BRD-Back to the basics

Great advice for Fall Run

By Tim O’Byrne

Photo by Valerie Johnson

I know…it’s Fall Run…you really don’t have time to have your nose stuck in a Working Ranch magazine right now.  I mean, look around.  There’s a lot to do.  What if somebody caught you?  Ahhh, just tell ‘em you’re getting ‘inspired’ to improve your animal health management practices, or better yet, you’re getting ‘educated’.

It is our duty here at WR to root out dependable sources of valuable information, and one of my favorites is Dr. Jim Sears, Senior Technical Services Veterinarian with Bayer Animal Health.  He’s the kind of veterinarian that I would enjoy shadowing on his comprehensive travels of the beef producing countryside.  Dr. Sears is my kind of guy when it comes to cattle…he makes plenty of field visits, observes, questions, and takes note of what’s actually going on out there.  When I asked him recently to give us some advice on how to get a handle on BRD this fall, I hit the jackpot.

“I would start with the basics and work down from there,” Dr. Sears suggested calmly, his voice reflecting confidence and insight borne of decades of keen industry involvement. “To me, that means being prepared with your facilities, maintaining the herd’s nutritional needs and having a clear strategy on what you plan to do and what you may need to do,” he adds.  

I wondered if he was going to suggest scribbling something down on a surface other than a wore-out leather glove.  Indeed, he did.  “Have those plans ready so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.”

Special care area

Dr. Sears makes a good point about getting the handling facilities squared away (which is probably where you were headed before you got all engrossed in WR magazine).  Every set of working pens has a gate that needs rehung, or a chute that needs greasing, or a drug room that needs cleaning (or a fridge that needs to be replaced…c’mon, thirty years of service is enough, already).  We got to visiting about a strategy for handling a bad BRD break.

“You sometimes end up with more sick calves needing special attention than maybe you were planning for, and it becomes important to have a hospital or special care area ready to go.” Dr Sears considers.

At this point, I asked whether it was a good idea if we should maybe pull the sick calves off the hay meadow, treat them and segregate them on a different water supply and away from the big bunch for a few days in order to minimize disease transmission.

“There’s a lot of good points to that,” he ponders, “but it depends ultimately, and heavily, I believe, upon an assessment of what the needs of the calves are and where the least stressful place for the calf will be.”

So, the debate is 1) take that calf away from his buddies, off the pasture and pen him on a dry diet with others in varying stages of BRD affliction, or 2) treat them as efficiently as possible and get them back to the bunch.  What to do…?  

“I’ve met plenty of producers who, when they identify a case of BRD early, they handle them very slow and stress-free in order to get them doctored,” Dr. Sears shares.  “Then, they turn them right back out with the rest of the calves, which would not accomplish the traditional approach of separation of those calves. You have to guard against short-changing those particular [segregated] calves in too small of a pen, or one that’s not dry enough.”

I’m beginning to lean more towards early pulls (I’m talking ‘the day before they get sick’ early, which is an art form unto itself we intend to discuss at great length in a future issue), low-stress treatment, then getting them back out with their buddies to avoid a rumen upset caused by penning them on dry feed, then kicking them back out on irrigated pasture or fall grass four days later.  Hmmm….lots to consider.

Low Stress for Success

If you’ve been reading WR for any length of time, or if you tune in to our WR Radio Show, you’ll know that we promote Beef Quality Assurance and low-stress cattle (and crew) handling relentlessly.  Dr. Sears agrees wholeheartedly that calm actions should be a cornerstone of a successful management strategy.

“Have your facilities and the processes and interaction with your calves, have them conditioned so that you can get them in and get your hands on them [for treatment] without riling up the whole herd,” Dr. Sears advises.  “Low stress handling is one of those things that’s hard to attach a dollar figure to, but in the big picture it’s hard to deny that when you have that practice in place and those calves are easy to handle, you can easily get them into a facility for treatment without stressing them out too much, it’s just got to be a benefit.”

It’s all coming together for me now.  Dr. Sears is recommending we start with the basics; good facilities, good nutrition, and good low-stress livestock handling.  

“I think a really big principle is to consider where the primary stressors are, or may be, on your cattle and do what you can through husbandry and management practices to reduce, minimize or eliminate those stresses the best you can.”  Hence the recommendation to make a list or a cheat sheet so you don’t forget or be forced to rethink it.

Dosage Dilemma

My next question for Dr. Sears was, “How important is calculating dosage?”

“Very important.  The main thing is to not underdose,” he explains.  “That advice would be true for pretty much every kind of product you might think of, particularly with parasite products, as an example. In this case I would dose for the largest calf in the bunch.”

Temperature Trap

Having spent several years in the feedyard, I had one final question for Dr. Sears while I had him on the line.  I had worked with hospital crewmembers who seemed to be hung up on high temps (in my day it was generally anything over 104.5; probably lower today) as the benchmark for making the decision to treat a pull, but I was not convinced.  I had witnessed several excellent pen checkers who would keep an especially watchful eye out for the low temps that weren’t doing good, the 101’s, rationalizing that their fever had broken and they were downsliding in a dangerous direction.

“You’re correct,” he states.  “That [a high temperature] is at least one objective measurement we can take to try to assess the health status of a calf.  It’s certainly valid.  But you can have calves that have all the other signs – depression, off feed, not feeling good for some reason, maybe breathing hard, but still don’t really have an elevated temperature.  There’s not a standard answer there, you have to be careful.  You can have a calf that is sick with a bacterial pneumonia that has gone past the point of a high temperature.  A lot of it is the clinical assessment that is provided and then just watching the results, the response and hopefully the positive change, and be ready to adjust if you need to.”

I am grateful for dedicated and field-savvy veterinarians like Dr. Sears who give unselfishly to further the advancement of sustainable animal husbandry in this country.  In our short phone conversation he taught me this valuable lesson – it is important to remember that stress or multiple stresses can add up –  that is the root of most disease.  Reduce those stresses instead of allowing them to become cumulative.

Angus Gene Reboot

A journey through the “dark early years” delivers producers to solid genetic ground

Genetic defects are a fact of life. We are fortunate today to have technology available that makes a defect manageable instead of potentially debilitating to business the way it was just a few decades ago. But no matter how fancy the DNA tests get, managing genetic conditions successfully takes transparency, time, and thought. Over the last several years, the American Angus Association (AAA) has updated the protocols on several genetic conditions that have been discovered, allowing their members and clients to continue to improve Angus genetics.

“All breeds of beef and dairy cattle have identified recessive genetic conditions,” explains Dr. Dan Moser, President of Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI), owned by the AAA.  “Some, dwarfism for example, were identified in the 1950s, long before genetic testing was available. In order to identify carriers the suspect pedigrees had to be strategically bred and it just took too much time and too much money to test through designed matings.”

Prior to joining AGI, Dr. Moser was an animal science professor at KSU. While he wasn’t with AGI when some of the early genetic defects were identified and protocol changes were made, he saw first hand the implications with the Kansas State cattle herd.

“Since DNA testing is now available, when recessive genetic conditions are identified in Angus and other cattle breeds we can use genomics to locate the causal mutation,” he explains.  “We test potential carrier animals and find those free of the condition that will transmit the positive aspects of their ancestors.”

The AAA policies evolved with time and information. The requirement of testing may also depend on if a defect is lethal or not. Testing is required for registration for recessive conditions that are lethal to the affected progeny, like Arthrogryposis Multiplex (AM, sometimes called Curly Calf). Arthrogryposis Multiplex was first recognized in 2008. After the AM discovery, rather than cancelling or suspending the registration of AM carrier females and bulls, the AAA required that their offspring born before December 31, 2009 be DNA-tested for the AM gene and results of the carrier status would then be noted on their registration and performance pedigree certificates.

Today, heifers have to be tested but can be registered no matter the outcome. Bulls, however, can only be registered if they test AM free. Steers don’t require testing, while calves from AI carrier bulls may be registered if they were conceived less than 60 days from the time the bull was identified as a carrier. The policy is less aggressive for a non-lethal condition like Oculocutaneous Hypopigmentation (OH, or White Eye). The AAA provides detailed information about each defect as well as guidance for breeding and management. The carrier status potential carrier status is clearly noted for every animal so they can be managed appropriately.

The testing and grace period allowed Angus breeders to identify the affected animals so that they could be strategically bred to have calves that test free of the AM gene—therefore keeping the quality genetics of their parents without passing on the problem genes.   

“The Association offers education; we clearly identify carriers and potential carriers and promote transparency so that our members and their customers can be confident,” Dr. Moser reassures. “Our customer service representatives do a great job working with members and helping them understand how to breed the next generation of Angus with better genetics than the one before.”

Breeders are vigilant

Regardless of the breed in question, finding genetic defects attached to certain bloodlines presents a challenge for many producers, despite our ability to identify them.

“The identification of genetic recessives in the Angus breed created a major negative impact on our business,” says Brian House, Vice President, Beef Program and Product Manager at Select Sires. “During the period of time when AM, NH (Neuropathic Hydrocephalus recognized in 2009) and CA were identified, we tested and identified 41 bulls who were carriers of these recessives. This included bulls of all ages—older proven bulls and young bulls that were just getting started. Due to strict policies implemented by the AAA, these bulls became unmarketable—so we ended up getting rid of both bulls and semen and our sales dropped during this time. As we learned with subsequent genes being identified and the greater use of DNA testing, genetic recessives can be managed in a breeding program. Our dairy customers do this every day.”

“Through the process of testing for various genetic conditions, breeders became more familiar with DNA, testing procedures and how genes are passed to subsequent generations. This probably helped pave the way for genomic testing, which has gained rapid acceptance across the industry, and is moving genetic progress at a much faster pace,” says House.

According to Dr. Moser, the peak year for DNA test purchases for AGI was 2014. Currently they test about one-forth as many animals.

“The rules did a really good job of eliminating carriers from the population,” Dr. Moser says. “At the time of discovery of some of the traits, some carriers were no longer used and the pace of genetic improvement slowed. Genetic improvement has rebounded since 2010 for a wide variety of traits. There was a short-term cost in genetic improvement but we have been able to make it up while eliminating the worry and economic impact for commercial cattlemen.”

Gathering information is the first step in management of genetic conditions. The policies and protocols adopted by the AAA have helped to inform and guide producers, but the success of those rules depends on producers that identify issues and report them.

“Our breeders are vigilant,” shares Dr. Moser.  “I give them a lot of credit for their willingness to report calves when things aren’t right. Abnormal calves are sometimes born as a result of the environment and are not necessarily a result of genetics. Working with Dr. David Steffen at University of Nebraska, we confirm parentage, collect DNA, sometimes are able to get pictures and x-rays and we store that information in a very detailed database should there be similar issues in Angus or other breeds. The information is gathered and tracked. We also store our own DNA. We have over 900,000 DNA samples here at the office.”

Data collection saves the day

Dr. Moser noted a situation in which an older AI sire in their archives was identified as a potential carrier of Osteopetrosis (OS).

“We were able to go to our archives and retrieve a semen sample for testing. He turned out to be free of the condition, and we were able to clear over 100,000 of his descendants in the database as well. It saved a tremendous amount of cost, not having to test every descendant,” reports Dr. Moser.

With information, education, and strategic policies in place the AAA has been able to reduce the number of cattle carrying genetic defects and continue to improve Angus genetics. But the last few years have been a DNA crash course.

“Today’s customers are very well informed, but it hasn’t been that way very long,” says House. “We, along with our customers, learned ‘on-the-fly’ about genetic conditions and their ramifications. I believe today’s level of understanding regarding DNA/genomics was kick-started in part due to genetic recessives. Are we better off today than we were before these things were identified? I would say yes.”  

Strategic DNA testing and management allows Angus breeders to produce great cattle that are desirable to the commercial customer. Making intelligent rules to handle the reality of genetic defects has allowed the AAA to stay on top and serve as a model for other breeds when they confront their own genetic defect challenges.


Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

The Cook

Jamie Pierson, Pierson Ranch, Brusett Montana. 

I’m a 29 year old ranch wife and mother to two young cowboys, Cash and Charley. My husband Bo and I ranch with his father, Mike Pierson, in the Missouri River Breaks near the Fort Peck River. We run around 600 Black Angus cows and raise registered quarter horses as well.

The Recipe

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff
This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law. It was her mother’s and has been passed down through the family. I fix it anytime because it’s so good, and especially when I’m wanting some comfort food. This is a great meal on a chilly day to warm your belly up, too!

The Ingredients

1⁄2 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup canned mushrooms, sliced
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream

The Preparation

Sauté onion and garlic in butter on medium heat. Stir in meat and brown. Then, add flour, salt, pepper and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in soup. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add sour cream; heat through. Serve over cooked noodles.
This recipe easily doubles for a bigger quantity.

strog-2Ask the Cook

Food Philosophy
I try to cook hearty meals that will stick to the cowboys’ ribs because their next meal might be 9 or 10 hours down the road. And they darn sure earn a good meal because cowboying, especially when we’re doing our fall gatherings and sorting, can be draining. The days are long and the weather is cold. When there’s lots of cow work to be done and our neighbors and friends come to help out, a nice spread is the least we can do to thank them for their help.

Any advice for our readers?
Hungry cowboys aren’t very picky about what you serve them, as long as it’s warm and filling. We’re pretty much just “meat and potatoes” kind of people around here. These four ingredients always seem to find their way into my recipes: butter, cheese, cream and bacon. You can’t go wrong if you’ve added some of these ingredients to your food!

Cooking Confession
A few years ago, everyone came in after stacking hay bales in the heat and wanted a drink. I made Kool-Aid but forgot to put the sugar in. Everyone drank it and never said a word. One person even complimented me on my good “circus water!”

If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a Dinner Bell column, give WR a call at 702-566-1456 or send an email to

Cowboy Nachos

Cowboy Nachos

Cowboy Nachos

The Cook

Linda Lawler
Recently we were on the Big Island of Hawaii and of all things we had the most amazing nachos. In fact, the best ever nachos, and that says a lot considering our family loves Mexican food. So, when I was preparing for this month’s Dinner Bell column, I thought I’d try to recreate this yummy dish to serve at a family birthday party. To my surprise, the nachos turned out just as good (maybe even better). Within minutes everything on the platter was inhaled and everyone was raving about the secret ingredient: The slow cooked tender beef!

These nachos can be used as a hearty appetizer or a main course with a green salad.

The Recipe 

Cowboy Nachos
• 2 – 2 ½ lbs. Chuck Roast
• 1 – 15 oz. black beans
• 3 tomatoes chopped
• 1 cup of cheddar cheese
• 1⁄3 cup of deli-sliced jalapeno peppers
• Salsa
• Sour cream
• 1 bag of yellow and blue corn chips

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees

2. Season the roast with Jim Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning (or another “meat seasoning”)

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola or safflower oil in a Dutch oven or deep oven proof pan/skillet

4. Sear roast – about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add ½ cup of water, put on the lid and pop in the oven for 4- 5 hours.

5. Let the roast stand for a ½ hour or so. Meanwhile, heat the black beans and spread all the chips on a large platter. Shred the beef and place on top of chips. Next spoon and spread the warm beans, chopped tomatoes, deli-sliced jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese and top off with guacamole, salsa and sour cream to your liking.

• 3 chopped avocados
• 1 small onion finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic minced
• 1 ripe med. tomato chopped
• 1 lime – juiced
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients

Burnt Vanilla Cream – Serves 4

pieThis has been my “go to” dessert over the years. It’s easy, creamy and delicious. I got the recipe from Donna Hay’s “Cooking from the Pantry” – a great cookbook I used during the busy Mom years.

• 2 cups of cream
• 1½ Tablespoons of cornstarch
• 5 egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 1⁄3 cup of brown sugar
• Superfine sugar to top

1. Place the cream in a saucepan over low heat and allow to become hot but not boil. Whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks, vanilla and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot cream. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Pour into 1 cup capacity dishes and chill for 3 -4 hours or until firm.

2. Top with sugar and broil top just as the sugar starts to bubble. Be careful not to overcook.

Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili


The Cook: 

Tammy Taylor, Taylor-Made Ranch
Taylor-Made Ranch was established in 2000 by Stacy and Tammy Taylor in beautiful Wolfe City, Texas. They raise registered Herefords and pure F1 baldies or commercial breeders through private treaty.

The Recipe

Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili
Our favorite cold-weather recipe here at Taylor-Made Ranch is Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili. It’s made with beef, black beans and dark beer. I usually pair it with jalapeno beer bread for a warming & stick-to-your ribs winter meal!

My husband Stacy is the king of the grill but I enjoy puttering in the kitchen. My Cowboy Chili recipe is our compromise on the age-old beans vs. no beans argument. I like the beans, and e likes dark beer, so to appease his chili-purist ‘No Beans’ mindset I created this recipe that includes both black beans and dark beer so we’re both happy.

The Ingredients

2 lbs. lean ground beef (95% lean)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1-½ cups chopped onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 medium yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1⁄8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14-1⁄2 oz.) chili-seasoned or zesty-style
diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 to 14-1⁄2 oz.) beef broth
12 oz. dark beer
1⁄3 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp. honey
2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed, drained chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

The Preparation

• Brown ground beef in stockpot over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up into 3/4-inch crumbles.
• Remove from stockpot with slotted spoon. Set aside. Pour off drippings.
• Heat oil in same stockpot over medium heat until hot. Add onions and garlic; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are tender.
• Add bell peppers and jalapeño; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until peppers are tender.
• Return beef crumbles to stockpot. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
• Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, broth, beer, tomato paste and honey; bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes. Uncover stockpot; continue simmering 30 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.
• Stir in beans; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until beans are heated through.
• Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Ask the Cook

What’s your food philosophy?
I try to cook with as many fresh ingredients as possible. Although I occasionally use a can of soup or box of instant pudding when a recipe calls for it – more than likely you’ll find me learning to make that ingredient myself instead. For this recipe, the black beans are typically cooked earlier from dry beans and the crushed tomatoes & veggies are primarily from my garden. Even the dark beer used is home-brewed by my husband Stacy!

Any advice for the readers?
With only two of us at the ranch most nights, I use the “cook once, eat twice” method of cooking: Serve half the recipe hot and put the other half in your freezer. On those days where you’re too busy to cook, a healthy home-made meal is as close as your own freezer.

Cooking Confession:
Although I typically strive to use base ingredients in my cooking, I make the best and most requested soft cookies using a recipe that has a boxed cake mix in the list of ingredients! It’s so quick that I can whip these cookies up on a Sunday morning in enough time to bring them hot out of the oven for a church luncheon after the Sunday service.

If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a Dinner Bell column, give WR a call at 702-566-1456 or send an email to

The Ways We Graze

Not All Cows Dine The Same

If left on their own, cattle and wild ungulates like to hang around the water hole and graze the dickens out of riparian areas. This fact has caused more than a few cowboys to scratch their heads and wonder if they can breed a critter that'll head for the high country when the grass greens up.

If left on their own, cattle and wild ungulates like to hang around the water hole and graze the dickens out of riparian areas. This fact has caused more than a few cowboys to scratch their heads and wonder if they can breed a critter that’ll head for the high country when the grass greens up.

By: Jaime Pullman

What makes cattle good at grazing? Is one breed better designed for grazing than another?

Recently a reader asked WR if cattle bred to live off western grasses could survive easily on the grasses of the east, and vice versa. The answer depends on a multitude of factors, but the key is adaptation. When cattle evolved as grazing animals, their job was simply to survive and reproduce. Domestication asked them to produce within the limits of their environment and climate. Today, cattle genetics from across the world can be easily exchanged, and animals are moved thousands of miles within a day. This provides unique opportunities for introducing heterosis and improving various traits. But this type of movement comes with problems, as well.

According to geneticists and producers from a 2004 National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium meeting report,“A gene pool conferring adaptation to past and distant environments confers less than optimum adaptation to current and, indeed, to future conditions.” The report continues, “In many instances, management systems and environments are changing more rapidly than animal populations can adapt to such changes through natural selection… While providing many benefits to efficient livestock production, movement of genes into new environments also can reduce adaptation of a resident herd to its unique conditions and challenges.” As a result, the report suggests “Rapidly increased genetic potential for production may be achieved at the expense of decreased genetic merit for adaptation” (fertility and survival). 

Breeds of cattle don’t exhibit remarkably different grazing habits in general, but they are each best adapted to graze under the conditions in which the breed developed. During the early 1990s, researchers from the Northern Agricultural Research Center in Havre, Montana, found that different biological cattle types do not significantly differ in the amount of time or distance they traveled when grazing rangeland.

However, the bite rate did differ among breed groups (a bite is defined as that tearing sound heard as the forage is pulled from the stems – bite rate is the number of bites in a given period of time). The larger, higher-producing biological types had a higher bite rate. The researchers proposed that the increased bite rate might be a response that, essentially, allowed each breed to get the right amount of intake for their breed-specific needs.

Introduction to a new environment would require the individual microflora to adjust to new forage, but that adjustment would occur over time to improve feed efficiency. Other stressors, including changes in terrain, heat, humidity, and altitude require longerterm adaptation.

The genetic grazing ability of an animal, while an important consideration, is less important than climate, forage conditions, available labor and management skill. Choosing the best cattle type for a climate is most successful if you consider the climate in which the breed developed, and the ability of the cattle to adapt to the environment. Cattle native to temperate regions do well in cooler conditions, for example. Which brings us back to adaptation. There are about 75 different cattle breeds in the US and most can be grouped according to their place of origin (Bos taurus, Bos indicus, etc), and some assumptions about their ability to adapt to different climates can be made from that information.

According to Dr. William Pinchak, a professor at Texas A&M AgriLife Research who has more than 30 years experience as a grazing beef cattle nutritionist, every genotype and environment exists across wide regions. If you break up the country by region, some sections will have different forages than others. For example, in some sections there may be greater amounts of tall fescue and perennial ryegrass. Humidity, temperatures, and precipitation can vary significantly across small distances. Even small changes can impact cattle that are adapted to one environment when they are moved to another.

Dr. Pinchak says, “Generally, cattle highly adapted to hot humid environments do not fare well in colder, dry environments. Similarly, cattle from the Northern third to half of the West take a year or two to adapt to the Southern Great Plains region. Northern latitude western cattle are usually selected for higher growth potential and body size than southern cattle and are fed hay, silage, etc. for up to six months per year to meet genetic potential for performance.”

Sparse forage suits cattle of small to moderate size best, while abundant forage can maintain larger cattle or a greater number of smaller cattle. When forage is low quality, lower milking cattle are best, since those that have high milking ability can lose body condition which may result in a drop in reproductive ability, unlike in a high quality forage situation. Inconsistent forage situations are most adapted by easy fleshing cattle types with low to moderate milk production.

Body size is also important because smaller cows tend to do less damage to grass paddocks, particularly during wet weather. There is also some evidence that smaller cattle are more mobile and are less impacted by heat stress than larger cattle.

Many of the traits improved through heterosis are especially important in grazing systems, including productivity, longevity, and fertility. This can be achieved by using high quality sires and breeding to large-gene-pool breeds. Genetics of cows is very important, but in terminal breeding situations, sire choice will have the broadest genetic impact on a herd.

Though research has shown some differences among breeds in the way grazing occurs, there is no evidence that one breed is generally more adept at grazing than another, except that some excel under certain conditions. But even under those particular conditions, the genetics of one group of animals within the breed may be significantly different to others. Research completed in the 1990s by New Mexico State University researchers found significant among breed and within-breed genetic variation in diet selection, which changes how range is utilized and managed.

This is why many experts recommend using large population breeds because sire selection options will typically provide the most genetic progress. Beef cattle diets are primarily pasture and stored forages, but pasture is the most economical feed program. It is also very sustainable when grazing cattle numbers align with the right amount of forage, the right type forage, and all at the right time. For this to happen, management is key.

According to the 2004 National Beef Cattle Evaluation Consortium report, because cattle and wild ungulates prefer grazing near streams, preventing the over-utilization of riparian zones before adequate grazing of upland terrain is highly important. Research suggests that this type of problem can, at least in part, be solved through genetic selection.

A Montana State University study published in 2004 found that Tarentaise cattle, which are native to the alpine region of France, spent a higher proportion of time grazing on slopes distant from water sources than Hereford cattle, which are native to the British Isles. In addition, the researchers observed heritable variation within the Hereford breed to graze steeper, drier range areas.

Dr. Pinchak says, “We risk a lot in the beef cattle industry when broad generalizations are made.” He says the West versus East question can only be answered precisely if geographic location, forage/pasture type, winter feeding program and, most importantly, ownership and management objectives are identified. With our knowledge of genetics constantly developing, producers now have an opportunity to use both management techniques and genetic selection to improve forage utilization.

There is no one perfect breed, even under perfect conditions, but genetics can be selected to improve on the situation you have. Understanding the demands of your environment and climate on your cattle, and the ability of the cattle to adapt to those conditions, can make the best salable product within the challenges you face, regardless of your grazing situation.

Working Ranch Branding Party

By: Linda Lawler

Every summer at the Sawtooth Valley Ranch we put together a hearty and delicious lunch or dinner -depending on how long the branding takes -for those who participate in this ranching tradition.

This year I decided to cook a main dish I have always wanted to make: short ribs. My husband and daughter love to order short ribs when they are on a restaurant menu. So, the pressure was on to make short ribs that met “their standards” and reward a hard working crew.

You want short ribs to be nice and tender, so you need to cook them for at least 4 – 5 hours (for 4 – 6 lbs) in the oven. The key is sourcing the best quality beef, which isn’t hard to find in the United States. And making a homemade sauce in my book does make a difference.

For the side dishes for The Working Ranch Branding party I decided to pair up two classics: homemade coleslaw and Ranch Beans (the name on the can). My neighbor, Donna-Marie, made some apple banana bread. And to quench everyone’s thirst I make a large container of Arnold Palmer’s (or as they say in my neck of the woods – Swamp Water) half peach ice tea and half lemonade. Since the branding takes place in the middle of summer I made one of my (and my family’s) favorite summer time desserts: Frozen Lemonade Pie.

The Recipe

WR Short Ribs — Serves 6 (I ended up having to double this recipe for my crew)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
• 4-6 lbs short ribs
• 2⁄3 cup brown sugar
• 1 t paprika
• ½ t garlic powder
• 1 T cider vinegar
• ½ t chili powder
• 2⁄3 cup ketchup
• 1 T mustard
• 2 T molasses
• Salt and pepper
2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl
3. Arrange ribs in a 9 x 13 baking dish seasoning with salt and pepper
4. Pour the sauce over the ribs and toss.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in oven for 4 – 5 hrs. (depending on tenderness)
6. Remove foil the last 30 min.

Homemade Coleslaw
• 6 cups of shredded green and purple cabbage (can add some shredded carrots too)
• A small bunch of chopped green onions

• 1 cup of mayo
• 2 T cider vinegar
• 2 t black pepper
• ½ t salt
• ½ t sugar

1. Toss the dressing with the salad and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Frozen Lemonade Pie

• 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• ¼ cup of white or brown sugar
• 7 T unsalted butter, melted

• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
• 1 6-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate (do not thaw)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make the crust in a med. bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press firmly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 6 minutes; cool completely.

3. To make the filling: in a cool med. stainless bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, stir together the condensed milk and frozen lemonade. Gently fold the lemonade mixture into the whipped cream. Pour the filling into the crust. Freeze overnight or for about 6 hours.

4. When ready to serve let the pie stand for 5 min before cutting. Optional: top with mixed berries.

Linda Lawler, flanked by her two assistants, Carolyn Hillgren on her right and daughter Katie on her left, worked very hard to create a spectacular late afternoon lunch for the WR crew and neighbors.

Linda Lawler, flanked by her two assistants, Carolyn Hillgren on her right and daughter Katie on her left, worked very hard to create a spectacular late afternoon lunch for the WR crew and neighbors.

Cattleman’s Crystal Ball

Genomic Testing May Be Complex, But Is Finally A Reliable Window Into The Future?

By: Jaime Pullman

Depending on your perspective, the world of cattle breeding has gotten more complicated in the last twenty years just as it has become more transparent. Genetic testing, genetic tools, and the unfurling of the bovine genome have given us the opportunity for more information than you ever dreamed of in years past. But knowing when exactly you need that information, when it will work for you, and when it will make sense for your bottom line and breeding decisions depends on some key considerations.

“DNA testing can be a very valuable resource but it still incurs a significant cost,” says Robert Weaber, Cow-calf Extension Specialist and Associate Professor at Kansas State University. “Producers should understand that they need a comprehensive plan to utilize the information in selection of animals to realize a return on their investment. The realized gain is typically easier for seedstock producers as the genomic information for many breeds is incorporated into the animal’s EPDs.”

Genetic testing can identify carriers of undesirable genetic mutations, enhance EPD accuracy earlier in an animal’s life with genomically enhanced-EPDs, and improve the ability of producers to make informed, thoughtful decisions for breeding and management.

“This is especially helpful for traits like stayability or maternal calving ease where evaluation of an animal using progeny data will take 4 to 8 years,” says Weaber. “With genomic data incorporated into a genomically enhanced genetic evaluation system animals that may be less than a year old can have EPD accuracies similar to those of an animal with 5 to 20 progeny depending on the trait.”

Improved accuracy for young animals doesn’t apply to testing proven sires, however, because most of his genetic potential has already been shown. In either case, it’s clear that genetic testing is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Perhaps one of the best things producers can do to make the most of genetic tools is simply to refresh their understanding of genetics.

“Unfortunately my experience tells me that there is a disappointingly large fraction of producers, both commercial and seedstock, that do not adequately understand EPD or the accuracy value associated with EPD,” says University of Nebraska Associate Professor and Extension Beef Genetics Specialist Matt Spangler. “It is impossible to understand genomics and the benefit of this information if the fundamentals (EPD and accuracy) are not understood first.”


Most major beef breed associations now incorporate genomic information into EPDs—they aren’t two separate pieces of information.

“The DNA and EPD information represent a part-whole relationship. The DNA test describes a portion of the genetic merit for a trait. The EPD describes the net merit (or sum of the value across all genomic regions and their interactions). Using both pieces separately is confusing as they may point different directions,” cautions Weaber.

“For instance a bull might have a great DNA marker result and rank in the bottom 5% of the breed for Weaning Weight EPD. What does this mean? It means that the net merit is not very good. However, at the regions of the genome included in the DNA test he appears to have very favorable merit. Then by difference, the remaining genetic merit for all other areas in genome, he must be very bad to pull his rank very low.”

Ahh… back when things were simple. Just roll out a couple bales for the cows, chop a water hole, fill the mineral feeder and choreup the big team. Then all this genetic jargon shows up and complicates things. Here at WR, we were pretty sure a locus was big flying grasshopper

Ahh… back when things were simple. Just roll out a couple bales for the cows, chop a water hole, fill the mineral feeder and choreup the big team. Then all this genetic jargon shows up and complicates things. Here at WR, we were pretty sure a locus was big flying grasshopper

Typically breed associations today will handle the genomic testing developed for the particular breed, resulting in the GE-EPD, or genomically enhanced EPD. If you don’t belong to a breed association, genomic testing might be best relegated to parentage and defect testing because one test isn’t accurate across all breed types. High density (HD) testing is now offered by many organizations, which looks at a large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – the variations in DNA makeup. But that’s not always your only option.

“For seedstock producers they should use the test that their breed organization includes into EPD. Historically this has been the 50K. The density (number of SNP) of these tests has continually grown (e.g. 80K),” informs Spangler.

“While the size of the larger tests has continued to grow there have been some breeds that have offered a lowdensity (ex. 10-30K) test that is less expensive than the larger alternatives. Through a process called imputation (essentially filling in the missing SNP based on information from relatives), the same amount of information can be garnered by a low-density test as can be achieved by a high-density test.”

Commercial producers are typically looking at a narrower scope of testing, usually for parentage, but have to be careful how the testing is used.

“While there are tests marketed for use in commercial cattle for traits like growth, carcass and fertility, commercial producers should use caution and understand the limitations of genomics,” says Spangler. “This technology is not robust across breeds. For example, a test designed for Angus cattle will not work in Red Angus cattle. Consequently the science suggests that using this technology in non-pedigreed crossbred cattle will not yield predictable results. There are some tests that have been developed for straightbred commercial cattle (like Angus) and cost/benefit analysis should be considered before using such a test to ensure that the cost of testing is offset by gains in performance and/or improved management decisions.”


Genetic information allows producers to make more reliable management and breeding decisions. Testing earlier in an animal’s life provides value for both the seedstock producers and the commercial producer that ends up buying those genetics. And as the cost of bulls increases, commercial producers will be looking to seedstock producers to help them find that value in the form of more complete genetic documentation and increased confidence in purchase decisions.

Balancing your knowledge of EPDs and the limitations of DNA tools is key to benefiting your herd. Weaber warns producers to align the traits they select for with the marketing end point. Don’t focus all your selection on carcass traits if you sell calves at weaning in a conventional sale barn. Don’t select replacements based on a terminal or carcass index when you need maternal traits. Remember where your value is coming from. “The genomic tools are useful, but are not a silver bullet,” says Weaber.

“Also, producers don’t always seek out the advice they need to maximize the impact of their testing program. Although producers have historically each made their own genetic selection decisions, many would benefit from seeking professional help in designing and implementing a selection/breeding system. Many don’t do their own tax accounting; selection can be just as complex.”

From identifying genetic mutations to increasing EPD accuracy it’s clear that current DNA technologies provide opportunities for us to better understand cattle genetics. Identifying where your knowledge needs a boost in applying those technologies, or in using the resulting information, and then seeking help from an extension agent, breed association, or veterinarian, will allow your business to benefit the most.

Ranch Ready Rides


ATV’s for 2015

By: Colin J. Cleary

As the New Year is on the move it’s time to start prepping for more work with the warm weather such as; calving, fencing… ah shucks, we just have to get ready for everything we deal with on the ranch! What better tool to help you and your crew get things done than a new ATV? There aren’t too many jobs out there where an ATV can’t assist in some sort of way. I got ahold of four manufacturers; Polaris, Honda, Kawasaki, and Yamaha, and told them I wanted to know which machine they produce is the most “ranch worthy” for your Working Ranch and this is what they presented me with!

Polaris has put a twist into the ATV market with their new model called the ACE 570 SP. This is unlike any other ATV as it has a regular seat with a steering wheel! (EDITOR: see Tim’s Test, Sept / Oct 2014, p. 22 – I drove the snot out of this machine and loved it!).

This setup provides the rider with a much more comfortable ride along with easier entry and exiting of the vehicle, a major plus for those of you who may have bad backs or knees. It also has a roll cage to help ease your mind when it comes to safety. The Polaris Ace 570 SP features a liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single cylinder 567cc ProStar engine that cranks out 45HP! The front rack will hold 120 lbs., while the rear will hold 240 lbs.

The Ace sits 10.25” above the ground, is 48” wide much like other ATVS, and features power steering to easily move over tough terrain. Polaris emphasized it can handle towing those big ranching objects with its 1500 lb. and standard 1.25” receiver. The Polaris Ace 570 SP is available in Black Pearl Metallic and let me tell you, this is SHARP! I stopped in at my local and friendly Polaris dealer – Full Throttle Powersports in Lena, Illinois and test drove one of these rigs over the holidays and it has my seal of approval for ranch worthiness!

I can easily see where this will make ranch work fun! To learn more visit your local Polaris dealer or check them out online at


Yamaha’s ranch-worthy ATV is the ever-so-tough Grizzly 700 FI. The Grizzly has been around awhile and has built a name for itself for being tough and fun to ride. The Grizzly is powered by a 686cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke engine with enhanced engine settings to improve low end, mid-range and top end performance, with a towing capacity of 1322 lbs. It has a convenient digital LCD multifunction display for easy vision of the ATV’s performance. The Grizzly has a three-position On Command 4-wheel drive system which lets you switch between 2WD, limitedslip 4WD and full-locked differential 4WD, all with the push of a button.

yamahaThe Grizzly 700 has an Ultramatic transmission with dual-range hi/lo. To help slow you down when coming off the mountainside this ATV has an automatic centrifugal clutch which produces downhill engine braking in 4WD and reverse.

To top off this impressive ranching machine it also features electric power steering to make this already great handling machine better. The Yamaha Grizzly 700 is available in three colors: Steel Blue, Hunter Green, and Realtree AP HD.

Now that you all are itching to get out of the bunkhouse and ride (if only it wasn’t winter), I always say the best way to find out which ATV or any piece of equipment is right for you is to stop in at your local dealership and test drive them. Trust me, they are all more than willing to help you out in determining which model best fits your Working Ranch needs. Visit for more.


kazukiHonda was excited to announce they have updated the popular ATV known as the Fourtrax Foreman Rubicon. The Rubicon is available in six different models all based with the 500-class engine, a 475cc liquid-cooled OHV 4-stroke, which is definitely tough, efficient and has proven itself overtime.

There are two transmission choices for the Rubicon: a conventional ATV gearbox which is the only manual shift IRS on the market; and the automatic dual-clutch transmission for those of you who may not want to have to worry about shifting down the trail. It can tow an impressive 1300 lbs! Some new features on the Honda Rubicon are the improved electric power steering, more comfortable seating, better reverse controls, improved cargo capacities with new redesigned racks, and new paint schemes.

The all-new Honda 2015 Rubicon also carries a new look, which Honda wants Working Ranch readers to know it’s designed to last, no matter what you may throw at it. To help protect it Honda installed an all-steel full-coverage front bumper with mounts for a winch. With six different models Honda should have a model for you. Stop in to your local Honda dealer or visit them via web at


4Kawasaki wanted the readers of Working Ranch to have a look at their 2015 Brute Force 750. It is built to operate in the harshest terrain while maintaining comfort. The Brute Force 750 features a sealed rear wet brake, a rigid tubular steel frame, and a digital fuel injection (DFI). When it comes to carrying all that ranching equipment on the rack, it can hold an impressive 264 lbs. of gear and tow 1250 lbs. of whatever you may want to hook behind this beast of a machine.

The Brute Force 750 is powered by a liquid-cooled, four-stroke 749cc 90- degree V-Twin engine, and features a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for very responsive acceleration. You can engage the 4-wheel drive with the simple flip of a button, and the display is very easy to read. The Kawasaki Brute Force 750 is available in two colors: Super Black and Metallic Stardust White. For more information on this ranch-worthy ATV check out your local Kawasaki dealer or go online to

Boost Those Babies


Your young calves may need some extra help…sometimes even before they’re born.

By: Gilda V. Bryant

Most of the time, calves are born without a hitch. But, when pregnant cows don’t regularly receive minerals, especially during the third trimester, their offspring may be weak, sick and unable to nurse. Supplementation with injectable minerals or vitamins as well as colostrum and electrolyte drenches may make a huge difference in that puny calf’s health and subsequent performance.

Kathy Whitman, D.V.M., clinical veterinarian at Nebraska’s Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, reports that a poor, unthrifty calf can be the result of trace mineral deficiencies, especially selenium. Inadequate levels of vitamin A also cause complications in a newborn.

“If we have a problem, we want to address it as soon as possible,” Whitman advises. “Know what you’re dealing with, so you don’t inappropriately treat them. Get on top of it as soon as possible.”

For instance selenium deficiencies are common in Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, the Atlantic states and New England. Northern California, Oregon, Washington and parts of Idaho also lack this mineral. These areas produce low-selenium forages, and cattle tend to be low in this vital trace mineral. They often drop calves that have white muscle disease.

This serious affliction occurs in calves from one to three months of age, affecting muscles, ultimately causing lameness, progressive weakness and death. If the disease strikes calves that are one to four weeks of age, the heart muscle and respiratory muscles may also be affected.

“If you know you’re going to have an issue with white muscle disease when that calf is born, inject it with a selenium- vitamin E injectable right away,” recommends Whitman. “Not having the correct diagnosis is a big issue. If you give a selenium injection and you’re in an area that has plenty of selenium, you may inadvertently give the calf toxicosis. If it’s the inappropriate diagnosis, you’ve given him an injection and you’ve just wasted money.”

John Currin, D.V.M., clinical associate professor at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine reminds producers to check with local extension personnel, consultants or veterinarians to get proper supplementation recommendations.

“Overall, having the cow on the appropriate mineral supplement program is the most cost effective and the most important aspect of trying to maintain a calf’s adequate mineral level,” Currin reports.

Vitamin A maintains delicate tissues in the lining of the respiratory, digestive and reproductive tracts. Sick calves will have infections and the GI tract becomes hard and brittle, unable to absorb nutrients. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, rough hair coat and reduced feed efficiency. If the mama cow has a low vitamin A status, her calf will most likely be low in vitamin A. Whitman recommends injecting cows with vitamin A about five weeks before calving to build up this nutrient in the mother’s colostrum.

Injectables are an excellent treatment option because they are readily bioavailable when injected. They rapidly increase nutrients in theblood—often within eight to twelve hours. Nutrient-deficient animals immediately utilize the mineral or vitamin, and excess nutrients are stored in the liver for later use. Their improvement will be more significant than in an animal with just adequate mineral stores.

Currin says another benefit of injectables is that the producer knows his animals received the proper dosage. They are easy to obtain, although some require a veterinarian’s prescription. The downside of injectables includes rare cases of tissue reaction such as swelling, injection site lesions and in even more rare cases, anaphylactic shock. Since young calves aren’t heavily muscled, Whitman and Currin recommend giving injections subcutaneous – Sub Q – in the neck area in the triangle in front of the shoulder. Whitman uses a three-quarter-to-one inch, 18 gauge needle, entering under the skin at a 40 degree angle. (See product package insert for dosages and other key information). Occasionally, due to drought, harsh winter weather or stress, calves are born with limited trace minerals, such as copper, zinc, manganese and selenium.

These nutrients play a major role in the calf’s ability to grow and properly develop a healthy hair coat and feet. Carcass characteristics and feed efficiency depend on the trace minerals an animal receives as a young calf. Currin says trace minerals play an important role in the function of the calf’s immune system.

“If calves don’t have the appropriate nutrients, they don’t have these minerals present in a functional manner,” Whitman says. “Then they aren’t going to respond to any immunization you give them. You’re wasting your money and you have a sick calf. What’s probably even more important are the subclinical deficiencies that impact performance. We have enough to get by, but not enough to support good growth and health. These animals are always just chronic, poor doers. They get by and  survive, but they don’t do as well as their healthy counterparts.”

Good quality colostrum in adequate amounts is chockfull of vitamins and minerals, providing passive immunity to the calf. To receive antibodies from colostrum, calves must absorb immunoglobulin by a process called passive transfer. After 24 hours, a calf’s ability to take in antibodies decreases dramatically. If the calf has inadequate passive transfer, he will be sickly and probably will never reach peak performance.

Whitman provides a drench with the dam’s colostrum if a calf has had a difficult birth. She also provides commercial colostrum drenches for a weak, tired calf that won’t get up or if a calf’s mother dies.

Dehydration in these young animals can be serious because they lose electrolytes, the salts and minerals that conduct electrical impulses in the body. They are necessary for muscle contraction and energy generation.

“Drenching is a good way to give electrolytes to calves that have become dehydrated from scours,” Currin advises.

“For calves that have had their temperatures drop between 94 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a warm colostrum supplement drench doesn’t hurt,” Currin says. “Warm up calves that are in bad shape before you drench them, so you don’t stress them out. You can push them over the edge if they’re in bad shape.”

The biggest problem Whitman sees with these sick calves is that after injecting them with the vitamin or mineral it makes the calf better.

“But we really haven’t solved the problem,” she adds. “It started before this calf became deficient. There’s an underlying problem with our nutrition program or something else that needs to be addressed. We’ve got to go back and investigate why we had this issue to begin with.” Cattlemen should try to anticipate trouble, especially if they’ve experienced drought, stress or a hard winter and suspect their cows will have a mineral deficiency. Take care of cows before calves hit the ground.

“Adequate calf nutrition, vaccination program and mineral supplementation are key,” Whitman advises.

“Make sure you have adequate passive transfer that’s going to provide not only your immunoglobulin, but a good source of the vitamins and minerals that calf needs. Have a good relationship with your veterinarian for any diagnostics, questions or advice. If there is a need for supplementation, consult with your veterinarian to decide what the best course of action might be.”