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Voices From The Past - Past Column Number 2

Our first article was written by Harold Thieman, and was printed in The Shorthorn World.
It is reprinted here with permission.

Bull Production Challenging

By Harold Thieman, Concordia, Missouri

Saraguay Romulus 12th x
Saraguay Romulus 12th x exhibits near-ideal form in a Polled Shorthorn head.
He is senior stock bull for Mrs WC Pitfield’s Saraguay Farms, Montreal, Que.

To breed and develop a more perfect beef animal that has the genetic ability to economically produce the best beef in the world, away from the home herd and under the eye and in the hands of ranchers and farmers everywhere, is a fitting and challenging goal for any man and worthy of his most detailed efforts and attention.

To attain this goal, one must set up certain standards and at the same time have more than a vague picture of what is expected in the perfect animal.  Each part of the animal is important and has meaning.   I like a good head, smoothness of fleshing, overall balance, sound feet and legs with ample bone and length, depth and width, if they are in the right places.  Even so, I dislike any or all of these things if they belong to a twelve-month-old animal that is entirely too small.  Of course, I'm figuring on correct age, no nurse cows but good care and a careful man at the scales.

I firmly believe in using every available tool and thought to achieve the goals in mind.   This includes eye appeal, the scales, herd classification, sonoray, and sale and show appeal.  One must always keep in mind that our business and pleasure is to produce top beef economically in commercial herds through descendants of our own cattle in the hands of others.

In years past, I have had the fortunate experience of purchasing quite a few complete herds of cattle.   These herds would vary in number from 20 head on up to 100.  Usually, they were of mixed breeding or had widely varied ancestry.  In these cases, it was most interesting to see one group or family producing extremely well while others had to leave in a hurry.  The best one, or few, cows we retained to work with our definite line- breeding program.  One learns to avoid other kinds of cattle and other lines of breeding if at all possible because it will take at least two crosses and quite a bit of time and effort to get them coming right.

Records are most important.  Right now, we have just finished our complete herd test for TB, Bang's disease, blackleg, lepto and brucellosis.  Vaccinations that were necessary were done.   Everything was wormed and every animal in the herd was weighed.  The 50 heaviest cows varied in weight from 1,200 to 1,550 for an overall average of 1,330 pounds in working order.  Generally, the remainder of the herd will fit right along with them.  At this time, some are quite old, quite young, or nursed down.  We do not use any nurse cows.

Aberfeldy Field Marshall

In natural form is the 1965 International and Royal Winter Fair supreme champion Aberfeldy Field Marshall by Aberfeldy Royal Robin.He is jointly owned by Reford Gardhouse, Milton, Ont., and Allendale Farms, Flesherton, Ont.

Then we must consider quality.  The 50 heavy cows were classified 2 per cent AAA, 82 per cent AA, and 16 per cent A.   Big, sound herd bulls are an absolute must.  They have to classify high AA or AAA.  Bulls must also be sonorayed to make sure that they have the ability to sire calves that will have excellent carcasses.

We feel we must pay a lot of attention to a naturally good set of feet and legs.  This is a matter of selection of ancestry.  Sound feet and legs are as important in beef cattle as they are in horses.   Show me a bad footed or bad legged horse and you'll see a cheap horse.  Show me a beef animal with a small outside toe, and, under normal conditions at maturity you'll see a bad shouldered animal.  Remember, the commercial man won’t trim feet.  Show me a neck that is too short with the head jammed into the shoulder area, and again, under natural conditions, you are apt to see bad shoulders.  Unless pasture conditions are good, this animal becomes thin because it doesn't have the length of neck to graze properly.  Also, from a grazing standpoint, watch closely and get rid of any animal whose teeth do not hit the plate properly.

Show me the rough-fleshed calf or yearling and you are looking at an animal that will develop into the rough, gobby fat animal that is short-lived.  Then, too, they are hard to sell at the stockyards because of wasty carcass quality.  I have frank admiration for a smooth, sound and balanced 10 or 12 year old cow.   If they are good until this age, they can stay in the herd as long as they are capable of production.  I know of a 17 year old cow weighing 1,180 pounds, ready to wean her calf, and last year she classified AA.  In her best days she was a 1,500 pound cow.

Denend Constellation

Massive stock bull for Louada Manor Farms Peterborough, Ont., is Denend Constellation. He is one of the last sons of Bapton Constructor, one of the breed’s best known stock bulls.

Then there is the story of the shows.  A book could be written regarding hair alone.   Hair growth, hair training, hair cutting, clipping, shearing and blocking, etc, could all be covered in detail.   Actually, in theory, it an animal had enough good hair, it would be possible, with combs and scissors, clippers, oil, wax, hair set, etc., to make a statue of the barber's idea of a perfect beef animal.  The only thing wrong with this is that hair is not too good as roast, steak, hamburgers, or even boiling beef or soup bones.  In many cases, it wins well and sells well.  Figured by the pound, it frequently attracts a tremendous price.  The barn talkers and washrack judges often disagrees with the official judge, and therein lies entertainment many times for months and years to come.

I greatly enjoy the shows as a competitor or spectator.  Shows do a great deal for the livestock industry and its future.  Shows afford the opportunity for the finest people on the face of the earth to gather, exchange greetings, thoughts and rub elbows.  I feel honored when I am among them.

Click here to read our first reprinted column.

Click here to read our third reprinted column.

Click here to read our fourth reprinted column.