It is difficult to summarize what traits, breeding objectives or mating practices are most important and relevant to us since the reality is we try to address most all of them and incorporate the most ‘good’ in the cattle that we can. Visual assessment is paramount to describe and select traits for which no current measures exist-structure, foot quality, docility, fertility, mothering ability, maintenance of body condition, balance and sex characteristics more notably. However, genetics separated from environment via EPD’s are also very useful to evaluate an array of traits and therefore we strive to find a successful compliment between genetic strength and visual assessment. In our opinion, many believe one can only happen without the other-for us that will never be a consideration in moving the breed and industry forward.
Rate of Genetic Improvement
Rate of Genetic improvement has four components: Accuracy of Selection, Intensity of Selection, Genetic Variation and Generation Interval. Accuracy of selection is addressed by collecting comprehensive performance data, utilizing genomically enhanced EPD’s and sourcing genetics from breeders who do the same, our customers and ourselves can have the most confidence and information available in making selection and mating decisions. Intensity of selection is approached through the use if AI or ET and traveling many miles to single out superior sires to own or utilize from the available population. Genetic variation is fairly static and doesn’t have a huge impact other than to allow diversity available for improvement. Finally, generation interval is something we feel strongly about and many times have a contrary opinion to others about. Generation interval is the average age of the cowherd and a lower age means generations turn more quickly-beneficial to advancing genetic merit if the right decisions and better cattle are being bred. We try hard to have a youthful, productive herd that out-breeds itself and incorporates a margin for error in case drought, harsh markets or expansion, when old cows can quickly accumulate or begin to diminish in production. By no means do exceptionally productive cows not stay in the herd for as long as necessary, it simply means we introduce a relatively high percentage of replacements every year because we are hopefully excited about what they can do and believe they are an improvement on the prior generations.
Structural integrity is probably our singular most important criteria if one had to be chosen. Sound structured cattle that are high quality and for which you can be proud to look at everyday puts the appeal of raising cattle in perspective. Most environments demand mobility and longevity for cattle to serve their purpose. This doesn’t mean they need to stay on the farm forever, it means they can remain in the herd for as long as necessary till younger, more productive and genetically advanced daughters or females replace them. Past this foundation, it has been the focus of our operation to increase muscle, early growth, moderate frame, body length, increase center body dimension, add pigment and maintain fertility.
As a maternal breed improving udder quality, milk, calf vigor, mothering ability and fleshing ability are paramount. Hereford cows are and should be known as docile, hardy, long lasting and versatile in crossbreeding scenarios with the hair and thick hide to survive on modest inputs in harsh environments. Modest feed requirements and corresponding efficiency are extremely underrated strengths of the breed in the profit equation. We believe crossbreeding in commercial scenarios is absolutely necessary and Hereford bulls or cows are complimentary to so many breeds because of the unique and complimentary attributes they offer.
Progressive Multi-Trait Genetic Profiles
We are firm believers in EPD’s and now genomically enhanced values to remove environmental/management differences and allow comparisons across herds. Raw and even adjusted weight measures don’t interest us near as much as how the animals might rank relative to their contemporaries and or the greater population-when environmental influences like quantity of feed and management have been accounted for. Garnering accurate measurements in sizeable contemporaries for a variety of traits is critical in advancing our own goals but also trying to make the breed more broadly accepted-particularly in regards to growth and predictors of carcass merit. Breeding cattle that appear impressive to the eye, but also offer strong breeding values for an array of traits is the long-term direction we are dedicated to.