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Control what you can control

published: November 12th 2021
by: Chip Kemp
source: American Simmental Association/International Genetic Solutions commercial and industry operations

Many have written endless articles on the varying pitfalls of our chosen profession. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m guilty of that exact thing. But, in truth, we can boil it down to controlling those things we can control to set ourselves up to better navigate the challenges of those things we cannot control. Complex? Yes. But, at the same time it can often be elegantly simple as well.
    Reality. If I’m addicted to shiny metal and wheels this business gets hard. If I’m trying to build a profitable beef business while paying suburban property prices this business gets hard. In a commodity-based business model long term profits force to zero. What are you doing to buck that trend?
    On the other hand, there are some easy and evident truths.
    1) The “short-term cow” is a long-term problem. Lack of female longe-vity will cripple an outfit. She can’t make a fancy enough calf or a heavy enough calf to make that okay. Lack of cow “stayability” has become rampant as too many have forgot the value of responsible crossbreeding as they chase terminal benefits without regard for a whole enterprise profit picture. Maybe this isn’t true at your ranch. However, I’d wager if most of us did a thorough business analysis we’d realize that we have built an unsustainable business trajectory as we’ve deluded or deceived ourselves about the maternal merit of our cow herd.
    2) Certain truths are nearly never spoken about in our business. They are taboo. We know them to be true, but we live in a world where blue ribbons abound and as such everybody bites their lip and side steps the truth. One such truth – some breeds struggle to provide the feedlot performance, or carcass merit, or consumer measurables that are presently demanded to get top dollar for feeder calves. Another truth – NO ONE BREED corners the market on all those traits. Yet another fact. Responsibly crossed cattle prove to be the most consistently profitable cattle. I can pile up numerous academic articles, papers, and research summaries. But maybe it is more meaningful when we realize where the industry puts its dollars. In 2020, calves from Continental sires (SimAngus and Charolais) topped the large Superior Livestock Auction summer sales. Or, when one dissects the Tri County Carcass Futurity data from Iowa those same sire groups (Simmental influenced and Charolais influenced) generated terminal calves that garnered larger checks from the packer than any other sire group. To be clear, these two things are linked. When feedlots make more on responsibly crossed cattle, they tend to pay up to get more of those calves into their yard. Simple business sense.
    3) Neither #1 or #2 happen by accident. It takes serious commitment to data collection and credible and humble scientists to analyze the data. You can benefit from those efforts by demanding multi-breed EPDs that allow you to directly compare bulls of different breed types. Additionally, demand a credible whole life cycle index and a reliable terminal index so that you have the appropriate tools to fit your management ap-proach. Use the whole life cycle index if you are retaining daughters. If you purchase your females, put the terminal index to work. Indexes make the complex straightforward.
    4) Ask your seedstock provider how they can help you balance breed complementarity and heterosis to add female longevity in your environment and feeder calf value to your family’s business. If your seedstock provider ignores these facts or denies the benefits of crossbreeding to your commercial program, then ask them to defend their position. If they can’t suitably do that, then why are they your seedstock provider?

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