traits and to place emphasis on those traits that are important to your herd, your markets, and your environment.

Calving Ease Traits

Calving ease is an important economic trait because of its impact on calf and heifer mortality, labour and veterinary expenses at calving time, and subsequent re-breeding performance of female cattle.

Calving Ease (DIRECT) EBVs

Calving Ease (DIR) EBVs are estimates of genetic differences among animals in their ability as a direct effect of the sire. The EBVs are reported as differences in the percentage unassisted calvings. Higher, more positive, Calving Ease (DIR) EBVs are more favourable.

Calving Ease (DTRS (daughters)) EBVs

Calving Ease (DTRS) EBVs indicates the genetic differences for calving ease of an animals daughters. The EBVs are reported as differences in the percentage unassisted calvings. Higher, more positive, Calving Ease (DTRS) EBVs are more favourable.

Gestation Length EBVs

Gestation Length EBVs are estimates of genetic differences among animals in the number of days from the date of conception until the calf birth date. Lower, or more negative, Gestation Length EBVs are generally more favourable. This EBV is only available where the mating and calving dates are known.

Birth Wt EBVs

Birth Wt EBVs are estimates of genetic differences between animals in kg of calf birth weight. Small, or moderate, Birth Wt EBVs are more favourable.

Fertility Traits

Fertility is a critical component influencing the profitability of a breeding herd. EBVs are provided for two fertility traits – Days to Calving and Scrotal Size. These traits contribute important information to assist in making breeding decisions to maintain herd fertility.

Days to Calving EBVs

Days to Calving (DC) EBVs are estimates of genetic differences in fertility, expressed as the number of days from the start of the joining period until subsequent calving. Lower, or more negative for Days to Calving EBVs are more favourable.

Scrotal Size EBVs

Scrotal Size EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in scrotal circumference at 400 days of age. Larger, or more positive, Scrotal Size EBVs are more favourable.

Growth Traits

EBVs are provided for three growth traits: 200-Day Wt, 400-Day Wt and 600-Day Wt. Selection for growth traits should be relative to the target market weights.

200-Day Wt EBVs

200-Day Wt EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in weight at 200 days of age. Larger, more positive, 200-Day Wt EBVs are generally more favourable.

400-Day Wt EBVs

400-Day Wt EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in weight at 400 days of age.  Larger, more positive, 400-Day Wt EBVs are generally more favourable.

600-Day Wt EBVs

600-Day Wt EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in liveweight at 600 days of age. Larger, more positive, 600-Day Wt EBVs are generally more favourable.

Mature Cow Wt EBVs

Mature cow weight is recorded at the time the calf is weaned and taken over up to five calvings. It is an indication of the mature weight of the breeders and should be related to the nutrition available on the property.

Carcase Traits

Carcase Weight EBVs

Carcase weight EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in hot standard carcase weight at 650 days of age. Larger, more positive, Carcase Weight EBVs are more favorable.

Eye Muscle Area (EMA) EBVs

EMA EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in eye muscle area (cm2) at the 12/13th rib site on a 300kg carcase. Larger, more positive, EMA EBVs are generally more favourable.

Rib Fat EBVs

Rib Fat EBVs are estimates of the genetic differences among animals in fat depth (mm) at the 12/13th rib site, on a 300kg carcase. Rib Fat EBVs are used to change the progeny fat levels relative to the market specifications.

Rump Fat EBVs

Rump Fat EBVs are estimates of genetic differences among animals in fat depth at the P8 rump site on a standard 300kg carcase. Rump Fat EBVs are used to change the progeny fat levels relative to the market specifications.

Retail Beef Yield % (RBY%) EBVs

RBY% EBVs are estimates of genetic differences among animals in percentage retail beef yield in a 300kg carcase, with 2–3mm fat trim, adjusted to 85% chemical lean. Larger, more positive, RBY % values are more favourable.

Intra-Muscular Fat % (IMF%) EBVs

IMF% EBVs are estimates of genetic differences among animals in percentage intra-muscular fat (marbling) in a 300kg carcase. Depending on the market targets, positive IMF% EBVs may be more favourable.

Other issues to consider

DNA Markers

This is a developing science and provides a key for the future. Markers are now available for Marbling and Tenderness traits. This technology has potential to identify animals carrying the desired markers, but may not provide its fullest benefit until further markers are identified for many traits.

Net Feed Efficiency (NFI)

Net Feed Efficiency (NFI) identifies animals that are more efficient converters of available feed to kg of liveweight gain. A negative EBV for NFI will provide the opportunity for producers to select more efficient animals.

In summary

  • Set your ‘breeding objectives’
  • Select only genetically docile bulls (flight time test preferable)
  • Ask for a Veterinary Bull Breeding Soundness Evaluation (VBBSE) before sale
  • Research BREEDPLAN EBVs (available on line before sale).

Summary table for buyers to ‘fill in’ with their bull selections and associated data for comparisons in advance of auctions commencing.

The GREAT RECONCILIATION – Paper Cows vs. Teeth Tits & Wheels

Taken from –

Humbled is how we come to you today; but humored as well.  We are so incredibly thankful for the beautiful illustrations of humanity that we work and walk with in this life’s business.  They are great people…the best in fact!  These folks that we admire are tenacious (or is it stubborn?), hard-working (or is it hard-headed?), convicted (or is it “strongly” opinionated?), visionary and forward thinking (unless you are looking down the road from the opposite direction; then they’re just plain backward!)  You get the picture!  These vibrant strands of humanity woven throughout our industry are as subject to perception as any other sector of humanity….and let me tell you…sometimes they really do embrace their humanity…aaahhhhum!  With that vibrant picture painted before your keenly lit eyes, I introduce you to two sectors of our industry:  the purebred/registered breeder and the commercial cattlemen.  Before I delve into the characteristics of these two sectors, I must warn you that I am going to be a bit precocious ribbing each of them as I reconcile their uniquely perceived interests into one common interest of success! (So, whichever group you belong to, please know that I intend to give you a little rub as I have a bit of fun with you!)

Introducing the purebred/registered breeder!  Our industry is truly indebted to the visionary cattlemen who are geneticists, scientists and those who have the desire to build the best bovine that has ever graced God’s green earth!  We like them round, sound and low to the ground and we like them pretty!  Nice feet, wedged just right, pretty udders, perfect angles and doe-like faces with lashes like Bambi!  These cattlemen are generally plagued with passion that cause wives and daughters to be envious of Lucky Lucy Loo #302!  These folks are some of our brightest and best on every level.  A few subtle years ago, these folks challenged heaven and earth (in and out of the show-ring!) as they began breeding for the better bovine with their eyes focused intently on quality and profitability.  That passion gave rise to relative bench-marking, tracking of statistics, creation of performance associations, development of indexes, and creation of EPD’s.  In today’s climate, many pass over the cow’s production records for gestation, weaning weights, birth weights and fertility.  Instead, they look almost exclusively at EPD’s or gnomics; and, have forgotten that “function must fit the form!” Great numbers will not result in great cows if they are not designed to thrive in the intended environment.  The notion of exclusively or predominantly looking at the numbers, which are mere expected performance guesses, has led to the eventual demise of evaluating “Betsy on the hoof” and the equally eventual evolution of the PAPER cow.

In this world of $500,000 cows, shiny auction blocks, polished people and beautiful…. beautiful papers, it seems as though the cow and her eventual offspring are oft forgotten!  Additionally, in this world, one could argue that we have moved to that precarious place where we are breeding paper instead of cows at all…and, in fact, the phenotype of the cow may in fact be a poorly conceived after-thought.  Here lies the birth of the perils that cause us to cringe.  Our industry is fraught with beautiful pedigrees accompanied by bad feet including corkscrew claw, long toes and short flat heels.  Equally prolific are structural compromises such as straight shoulders and post-y hips, bad bags, raised, sloped tail heads and small pelvises.  Lastly we have the specimen who is unable to maintain a consistent breed back or who does not display maternal characteristics that will lend to care free calving.  Based on the beauty of the pedigrees, the trendy names and novelty of the numbers, however, these characteristics are overlooked and Betsy Be Gone dodges the cull gate again and again.  On some outfits, she is excused on that occasional year when she doesn’t raise a calf; she gets a much needed pedicure each fall; and, she slowly evolves from a spring calver to a fall calver and back to a spring calver as the calving date slips ever so slightly each and every year.  But…you must understand, the numbers are simply beautiful!  Fortunately the gifted minds and convictions of our forefathers in this cattle building business have persevered! Most of our breeders are performance based cattlemen who understand what makes a cow herd work; and, what traits are important to the cattleman!

Now, before you rain hell and fire in my direction, let’s have a bit of fun with the commercial cattleman and I assure you, we’ll eventually weave this tale together in a happy way that leaves every party with their dignity in tact!

I enjoy those moments spent basking in the simple yet brilliant wisdom of the commercial cattleman.  This specimen is the most tenacious of businessmen.  The commercial cattleman is truly the most pristine picture of the west; the portrait of the free spirited American cowboy…deeply attached to the land, the legacy and the livestock.  He is the man who sells pounds for a living in spite of the market, the politics and the weather.  He operates on a larger scale and a tighter budget with a keen eye bent toward input costs as he keeps that ever-shrinking bottom line black.  All the while he supplies the world with pounds of red meat …the BEST red meat that money will buy I might add!   The commercial mind is focused on profitability and is keenly aware that the “best” cow ($$$) may not be the best investment.  He balances on the wire as he weighs capital outlay, return ofinvestment and return on investment with herd quality and cash flow.

The commercial cattleman understands real world cattle and the harsh conditions in which our stock must thrive to remain profitable.  He is keenly aware that the mama cow must take care of herself, raise a calf independently, breed back, wean a respectable calf and do it again year after year without falter.  He may breed and raise his own replacements; or his cattle may be sprinkled with somewhere upward of 6 brands….6 breeds and 6 colors.  In spite of this, he knows quite intimately that pay day is all about tipping the scale on shipping day; it’s a vicious game he plays.  He shoots for BALANCED….round, sound and low to the ground; muscle, mass, deep ribs, length like a freight train, the ability to cover country like a mountain goat all the while gaining weight as if Thanksgiving happens every day! Occasionally, however, the deals draw him into a few specimen that scream tall, flat and narrow as he attempts to balance quality with capital outlay!  The trick though, is that those tall, flat and narrow cows wean the same type of calves; and, they trip over pennies eating dollar bills as they do it.  He shakes his head as he scans the pen on shipping day knowing full well that some of those “let it slide” decisions have cost him as he overlooks a pen of uneven calves lacking uniformity, desirability….and 50 pounds.  On cull day, he has his sights set high, but in light of the slumped killer cow market and the pretty penny those shiny bred heifers will cost him…he may let Lop Sided Lucy slip by one more time noting that “she raised a whopper calf this year…and after all…she’s got teeth, tits and wheels…and she’s got a calf in her!”  What the heck…does she need teeth?

And alas my friends, this is the point when we come full circle.  While I have been incredibly sarcastic at the expense of “our people.”  These are the BEST people God created in vicious pursuit of the BEST life….building the best legacies!  The take-away from this conversation is that we must be mindful of the end game in order to be successful; and, neither segment of this industry can exist without the other.  The purebred breeder needs the commercial cattleman; he is the factory for the cattle industry!  As such, the purebred industry must be mindful that while the numbers are a imperative to continued improvement and a crucial means to the end, but they must not lose sight of those things that are essential to the commercial cattleman!  We must have sound, efficientcattle who are able to produce and reproduce year after year.  That means that our purebred cattle must be proven to survive and thrive facing the same elements and criteria as their commercial counterparts.  Likewise, the commercial cattlemen need good cattle to continue to produce the best beef that the world has to offer!  They need the design team and they look to you…they NEED you…the purebred breeder to make that happen!

Ps!  As you travel around, Midland may very well be the ONLY major sale that provides the damn dam production records!

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.”

EPD Effectivity Proof

Association News: Unique genetics project demonstrates effectiveness of EPDs, DNA testing

By – WLJ

More than 40 calves were produced from one cow, all in the name of genetic research. That’s something you don’t see every day.

This research, dubbed the LiveWiRED project, is a cooperative effort between the Junior Red Angus Association of America and the Red Angus Foundation, Inc. The plan is to evaluate the real-world performance of calves compared to their sires’ EPDs for growth and carcass traits. A host of data has been collected on the calves, including DNA profile information, which will be used to generate a complete “genetic trail,” tracking from parental EPDs to progeny DNA and finally the actual performance of those progeny.

The research is unique in that a single Gelbvieh cow, “Penny,” served as the donor female for the entirety of the project. With only one dam for all LiveWiRED calves, sire genetics are isolated and progeny performance on the project’s different Red Angus sires can be accurately compared to their EPDs.

Three of the Red Angus sires used in the project ranked high for growth and carcass-value traits, while the other two sires ranked at the lower end of the bell curve. Throughout the duration of the project, the two sire groups will be compared in various ways and, in some cases, calves by individual sires will also be compared to each other in order to determine if observed performance differences match those predicted by the sires’ EPDs.

Born in August 2017, the LiveWiRED calves are now long yearlings and are being finished in a Kansas feedyard with a projected slaughter date of March 1, 2019. Prior to entering the feedyard, DNA and weaning weight information were collected for analysis and Junior Red Angus (JRA) members are excited to utilize this data for the next phase of this three-year endeavor.

Adjusted weaning weights between the two sires with the most progeny in the study (one high in growth and the other low) were different by 28 pounds (P<0.01), favoring the high-growth sire. Also, of note, the entirety of the high-growth-sired calves outgained their low-growth-sired counterparts by 0.4 pounds per day during their first 71 days in the feedyard.

A positive correlation between phenotypic and genomic data, as compared to EPDs, was found when analyzing the weaning weight and DNA information. These results provide positive reassurance to the initial goal of the project—proving the accuracy of EPDs.

As the calves continue to grow, their performance in the finishing and carcass stage of production will be valuable information as the LiveWiRED project nears completion.

JRA members have been benefiting from this project since its inception in January 2016 by observing real-life aspects of beef production in coordination with the growth stage of the LiveWiRED calves. The project serves as a valuable educational tool for all ages of beef producers and will continue to yield valuable educational results. A final research report detailing all the findings of the project will be published in the second quarter of 2019.

For more information on the JRA or the LiveWiRED project, visit

Buying A New Herd Bull? Do These 4 Steps First

W. Mark Hilton 2 | Feb 29, 2012

Bull purchases represent a significant investment in a beef herd. Whether that investment results in a “nest egg” or a “goose egg” depends highly on a bull buyer’s preparation. Let’s discuss some basics.

Step 1: Don’t buy a new disease. While I’ve never had a producer intentionally bring a new cattle disease onto the premises, in reality this is how most new diseases enter a herd. Be sure the bull is a virgin or is tested for trichomoniasis if you live in a “trich” area. Bear in mind that trich is a devastating disease that is spreading into areas where it once was either absent or rare.

What about Johne’s disease, persistent infection with bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) and campylobacter? Ask the supplier if he’s ever had a positive diagnosis and, most importantly, get permission for your herd health veterinarian to call the seller’s veterinarian to discuss the health of the seller’s herd.

Be sure to ask specific questions about diseases you want to avoid buying. If the seller doesn’t allow this communication, I’d look elsewhere for genetics.

Step 2: Buy genetics that fit your herd goals. If you’re using bulls on virgin heifers, calving ease is a high priority. Using across-breed EPDs (Angus base), select a bull below +1 for BW EPD for a high likelihood of unassisted calvings.

For bulls to be used on cows, you should buy a bull with growth, maternal and carcass traits that fit your goals. I see many producers still looking primarily at calving ease when selecting a bull for cows. This is counterproductive as you’re likely limiting the growth of the calves and decreasing pounds sold.

As a general rule, low-birth weight EPD bulls tend to be lower in weaning and yearling EPD. Buy a bull for cows that will improve hybrid vigor (which improves health), growth and carcass.

We all want cattle that will thrive in their given environment; a calf with poor vigor at birth starts life with a huge black mark. Calves should be born quickly and stand to nurse on their own within 30 minutes. Anything less isn’t acceptable, and such calves have a greater chance of morbidity, which can be a tremendous labor issue. Ask about calf vigor before you buy.

Step 3: Quarantine for 30 days. Every farm or ranch has pathogen exposure and most animals never show clinical signs of sickness. Their immune system fights off the disease and you never even know they were exposed.

However, take that “normal” animal, stress him, and put him right in with your cows with their normal pathogen load and the new bull gets sick. Thus, 30 days of quarantine is a small price to pay for improved health.

Your herd health veterinarian will likely recommend a vaccination and parasite-control protocol during quarantine based on the bull’s health history and diseases common in your locale. Call your herd health veterinarian to get advice on these preventive health procedures.


Posted by Travis Meteer

Pedigree, scrotal measurement, EPDs, accuracies, actual weights, $ values, DNA tests…. and you haven’t even looked at the bull yet. There is no doubt that sire selection can be a daunting task, but economic indexes may be the tool to help simplify your selection process.

Economic indexes are a collection of EPDs that are weighted depending on their economic importance in a given scenario. The goal of these index values is to simultaneously emphasize economically-relevant traits while using a multi-trait selection approach.

Often these indexes are not fully understood and the name of the index doesn’t always accurately portray the goal of the index. Read these descriptions carefully so you can accurately use these selection tools to improve the profitability of your cattle.


Weaned Calf Value ($W)

An index that is designed for cattlemen that primarily sell calves at weaning. This index also assumes that replacement heifers are retained. EPDs for birth weight, weaning weight, milk, and mature cow size are focused on. Lower birth weights, heavier weaning weights, and lower mature cow size are desirable. Milk production is weighted both positively and negatively as it directly impacts calf weaning weights, but also increases cow maintenance requirements.

Feedlot Value ($F)

This is an index that focuses on post-weaning characteristics. Yearling weight is the driving factor in this index. It is useful for cattlemen marketing fed cattle on a live basis.

Grid Value ($G)

This index puts focus on carcass traits. If you want to emphasize improving both quality and yield grade in your herd, this is useful tool.

Beef Value ($B)

This is a combination of $F and $G, but is not a simple addition of the two. $B is a terminal index. Emphasis is put on yearling weight and carcass traits. Significant selection pressure on $B index can result in selecting for a larger mature cow size. If replacement heifers are retained, you should not apply blind selection pressure to this index. $B is not a comprehensive index, which I frequently hear it misrepresented as. It is a terminal index.


Baldy Maternal Index (BMI$)

A maternal index that assumes a production system based on Hereford x Angus cross females. The index places positive weight on calving ease, scrotal circumference, and weaning weight. A slight negative weight is placed on YW in effort to promote early growth to keep cow size manageable. Positive weight is also placed on marbling, more so than REA. The index assumes cull progeny are marketed in a branded beef program. This is a maternal-focused index that also places selection pressure on carcass quality.

Certified Hereford Beef (CHB$)

A terminal index that targets the CHB market. Slight pressure is put on calving ease, positive weight is put on weaning weight, yearling weight, and carcass traits. This index is useful for ranchers producing bulls for a terminal breeding program. It also has value for selecting cattle that will be more profitable in the feedlot. No replacement females are retained in this scenario, thus no selection pressure is put on fertility.


All-Purpose Index (API)

An index that assumes bulls will be used on cows and heifers. It assumes heifers will be retained as replacements. All other progeny will be sold on a grade and yield grid based system. This index is designed to assist producers in selecting cattle that will maximize revenue from fed cattle while maintaining maternal attributes in replacement heifers.

Terminal Index (TI)

No smoke and mirrors here. This index assumes all progeny will be sold grade and yield. Used for selecting bulls to be used on cows only.

In conclusion, sire selection sets the stage for your future in the cattle business. Progeny from the bulls you choose today will determine your reputation, your profitability, and your brand. Understanding economic index values can result in more profitable cattle for your operation as well as your customer base.