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Premium Red Baldy seeks to add value for red-hided animals

Jaclyn Krymowski for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 February 2020
Myriah Fauber, Austin Wobig Shane and Heather Wobig

With the nation’s ever-growing and changing demands for beef, producers and breed associations are finding different, innovative ways to actively respond.

One of these is a joint effort between the American Hereford Association (AHA) and the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) with their female-only tagging program, Premium Red Baldy, which helps producers capitalize on the power of hybrid vigor. Established in 2018, the first calf crop from this program is now on the ground and of marketable age.

“This program was created to identify commercial replacement females who are genetically superior and to help people add value to their operations,” says Trey Befort, director of commercial programs with the AHA. “Whether they’re retaining or selling the resulting females, the goal is to add value.”

Why red baldys?

Red Baldy

The strength lies in the similarities of Red Angus and Herefords, which make a cross that’s attractive to many. These include the strong maternal and carcass traits of both breeds, creating a crossbreed that is ideal in the commercial setting.

Trent Peterson farms near Hitchcock, South Dakota. In addition to crop production, he runs a feedlot and cow-calf program with 200 black baldys and 200 Red Angus cows. He said he wanted to participate in the program because of his interest in creating high-quality replacement females.

“We knew crossbreeding our Red Angus cows with Hereford bulls would make us quality replacement females and steers coming off the cow heavier due to natural heterosis,” he says. “Plus, I think everyone has a soft spot for a nice red baldy.”

This program has given red-hided breeders a ripe opportunity to promote their animals and gain the cutting edge on a developing new market. Shane Wobig, who raises 500 Red Angus cows in Merriman, Nebraska, was considering making the switch to purebred Herefords right as the program was coming out. Instead, he decided to use Hereford bulls on his females for the red baldy cross. He believes it was a wise marketing move.

“There’s been a Red Angus premium these past few years, and I just saw there’s been a growing gap and its starting to slow down. We were trying to get on the front end of something else, gives us a different way to market,” he says.

Wobig sells the top end of his heifers as replacements. This has allowed them to capitalize on a less competitive market.

As with any successful breeding program, Premium Red Baldy starts with wise breeding decisions. A strength the program has is its selection of high-end bulls participating breeders have to choose from.

“Our bull selection is focused on making replacements, but we also want good growth for steer calves that can qualify for Certified Hereford Beef,” Peterson shares.

How it works

To qualify, heifers born must be sired by a bull battery ranking in the top 50% for the AHA’s Baldy Maternal Index (BMI$) or the RAAA’s Herdbuilder Index (HB), have a breed type consisting predominantly of Red Angus and Hereford, and be red-hided with a bald or brockle face.

Of note, both the AHA and RAAA use whole-herd reporting, whereby producers must report data on every animal in their operation. Befort says he believes this helps contribute to a truer genetic evaluation that will more honestly identify true superior individuals in both breeds.

Barrett Simon, commercial marketing specialist for the RAAA, says this program has attracted a lot of producers in various parts of the industry.

“We have enjoyed this partnership with the AHA; the program is truly built for commercial cattlemen who demand more from their replacement females,” he says. “In addition to building high-caliber heifers, we aim to assist producers in marketing and hope to foster potential premiums for those who utilize Red Angus and Hereford genetics within their crossbreeding system.”

Both associations list the enrolled females on their webpages, which are sent out to a number of interested buyers to gain exposure. AHA puts together sire summaries to help better inform members using Hereford bulls what their strengths and weaknesses are.

With the genetic standards set high, coupled with hybrid vigor, there’s a lot of potential for a growing buyer base.

“People enrolled in the program seem pleased so far,” Simon continues. “Even buyers have noted that the stipulations on the HerdBuilder and Baldy Maternal Indexes give them added confidence in one of the most maternally driven crosses in the industry. They know they are purchasing a female with added value. We look forward to seeing more of these Premium Red Baldy-tagged cattle being marketed and set into production.”

“I really like this program because the bull selection has to meet a certain maternal value. It is a great marketing tool to give cattle producers assurance that enrolled calves come from good maternal stock,” says Peterson, who hopes to use his calf crop primarily as feeder animals.

A positive outlook

Herding Red Baldys

As with other terminal sire and offspring programs offered by the associations, Premium Red Baldy not only helps producers add value and revenue, it also helps drive demand for red-hided animals. Since first introducing the program, the associations garnered a lot of interest from producers willing to participate.

“This effort takes some time; now, two years into the program, we’re just starting to see the actual results from participants who made the change in their breeding programs,” says Befort. “We had interest all along since the release, but I think people are just now really starting to enroll in the program.”

Though there is limited market-comparison data at this point, now that the first healthy offspring are on the ground and growing, participating members can weigh in with their observations. Wobig has been breeding all his Red Angus cows to Hereford bulls in the program, and he has seen a difference in this calf crop. The top end of their calves tend to be heavier with more depth and width. He notes it as being just overall a better animal thanks to heterosis.

“It’s a gamble to completely switch bull batteries over in one year; it’s a big expense. But we’re just really excited about our decision,” he says. “I’m really anxious for the next year or two and see how that goes as well.”

“Our calves have turned out exactly as hoped. We have many replacements in the calf crop, as well as marketable steers,” reports Peterson with his similar findings. “I am really excited about the replacement females, because there are so many breeding options that will work well on them.”

“As we continue to identify these cattle, we aim to bring value to all producers involved. The red baldy cow is often praised by those who are already capitalizing on her functionality and longevity,” says Simon. “The goal of the Premium Red Baldy program is to shine light on the maternal merit that these females can bring to the U.S. cow herd.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: Myriah Fauber, Austin Wobig, and Shane and Heather Wobig (pictured left to right) operate Wobig Ranch in Merriman, Nebraska, a 500-head commercial cow operation consisting of Red Angus females and Hereford bulls.

PHOTO 2: Premium Red Baldy

PHOTO 3: Calves from Red Angus cows and Hereford bulls have been seen by producers to have good weight with more depth and width. Photos courtesy of American Hereford Association.

Jaclyn Krymowski is a freelancer based in Ohio.