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Shot At and Missed

 

by Dave Loftin

Dad’s call for help came right at calving time. The old brindle was in obvious distress. Of course we couldn’t get close enough to help much so we called for the vet and started moving her toward the barn and working pens. This turned into quite a merry go round with the vet impatiently waiting while we would herd her up to the gate only to have her turn back and run for a few acres. The vet finally said to call him if we ever caught her and he would come back. All this time, she was nervously splattering fresh green stuff everywhere.

We finally set up a wing of panels curving around the barn and my brother brought his horse and ran her into the wing where she rounded a corner and was caught before she had a chance to see it coming. Then it was just a couple of gates to get her into the sweep tub and into the chute alley. There she stopped. NOW, she didn’t seem to mind being touched. No amount of begging, pleading, or shoving was going to make her walk into that chute. You can imagine what her rear end looked like. Freshly digested spring grass everywhere. This was when dad decided that she was not going to move so we might as well find out what the problem with the calf was right there. With a gloved hand, he pulled her tail out the side of the bars, looked at me, and said “Go ahead.” The passing of the torch had been made. Now it was me at the business end with little choice but to strip to my tee shirt and forge ahead. After all, he was 75 and was standing there holding her tail that had been lashing wildly, flinging green glop everywhere.

With a roll of paper towels from the pickup, I wiped until I could at least see where I was going and reached in to find one hoof and a nose. The nose became a muzzle and suddenly it licked my hand! I was elated. Good sign, the calf was alive! A little more exploration and I was past both ears before I found the other leg. It was somehow turned back and crossed over behind the head. Even though this was uncharted territory for me, I knew that leg had to be shifted around and lined up with the other one. The vet had been called but said he was tied up for a while so we should try to work it out ourselves.

My manipulations were not helping the cow calm down. She managed to shift a little and twitch her tail at the same time. The slick tail flew out of Dad’s gloved hand that was also very slick by now. With a wet sounding WHOP it slapped me in the side of the head and left a trail across my hair. This wasn’t a hair tonic commercial where a little dab will do ya. I got the whole thing. Dad somehow managed to catch the tail on the back swing to prevent me getting another dose even though I knew he would rather be doubled over laughing.

I had to back away for a minute and wipe a few drips off my eyebrows. Then it was time to dive back in. I had the slippery leg almost worked from behind the head and was past elbow deep when I felt the cow shudder and slightly arch her back. Then a loud cough came out her throat as something quite different came out the back. I was stuck. Up close and personal. Face to face with a gas powered bazooka as the green slimy projectile found me at point blank range. The pressurized liquid forced up my tee shirt sleeve, hit the armpit and diverted downward. What didn’t go up the sleeve came past my shoulder and found my chin, then split in two and wrapped around my head. Some went up my nose. I was just happy I had been straining with the leg and had my teeth clenched and my mouth tightly closed. There was no time to react or duck. I had been holding my breath but when I exhaled, green bubbles came out of my nose.

I was standing there, shell shocked and dripping, Dad still gallantly hanging onto her tail when the vet rolled up. Never have I been so happy to step aside and turn something over to another person. Within minutes he had the heifer calf out with mama licking and encouraging it to get up.

It took a lot of scrubbing and shampoo to clean off the visible stuff. The white tee shirt had green grass stains that never came out. It seemed like I could smell it for a week no matter how much I blew my nose and my wife’s supply of Q tips was greatly depleted as I kept swabbing green stuff out of my ears.

Since then, I have learned a few things. I took an A. I. class and got certified. I got special coveralls with the sleeves cut out and lots of pockets for paper towels. I tagged along with a couple of vets to learn how to do special manipulations if a calf is crooked in the birth canal. I think I am a lot more prepared for such situations now. However, I still duck every time I hear a cow cough.

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BBU Board of Directors Address Color Policy

 

Dear Beefmaster Breeders United members, Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association members, and other concerned individuals:

It is well understood that any viable pure breed of cattle in America today cannot exist without the demand for their genetics in the beef industry and by the commercial cattleman. Over the past ten years the Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU) Board of Directors, staff, and BBU leadership have been very involved with the beef cattle industry and have represented the Beefmaster breed domestically and around the globe in a professional and honorable manner. This has included representation at many state cattlemen association meetings and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, as well as visits and conferences with major commercial feed yard operators, packers, sale barn owners and various academic organizations, institutes, and agricultural universities from around the country. Through the countless hours spent in these endeavors, the BBU team has promoted the breed to the fullest extent possible given the resources available. During this time, they also came to the realization that improvements to our breed must continue to be made in order to meet the ever-changing demands of an evolving industry.

These areas of improvement consistently focused on two major issues, carcass merit (Yield and Quality Grades) and the color of Beefmaster cattle.

As many of you will recall, past Executive Vice Presidents Tommy Perkins and Bill Pendergrass, as well as current Executive Vice President Collin Osbourn have had a consistent message to the membership that we need more data (birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, etc.), additional cattle scanned, increased use of DNA and to take action to improve the color of our cattle to meet industry demands. Beyond our BBU staff, industry leaders and commercial customers have told us to do something about the paint coloring. In one of our many educational sessions at a recent BBU convention, past president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and commercial cattleman told us to “get rid of the clowns”, referencing the paint colored cattle. This was not meant to be insulting, but to emphasize the importance of the issue.

Additionally, when Mackie Bounds was the BBU President, the BBU convention hosted an educational session and round table discussion called, “love connection”, two years in a row. Cattle experts from around the country were brought in to take part in the discussion, who were not all favorable of Beefmaster cattle. The intent was to have an open and honest discussion concerning what we as Beefmaster breeders needed to do in order to improve our status in the cattle industry. Again, we heard that we needed to increase ribeye size, improve marbling, add accuracy to our EPDs, and as before, do something about the loud paints. These remarks were not made to an individual about preferences, but was representative of the beef cattle industry from around the country.

As the BBU Board of Directors, we believe that the association and its members have a done a great deal to improve our issues with the exception of carcass quality and color. Most recently, talk in the industry about efficiency has turned a favorable light on the Beefmaster breed. Several of our leading breeders are now collecting data and our staff is looking into new EPDs to prove that we truly are the most efficient breed. Again, much is being done about other issues yet the breed is reluctant to address color.

This past April, the BBU Board of Directors had a meeting in Ardmore, Okla., at the Noble Research Institute (NRI). It included a conference and strategic planning meeting with some of its beef cattle experts. As they listed the favorable traits about Beefmaster cattle they also said that the breed had some major obstacles to overcome. When asked by one of our members what the biggest problem Beefmaster cattle needed to address was, the NRI expert responded, “you must do something about color”. The next day at the board meeting, the BBU Board of Directors asked the Long Range Planning Committee to put together a plan that would address what we have been asked to do for years from customers and members, address the color issue. From that point, the Long Range Planning Committee hosted multiple conference calls and then met in person at the annual summer meetings. After input from all members of the committee, a proposed color policy was created and unanimously approved by the Long Range Planning Committee to be presented to the Board of Directors at their meeting. During the remainder of the committee meetings, five other BBU committees including Advertising, Breed Improvement, International, Seedstock Marketing and Commercial Marketing addressed the color issue and either voted or agreed to support the proposed color policy coming from the Long Range Planning committee. These committees were composed of many breeders representing different geographic areas of the country and varying breeding programs and interest groups. Through all of the committee meetings there was not a single “nay” vote against support of the proposed color policy.

On Friday, June 29, 2018 the BBU Board of Directors met and the proposed color policy was made by the Long Range Planning committee. The proposed color policy contained an educational period and a ten year phase out plan for the removal of large areas of white coloring on all cattle sold or shown publicly. The proposed policy does not at any time remove paint colored cattle previously registered or born before January 1, 2021. It also only pertains to cattle sold or shown in public events. The chairman of the Long Range Planning committee went through the policy paragraph by paragraph and answered the questions of the board members concerning each part of the proposed policy. After edits were made, and pictures were shown in order to clarify proposed policy phases, the BBU Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept the proposed color policy. Once it passed with the requested changes, the board directed our Executive Vice President Collin Osborn to make the official edits and review the policy to ensure it was in accordance with the BBU by-laws.

Above is a very brief summary of how the proposed color policy came about and how it proceeded through the BBU committees and board of directors to this point. The BBU Color Policy was the result of years of communication with industry experts and customers, a request by the BBU board to the Long Range Planning committee to create a proposed solution, and a unanimous vote by the BBU Board of Directors. It was not the creation of any one individual or group of individuals and in no way was intended or designed to benefit any one group of breeders. The sole purpose of the acceptance of this policy by the BBU Board of Directors was to address an ongoing issue for the long-term betterment of the breed as a whole.

Please note the following:

  • At no point in the policy will paint cattle or cattle with white in excess of the allowable amount be refused registration. All colors can be registered.
  • The paper posted on social media has no clarifications, additions or subtractions that the board approved (it is not the approved document).
  • BBU will not be able to post a final version until all edits are made and the policy is thoroughly reviewed to be in accordance with the By-Laws.
  • No guideline or rule will go into effect until January 1, 2021.
  • The next six months is intended to be a comment period (in which the board of directors wants to hear from membership) with the educational phase set to start January 1, 2019.
  • The staff will begin the process of educating the membership with diagrams and material to explain the color guidelines after the six-month comment period has ended.
  • During the comment period, changes to the policy may be made or the policy rescinded as a whole.

Questions that have been frequently asked about the policy, as it currently exists, are as follows:

  • Can we register and transfer paint calves, cows or bulls after January 1, 2021? Answer: Yes, at all times
  • Can we sell paints off of the ranch and new owner register them? Answer: Yes, at all times.
  • Will white underlines be allowed to show or sell? Answer: Yes, at all times.
  • Will we be able to register or show a mottle faced animal? Answer: Yes, a mottle or white face can be registered, and shown or sold publicly.

In conclusion, the members of the BBU Board of Directors love the young people involved in the Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association (JBBA) and many of them have given of their time, cattle, genetics and resources to support this organization. If not for the generosity of our BBU breeders this program would not be able to survive or have seen the growth that it has. The BBU Board of Directors believes that they are blessed with some of the greatest young people in the cattle industry. It has never been, nor ever will be the intent to do anything to intentionally harm the juniors or the JBBA.

The board would like to make it known that every member is important and asks everyone to understand that the board does not represent any one agenda, but the entire breed association as a whole. It has been and will remain to be the purpose of the BBU Board of Directors to do what is best for the betterment of its members and Beefmaster cattle breed as a whole.
The BBU Board of Directors looks forward to any and all comments concerning this matter and will take them into consideration.

Sincerely,

BBU Board of Directors

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Beefmaster Caps and Cups Make Great Gifts!

We have several different styles of caps for sale that have our new logo on them! Cap options are in photos below – $20 each plus shipping. If you would like to order a cap please call Jeralyn at 210-732-3132 to pay with a credit card over the phone. You can also email jnovak@beefmasters.org to order. All caps are one size fits all and have a snap back adjuster. We are also selling Beefmaster Breeders United RTIC 30 Oz Stainless Steel Tumbler cups for $30 each plus shipping.

Order Now→

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Exhibit with BBU at Our 2018-2019 Trade Shows

 

Below is a list of the trade shows Beefmaster Breeders United will participate in as an exhibitor for the 2018 – 2019 convention season. We allow members to participate as a co-exhibitor with our booth space, for a fee, to promote sales or private treaty sales. If you would like to share in the cost and the booth space at any of the trade shows listed below please contact Jeralyn Novak at jnovak@beefmasters.org or 210-732-3132. At all of the trade shows we welcome any and all BBU members to come work the booth and promote the association at no cost.

2018

  • Texoma Cattlemen’s Conference: June 15, 2018 – Ardmore Convention Center, Ardmore, Oklahoma​
  • Oklahoma Cattlemen Association: July 20-21, 2018 – Embassy Suites in Norman, Oklahoma
  • Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course: August 6-8, 2018 – Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
  • Ozark Fall FarmFest – October 5-7, 2018 – Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, Springfield, Missouri
  • California Cattlemen Association: December 2018 – Reno, Nevada

2019

  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association: January 30-February 1, 2019 – New Orleans Morial Convention Center
  • Louisiana Cattlemen Association: Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show – January 30-February 1, 2019 – New Orleans Morial Convention Center
  • Tennessee Cattlemen Association: January 2019 – Murfreesboro, Tennessee
  • Louisiana Ag Expo: January 18-19, 2019 – IKE Hamilton Expo Center – West Monroe, Louisiana
  • Ozark Spring Roundup – March 2019 – Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, Springfield, Missouri
  • Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers: March 29–31, 2019 – Fort Worth, Texas
  • Alabama Cattlemen Association: March 2019 – Huntsville, Alabama
  • Georgia Cattlemen Association: April 2019 – Perry, Georgia
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Horton Selected as 2018 Summer Intern

 

Boerne, Texas - Emily Horton has been selected as the 2018 Livestock Publications Council (LPC) summer intern for Beefmaster Breeders United (BBU). Emily is a senior in agricultural communications at Oklahoma State University and will graduate in December 2018. Horton began her internship duties on June 4 at the BBU office in Boerne.

Emily’s family has owned and operated a cow-calf operation for more than 120 years in Hardeman County, Texas on the historic Bar A Ranch. For more than 40 of those years, Emily’s family has raised Beefmaster cattle and she is incredibly passionate about the breed. She is also a very talented writer, photographer and enjoys public relations and event management.

This summer she will work with the BBU communications team, helping to plan and coordinate the production of the fall issue of The Beefmaster Pay Weight, as well as assist in capturing content for use in marketing pieces. She will help coordinate and cover the Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association National Show and Convention, as well as manage social media platforms and web presence. In addition, she will write articles for The Beefmaster Cowman magazine, the BBU e-newsletter and blog.

“We had numerous strong applicants for this year’s internship program, and it was a difficult decision, but Emily rose to the top,” says Jeralyn Novak, BBU Communications Coordinator. “This LPC program is a great opportunity for young communicators to explore the field of agriculture communications, as well as allowing organizations to employ a fresh, youthful perspective.”

BBU was selected to host the Livestock Publications Council internship program and thanks LPC for the opportunity.

Horton will share her experiences with LPC members and attend the 2018 Ag Media Summit. Any LPC member organization interested in this opportunity can learn more at https://livestockpublications.com/student_internship_program.php.

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Beefmaster Breeders United is a not-for-profit breed registration organization that provides programs and services for its members. Beefmaster, Beefmaster Advancer and E6 cattle are selected on the “Six Essentials” of disposition, fertility, weight, conformation, milk production and hardiness.

 

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Life Tribute to Andy Boudreau

 

Andy Boudreau, a young 83-year-old, met life’s challenges head-on, but he could not overcome an aggressive lung cancer and its side effects no matter how hard he fought. Andy lost his final challenge and passed away with close family and friends at his side on May 24, 2018.

Andy was born on December 18, 1934, in Beaumont, Texas. He attended parochial schools with his siblings, commuting from their rural Lumberton home.  During his teen years, he participated in all sports, excelling in football, basketball, and baseball.  He attended Wharton County Junior College, and then Andy, a mathematics wizard, went on to receive a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Lamar University.  Relocating to Houston in the mid ‘60’s and later to Richmond in 1979, Andy spent his professional career constructing gasoline plants all over the world, retiring from Mustang Engineering three years ago.

During the mid ‘80s, Andy discovered his true passion when he bought six Beefmaster heifers from a rancher in Welfare between Kerrville and Boerne.  As ranchers, Andy and Kim were off and running when they bought their first bull from Hans Whittenburg in Edna, and went on to purchase six more heifers from Bill Niaser in El Campo. Then, in 1989, they joined Beefmaster Breeders United, becoming official ranchers and active members in BBU.   This resulted in many happy memories and friendships that have enriched their lives in a ways they could never  have imagined throughout the past 30 years.

Andy loved his life.  He also loved hunting, playing and watching golf, old western movies, John Wayne,classic country music, puppies and old dogs, a ribeye steak, and pecan pie.  Andy was a member of Fort Bend County Museum, Pecan Grove Country Club, lifetime member of Beefmaster Breeders United, and lifetime member of Fort Bend County Fair.  Best of all, however, were the times he spent actively engaged in BBU sales and functions, his role on the South Texas Beefmaster Breeders Board of Directors, and being around his cattle.  Andy’s ashes will be scattered at the “rancho” along with those of his much loved Golden Retriever, “Dutch”, who laid on top of Andy every chance he got.

Preceding Andy in death are his parents Myrtle and Alvin Boudreau, sister Nina-Lou Oster, brother Tony Boudreau, nephew Bryan Richardson, sister-in-law Carol Boudreau, and brother-in-law Colonel Raymond M. Oster.  Andy is survived by and will be forever loved and missed by his beloved wife, Kim; sister-in-law Greta Nerren (C.W.), nieces Nina Kenney (Patrick), Leslie Shouse (John), Tara DiSalvo (John), Thalia DeLong (Dave), nephews Raymond Oster, Jr. (Debbie), Mark Oster (Rachel), Paul Oster (Katai), and Kenneth Richardson, great niece
Belle Shouse, and great nephews Will Shouse, and Michael and Paul Kenney along with a host of more great nieces and nephews, cousins, and many good and dear friends.

A memorial service will be announced at a later date. For those wishing, acknowledgements can be sent to the American Heart Association or the charity of your choice.  Words of condolence and remembrance may be sent to andritaranch@comcast.net.

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Performance Article Series: Part 3 Other Traits Measured at Birth and Weaning

 

By Lance Bauer, Director of Breed Improvement & Western Field Representative

There are several other traits that are measured either at the time of birth or when calves are weaned. These include a calving ease score and udder scores at birth, then mature cow weight at weaning. These traits are important for the survival of the calf, the longevity of the cow and the efficiency of the cow. A live calf every year is the goal of most producers and having low maintenance cattle that are able to produce calves for many years are very valuable. By measuring these traits there is information provided for calculating both direct and maternal calving ease, as well as the development of new EPDs for udder scores and mature cow weights. These are all traits that are important for maternal ability and can possibly be incorporated into the calculation of $M index.

Calving ease is an extremely important trait that has a large economic value. Most producers select for calving ease by looking at the birth weight, but the birth weight is just an indicator trait of the calving ease. Calving ease is highly correlated to birth weight, but there are other factors that can influence calving ease and it is important to record calving ease scores when birth weights are taken. Calving ease scores range from 1 to 11, with 1 to 5 being the most commonly used. A calving ease score of 1 correlates to no difficulty, 2 means that there is minor difficulty and some assistance was required to pull the calf, 3 means there was major difficulty and a calf puller was used, 4 is a C-section and 5 is an abnormal presentation of the calf. These and the other calving ease scores can be found on the BBU codes reference page. Calving ease scores are used along with birth weight and other indicator traits to calculate Calving Ease Direct (CED) and Maternal Calving Ease (MCE) EPDs.

Another measure to take at birth is udder suspension and teat scores. Bad udders and teats are a large reason for culling cows and contribute to the longevity of a cow in production. The heritability of these udder traits is fairly high, as well and provides a good tool for helping decide which heifers to keep by looking at their dams. When taking udder scores there are two different variables to look at, the suspension of the udder and the teat size. The scores for udder suspension range from 1 to 9 with 1 being very pendulous, 3 being pendulous, 5 being moderate, 7 being tight and 9 being very tight. The scores for the teat size are in the same range with 1 being very large and balloon shaped, 3 being large, 5 being moderate, 7 being small and 9 being very small. An animal with an udder score of a 7-7 would have a tight udder with small teats, while one with a 3-1 would have a pendulous udder with very large balloon shaped teats. The chart at the end of this article gives examples of the different scores. These scores can help with culling cattle, helping to select replacements and can possibly be used in the calculation of EPDs.

Mature cow weight is the last trait in this article and should be taken at the time of weaning calves. This is a trait that relates to the efficiency of a cow, typically more moderate sized cows are more efficient and require less maintenance energy. This leaves more energy for the cow to expend for reproduction and the growth of a calf. When taking mature cow weights there needs to be a weight recorded, as well as a Body Condition Score (BCS) of 1-9. A body condition score of 1 is an animal that is emaciated, 3 is a thin animal, 5 is average, 7 is heavy conditioned and 9 is obese. These body condition scores are needed to help standardize the weight of the different animals in a group to the same BCS. Mature cow weight is a trait that can be used in the formation of a new EPD, as well as helping to strengthen the power of our $M index.

Recording these traits helps provide the producer with valuable tools in the selection and culling of cattle and provides information to BBU and also helps with the development of new EPDs and the strengthening of the $M index. The Beefmaster breed is known as a maternal breed and the more information that we have to help prove maternal strength the better. This data will help us as a breed to develop a larger market share in the commercial industry. These traits are all valuable to the commercial producer in terms of female production and culling criteria. The next article in this series will cover ultrasound carcass data.

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Emmons Ranch JBBA Show Results

Freestone County Fairgrounds in Fairfield, TX
May 19, 2018

17 exhibitors
33 heifers entered

Show Winners
Calf Champion- Dylan Simons, Gilmore’s Heavenly Grace
Reserve Calf – Kaylee Beason, Lyssys Marie Laveau

Junior Champion- Braylee Mackie, Miss Legit
Reserve Junior- Reece Wrobleski, CHRK Wildfire

Senior Champion- Rebecca Small, Miss KK
Reserve Senior- Braylee Mackie, Ms Opal

Overall Champion- Dylan Simons, Gilmore’s Heavenly Grace
Reserve- Kaylee Beason, Lyssys Marie Laveau

Bred and Owned Champion- Emily Martin, 4M Firefox
Reserve- Ryan Wrobleski, RMW Penny

Showmanship
Junior- Kyndall Rhodes
Intermediate- Kaylee Beason
Senior- Braylee Mackie

Top Ten Exhibitors
Ryan Wrobleski
Kaylee Beason
Braylee Mackie
Dylan Simons
Weston Brooks
Kevin Paris
Rebecca Small
Lane Hendricks
Emily Martin
Kyndall Rhodes

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East Texas/Louisiana Beefmaster Marketing Group Spring Fling JBBA Heifer Show Results

April 21, 2018 in Crockett, Texas

54 exhibitors
98 heifers entered

Show Winners
Calf Champion- Saige Tassin, Ellis’ Elizabeth
Reserve Calf – Kaylee Beason, Miller 785

Junior Champion- Braylee Cowan, Lukes Cold Heart
Reserve Junior- Amelia Buckley, BR Selena

Senior Champion- Travis Glaser, Annabelle
Reserve Senior- Rebecca Small, Miss KK

Overall Champion- Braylee Cowan, Lukes Cold Heart
Reserve- Saige Tassin, Ellis’ Elizabeth

Bred and Owned Champion- Braylee Cowan, Lukes Cold Heart
Reserve- Amelia Buckley, BR Selena

Showmanship
Junior-Mackenzie Low
Intermediate- Kaylee Beason
Senior- Saige Tassin

Top Ten Exhibitors
Amelia Buckley
Kolten Brady
Raymie Emmons
Reece Wrobleski
Mackenzie Low
Rhaina Emmons
Travis Glaser
Saige Tassin
Braylee Cowan
Kaylee Beason

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BIF Celebrates 50 Years

By Lisa Bard, BluePrint Media | BIF Sponsor

The Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) is celebrating 50 years in 2018. Themed “Elevating the Industry,” the Annual Meeting and Research Symposium is poised not only to celebrate the last 50 years but launch into the next 50.

BIF was officially founded in 1968, but its formation began the previous January during a meeting at the National Western Stock Show. At that time, a group of producers and researchers – spearheaded by Colorado cattle producer, lawyer and performance evaluation advocate Ferry Carpenter, and Frank Baker, the federal Extension livestock specialist in 1967 – met with the goal to move the cattle industry from its historical basis of visual appraisal to one of evaluation based on performance.

Thus began a very powerful and intentional “performance movement” in the cattle industry that continues and thrives today. Fifty years later, the 2018 BIF Annual Meeting and Research Symposium will return to Colorado June 20-23 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center in Loveland.

Each year, the symposium focuses on research, innovation and education for producers and scientists alike on current issues facing the beef cattle industry “to connect science and industry to improve beef cattle genetics.” BIF’s three-leaf-clover logo symbolizes the link between industry, Extension and research.

The beginnings

In the late ’60s and ’70s when BIF was formed, the cattle industry was experiencing a great deal of change with the influx of Continental breeds and the implementation of artificial insemination and crossbreeding. Many states had Beef Cattle Improvement Associations (BCIA) but no standard procedures or measurements. At the same time, land-grant universities were conducting more research on genetics and how genetic evaluation could improve cattle herds. Germplasm research being conducted at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center would provide incentive and data to create and formulate genetic evaluation. Other data collected by producers and breed associations would add to that.

Creating and utilizing new evaluation methods based on performance versus visual appraisal was not an easy road. The first step was to standardize performance testing, including the terminology, the actual methods of measurement and the education as to what the information meant. Over the years, there were a few growing pains and disagreements, but the common goal prevailed.

Steve Radakovich of Radakovich Cattle Company, Earlham, Iowa, was BIF president in 1983-1984 when BIF was still young and evolving. As a graduate student at Colorado State University in the ’70s under renowned animal geneticist Jim Brinks, Ph.D., Radakovich was encouraged to attend BIF. This early exposure led to his lifelong participation in BIF.

“Back then we were a bit of a divided camp. We had one group who were the ‘weigh and pray’ folks,” Radakovich says. “They would stand by the scales and pray that the animal weighed more than he did the time before. Then there was the systems group, which I was a part of, who asked questions such as, ‘Is bigger really better?’

“The weigh and pray guys thought that the systems guys were nuts and these two approaches led to some pretty good arguments.”

At that time, some were leaning heavily toward advancing methodology and figuring out how to standardize data collection and utilization, which then led to discussion about the direction of the seedstock industry. During this critical time in the industry, BIF facilitated this direction through the exchange of ideas.

Willie Altenburg, owner of Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch just north of Fort Collins, Colo., and breeder of Simmental and Angus seedstock for more than 40 years, was BIF president in 1999-2000. His recollection of the early days was that BIF “was very small with not very high attendance. In some ways that was positive because you make a lot of progress, given small committee meetings.

“There were times when maybe six people were voting and making decisions on things like formulas and direction, and people like me would sit back in awe in those small meetings and watch those great minds at work.”

Once BIF began to grow and reach a larger audience, in part due to the availability of the presentations and proceedings online, BIF exploded, with attendance now more than 500 people and sometimes as large as 700. It not only affects meeting attendees but also reaches a global audience who access online information after the meetings.

“BIF has always been the place where performance cattlemen gather and philosophize about performance and genetic issues,” Altenburg says. “Over the years, the contributions of BIF to the performance cattle industry have been industry leading. BIF gave the concepts, research and performance philosophy a place to launch and grow, and other countries still look to the United States for performance testing and evaluation.”

Angus and Braunvieh breeder Steve Whitmire of Ridgefield Farms in North Carolina served as BIF president in 2013-2014. He originally became involved in BIF to get as close as possible to the cutting edge of the beef industry – and is why he continues to be involved.

“Because BIF is the one organization that bridges across all breeds and academic institutions, it helps focus limited research dollars into the most promising areas,” Whitmire says. “The early pioneers set aside their breed priorities and personal egos and focused on what was best for the industry.”

Mark Enns, Ph.D., professor of animal breeding and genetics at Colorado State University and organizer of the 2018 BIF Symposium, also got his first exposure to BIF as a graduate student in the ’80s.“BIF helped create the unified vision for genetic improvement throughout the beef industry and established common ground for all the breed associations and all the cooperative breed improvement groups to work under,” Enns says. “We cannot discount the brilliant minds who came up with the idea for BIF and recognized the need for it.”

Throughout the years, BIF has made significant contributions to the beef industry, particularly the seedstock sector. “BIF has allowed the smaller, family seedstock producer to compete on the same playing field with the larger seedstock producer,” Radakovich says. “BIF standardized evaluation so that the smaller operators could utilize the methodology, could pursue an objective selection process and could compete with larger operations. Without the standard methodology, they would not have access to those tools.”

Matt Spangler, Ph.D., associate professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, says he believes that “the work of the initial founders of BIF created the platform that we know today as National Cattle Evaluation. Without these efforts, estimation of the genetic merit of animals as parents would have been delayed and would look substantially different today.”

Current BIF President Donnell Brown, R.A. Brown Ranch, Throckmorton, Texas, remembers his first BIF meeting. “BIF was the first cattle meeting I went to after I graduated from college,” Brown says. “I was able to talk with the scientists whose research I had studied and talk to the breeders whose catalogs I had been pouring through. They were the leaders in the beef industry. It was inspirational.

“The seedstock producers weren’t in sales mode and we weren’t at a breed association meeting where politics were involved. It was just a meeting about the facts and how we would use the resources we had to more efficiently and effectively raise better beef. BIF is still about that.”

Others believe that BIF’s greatest contributions have been the development of expected progeny difference (EPD) standards and technology; advancing the use of new, more accurate selection tools and providing a forum for the industry and scientific communities to exchange ideas.

Today’s challenges and beyond

Fifty years later, genetic evaluation has progressed to genomically enhanced EPDs, across-breed evaluations, evaluation indexes and EDPs on a huge array of traits. Today’s cattle industry is also faced with a great many issues including animal welfare, the environment, diet and health, and food safety, all of which can be affected by genetics in some part.

According to Radakovich, genetics can have a big effect on issues for the future, particularly in adapting cattle to different climates and environments all over the world as well as in the United States. Some are studying the grazing habits of different biological types of cattle, which appear to have the same heritability as weaning weight.

“We could be breeding cattle in the future that are hill climbers and will graze hillsides versus riparian areas because that is their genetic predisposition,” Radakovich says. “This is where BIF fits in with issues such as animal welfare, animal behavior, etc., especially with genomics. If we can isolate the gene that determines grazing habits, then it will have a big impact.”

According to Enns, BIF will help guide the industry in how we use, validate and verify the rapidly evolving genomic pipeline and put these new traits to use. Regional evaluation will be a big thing in the future, including the development of regional EPDs and development of specialized adaptability traits. Scientific attention to these traits has been coming for the past five to 10 years and is now becoming more important for regions of the world where climate, adaptability, disease tolerance and feed efficiency are big issues.

“Genetic evaluation may help us balance the competing needs of global beef production with sustainability and conservation,” Enns says. “The United States is a first-world country and our needs are different than those in third-world countries who are simply concerned with finding a protein product to eat. Understanding these competing visions and how genetic tools can be used to address these visions is important.”

Radakovich agrees. “The population increase of today and tomorrow poses a great threat to resources and, as beef producers, we have to figure out how we can remain sustainable under this pressure that gets worse and worse all the time,” he says. “We must be adaptable with fewer and fewer resources. Our big advantage is that cattle are ruminants and can consume feedstuffs that can’t be consumed and converted by other protein sources.”

Genomics can be comparable to the computer age with gene mapping and epigenetics as the next cutting-edge technologies. Genomics and genetic advancements will also allow commercial producers to concentrate on other issues.

“If a commercial operation is doing well genetically, then they can move on to address some of the larger, industry concerns such as environmental issues, food safety and animal welfare.  A good manager can only handle a few topics at a time, and if their genetics are solid, then they can worry about the other concerns,” Radakovich says.

While many, including Whitmire, believe that BIF’s greatest contribution was the development of EPD standards and technology, the future is wide open. “I have no doubt that the genetic tools for evaluation will become infinitely more accurate and widely used in the coming decades, and the industry will profit from this,” Whitmire says. “BIF will help recognize the long-term issues that face the cattle and beef industry and will focus resources to solve those problems.”

Spangler has a broader view. “Genetic evaluation will change such that ‘seedstock’ will drift further and further away from ‘purebred,’” Spangler says. “The data used to inform genetic merit will be weighted more heavily towards commercial-level data. The entities participating in data generation for genetic evaluation and seedstock production will change such that there is more alignment between the end-product and germplasm at the nucleus level. The general nature of breed associations, and their role, will change. I’m not sure if these changes occur in 10 or 50 years, but they will occur.”

Elevating the industry

The 2018 50th Anniversary BIF Symposium promises to address all this and more.

“BIF is the one meeting where you get the interaction of the genetic improvement leaders in both industry and academia,” Enns says. “If what we are developing in science is not able to be translated to the industry, then we are wasting our time. There has always been this free-flow conversation of constructive criticism for the betterment of genetic improvement. This meeting is where the appropriate application of science is developed by discussions of the people using the science and the people developing it.”

BIF Vice President Lee Leachman, Leachman Cattle of Colorado, Wellington, Colo., agrees. “This is the meeting where practice and theory meet and the learning is going both ways. If we really could get into the nuts and bolts of the history of BIF, we would likely find that most of the innovations sprang from the BIF meetings and the discussions there. If you want to stretch your imagination, but do so at a level that can be put into practice, this is the place to do that,” Leachman says.

For 2018, the first day is dedicated to what the future of North American beef production looks like. The speakers, breakout session and wrap-up will evaluate the future from a variety of viewpoints, including beef quality, sustainability, efficiency and traits not yet considered.

The second day is about data – how to collect it, who will own it and how it’s used. How can we better leverage all the data in an internet-permeated society? This year’s program is also about helping the industry look at the possible/probable issues that will need to be addressed over the next 50 years.

The meeting also includes a Young Producer’s Symposium, an evening at the CSU Stadium Club, a Friday dinner out sponsored by Leachman Cattle of Colorado and Zinpro, and area tours on Saturday.

The 2018 BIF Research Symposium and Convention is hosted by the CSU Department of Animal Sciences, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado Livestock Association. For more information, a full schedule and registration information, visit beefimprovement.org.

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