Hereford test incorporates new technology
Lingle – The initial forage-based test of Hereford bulls at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) and its accompanying sale feature several forms of new technology.
The technology includes SAREC’s GrowSafe system and efficiency test results for individual bulls, while the upcoming sale, to be held April 12-15, will be entirely online. Forty bulls from six producers participated in the 2010/2011 test, which began Nov. 15, 2010 and ended Feb. 15, 2011.
Of the forage-based test, UW Extension Beef Specialist Steve Paisley says, “There are many performance-based bull tests, and that really wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to use a forage-based ration to focus on feed efficiency and RFI (Residual Feed Intake), to get some information about how the bulls perform on a forage ration.”
“Many of these bulls, especially those from Wyoming, will go back out to a range situation, and many mature calves will remain on range forage-based operations with limited resources and feed,” explains Paisley. “We’ve always done performance-based tests with high-grain diets. While you do get the evaluation with them, I feel like, with forage-based tests, although we don’t get the same performance we do get a better set of data if we know our animals will be used in a forage-based program.”
He adds that there are differences in efficiencies across any group of bulls, but those differences are minimal in a group of bulls on a high-grain diet.
“We don’t see the separation and difference in performance,” says Paisley of the performance bulls. “I feel like a forage-based diet, or a harsher test, will really get a better separation and therefore a better evaluation of efficiency.”
Torrington Hereford producer Jay Middleswarth, who has been involved with the test since its planning stages, agrees, saying, “If you look at feed costs today, and what they might be coming to, it’s important we try to establish and pick out the cattle that can do well on more of a roughage ration.”
“So far I’ve been pleased with the test,” he continues. “Everyone needs to understand that this isn’t shooting for weight per day of age. On a forage-based ration we won’t get the ultimate weight per day of age, but we’ll get it on a forage level. For most of us here in Wyoming, that’s what we have to work with, and we need to know which bulls perform the best for us on that level.”
Of how Wyoming’s Hereford producers became involved with the test, Paisley says, “For a few years previous we had conducted some bull evaluations, but many of the consignors weren’t from Wyoming. We sat down with Scott Keith of the Wyoming Business Council to figure out how we could use the facility for Wyoming producers. It was a matter of bringing the two groups together.”
Paisley continues, “The Hereford producers didn’t feel like they had the same testing and marketing options as Angus breeders, so this was an opportunity for more Wyoming producer research while building a cooperative approach.”
“Two or three years ago there weren’t really any Hereford bulls on test, and, being performance-minded, I thought there was an opportunity for us to work with SAREC and start something like this,” says Middleswarth.
Regarding the test results, Paisley says some producers were disappointed in the performance and average daily gains of their bulls, until they saw the feed efficiency and intake data.
“We’ve never selected for efficiency, although some would argue that, in a harsh environment with limited feed, Mother Nature will make selections for us,” says Paisley. “The results are an eye-opener for everybody. Traditionally we’ve focused everything on performance, and one set of bulls on test blew everyone out of the water in performance, but ate so much they were average from an efficiency standpoint.”
Paisley says that, for a group of bulls at different ages and from varying environments, the overall quality was high. He echoes the statements of other bull tests in the region this winter, in that the extreme cold spell the last five weeks of the test was tough.
“I predicted the bulls to gain a little over three pounds per day, but they averaged 2.65, and the weather had a big impact on them. However, I still feel like we got good information,” he says.
Of the planned Internet sale, Scott Keith of the Wyoming Business Council says, “We decided 40 bulls weren’t enough to hold a consignment sale or live auction, plus all the bulls have dispersed and gone home by 60 days after the test. This gives producers the opportunity to identify the data, take a look at their bulls and decide what they want to sell private treaty, through their production sales or in the Internet auction.”
“I think Internet sales are probably the thing to come five years down the road,” says Middleswarth, who will sell all of his tested bulls online. “It’s a new thing we’re trying, and I don’t know how well it’ll work, but if we don’t try, we don’t know.”
Keith says EDJE Technologies has been chosen to host the bull sale because they don’t charge a per-head fee or commission, but rather a flat rate for use of the site. A sale order of the six producers was randomly selected, and each producer decides on their bulls’ sale order.
“Bids will begin Tuesday, April 12 at 8 a.m.,” says Keith, noting that prior to that date the consignments are open for viewing on the site. “Once bidding starts, people will be able to see the current bid and bid in $250 increments until the lots begin to close at 11 a.m. Friday, April 15.”
The sale is set up so that each lot will begin to close at a preselected time, and if there is no active bidding in the last five minutes the lot will close and the next will begin to close. However, if there is active bidding, for every bid that’s entered in the last five minutes the timeframe will be extended by two minutes, to give people with Internet problems or slow connections the chance to enter their new bid.
Keith says there are two methods for bidding – a proxy bid, where a producer enters a maximum bid and the site automatically increases his bid up to that amount, or live bidding, where the producer manually increases his bid.
“If a producer knows he likes a bull, and knows he’s what they want, and knows his top dollar would be $4,500, for example, he can put in a maximum bid of $4,500 and not worry about being at his computer on April 15,” says Keith. “The bidding may start at $1,500 on a bull, and the bid automatically keeps climbing as other bids come in.”
Keith stresses that buyers need to visit the website, become familiar with how it works and register to bid prior to the sale’s opening.
“It’s a whole new thing, and a whole new sale, idea and concept for this kind of a sale and producer mix,” says Keith. “This auction is a private treaty sale with competitive bidding capabilities.”
“Short term, I’m not expecting much,” says Middleswarth. “But it will open us up to a whole new audience. I hope everybody gets online and takes a look. It’s something new, and a new way of marketing.”
Of what the test will look like next year, Paisley says there’s a fine line.
“I still believe a forage-based diet is important, but if you’re the owner and trying to market a bull, you want him to weight 1,000 pounds, because it’s hard to market an 800-pound bull. We need to get some level of performance for the bulls to look good, be marketable and show their potential, yet challenge them, too,” he says. “I think we’ll stay close to what we’re doing now. Hopefully we can create a niche and get a buzz going for the forage-based approach.”
Of the next test, Keith says, “All the people who participated are looking forward to doing something again next year. We’re planning another test, but we don’t know what, how many or when.”