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Past articles from the Bar T Bar Ranch, Southwest bull breeders
Past articles from the Bar T Bar Ranch, Winslow, AZ
Past articles from the Bar T Bar Ranch, Southwest bull breeders

The Prosser Family
P.O. Box 190
Winslow, AZ 86047
928.289.2619 (winter) 928.477.2458 (summer) info@bartbar.com

Articles from the Bar T Bar Ranch : Southwest bull sales

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Heterosis in Action

Establishing and maintaining heterosis is no magic bullet, but it provides the most return for the least input of anything we know of in the cattle business. It allows cattlemen to address the toughest challenges, offering the most return in the toughest environments.

Bar T Bar customers use Balancer genetics to reduce costs and add value.

Consider Sonora, Mexico where cows traditionally are bred to calve for the first time at 3 years of age because of the scarce feed.

“The number one thing heterosis does for us is that it increases cow stayability,” explains Ray Rodriguez, who owns Agro-Tech in Tucson and a ranch in Sonora. He’s seen the gains to be had with cow longevity and stayability on his own ranch, as well as the Mexican ranches that have purchased bulls from him and his clients, such as Bar T Bar Ranch.

To fully appreciated the value of increased cow longevity in this part of the world you have to understand that the average calving interval is 18 months (~540 days). Rodriguez explains most of the commercial cows have run through their teeth by the time they’re 8 or 9. Given their late start at 3 years old and the lengthy calving interval, their calf production can often be counted on one hand.

When Rodriguez started using Balancer bulls from Bar T Bar Ranch — his herd was predominately a cross of Brahman and English breeds — he was able to start shaving days from the calving interval. Now, with some of his cows representing second-generation Bar T Bar breeding, his average calving interval for more than 75 percent of his herd is less than 400 days.

“There’s a marked difference in those females in phenotype, body condition at breeding, calf quality, calving interval and weaning percent and pounds per cow exposed,” explains Rodriguez. “They reach puberty earlier with a smaller frame and more condition. You feel comfortable that they will be able to cycle and breed back.”

Last year, for the first time, Rodriquez bred heifers to calve at 2 rather than 3.

Between the heterosis and the fact that it’s coming from these particular genetics, Rodriguez explains they’re adding productive life on the front end and more years on the back-side. “I’ve got heifers that were born in 1992 and 1993 still working in the herd,” says Rodriguez.

Heterosis Lowers Cost

“The big values of heterosis are increased weaning weight, cow longevity and decreased cost of production,” agrees Duane Coleman, manager of the Hopi 3 Canyon Ranch, based at Winslow, AZ. “We’re definitely quite a few ticks up with our crossbred females. A lot of that is due to the earlier maturity in them, which translates into dollars.”

For them, it’s not just a matter of getting calves earlier in the season, earlier maturity also defines whether they market a bred heifer or one for feeding.

The folks at Hopi 3 Canyon are veterans of rotational crossbreeding. For years they’ve run Herefords at their Hart Ranch to create replacements for their Clear Creek ranch where these heifers have been bred to Angus to create Black Baldies. These Baldy heifers have then been bred to Angus or Balancer bulls as a terminal cross at their Aja Ranch.

“We’re trying to get all of the heterosis we can,” emphasizes Coleman. But they’ve got to manage it economically. That’s why Hopi 3 Canyon is in the process of moving away from maintaining the purebred Hereford herd, which would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

“I was having to hold back and develop too many Hereford heifers to end up with the number of replacements we needed for that herd,” explains Coleman.

More specifically, among the advantages of their crossbred calves, compared to the straight Hereford calves, Coleman says: the steers bring $6-$8 / cwt. more; there are 1-2 percent fewer cancer-eyes, there’s 50-75 lbs more weaning weight, earlier maturity and they’re easier to market.

“I added all of that up and decided we had to make the change.” Eventually, it will be Angus X Balancers in place of the Baldy female.

Breeding Components Matter

Whether as complex as Hopi 3 Canyon’s rotational system, or as simple as Rodriguez’s perennial use of hybrid bulls, managing heterosis is obviously not as simple as breeding cows to a bull of a different breed.

Ray Guymon at the Guymon Ranch in Huntington, Utah, experimented with different Continental breeds on his British-based cowherd. A decade ago he discovered Balancers and has been using them ever since, keeping his replacements along the way.

“I’ve had really good luck with the fertility, mothering ability and the weaning weight of the calves,” says Guymon.

He sees that fertility in the fact that there are virtually no open cows. Though he runs on some top high mountain range, down low he says conditions can be marginal at best.

“I like 65-75 percent of the calves to come in the first 6 weeks, and then the remainder within the next month.” He points out the marginal feed resources cap a higher goal. Besides the impact on subsequent cow condition and breed-up, he points out, “If you’re going to market cattle on the video, you need the calf weights to be in a reasonably tight window.

Marketing through Superior Video last fall, Guymon sold steers that averaged 710 lbs when he weaned them; the heifers he sold averaged 680 lbs.

“I’ve had the best luck with Balancers of anything I’ve tried,” says Guymon.

Genetic Source Matters

As important to these producers is where the genetics they use for crossbreeding come from.

Like Rodriguez, Guymon also says he’s found advantage in buying his Balancer bulls from Bar T Bar Ranch.

“They’ve got all of the EPDs and performance data to work with,” says Guymon. “You can choose to add a little more milk or a little less milk, as an example. They’re giving you real numbers, too. They weigh every calf; they’re not guessing. What you see is what you get.”

“The bulls come to us in what I think is perfect condition. They’ve grown the bulls well, but they’re not fat,” says Guymon. “Plus, they turn the bulls out onto some rocky country so their feet are in good shape. They’re ready to do the job when they get here. The cattle have really good growth, but they’re not too big-framed.”

Buyers like Caprock Cattle Feeders can also attest to the growth in calves sired by Bar T Bar Balancer bulls. “The Bar T Bar cattle that have gone through our Sharing Total Added Value Alliance program have explosive growth, far superior growth, and still work on the carcass side,” says Ben Brophy.

This is true on both sides of the border. Besides the production advantages, Rodriguez explains the Balancer-sired calves have more market value. Along with the added weight, they have the type more buyers prefer, as well as a growing reputation in the country for feed efficiency.

“Bar T Bar has done a tremendous job of developing genetics that work with limited feed resources,” says Rodriguez. “The Balancers from Bar T Bar Ranch are filling a need in Sonora, where cows have gotten too big with too little fertility. These cattle fit for many reasons.”

At Hopi 3 Canyon, Coleman explains, “We need cattle that will sustain themselves on minimum resources and a minimum amount of supplement. We knew bulls from the Bar T Bar Ranch could provide that...We’ve had good acclimation with the Bar T Bar bulls. They’re very fertile and easy calving. They’re exactly what they’re advertised to be.”

—From the Winter 2009 issue of the “Bull Pen”

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