About Our Genetics
Our genetic approach to breeding has developed and adapted over the years to settle on these characteristics: disposition, expected progeny differences (EPDs), and eye-appeal.
Some ranchers believe that Disposition, or temperament, can be improved through genetic selection since it is an inherited trait. Some studies suggest that 40% of a cow’s disposition is inherited, with the remainder due to the environment they are raised in and the way they are managed. Disposition can also be improved through animal handling practices. Keeping the production processes calm and surprise free to the extent possible can reduce stress for the cattle. Calm handling produces calmer cattle, and calm cattle have better feeding performance and produce higher-quality carcasses than stressed or tense cattle. In addition, calm cattle are safer to handle and safer for the family.
“Ensuring the safety of people is the biggest reason to improve disposition of cattle,” says Darrell Busby, retired Iowa State University beef specialist in an article published in Successful Farming, and reproduced at this link. “Besides that, cattle with better dispositions gain better, have better health in the feedlot, and they grade better,” he says. “Docile steers and heifers produce significantly heavier carcasses, with more fat cover and larger ribeyes than aggressive steers and heifers. More docile cattle produce higher-quality carcasses with fewer Yield Grades 1 and 2.”
The sum effect impacts the bottom line. Data compiled by Iowa State University shows that docile cattle had an average feedlot profit of $46.63 per head, restless cattle averaged a profit of $26.16 per head, and aggressive cattle earned a profit of just $7.62 a head.
At Blackjack Oaks ranch, we attempt to socialize our cattle early. The cattle become used to human presence and contact while feeding, then the calves receive more hands-on gentle attention during the weaning process. Talking in low tones to the calves, offering a hand to the curious, petting the brave, and moving slowly when handling the cattle all tend to produce calves that remain calm. We want the cattle to be used to the presence of humans and to respect that presence, but not become overly friendly to the point of being a safety hazard. What’s cute in a 200 lb. calf can be dangerous in a 1700 lb. bull. We can typically walk among our cattle without startling them, but not all want to be touched or petted. We’ve had a few real sweethearts though!
The second characteristic we look to improve is ranking in expected progeny differences (EPDs). For an indepth explanation, please go to this weblink.
We started with good cattle from Urbanosky Ranch. As we learned more about our cattle and the breed as a whole, we began branching out genetically to improve EPDs in our herd. In addition to Urbanosky stock, we added stock with genetics from some of the top Santa Gertrudis ranches: King Ranch, Wendt/Kubecka Ranches, Strait Ranches, Harris Farms, Myers, Briggs, Rafter Y, Silva, Triple Seven Farms, Red Doc, Waukaru, Harco, Tinney Farms, Corporron Acres – to name a few. We became very selective in the purchase and breeding of our top-quality girls, using both natural service and AI to improve the numbers. We also relied upon the advice of established breeders in the business, and especially the advice of John Ford, SGBI Executive Director. We’ve found the Santa Gertrudis breeders to be a special lot of helpful people who don’t mind sharing what they’ve learned. While it’s not in our plan to participate in cloning cattle or other super-tech approaches, we do like it when our EPDs rival those of some of the established breeders.
And third, we work to produce good-looking cattle. When we first began with the Gerts, it seemed there were two camps of thought. One camp was driven to provide beautiful show cattle without regard for EPDs, and the other was driven to improve EPDs without always having regard for the look of the cattle. As those two camps of thought have merged over the years, more and more breeders are achieving both – great EPD traits in beautiful cattle. What more could we ask for?
The bottom line for us is that focusing on disposition, EPDs, and eye-appeal produce cattle that we can proudly represent to our buyers. Our goal is to raise the best cattle we can while remaining small enough to keep our prices reasonable. We hope this approach will allow more small to mid-sized producers to add Santa Gertrudis genetics to the improvement of their own herds!