Ranchers weigh options on replacement heifers amid historic high prices

COLLEGE STATION – When it comes to replacement heifers in beef cattle operations, producers are faced with a dilemma: Raise them, buy them or sell them and “take the money and run,” said a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist.

It’s becoming an all too familiar situation among Texas ranchers, said Stan Bevers, an AgriLife Extension economist at Vernon who recently presented a study at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course.

“We looked at what the market is right now for replacement heifers,” he said. “We were targeting heavy bred heifers, and they were anywhere from $1,650 to $2,300 a head. The second number was what it was costing the rancher to raise them themselves.

When it comes to replacement heifers in beef cattle operations, producers are faced with a dilemma: Raise them, buy them or sell them and “take the money and run.”

“One operation we tracked were heifers weaned in 2010 and 2011, what those heifers were and what their accumulated expenses were over the two years to the point where they were heavy bred. Their expenses totaled $1,100 to $1,400 a head. That ranch was pretty efficient and did a good job of reducing their expenses.”

Bevers said since this ranch was located in Oklahoma, one would need to add $300-$400 a head to that for Texas ranchers and regional market prices to develop replacement heifers.

“That comes out to $1,400 to $1,800 to develop replacement heifers in Texas,” Bevers said.

He said if you look at the current market price, it shows it’s cheaper to “raise them yourself if you are a pretty efficient, cost-reducing type operator.”

“The final number we looked at is if I have to pay much over market cost for them or if I choose to raise a heifer on my own, what is she going to return me over her life?” he said. “We started with a two-year-old heifer that’s going to be having her first calf and added eight years to that. That means we’ve gone out 10 years into the future, so now she is 10 years old,and we came up with what I can pay for her, which was $2,301 a head.”

Bevers said that leaves three numbers to consider.

“We know the market is $1,650 to $2,300, and it takes $1,400 to $1,500 to raise her, and now she is worth $2,300 in my herd economically.

“What do you do with those numbers? Well, if nothing else, it illustrates how complex this decision is right now,” he said. “It’s not right or wrong. It’s based on what type of operation you have and your costs. You finally have to decide to pull the trigger and say this is what we are going to have to do.”

Bevers threw in a fourth number – what feedlots are paying for commercial heifers destined for the beef market. Right now, it’s about $1.93 to $2.03 a pound, he said.

“You are talking about a heifer in the 750-pound range that’s worth $1,500 on the market and that’s for beef,” he said. “So, if you don’t keep her as a replacement heifer, you now have a floor price of about $1,500 a head. If you don’t want to take her and put her back in your operation, the feedlot is going to take her for $1,500 and turn her into beef later down the road.”

Past IJBBA President Spotlight: Stacy Hayes

The Past President Spotlight is a column featured in the bi-monthly publication, the Brangus Journal. We hope you learn from these great leaders who have extensive experience and expertise in their respective fields.

Stacy Sproul Hayes
IJBBA President 2000-2001

Like many juniors who grow up in the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association (IJBBA), Stacy Sproul Hayes has extensive experience in the Brangus breed having been involved in her family’s registered Brangus operation in Isabella, Okla. Hayes was initially involved in the Oklahoma Junior Brangus Association, which led to her involvement at the national level, and she served as the IJBBA President on the Board of Directors in 2000-2001.

Sproul Brangus was a partnership between Hayes’ dad, Ron, and his brother, Wally. She traveled, hauled, showed with and competed against her brothers, Scott and Clint, and her cousins, Andy and Emily. The operation truly was a family affair, and they shared in each other’s accomplishments and big wins.

“Between five kids and one herd, I was just as excited when my cousins or brothers won as when I won,” Hayes said. “I was very fortunate that we didn’t have to go out and buy a lot of show cattle. We bred and raised them on our own operation, and that was a true blessing, I feel, for a ranch to support five kids showing very competitively where so many lessons were learned.”

In 1996, Hayes won Supreme Champion at the National Junior Brangus Show (NJBS) in Kansas City after winning her division and the Grand Champion Owned Female. The female was one that she and her family bred and raised. She also won Reserve Champion Senior Calf in the Owned Show in Lake Charles in 2000. But, the family was involved in more than just the show ring.

“I was as involved as one possibly could be,” Hayes recalled. “I was on the board for a long time, and I really enjoyed every minute of it. My first National Junior Brangus Show was in 1990 in Wichita, Kan., and I didn’t miss a national show until after my last one in 2002.”

Hayes was crowned the IBBA Queen in 1998-1999 and served on the Board of Directors in numerous capacities from 1997 to 2002. She participated in almost every contest she could including the poster contest, quiz bowl and salesmanship in which she was most competitive. Hayes said she gained so many opportunities and learned many life lessons while serving on the junior board.

“I feel like it helped me be a more outgoing person, and now I can walk into a situation and meet people,” Hayes said. “I moved from Oklahoma to Louisiana, and being involved in the IJBBA has helped me feel more comfortable being exposed to new and different situations. I even learned about the small things; the board taught me how to host meetings, travel as a group, navigate yourself around new places and how to be independent.”

Hayes obtained a degree in Elementary Education from Oklahoma State University in 2005. She now lives in Kinder, La., with her husband, Cody, and two young boys, Guy (six) and Gage (three), where she teaches fifth grade reading. The Hayes family lives on Cody’s family’s rice farm and is involved in showing pigs at the national level. Guy also has a steer he will show at Southern University in the spring after he turns seven.

“My goal was to be a positive role model for the kids I was setting an example for,” Hayes said. “Get involved and meet people both inside and outside your state because those people will remain contacts, and you just don’t know who you might need one day. Step out of your comfort zones and try new things because you never know what great experiences you might have.”

For more information about IBBA’s past presidents, visit www.GoBrangus.com/member.

DNA Information Empowers Informed Selection and Breeding Decisions

Source: Pfizer Animal Genetics

Technology helps producers speed up genetic progress.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Steve Densmore, manager at Circle X Land and Cattle Co., is a strong believer in DNA testing.

Selection and breeding decisions can affect the performance and profitability of a cow/calf operation for years to come. This is why Steve Densmore, who raises purebred Brangus cattle at Circle X Land and Cattle Co. in Bryan, Texas, uses genetic technology to help him make better decisions that also benefit his customers.

“We try to produce what commercial producers want,” Densmore says. “The genetic technologies we’ve acquired have allowed us to eliminate cattle that do not produce desirable traits and help us identify cattle that have traits that will continue to move our herd forward.”

Kent Andersen, Ph.D., associate director, Technical Services, Pfizer Animal Genetics, says the biggest advantage of DNA technology is the ability to make more-informed buying and breeding decisions.

“DNA technology is especially valuable when evaluating young, unproven seedstock,” Dr. Andersen says. “This information allows producers to make purchase decisions with greater assurance for important traits.”

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To help accomplish their goals, producers are utilizing GENESTAR® Molecular Value Predictions (MVP®s). GENESTAR, a targeted-marker DNA test, provides producers with genomic information about key production traits in all breeds of beef cattle. Test results include MVPs for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness. The reports also include percentile ranks, which are determined by benchmarking each animal against hundreds of its breed contemporaries in the Pfizer Animal Genetics database.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

Commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches believes DNA testing helps him improve his genetics and operation.

This information also is beneficial for commercial Brangus breeder J. Mack Bohn of Diamond JK Ranches in Cyril and Marlow, Okla., and Roark Ranches in Marlow, Amber and Cheyenne, Okla.

“Incorporating genetic technologies has not only allowed us to continue to create a great Brangus female, but it’s moved our steer program several notches above where it used to be,” Bohn says. “I’m able to look at a bull and know so much about him before I ever even consider putting him on a set of females, rather than finding out three or four years later if I made the right choice.”

GENESTAR MVPs are derived using a targeted marker panel for feed efficiency, marbling and tenderness.  GENESTAR features a Palatability Index, which combines information about tenderness (shear force) and marbling, and ranks animals according to described genomic merit for traits that impact tenderness, juiciness and flavor. What’s more, producers can use GENESTAR to identify animals that are homozygous or heterozygous for black or wild-type coat color.

This information empowers producers to select animals that will advance their herd and the goals of their breeding programs, Dr. Andersen says. They can use this information to:

  • Select breeding stock that are more likely to transmit desired genetic merit for palatability traits, feed efficiency and coat color
  • Identify animals with desired genetics for consumer satisfaction
  • Make more-informed mating decisions
  • Advance genetic progress

Bohn says DNA information helps make proactive changes rather than having to fix problems later.“DNA results tell us so much, and it doesn’t take years to gather this information — it’s there almost immediately,” Bohn says. “We’ve eliminated some herd sires that looked like great candidates visually and on paper but didn’t meet our standards based on the DNA information. This saves us from investing time and money and incorporating them into our program. And now that we’ve started incorporating GENESTAR into our females, it gives me a lot of confidence that I’m building a superior product.”

Dr. Andersen says that given today’s high input costs, it’s valuable for producers to take advantage of selection information derived from genomic technology.

“Genomic information can help take some of the guesswork out of seedstock selection and breeding decisions,” Dr. Andersen says. “Producers should talk with their seedstock suppliers about providing this information on sale cattle to help ensure they can make the most informed purchase decisions for their operations.”

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