Fully Stock Your Land Before You Worry About Genetics 

I was talking with William (Ian’s son) the other day about cattle genetics. I was asking him a lot of questions about what traits to look for and this and that. I asked him about certain books and philosophies concerning cattle genetics. He gave me a really great answer that I’d like to share with you all.

While I was asking him about the in’s and out’s of genetics he said to me “Why worry about genetics too much when our ranch isn’t fully stocked?” I think this is a very good point. They have 15,000 acres and each year because of their management they are increasing the land’s carrying capacity. One of their challenges is getting their cattle numbers high enough (what a terrible problem to have, I know).

The point is that they are concerned with increasing their animal numbers while maintaining a stable income (cash flow and long term income). This can be challenging because you can’t make money unless you sell something, as Ian likes to say. While there is room for improvement in their cattle genetics, right now it’s not that great of a concern. I know some people out there might be scoffing at this proclamation. It won’t do you any good to have 40 really nice cows and 3 high quality bulls if your land could be carrying 350 animal units. Those 43 head of cattle might have cost you $46,000. When you could have gone out an bought 80 heifers for the same price.

William also went on to say that when their ranch is adequately stocked that he will start to select for genetic traits. Sure, maybe he has some cattle that aren’t as efficient as some of the smaller, “thin boned” cattle that can perform and fatten on grass more easily that I’ve previously written about. We both love these type of cattle and he has a herd of Nguni cattle which are smaller more efficient animals. But, he knows where he’s going in terms of his future goals for cattle genetics.

I can use another example to illustrate this point. When I get back to Colorado and start my own grazing operation chances are, unless I win the lottery, I’m not going to be able to be highly selective about the genetics of the cattle I’m grazing. If I do a sell/buy style of marketing I’ll probably be forced to buy less desirable animals (open heifers maybe) and with my skills as a grazing manager, improve the health and condition of the animals I’ve purchased in addition to putting weight on them.

If your land isn’t fully stocked I’d be asking yourself some serious questions right now. Maybe you can keep your herd of genetically superior animals you’ve been selecting for and bring in some stockers to utilize the extra forage you have. How would that work?Many areas have periods of rapid growth (60-90 days). You could bring in some purchased animals to utilize this forage and then sell them for a profit when the rapid growth slows down. However you need to determine that you have enough forage for your main herd for the rest of the year!

Well, I hope you’ve found this insightful. Thanks for stopping by.

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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