Breeding Philosophy

Windy Bar RanchA commercial cattle producer should never underestimate the importance of finding a reliable seedstock producer. A reliable seedstock producer should have a breeding philosophy and a breeding program geared to provide financial success to his customers.

As Laurence Lasater said in his book about Tom Lasater, The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Raising: “Locating a reliable breeder is basic to the success of any cattle program . . . The intrinsic value of seedstock is a reflection of the character of the breeder.”

The development of our breeding program at Windy Bar Ranch was influenced greatly by two books: The Breed of Noble Bloods and The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Raising. The first book was published in 1976 and tells the story of the master breeder, Jim Lingle, and the Angus cattle of the Wye Plantation in Maryland. The second book was published in 1972 and tells the story of the consummate cattleman, Tom Lasater, and the Beefmaster breed he developed in Colorado.

Although these two breeders lived in different parts of the country and worked with different breeds of cattle, their philosophies and objectives were surprisingly similar. Both men believed that a registered herd should be developed on the same principles that would make a commercial herd profitable: the economic and efficient production of beef. Both men instinctively knew that this principle would determine success for a registered breeder’s customers, regardless of location or breed.

Both Jim Lingle and Tom Lasater knew that a true breeding program could not exist without clearly defined objectives and clearly defined methods to achieve those objectives. In The Breed of Noble Bloods, Jim Lingle emphasized that point: “Despite its importance, money alone can never build a breeding program. Putting together a uniform and useful set of cattle of predictable genetic potential takes time, patience, a set of definite goals, and the perseverance to reach those goals.”

A registered cattle breeder should have definite objectives and a plan to achieve those objectives. A quote from the publisher's preface to The Breed of Noble Bloods stresses the importance of sticking to the objectives of the breeding program: "Fashions come and go in the cattle business much as they do in clothes. But astute breeders set their goals and stay with them regardless of the rage of the moment."

Building a successful breeding program also takes time, skill and patience. Just using the bull with the highest EPD’s will not work. To quote Jim Lingle: “There’s more to breeding cattle than just using the bull with the highest record. You have to stay within one tribe as much as possible. I could never see the point of breeding Angus, Santa Gertrudis, or anything else unless a man could start with a strong bull and then revert to the same line time and time again. There is no point in getting a herd up to a high rate of efficiency and production and then throwing in an entirely new bull with someone else’s bloodlines. You just throw yourself back 5 or 6 years while you cull the whole herd and start over again.”

Building a true breeding program will never be as simple as indiscriminate matings designed to maximize EPD’s. In The Breed of Noble Bloods, Jim Lingle talked about the difficulty of selecting for certain genes through indiscriminate matings: “It takes tremendous patience to segregate those genes, and this is why money alone can’t get the job done. I’ve been on places where a man had perhaps 40 cows that had cost him $5000 apiece. They were by many different sires. Then he bought a $75,000 bull and expected to have a great crop of calves. But they all looked different. And they should have, because they were the product of a million different characters over which he had no control.” The same holds true for the breeding program based on indiscriminate matings designed solely to maximize EPD’s.

A reliable seedstock producer should have a clearly defined program. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” A reliable seedstock producer knows where he wants to go and has a plan for how to get there. At Windy Bar Ranch, we long ago made a commitment to breed for traits that are economically important to efficient beef production.

Windy Bar RanchThe primary objective of our breeding program is to provide genetic consistency and predictability in reproduction of the traits that made the Angus breed famous: maternal traits (reproductive efficiency), carcass traits and calving ease. These traits are at the core of a financially successful commercial operation. We achieve the objectives of our breeding program by linebreeding with proven strains of Angus cattle. While many producers “chased the EPD rabbit” in the 1990’s, we stuck to our commitment to collect carcass data and cull open cows. That commitment yielded a cow herd rich in carcass traits and Pathfinder cows. Our selection for these genetic traits is reflected in every animal we sell.

Our herd was not built with expensive cattle. For our survival-of-the-fittest system, we did not want expensive cattle. Every cow had to be expendable. As Tom Lasater said, “[t]he man hasn’t been born who will cull high-priced cattle.”

The cows in our herd are the result of over 20 years of relentless and unforgiving culling for reproductive efficiency. Our practice is to cull any cow that comes up open after a 63-day breeding season. By doing that, we might lose some good ones, but we eliminate all the bad ones.

To quote from The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Raising: “The object of cattle raising (and the means of maximizing income from a given operation) is not to set one’s goals so low that the cattle pass effortlessly, but rather to set them so high that only the best survive.”

We purchased a total of 42 foundation cows between 1984 and 1987. No other outside females have ever been purchased. Only 20 of those foundation cows still have descendants left in our herd. Of those 20 remaining cow families, the top six cow families account for over half of the producing cows in our herd. The cows from those top six cow families have tended to predominate, no matter what sire they were mated to. They are the survivors of our “survival-of-the-fittest” system.

Because of the system they were produced in, the cows from these surviving cow families excel in reproductive efficiency, for which there currently is no EPD. From a financial standpoint, these surviving cows with reproductive efficiency have been money makers. As stated in an article in the March 2000 issue of The Stockman Grass Farmer, “EPD’s don’t tell you a thing about the reproductive and maintenance performance of an animal or its bloodlines. If cows and bulls can’t reproduce on a yearly basis, then the end is just a matter of time.”

As a result of our “survival-of-the-fittest” system, Windy Bar Ranch had 16 cows that were awarded the prestigious Pathfinder award in the 2007 American Angus Association Pathfinder Report. All of these cows were born and bred at Windy Bar Ranch. A cow is awarded Pathfinder status based on a combination of early puberty, breeding and early calving, followed by regularity of calving and above average performance of her offspring.

On the carcass side, we’ve sent steers to feedlots in Kansas every year since 1990 to collect carcass data on our cattle. Our 1997-98 steers graded 95% Choice and 5% Prime and 100% Yield Grade 2’s and 3’s. Of the 21 steers, 48% (10 of them) qualified for Certified Angus Beef (CAB). This CAB certification rate was well above the 28% rate for all steers in the 1997-98 Certified Angus Beef Value Discovery Project. These results put our cowherd far above the national average for Certified Angus Beef. According to statistics from Certified Angus Beef, only 19% of eligible carcasses nationwide qualify for CAB. It also puts us far ahead of the goal set by the American Angus Association, which is to have a 30% CAB qualification rate in 10 years.

There is no question about it, right or wrong, our breeding program is different. You won’t find large frame score cattle, high EPDs, or quick generation turnover at Windy Bar Ranch. While we have not followed the fads in the industry, we have set our sights on the things that we feel are important in the economic production of beef.

We hope you will give us an opportunity to show you the difference our cattle can make for you.

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