Brangus: The Breed Without Borders

By Brittni Drennan, IBBA Communications Coordinator

Dustin V_72Sit down for a minute and have a talk with an enthusiastic Dustin Valusek, and you will get excited about the future of the Brangus breed. Valusek has an energy that exudes from his undeniable passion for Brangus, and it is extremely contagious. Having worked in Brazil for several years, Valusek is seeing tremendous potential and is noticing an increase in the demand for Brangus genetics among Brazilian cattle operations.

“There is no other breed that has more opportunity than Brangus,” Valusek said. “Angus cannot thrive in most of the other places in the world, and there is only one breed that combines environmental adaptability and carcass quality, and that’s Brangus. Brangus can go out, walk, cover ground and breed cows in that kind of environment. Brangus is more versatile in that way.”

Valusek’s experience with Brangus stems from an early start growing up on the family farm in Rosharon near the Gulf Coast of Texas outside of Houston. He showed Brangus and Red Brangus cattle, sheep and pigs and competed in livestock judging through 4-H. He gained more hands on experience fitting cattle for Brangus breeders and travelling to stockshows evaluating and preparing cattle for showing. After graduating from high school, Valusek was recruited to judge livestock at Blinn Junior College in Bryan, Texas, where he won several honors including the All-American Junior Livestock Judging Team award. Brant Poe, Lecturer and Livestock Judging Team Coordinator at Texas A&M University, was Valusek’s judging coach at Blinn College and can attest to Valusek’s vivacious personality and determination.

DSC_0306_72

“He has always been a go-getter, and he has never met a stranger. He is a very resilient person with one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve ever been around,” Poe said. “I tell him I wish I was half as fearless as he is. He’s never had any boundaries for what he could do.”

Valusek then attended Texas A&M University to judge livestock, and after an exciting, successful judging career there, Valusek graduated in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Just before graduating, Valusek took six months to study abroad at the University of São Paulo in Brazil where he worked on a nutritional research project at a feedlot. While studying in Brazil, he was forced to learn Portuguese while taking classes related to beef cattle, dairy cattle and the industry in Brazil where the professors only spoke Portuguese. With the help of friends and classmates, Valusek quickly caught on and was able to succeed and do well in his classes. Little did he know at the time, this chance is what would eventually lead Valusek to the opportunity of a lifetime.

Meirelles Brangus cowboys after tattoing calves

Meirelles Brangus cowboys after tattoing calves

Valusek said he knew the National Brangus Show was going on in Camp Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, and he wanted to attend. He stopped to ask someone directions to find the show, and as fate would have it, the man he asked for directions was Marcos Meirelles, owner of Meirelles Brangus. Now three years later, Valusek just completed his tenure at the ranch where he was in charge of overseeing the genetic selection and breeding decisions for the commercial and registered operation in Presidente Prudente, São Paulo. In some of the roughest cattle country in the world, Valusek can attest to the durability, endurance and quality of the cattle.

“That area is very wet during the rainy season, and the terrain is very rugged and rough. We have mosquitos, ticks, and insects are a major problem,” Valusek said. “The water is very salty, so the cattle have to drink from water pumped from the ground into a trough instead of from the natural water sources.”

In a hot, humid, tropical climate, Valusek said Brangus bulls are useful as clean up bulls after AI procedures due to the breed’s ability to adapt to the heat and humidity, resist parasites and diseases and travel well across the country. When making selections, cattlemen select for prepuce and sheath because of the rough terrain, and they select slick haired cattle to accommodate for the heat. Good skeleton and structural correctness is also critical when selecting cattle for Brazilian operations.

“We produced what Brazilians call ‘Brangus Tropical’, which is a 5/8 Brahman and 3/8 Angus cross,” Valusek said. “Environment dictates the percentage used in these areas.”

AI and In Vitro techniques are widely used amongst operations in South America. Valusek reported a 50 percent pregnancy rate last year on all fresh (not frozen) implanted, fertilized embryos after implanting 600 cows in which all implants were Brangus genetics. At Meirelles Brangus, approximately 15,000 straws of semen are collected per year and sent to the commercial operation to incorporate Brangus genetics on Nelor cattle. All the genetics at the operation trace back to the early 2000s when Meirelles was in partnership with Camp Cooley, so all the genetics produced at Meirelles Brangus originated from U.S. lines.

Brazilian operations market their cattle primarily through video, TV and digital sales. Without the availability of auctions or sale barns, producers have to market cattle themselves using different techniques. Cattlemen frequently make purchases by private treaty and buy in bulk. South Americans heavily rely on strong relationships with their suppliers, which is why Valusek encourages U.S. producers to get acquainted with the owners and their operations when marketing their product internationally.

Marcos Borges, Marcos Meirelles, Dr. Fernando Lamarca, Me in Argentina_72

“U.S. Brangus breeders need to take an interest and go visit operations in Brazil. How do you know what their needs are if you have not seen it?” You have to take a genuine interest in their operations and goals,” Valusek said. “The International Show in Houston and the Brangus Global Roundup are two opportunities in which U.S. breeders can take advantage to meet international producers, build relationships and get to know the breeders.

With the demand for Brangus genetics growing outside domestic borders, Valusek sees a tremendous opportunity for the Brangus breed and challenges U.S. breeders to step up to the plate.

Sundance daughter in the donor program at Meirelles Brangus_72

A Sundance daughter in the donor program at Meirelles Brangus.

“Brangus, we all know, combines environmental adaptability without sacrificing carcass quality,” Valusek said. “In Brazil, with the cowherd almost all Nelor cattle, they widely use Brangus as clean up bulls because they can thrive in that environment. The cross between Bos taurus and Bos indicus cattle brings out added benefits like heterosis and hybrid vigor.”

Valusek realizes the potential that lies before Brangus producers, and said it is just waiting for us to take hold and jump on this opportunity to expand the market and provide producers with what they need – functional cattle that thrive in the roughest environments to produce a quality product profiting commercial cattlemen in order to feed the world.

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