Raising the highest quality cattle is an ongoing goal for the Stenberg family. We, like many other ranching families have evolved as the Cattle Industry has evolved. We don't claim to have all the right answers. However, after multiple generations of cattle production in America and before that in Norway, we do think we have enough accrued generational knowledge to ask the right questions.
It's very easy to get entangled in the whole EPD frenzy. While EPD's can be a useful tool in identifying certain traits, we feel that the most important traits for the rancher to strive for are the maternal traits that make the cow more efficient. The cow is fed and cared for year round. She is expected to breed back, even after times of extreme weather and feed stress, and still raise a top calf.
We strongly feel that in order for Angus, Black or Red to remain the dominant maternal beef breeds, we must make sure our genetics will insure the commercial rancher the most pounds of beef his grass can produce. A showier profile, a prettier head or a more attractive hair coat is no substitute for pounds of beef created through enhanced range efficiency. Our goal is to make a calf that is born easy, has the will to live, the ability to grow and has a Momma that can not only survive but thrive on range and a Daddy that can breed a large group of cows while maintaining body condition and continues to be sound for years of service. Is this too much to ask for? We don't think so. An anorexic, queer, yearling bull walking on three legs is worse than worthless. Range Rugged Genetics are priceless to the commercial rancher so we emphasize good doing cattle and leave the show ring to others.
The Angus breed, both Black and Red, has enjoyed unprecedented popularity and hype throughout its American history. However, during the last 10 to 20 years, depending on the bloodlines, we have sacrificed some of our maternal strengths for high growth. While absolutely agreeing with the idea that pounds equal dollars, we feel that the Angus breed must retain its position as "Supreme Brood Cow". Back in the 60's and 70's the Angus cow was thought to be way too small. I remember selling some registered Black Angus cows in good flesh weighing under 900 lbs. The amazing thing is that when mated to an outcross bull such as Charolais, we could wean calves over 60% of the cow's body weight and still feed a cow with unequaled efficiency.
There is a problem that exists in our industry that is steadily worsening. This problem is costing the American cattle industry an estimated one billion dollars annually. The problem is that we are losing reproductive longevity in our beef cow herd. Range area stockyard managers say that it is seldom that they market a large group of broken mouthed cows anymore. We talk about 90% or 95% calf crops however if you allow for the amount of cows we cull because of being open and are replaced, we accurately are realizing only an 80% calf crop in America based on the total number of cows exposed. In the past we would cull primarily because of old age. Today the Industry has fewer old cull cows because of the large number of young, productive age cows and heifers going to premature slaughter. This lack of reproductive longevity is a direct result of seedstock producers chasing performance EPD's while not emphasizing the maternal traits.
Maternal traits are a whole lot more than a milk EPD. The ideal brood cow is a cow with a high and tight bag with small teats and a milk flow that matches the rancher's environment. Paramount to designing this ideal cow is the ability to mature early. We all talk about moderate frame size without asking how the cattle get to be moderate sized. Most bloodlines produce cattle that grow at a constant rate of growth till reaching maturity at an average age. The smaller framed cattle usually grow slower and the larger cattle grow faster. The Lowline Angus are an example of a slow growing breed that ends up with a smaller frame size. The problem is that our finances demand high growth cattle that tend to be too big for range operations. Under range conditions normal maturing heifers are expected to feed a calf, rebreed and still continue to grow all at the same time. The result is an open cow.
The early maturing cattle that the J Bar Stenberg Ranch has developed over many years is an animal that has explosive growth and would normally result in a large frame animal if it were not for the early maturing genes they possess. We have identified and developed a rare gene pool of cattle that consistently display exceptional growth with an early maturity resulting in females that will consistently breed as virgin heifers and then rebreed for their second calf simply because they are finished growing by the time they have their first calf. These are the kind that will stay in the herd till they are on their second set of dentures.
By breeding these highly maternal Black or Red Angus cows to an easy calving Red Charolais bull you have created a dynamo of performance. These F1 Continental X British calves will outperform any straight bred calf and will add those 50 to 100 lbs at weaning simply by heterosis which is a freebee.