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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:15 pm

So I'm looking for some input from folks on my next bull choice. I need to keep a two year old and can't decide which to keep. Both are fairly tightly bred and fairly closely related. I had picked one (22.4% ibc) over the other (19.5% ibc) last spring as he was the one constantly walking the fence line of the heifer pen. Nothing between them in "performance" i.e. weight, frame or size - they are to all intents identical in that respect.
The reason I'm reconsidering my initial choice is because of his mother. She is at the leaner end of my herd, always has been and now she is 6 years old so excuses for her being a young cow still filling out have slipped away. She just doesn't winter as well as I'd like to see but breeds back and rears good calves. But my real question here is how much of her "problem" is genetic and how much is environmental? Her mother was 22 when she reared her and she is that typical "old cow's last calf". Smaller framed, bigger head relative to body and with the ramped up intelligence and attitude that I have always seen in these "old cow's last calf" scenarios.

I have her full sister coming 12 who is always hog fat but raises a smaller calf. Is that irrelevant?

So what would you all do?
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:35 pm

I should add that I don't have the pasture set up or numbers to mob breed using both bulls. Also I want to retain their pedigree registrations and the calves would be way too close to DNA sort for sire. I also have two full brothers a year younger in my yearling pen that are probably closer still on phenotype/"performance".
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EddieM



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:44 pm

Grassfarmer wrote:
So I'm looking for some input from folks on my next bull choice. I need to keep a two year old and can't decide which to keep. Both are fairly tightly bred and fairly closely related.  I had picked one (22.4% ibc) over the other (19.5% ibc) last spring as he was the one constantly walking the fence line of the heifer pen. Nothing between them in "performance" i.e. weight, frame or size - they are to all intents identical in that respect.
The reason I'm reconsidering my initial choice is because of his mother. She is at the leaner end of my herd, always has been and now she is 6 years old so excuses for her being a young cow still filling out have slipped away. She just doesn't winter as well as I'd like to see but breeds back and rears good calves. But my real question here is how much of her "problem" is genetic and how much is environmental? Her mother was 22 when she reared her and she is that typical "old cow's last calf". Smaller framed, bigger head relative to body and with the ramped up intelligence and attitude that I have always seen in these "old cow's last calf" scenarios.  

I have her full sister coming 12 who is always hog fat but raises a smaller calf. Is that irrelevant?

So what would you all do?

Same sire? What describes/complements the other dam? The leaner cow: do you have other cows in the same cotemporary group? Is there any differences in them: leaner, smaller, ...? What did her first calves do right or wrong?
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RobertMac



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:56 pm

You shot my answer down with your second post...I'd keep bof-um.
The more bulls you can keep and use, the less your chances of screwing things up...but I don't do the registered thing anymore.
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:40 pm

EddieM wrote:


Same sire?  What describes/complements the other dam?  The leaner cow: do you have other cows in the same cotemporary group?  Is there any differences in them: leaner, smaller, ...?  What did her first calves do right or wrong?

Yes, same sire. Yes, others in the same contemporary group age wise (but not sire wise as this was an AI calf with her fat full sister the only other off that bull) - they are not leaner or smaller. Her calves have done OK - one heifer, her first calf, who is like her mother - a little smaller but maintains condition a little better. Then one average steer before these two bulls.

As for the other bull's dam that's the other half of my story - The dam I really like, but she is young - this was her first calf. My concern on her comes from her mother (the bulls grand-mother) She is a slow breeder - second cycle every time apart from once when she had twins.  She is a very heavy fleshed cow that doesn't shed well in the summer - the only cow line I have with that trait.  She rears calves that catch up with earlier born ones, often by weaning time so she isn't just a fat lazy cow. Her first daughter went out of the herd open at a young age. This second daughter (dam of the bull) looks really good thus far - calved early as a heifer and early as a second calver. The bull has a slightly heavier coat but it obviously dilutes with each generation. He has perfect feet - not just good feet like the other bull, they are perfect and I like that about him.

I guess many will say don't use either, use bulls off cows that don't have anything "wrong" with them. Unfortunately I don't have that luxury. I'm just intrigued how others would apply the stuff we discuss on heritability, the randomness of which bull collects the "best" genes that year or building on good cow lines and the "maternal pen" idea. I find discussing the concepts one thing but picking the cattle based on that another kettle of fish.

How does randomness of genes affect this? - which bull to pick this year, then I can do it over again next year with their younger full brothers if I'm any smarter by then.
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:43 pm

RobertMac wrote:
You shot my answer down with your second post...I'd keep bof-um.
The more bulls you can keep and use, the less your chances of screwing things up...but I don't do the registered thing anymore.

I guess I could plan on that - use one bull this time then the younger brother off the other cow line next year - but would that be the same as using this years calf out of the other cow line or are you totally restocking the deck despite them being full brothers?
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EddieM



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 8:57 pm

Grassfarmer wrote:
RobertMac wrote:
You shot my answer down with your second post...I'd keep bof-um.
The more bulls you can keep and use, the less your chances of screwing things up...but I don't do the registered thing anymore.

I guess I could plan on that - use one bull this time then the younger brother off the other cow line next year - but would that be the same as using this years calf out of the other cow line or are you totally restocking the deck despite them being full brothers?
I wouldn't bet on full brothers breeding alike except you have the higher %IBC to help hem them up in a tighter ball. I am not going to be much help: I do not like extra fat cows and I do not trust smaller cows to get size back in their calves or in future generations.
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pukerimu



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:04 pm

Feet - every time go with the best feet if that is all that is between them really - you do not want to be looking at a line of cows in years to come and saying "I wish I used the better footed bull" as you are shaking your head at the foot shape coming through - my two cents worth
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:27 pm

EddieM wrote:
….. I do not trust smaller cows to get size back in their calves or in future generations.

That's an interesting comment. I should tell you that the cow's daughter who I said was also smaller, produced the tightest bred female I've had to date on her first calving. This (27.8%) inbred is far and away the biggest framed bred heifer in the group this winter….go figure!


Last edited by Grassfarmer on Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:37 pm

pukerimu wrote:
Feet - every time go with the best feet if that is all that is between them really - you do not want to be looking at a line of cows in years to come and saying "I wish I used the better footed bull" as you are shaking your head at the foot shape coming through - my two cents worth

We've had the feet debate on here before pukerimu. I notice the desire for excellent feet in country like NZ where there is a lot of steep hard country. Same on a lot of the western US dry, hard country with a lot of ground to cover. Makes perfect sense to make them function in your environment. Problem is on country like this here it's flat, mineral rich soil, no big distances to travel, no rock, no hard ground with soft wet grass in summer and soft snow in winter.
Not only do we not absolutely need such good feet for our conditions you can't select for them as well when they are not really tested or worn to keep in shape. In Scotland we were on rock with a little scatter of soil on top and we never saw bad feet.

I still recognize the importance of feet and it's something i want to positively select for as I know the feet aren't the strongest trait in my small gene pool.
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EddieM



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:06 am

Grassfarmer wrote:
EddieM wrote:
….. I do not trust smaller cows to get size back in their calves or in future generations.

That's an interesting comment. I should tell you that the cow's daughter who I said was also smaller, produced the tightest bred female I've had to date on her first calving. This (27.8%) inbred is far and away the biggest framed bred heifer in the group this winter….go figure!
We have read and discussed here about outliers, hopes and dreams. It is easier and has had better outcomes, in general, to not expect an ugly duckling to turn into a swan. Outliers, either big or small, tend to keep that type cycle going. Maybe you are seeing the Bulmer effect in the first two generations, however that turned into being defined.

I think that Larry has defined fat cows, or those with that tendency, as "stingy cows" or something of the like. Some of the traits apparently ring his alarm bell over the endocrine system issues. Is it generational skipping when her daughter, who did not get the amount of milk that was average for the crop, weans light and goes on to be a better milker at a lighter weight? Or is it the yo-yo effect of too little milk and too much milk? Either way, she fits the case as an unstable type unless we know that she was overfed, creep fed or just had a great year of grazing and got too fat as a calf or as a bred heifer. To me that is my mistake or an environmental swing that was uncontrolled.

I think that all of us have had hopes (some more than others  farao ) that a small cow would swing the herd into the right direction by producing a nice big bull calf that weaned over 50% of mama's weight and then went on to make all of the next crop of heifers to be "Miss Efficient". But the little, higher milk cow that does not replicate herself is best defined as an unstable outlier for me, as well. Her "best bull calf" would be an average calf that would be most like her even if he did get a half frame bigger. I would believe him to be more stable: right or wrong.

If growth is antagonistic to fertility, then the proof in the pudding will be the speed to breed and to stay around on the 27.8% heifer. Just saying.

I do not have the answers as the desired "average" cow is a mathematic calculation of each of our herds from the too small to the too big. But then again, every target has a bullseye for aiming benefits. What you are doing with a closed herd will sort out what is good or bad but I have to be honest in that any efforts I ever attempt to make I carry the thought in the back of my head that it might not turn out as well as I had hoped or anything like I thought. Not all animals have the quality of backgrounds, genetics or whatever we want to call them to concentrate them and deem them better. I have a friend who is a skilled plant breeder of one species. He chunks more seed in the trash after trials than he ever keeps. Why should I think that I, or anyone else, can take one selection of a breed, line, herd or flock and make it be an inbred success story. It is not just the hoopla of registered business that is the only reason to keep the stereotypical breeder away from linebreeding as much as it is the chance to be labeled a failure when things do not work out as planned. But facing odds and quitting early is not the thing that men or women whom I admire are made of.
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PatB



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:01 am

I think the feet and wintering ability would be a prime concern along with fertility. I try to select the future herd bull candidates out of females that have good feet, udders, disposition, structure, fertility, and the ability to lay on some condition in the fall to help make it thru the winter. Go with your gut feeling which is better or make the decision at time to turn out the bull by which one goes out the gate first.
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Grassfarmer



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:20 am

Good post Eddie, I will say the "good" calves I'd mentioned were just that - good not great. I'm still talking average calves, not being fooled by things that are weighing 60% of their mothers weight at weaning. Underpinning all this is the hope that because these cattle are all carrying 50% of my foundational cow's blood that there will be enough "goodness" there to perpetuate the line. I don't know the source of her "goodness" that made her breed and rear calves successfully until she was 23 years old either though. Maybe her performance and phenotype was shaped more by environment than genetics - how can you find that out short of what I'm trying?

Pat, If I was able to choose gate run out of a herd of perfect cows I wouldn't still be worrying how to stabilize the line.
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Kent Powell



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:31 pm

I think the biggest hurdle for me was to accept that my selection, while certainly more pleasing than the popular AI sires, was not necessarily superior to gate cut. A few examples of crawling little bulls who got a few cows bred and left a few daughters in the herd. Worse than gate cut. These were the bad actors who were unacceptable. All I remember about them is that they crawled and I cut them. DNA gave them credit as the sires, and some very acceptable cows resulted. Some Superior. No sons used because who would keep a bull out of a breechy SOB? I spent 20 years trying to eliminate them. Came close to succeeding. But is that good?

Are the most masculine bulls so overwhelmed by the pull to reproduce that no fences will hold them and are they superior rather than inferior? A couple examples seem to say- - - maybe. Is the inferior bull actually the one who will just put his head down and eat in a bachelor group while he hears the old herd bulls challenge echo over the hill? Perhaps rather than killing heifers after they calve and calling that efficiency (a silly thought post 30 month rule), perhaps we should just turn out the mob of aggressive little yearlings and let the strong pass on their genes, then band them all, feed them and start anew next year. One shot at a legacy and move along. No big names, vaulted importance, or promotion. Just a couple months of unbridled blossoming masculinity under natures rules.

I believe I know the result will be just as acceptable as it is now. Perhaps overlooked superiority will prevail over perceptions if this were to take place.
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rross



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:22 pm

[quote="EddieM"
What you are doing with a closed herd will sort out what is good or bad but I have to be honest in that any efforts I ever attempt to make I carry the thought in the back of my head that it might not turn out as well as I had hoped or anything like I thought.  Not all animals have the quality of backgrounds, genetics or whatever we want to call them to concentrate them and deem them better.  [/quote]



While reading and enjoying your post Eddie, this quote from Thomas Edison came to mind;

" I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."
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EddieM



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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:28 pm

rross wrote:
[quote="EddieM"
What you are doing with a closed herd will sort out what is good or bad but I have to be honest in that any efforts I ever attempt to make I carry the thought in the back of my head that it might not turn out as well as I had hoped or anything like I thought.  Not all animals have the quality of backgrounds, genetics or whatever we want to call them to concentrate them and deem them better.  



While reading and enjoying your post Eddie, this quote from Thomas Edison came to mind;

" I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."[/quote]

Every day is something new. This morning I made my way to move the poliwire over for the morning portion for the cows, calves, heifers and guard donkeys. Odd thing was that the cows did not come up and then follow me back as usual but no big deal. The cow's with calves acted edgy and kept back from grazing or else kept checking the calves. Finally one mama let out a blood curdling "yell-moo" or whatever you call the "mama alarm" and cows and mamas and babies went every which a way. #260 had her day old calf right by her and when the calf began to run she head butted him, held him to the ground with her head until he was still and then stood over him and looked around as nervous as she has ever been. I saw two coyotes back over in another grazed over pasture about 20 minutes later and then went back to the adjoining pasture to the cows to find a doe that had been killed and mostly eaten over night about 250' from the cows. Once I had the deer remains out of the area the cows calmed down.

#260 really impressed me with the greatest thinking/instinct and protection I have seen. Maybe we're at 1 success and 9,999 ways that won't work! The nice thing about linebreeding anything is that if it doesn't work you can get an outcross, reshuffle the deck and tomorrow is a new day.
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MKeeney
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PostSubject: Re: Splitting hairs   Sun Feb 09, 2014 7:48 am

on a couple of visits to herds that have bought toward the cheaper bulls here, I found cows about the same as those buying "the best"...I decided "the best" might just be "more expensive"...so now, all the same price...the few calls I`ve had are quite understanding and say...just pick me a bull/bulls...so no more splitting hairs; no hair to spare  Smile 
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