Controlling genetics is the key to market premiums

Jul 29, 2011
by WLJ

Genetics make a difference in a beef herd. And stacked genetics make an even bigger difference, says Mike Kasten, owner of 4M Ranch, Millersville, MO.

“The only aspect of a cattle operation that we as producers have total control over is genetics,” Kasten says in notes he will share with beef producers at a national conference in Joplin, MO.

“You can’t control the weather, prices or politics. But you can control the genetic makeup of your herd.”

Kasten has used artificial insemination (AI) in his Bollinger County cow herd for 37 years. That has given him generations of cows with improved genetics.

He will speak at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) conference Aug. 31-Sept. 1. A large attendance of producers is expected from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, says David Patterson, University of Missouri (MU) Extension beef reproduction specialist, Columbia. The program attracts a national audience.

“Just as important as using AI, Kasten keeps computerized herd records,” Pat terson says. “That gives him control of management.”

From his computer, Kasten prints out the value of genetic improvement. Calves from two or more generations of superior genetics are worth an extra $177.48 per calf. That’s above using a proven sire on the first-generation cows.

Kasten sells Show-Me- Select Replacement Heifers. Also, he retains and feeds out steers, half-sibs of the genetically superior heifers.

His records show a steady increase in USDA Primegrade cattle going to market from a Kansas feed yard. The Prime and Choice grades draw price premiums from packer grids when he sells cattle.

Kasten’s records aren’t sophisticated. “A person could pick apart these data,” Kasten says. “But the proven genetics has brought back more money. Adjustments in numbers won’t change that fact.”

At the Joplin conference, Kasten will go into detail on his proven management plans. He also provides beef herd management and AI breeding for neighboring herds.

Kasten provided the herd for the first field demonstration for Fixed Timed Artificial Insemination (FTAI) developed by Patterson when he came to MU from Kentucky 15 years ago.

Kasten says he had tried everything to improve his calf crop. “I used pregnant mare serum. I tried removing calves at breeding time.

Nothing worked remotely as well as the fixed-time AI protocols we use today.

“We no longer observe heat at all,” Kasten says. “We just breed when the calendar and clock say that it’s time.”

The result is a 60-70 percent fixed-time-AI pregnancy rate on the first day of breeding season.

Timed AI shortens the calving season, producing a more uniform calf crop. “The time and labor savings, coupled with better results, make the fixed-time breeding system very appealing,” Kasten says.

Patterson adds, “It’s often possible to get better results with timed AI than with bulls.”

Kasten likes the convenience of FTAI. But the greater value comes from superior proven sires. That boosts the value of the calves—and the cows retained in the herd.

The ARSBC conference goes to a different state each year. Originally, the meetings featured beef physiologists from land-grant universities. Now the meetings appeal to a broad audience in the beef industry, from veterinarians to suppliers.

This year, increased attention is on a program for herd owners.

In addition to talks at the Joplin Expo Center, the group will go to Joplin Regional Stockyards for a grilled steak dinner and working demonstrations.

Attendees will receive printed proceedings with speakers’ talks. “This will become the textbook for beef reproduction,” Patterson predicts.

Advance registration is required through the MU Conference Office. Go to the website at http://muconf. Registration by Aug. 10 is $175.

That includes some meals, a book and bus ride on the field trip. For late registration, add $25. Student rates are $100. — WLJ