Our Breeding Program
The Broken Circle Cattle Company Breeding Program Maximizes Our Profit and Yours With an Optimal Mix of Important Profit Traits.
Note: This is plenty long and complicated. Unless you are REALLY interested in Corriente breeding you probably should go look at some pictures instead!
A successful breeding program goes beyond just using good bulls and cows from award-winning bloodlines. Breeding should focus on profit – increasing the price you receive for cattle or decreasing your costs of production. Most of us make most of our money from the sale or lease of roping cattle. While better quality roping cattle can command a premium, resistance develops when prices are much higher than the market. A greater opportunity exists in decreasing our cost of production, where we are limited only by our ingenuity.
We believe a breeding program should address the following traits, roughly in order of economic importance:
- Efficiency – also known as thriftiness of the cow
- Maternal Traits – ability to raise an acceptable calf every year
- Longevity – length of productive life
- Roping Performance – able to be roped at an early age and for a long period of time
- Beeding Value – capable of bringing higher prices due to conformation, bloodlines, or show performance
- Carcass Value – measured in quantity and quality of meat
The feed costs of maintaining a cowherd and developing replacement heifers are the largest cash expenses of any ranch. We can reduce these costs by using as little processed feed and as much range as possible. Two animal traits that further cut these expenses are feed efficiency, or thriftiness, and fertility. These traits are positively related to each other.
A thrifty cow makes more efficient use of her feed. She needs less feed to travel, to maintain her body condition and temperature, to produce milk, and to breed back on schedule. A fertile cow matures earlier and is able to conceive at a younger age and lighter weight and on a lower plane of nutrition than a less fertile cow. She is more likely to breed back after calving, and calve a little earlier each year. Most highly fertile cows are thrifty. Cows that require less feed and are less likely to be open can substantially reduce feed and management costs and avoid the expense of raising a heifer to replace her.
In beef and dairy cattle, fertility has been demonstrated to be positively correlated with birth weight, growth, milk production, bull testicle size and female ovary size, and early sexual maturity. Moderate sized cows with a large heart girth are more likely to have these characteristics than are large or small cows or slab-sided cows. Bulls with big testicles and early sexual maturity, usually demonstrated by the characteristic heavier front end and crest in the neck, are able to impregnate more cows. They will produce daughters with bigger ovaries who are more fertile and more likely to calve on time every year. We don’t know for certain that these traits are associated in the same way for Corriente cattle, but they are associated in that manner for every other breed of cattle that has been studied, including breeds, like Corrientes, that have not been subjected to intentional genetic change.
With Corriente cows, we select against some of these important traits. It is likely that we are sacrificing some fertility and thriftiness. When we select cows for small size we select away from higher birth weights, growth, and milk production. These traits are positively related to fertility, which means we probably select against fertility too. When we select for animals that stay small enough to be roped for more than one year, we may select against growth, early sexual maturity, and probably against testicle and ovary size and feed efficiency.
Consequently, we are concerned that those bulls and heifers that can be roped for more than one year may be less thrifty and fertile than bigger or faster growing animals. Those bulls that look like a steer until they are 3 years old or older, and do so well in the show ring, may well have smaller testicles and reduced fertility.
Another set of antagonistic traits may lie in heifer horn size. Several experienced breeders report that those heifers with unusual horn mass tend to be less fertile.
“The yearling on the right, HOFFMAN BULL 37 was sold to Roger Schalla, Blue Hills Ranch, Fowler CO and became the Grand Champion Bull of the 2007 Plains Area Corriente Show.”
We are watching these antagonistic traits carefully and keeping records so we can determine just what mix of these traits will work for us. At this point we believe that the tough range conditions our cows face make fertility and thriftiness and longevity especially important to us. Other breeders, with longer and better supplies of green grass, or fewer obstacles to breeding success, may find that heifers and bulls that can be roped for two years and are not very successful breeders until they are 3 or 4 years old may provide the most profit for them.
There is an optimal mix of these traits for each ranch. We are very interested in other breeders that are studying these issues and would like to hear from you.
Currently, our breeding selection standards are:
- All bull prospects and replacement heifers must have adequate size and horn to be roped in April of the year following their birth. Those that do not grow fast enough to accomplish this are not thrifty enough for us. Those that are born too late in the year to be ready by the next April come from mothers who are not as fertile as those who calve earlier.
- Bulls and heifers must have the athletic ability and disposition to last at least one full roping season or longer.
- Bulls and heifers that will be retained in our herd must be ready to breed successfully at 24-27 months of age on a diet mainly consisting of the forage produced on our ranch.
- Those bulls and heifers that do not appear mature enough to breed at 24-27 months of age will be roped for a second season. They will then be offered as breeding stock to other breeders whose optimal mix of traits includes later maturity. We will keep records on the profitability of these animals that are roped for 2 years, compared to their siblings who are bred earlier, to detect if we are correct on the optimal mix of traits that matches our ranch.
- Bulls must pass a breeding soundness exam as yearlings and annually thereafter. We will select for bulls with larger testicles until we determine that early sexual maturity is interfering with completing that first roping season.
- Heifers must calve at 36-38 months of age and annually thereafter on our ranch diet. They must provide a weaned calf annually.
- We select for fertility, thriftiness and longevity by culling all open and dry cows.
- We replace those cows whose calves do not meet Standards 1, 2, and 3 above with heifers from cows whose calves do meet our standards.
- We select for show and breeding value by recording the sale price of each cow’s offspring. Cows and bulls are then ranked by the average value of their offspring. Those cows and bulls that produce valuable bulls and replacement heifers will move to the top.
This program enables us to:
- Select breeding cattle that best fit our ranch environment.
- Adjust the optimal mix of traits, based on actual animal profits.
- Produce Desert Tough breeding stock that will succeed anywhere.
- Provide a variety of animal traits for other breeders.
- Provide the information needed for other breeders to decide which Broken Circle cattle will best fit their program.