Focus on function

In this era of value-based marketing and alliance programs, commercial cattle producers face a growing challenge to produce cattle that fit required specifications but still thrive in their environment.

Two Texas seedstock producers realize that challenge and have turned to Angus Plus as a way to help their customers meet their goals to produce cattle that fit the market and the environment. The Angus Plus concept originated in 1996, based on cattle that are Bos indicus and Angus derivatives with a minimum of 50 percent Red or black Angus. The floating percentage of Bos indicus gives breeders the flexibility to breed cattle best suited for their customer.

"Our primary purpose is to produce bulls for the commercial industry," says Jim Shirm, herd manager at Oates Land and Cattle, which raises Red Angus and Angus Plus seedstock. Most of his customers raise cattle in the southern part of the country and use cattle with Bos indicus bloodlines for their heat tolerance and insect resistance. However, many alliance programs specify that cattle have little visible Zebu influence, such as too much sheath or ear. That's why many are starting to cross their cows with other breeds to reduce that influence without completely eliminating it.

"In trying to reduce the Bos indicus influence in their calves, many commercial producers want to use Angus. However, Angus do not do as well in the hot, humid climates," says Michael Wooten, owner of Rockbrook Ranch, a black Angus Plus breeder.

It works the other way as well. Mr. Shirm knows of customers who want to add some of the Bos indicus to their herds, without adding too much. "Some of our commercial producers have decided they've taken too much ear out of their calves. The Angus Plus bulls have been accepted there, and they're still in alliance specifications." The floating percentage in Angus Plus allows these breeders to raise or lower the amount of Bos indicus based on client need.

"We no longer breed for blood percentage but instead breed based on type and function," says Mr. Wooten, who converted his predominately Brangus herd to Angus Plus a few years ago. "Suppose you live in the Gulf Coast region, you need more of a Brangus-type animal. Or if you live in Kansas,
you may want more of an Angus-type animal. Within the Angus Plus breed, we have the flexibility to produce bulls that meet our customers" specific needs according to the region and environment in which they live."

Mr. Wooten also has noticed a drop in feed cost since moving to the Angus Plus program. "It cost me a third less, which is significant, to develop my bulls and heifers. The Angus Plus cattle have
a better feed conversion because of that increased Angus. Our replacement heifers breed up quicker, our first calf heifers breed back with a much higher conception rate, and our cows cost less to maintain."

 Those improvements are also noticed on the bull side. "We don't push our bulls like we did before. Now we just go for about a 2.5-pound average daily gain." Mr. Wooten sees a tremendous improvement in consistency, uniformity, and predictability in type, performance and carcass merit. "The proof is in the pudding. The best calves, heifers and bulls, we have ever produced are now coming from our Angus Plus females bred to Angus Plus bulls."

Mr. Shirm, who switched his Red Brangus herd to Angus Plus a few years ago, also noticed an improvement in weaning weights and feedlot performance. "We didn't have any trouble with our Red Brangus cattle grading in the feedlot, but with our first Angus Plus cattle, our feeding period shortened 47 days and our pay weights increased nearly 100 pounds," he says. In addition, the heifers reached puberty earlier.

As an added benefit with Angus Plus, hair color is not an issue since both black and Red Angus cattle are used depending on the needs of the breeder. The Red Angus Association of America maintains the registration for Angus Plus animals. In addition, Total Herd Reporting is required of all animals in the RAAA herd book, and that helps in the development and access to growth, performance and carcass EPDs. "That's the value of coming under the umbrella of Red Angus, we have more access to various EPDs that are beneficial to production," says Mr. Shirm.

The acceptance and interest in the Angus Plus cattle has been overwhelming for both breeders. "Every time we send a bull into an area, more people ask where the bull came from, and that has a snowball affect" says Mr. Wooten. "When I get feedback from customers, it usually includes something on what their neighbors say when they get those bulls home. Then I end up getting their neighbors as a customer. The cattle sell themselves."

For more information on Angus Plus, visit the Web site at www.angusplus.net or contact the Red Angus Association at (940) 383-4036.

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