WANTED: Cowboys With Integrity

How a Growing Sire Evaluation Project Could Pave the Way for Braunvieh in the Beef Business

By Callie Curley, Contributing Writer

In the early 2000s , John and Loretta Hall of Hedley, Texas, were reviewing carcass data when they came to a realiza tion about their herd. The top one-third was profitable, the bottom one-third was so unprofitable it practically negated the performance of the top third, and the money they made was mostly thanks to the middle one-third holding its own. This led the Halls to begin a now de cades-long journey toward not only solving their profit ability problem but building better breeds of cattle. Set in Motion “I thought if we could maintain herds of the top-per forming two-thirds, and really strive for the top one-third, we’d see massive changes,” Hall recalls. So he set out on a multi-herd project across numerous states, providing semen samples labeled “Bull A” and “Bull B” to be evenly dispersed across the test herds, and collecting gestation length and birth weight data along the way. “During that first project, I was given 10 straws of an unknown bull to study in the herd,” Hall says. “Seven of the calves were live on the ground, and the data across that group showed promise. I wondered what was so different about those 10 straws, and it turned out it was from a Braunvieh.” As those Braunvieh calves grew, they remained stand outs in the mixed herd. All seven bred in a 60-day win dow at 13 to 14 months of age and remained in the herd as solid, dependable cows. “That’s when I knew Braunvieh was a breed to be in volved with,” Hall explains. Fast forward 20 years to early 2021, and Hall was dialing the phone to discuss a more recent project – sire evaluations for the Braunvieh breed – and how to broad en its reach. Mark Nelson of the Braunvieh Association of America (BAA) Performance Committee was on the other end of the line. “There are many important and meaningful things be ing done by Braunvieh breeders, and I don’t want to dis credit any of those worthwhile endeavors,” Nelson says. “What John told me he was doing … I knew it would be one of the most meaningful things ever done for the Braunvieh breed. I quickly agreed to help.” With experience under his belt, Hall knew what – or, rather, who – he needed to do this the right way. He calls them “cowboys with integrity.” And he’s looking for more to partner with.

The Power of Partnership “This kind of project requires more than some people are willing to invest – and I don’t mean financially,” Hall says. “By chance, I met these Arkansas cowboys, and I knew they could do the work I did 20 years ago – catch ing every calf, measuring, giving shots and tagging them. It’s hard work to get done but absolutely essential to the integrity of the research we’re doing.” Some of those Arkansas cowboys were John Ashbury and Tom Butler. Tom and his wife, Neeley, own and operate their ranch in Oak Grove, Ark. In partnership with Hall, the Butlers have bred spring calves twice and are preparing to breed fall calves a third time, adding to their collection of third-party data. More recently, the group has connected with Tommy Perkins, Ph.D., and Mason Carter of West Texas A&M, who take students to the ranch for pregnancy checks and data collection and verification. “This has grown and grown; it got too big for me to do on my own,” Hall says. “So, I made that call to Mark Nelson. I knew that his strengths in data analysis and his broad network across the Braunvieh breed would help us tie it all together.” Hall credits Nelson with getting the cattle group into the GrowSafe system and connecting them with the Texas feedyard that led to the relationship with West Texas A&M. “As this program has evolved, new partnerships and processes have been implemented to accomplish a mean ingful data set for the entire Braunvieh breed,” Nelson says. “However, the initial vision remains the same: To compare worthy bloodlines from multiple breeders within a contemporary group so all Braunvieh breeders could Continued on page 18


Braunvieh World  Winter 2023

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