Our registered Gelbvieh and Balancer operation has been our main ranching focus for over 35 years. Today, it includes 400 cows maintained on the ranch plus an additional planned matings produced in cooperator herds which gives up over 600 progeny to select from and to sell approximately 120 bulls and 80 females in our annual production sale the last Saturday of February. 20 to 25 private treaty bulls are also marketed annually. They are generally comprised of bulls born after March 15 or bulls that, for a variety of reasons, had to be removed from the bull sale and are now ready for service.
We demand cattle that have both, and the majority of the bulls and females sold have top 30 percent birthweight and calving ease with near top 50 percent breed average growth. Large and meaningful contemporary groups are maintained, and within herd ratios are also an important culling criteria. Ultrasound data is collected on all the bulls, and carcass EPDs are always a consideration in every mating. Ultrasound data is not collected on females, as our females are never fed any grain throughout their lifetime. They are developed on ammoniated wheat straw, sorghum silage, alfalfa hay, and distillers.
Before any EPDs, pedigree, individual ratios, or ultrasound data are considered in the selection of seedstock we retain or purchase, the principles of sound stockmanship are applied first. We insist on sound feet and legs, natural fleshing ability, acceptable teats and udders, sensible frame size, and good disposition. Then, we do our best to make them as phenotypically appealing as possible while applying our astringent demands for low- birth, high-growth, and top carcass EPDs.
We have been privileged to have bred as well as have owned several bulls that have been the Gelbvieh and Balancer breed’s elite AI sires for many years. We utilize our own top genetics and are constantly searching the industry for elite herdsire prospects. Once superior sires have been identified, we utilize an aggressive AI and ET program to build large sire groups for buyers as well as to strengthen the genetic base in our cow herd.
We also farm winter wheat, soybeans, milo, and corn in addition to putting alfalfa hay and native prairie grass, and we also double crop a good bit of male sterile cane and wheat stubble for hay. All except the soybeans are used as crop residue for grazing in the fall and winter months or as forage feed for our cattle. We also feed many tons of ammoniated wheat straw annually because it is cheap and readily available. We never feed any grains or concentrates to any females but do use wet distillers to balance rations and meet the protein requirements in the winter months.
Our cow herd utilizes warm season native grass from May 1 until November 15, at which time they are moved to milo and corn stalks until hopefully January 15, depending on weather and snowfall. This is a very similar environment to most of the commercial cow herds in our area.