Red Angus Special Section: Research validates Red
The industry's "most-favored female"
Ranchers across the country have long recognized the value of Red Angus females as the foundation of a profitable cow herd. Now, independent research validates those years of cattle production experience with tangible data proving the Red Angus heifer’s worth.
Esther McCabe, et al., of Kansas State University (K-State), led a study that confirmed Red Angus is the most-favored female in the industry. McCabe and her team compiled five years’ worth of pricing data from Superior Livestock Auction, comparing 13,804 lots of heifer calves totaling over 1.2 million head that sold in 116 video auctions.
The research team evaluated the effects of independent variables on the sale price of heifer calves that fell into six different breed composition groups: English; English crosses; English-Continental crosses; black Angus-sired out of dams with no Brahman influence; Red Angus-sired out of dams with no Brahman influence; and Brahman-influenced.
They found that Red Angus-sired heifer calves bring $5-9 more per hundredweight than all other breed types. Over the years, stockmen have voted with their checkbooks, purchasing heifers they know will bring profitability to their ranching businesses—and Red Angus females are their most-favored choice.
A devout believer in the Red Angus breed, Jack Bickel of Firesteel, SD, has been in the ranching industry his entire life. He was raised on his family’s ranch with an all-Hereford herd but after finally convincing his dad, Bickel introduced the first Red Angus bulls to their operation in the late 1970s.
“We had the chance to bring the reds home as long as we promised that we would only use the bulls on our heifers. In the fall when we weaned, the heifers’ calves were as heavy or heavier than the mature cows’ straight-bred Hereford calves because of the hybrid vigor.”
Bickel sells his calves at the Red Angus Feeder Calf Sale in Mobridge, SD, each October, and his heifer calves have been known to lead the sale. Bickel expressed a deep appreciation to Red Angus breeders and leadership for their dedication to raise superior genetics with performance-minded production. He noted that Total Herd Reporting has also played a pivotal role in maintaining the breed’s integrity.
“We have so much data at our disposal that it makes the reliability of numbers so much more accurate. My hat is off to the people at Red Angus who give the breed good solid direction and foundation.”
Confident that K-State’s research serves as an indicator for future growth of the breed, Bickel said he’s not surprised. “The Red Angus breeders I’ve been around since the 1970s have a high degree of integrity. The breed will always prosper if we continue to do things with others who have integrity.”
Admittedly, markets across the board are down compared to the past couple of years, but Bickel has faith that the Red Angus breed has arrived at a place of market trend and popularity through proven genetics that producers will fare well even without the historical highs seen in recent years.
“There will always be people out there who are willing to pay a premium for good genetics, especially for good females. Where the RAAA [Red Angus Association of America] is continuing to add to their database about genetics, they are always going to bring some kind of premium no matter how high the market is or how low the market is.” He relayed that this is a pattern that has been proven over time on numerous occasions.
Worth the premium
About 25 miles west of Kansas City, KS, Kirk Sours calls the fescue country of Tonganoxie, KS, home. Sours manages the Tailgate Ranch, and is complimentary of the breed for a variety of reasons. Like Bickel, he finds that they adapt especially well to his local environment.
Since about 2000, Sours has continually purchased Red Angus heifers from La Crosse Livestock Market in La Crosse, KS, to develop and sell to his clients.
Keeping a close eye on the market, Sours says that the Red Angus reputation has captured the attention of buyers across the board. “There’s a popularity contest and then there’s a trend. The trend line is going to be long term and right now the trend is toward Red Angus. People who have experienced the benefits of Red Angus are already sold on them. Others observing their success are going to be coming into it.”
Sours relayed that it’s not unusual for their operation to sell out of heifers before the demand dies down, and he’s confident that the benefits of Red Angus far outweigh other breeds. “There’s nothing prettier than Red Angus cows on a green pasture,” he said light heartedly.
“For us, the disposition of the females is the real hook, especially when you mix them in with a Continental breed. They really shine in the feed yard and on the rail.”
Before changing their operation over to its current status, Sours’ ranch was a stocker calf operation, changing over to cow/calf in about 1990. When they first introduced Red Angus cattle to the herd, they were focused on frame moderation.
“When we started using Red Angus we started seeing the benefits of drawing those sizes down,” Sours said.
Red Angus cattle aren’t the first to take center-stage in the cattle industry. Other breeds have risen in popularity but then lost steam after a major marketing campaign played out. Bickel said that the solid foundation established by RAAA’s founding members, combined with adhering to a strict culling protocol, will secure Red Angus’ position of leadership in the marketplace.
Sours is excited at the continuing interest in the breed. “The competition for these red females has really stiffened. That’s a telltale sign that there are more people trying to get those good Red Angus females. We are beginning to see enough red cattle around that it causes other people to want to raise Red Angus, too. That long-term trend is what we want, and I see that trend moving even more towards Red Angus cattle.”
Both Sours and Bickel are confident that the momentum of the Red Angus breed is here for the long haul, and that the acceptance of the females—proven by market demand and production experience—is the gateway into a bright future for the Red Angus breed. — Trinity Lewis for American Red Angus Magazine