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Short open season results in quality genetic growth

Jeff Hoffelt Published on 24 May 2013

Reproductive strategies help Texas cattleman build profitable herd

Davis Green started 7 Bar Longhorns in 2006 with two cows and two big goals: long horns and impressive genetics.

As a registered Texas Longhorn breeder, he knew that reaching both of these objectives would be essential to building a profitable cow-calf herd – and that plan has proven to be true.

In just a few years, Green has grown his Aubrey, Texas, herd to 60 cows through a combination of key purchases and reproductive strategies.

“I originally purchased two Texas Longhorns essentially as ‘yard art;’ I liked the nostalgia and the Western heritage the breed represented, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breed and connect with the people in the cattle business,” Green says of 7 Bar Longhorns’ beginnings. “It really took off from there.”

Green first combined his past experience with Herefords and his business skills to build the herd into a source of quality seedstock genetics for other breeders.

Today, Green, who also has a full-time job away from the farm, is at capacity for his cow-calf herd with five flush cows, 35 high-quality brood cows and 20 recipients for embryo transfer work.

The cows are pastured on 450 acres in northern Texas and southern Oklahoma.

Building the herd into this profitable enterprise required careful record-keeping and new technologies in reproductive management. The top priority of the producer has always been the pedigrees of his cow herd.

A genetic standard

“My focus is on achieving top genetics,” Green says, explaining that, in the Texas Longhorn breed, tip-to-tip horn measurement is top criteria in marketability. “We’re shooting for mid-to-upper 70-inch horns from tip to tip today.”

With the longest-horned female in the industry today measuring in the upper 80s, the Texas Longhorn breed has evolved significantly in the past decade.

Five years ago it was considered elite for a cow to have a tip-to-tip measurement in the mid-70s. Today, Green has one cow over 80 inches and nine cows with measurements over 70 inches.

In addition to horn measurement, 7 Bar Longhorns focuses on structural soundness, birth and growth rates, and overall eye appeal within the herd.

These criteria are achieved by mating cows and heifers with bulls that best complement the cow’s traits.

With A.I., Green is best able to create individual matings for improved offspring, many of which are highlighted at www.7barlonghorns.com – the farm’s website.

“To build pedigrees, predictability is a major factor,” he says. “I look at other people’s offspring and try to duplicate or build on that.

Because of the amount of A.I. that I’m doing, it’s about research and then creating the right match. Having access to these high-powered bulls through A.I. is great for a person like me who doesn’t want the problems associated with owning a big bull.”

A.I. allows Green to utilize high-powered bulls without the expense of owning one.

The best combinations of high-powered bulls and deep-pedigreed cows are further maximized through embryo transfer (ET) work.

Green began flushing five of his top pedigreed cows in 2009 and is now beginning to see the impact of those flushes.

“Doing the embryo work on those cows is helping me to grow the genetics quicker,” he says, explaining that through flushing he was able to have several heifer calves from one cow in one calving season rather than just one natural calf.

Testing the results

Green also retains a herd bull to use on heifers or cows open too long. Whichever method of breeding is used, he says blood pregnancy testing is an essential step in his reproduction program.

“I use blood pregnancy testing on all my cows to determine if they are open or pregnant,” he says. “For me, it’s the most convenient, accurate and non-invasive way to tell if the cows are pregnant.”

Green uses blood pregnancy tests on his cows which allow him to determine the pregnancy status at 28 days post-breeding for A.I.-bred or naturally bred cows and 25 days post-ET.

Green pulls a blood sample at that time and puts the sample in test tubes he receives from a local testing laboratory.

“The whole process is very simple,” Green says. “It’s easy to pull blood from the tail and then I pack the samples in a flat rate postage box with paper towels in a Ziploc bag and send them to the lab.”

Green marks all of his samples with the cow’s number and keeps a copy of the data so he can match results from the lab. Within 48 hours, the technicians email Green the results of the blood pregnancy test.

“It’s very efficient for me,” Green says. “If I send the samples on Monday, I’ll have results by Wednesday and I can quickly move forward.”

If the blood pregnancy test results show the cow is open, Green can then begin the process of re-breeding. He works with a neighboring producer to synch any open cows so they return to estrus and can be re-bred, keeping the open period between calvings short.

If cows are confirmed pregnant, Green relies on the proven accuracy of the result and sends the females back to pasture. At 120 days in gestation, he collects another blood sample to confirm the cow is open.

The valuable option

“It’s possible for cows to lose a pregnancy in those early months; if she’s open, I need to get her re-bred rather than feeding an open cow,” he says.

“Doing the blood test at 120 days is an insurance policy that she’s still pregnant. I don’t want to feed a cow if she’s open.”

At $2.60 per blood test, Green says the second test is “the cheapest precautionary measure” he can take.

“The test at 28 days works very well to determine if the breeding worked, and the test at 120 days is good insurance to show that the cow is still pregnant,” he says.

“The test has helped me to breed cows quicker and kept me from feeding open cows for a year.”

Ultimately, the combination of blood pregnancy testing and other reproductive technologies has helped Green build his herd of Texas Longhorns into a productive, profitable herd.

“I’m happy with the growth of the herd so far,” Green says. “But I’m even more excited for the future as the offspring from these matings continue to mature.” 174351.png

For more information on blood pregnancy testing and to find a local testing laboratory, visit BioTracking LLC  or contact Jeremy Howard or call (208) 882-9736.

Jeff Hoffelt is a media relations executive at Filament Marketing LLC.

PHOTO

Davis Green of Aubrey, Texas, has built his herd of registered Texas Longhorns by focusing on pedigrees. A strategic reproductive program including artificial insemination, embryo transfer and blood pregnancy testing helps Green to breed his cows back quickly, reducing the days cows are open in between calvings. Photo courtesy of Davis Green.

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