Wyoming seedstock: Wyo Beef Cattle Improvement Associations focuses on quality of bullsWritten by Saige Albert
March 11 will mark the 31st Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association’s (WBCIA Annual Bull Sale. Though the date of the sale is new, Bob Pingetzer, who has run the bull test for many years, says the quality of bulls to be sold is higher than ever before.
“The sale will follow the same schedule, and this year, Lex Madden will be our auctioneer,” Pingetzer says. “Our top calf came from Steve Smith of Lehi, Utah.”
“Steve has been bringing calves to WBCIA for many years,” says Pingetzer. “His bulls performed well this year.”
Smith is the third generation on his family’s ranch near Lehi, Utah, and he’s been raising bulls his entire life.
“We’ve been here forever,” he says.
Smtih began bringing bulls to the WBCIA bull test nearly 15 years ago after he saw an advertisement, and this year, his bulls topped the test.
“We thought we’d try the test when we first saw it advertised, and it has worked out well,” Smith says. “Bob Pingetzer has been really good to work with, and WBCIA is a really good spot to have some bulls.”
Smith runs Angus and Gelbvieh Balancer cattle, and he complements his registered cattle with a commercial herd.
Calving begins in early January and continues through April, though the bulk of the herd calves in January, February and March.
“At the end of May, we take our cattle to allotments in Idaho,” Smith explains, noting the registered animals are run on a private lease near Riley, Idaho while the commercial cattle summer outside Soda Springs, Idaho.
During the summer, he says they are busy farming.
“We also run a dryland farm in Cedar Valley where we raise a lot of organic wheat,” Smith says. “We run part of our cattle on crested wheat grass there.”
Calves are brought back to Utah in the fall, where they are sold on video auction.
“The calves – and sometimes the mother cows with the calves at their side – are videoed, and we sell on video after August,” he says.
During the winter months, purebred cattle are fed at the home ranch, and the commercial herd winters on a permit in Hanksville, Utah.
Improving the herd
Smith’s ideal cow is deep, thick and has some size, and he notes that tall, long-legged cattle aren’t ideal.
“We want the same thing in our bulls – a deep, thick bull that can get out and move,” he said. “We want bulls that are athletic and move really well.”
Since he started bringing bulls to WBCIA, Smith notes that they have seen improvement in their herd.
“WBCIA gives us a good opportunity to have our bulls tested to see what we have in our herd in terms of gain and whatnot,” he explains. “We’ve seen improvement in our herd over the years.”
In addition to testing bulls at WBCIA to understand and improve the herd, Smith notes that they also purchase herd bulls occasionally to achieve additional improvement in their herd.
“We also artificially inseminate all of our heifer calves and the top end of our cows,” he says. “We always look to improve the genetics of our herd.”
In addition to ranch life, Smith says that family is important to him.
“Our family is really into sports, and our boys have been featured for their involvement in football, basketball and track,” he comments with pride.
Smith’s two sons and three daughters grew up on the ranch, and today, one of his sons works at his side. His other son is going to college and hasn’t decided where his future lies.
“Right now, there is a lot of development going on around our ranch that is trying to crowd us out,” Smith says. “We’re going to keep raising cattle, and we’ll see where it takes us from here.”
Smith's top bull will sell at the WBCIA sale on March 11.
During the sale, Pingetzer notes that several things will be improved over previous years.
“We are using a four-star and five-star system for calving ease instead of just using the EPD data,” he says, explaining that the rankings are based on birth weight, calving ease direct (CED) expected progeny differences (EPDs) and actual birth weight. “Five-star bulls are those that will work on almost any heifer. They have to be in the top 30 percent of the breed for CED and birth weight, and they also must have an actual birth weight of 80 pounds or less.”
Four-star bulls are within the top 50 percent of the breed for CED and birth weight with an actual birth weight of 85 pounds or less.
As another focus for the 2016 sale, Pingetzer notes that they will highlight the junior calves on test.
“We’re going to sell one calf for each kid under the age of 21 at the front of each breed,” he explains. “There are six total – four Black Angus and two Red Angus.”
Because young people are the future of the agriculture industry, Pingetzer says it is important to provide opportunities for their futures.
“WBCIA also put out scholarships through the University of Wyoming for these kids,” he adds. “Twenty years from now, I probably won’t be doing this. It will be the next generation carrying on these traditions.”
Pingetzer continues, “The younger generation is the future of this business, and by highlighting their calves, we’re giving them the chance to build their college fund and to be successful.”
“The gains have been outstanding this year,” Pingetzer says of the 2016 WBCIA test. “We changed our feed program a little bit. We didn’t feed the cattle a hotter ration, we just changed it a bit.”
This year, bulls on test were fed oats for the first 45 days, and then, the ration was switched to corn. A preventative treatment was also fed several times during the test.
“We also went to a different company for the protein pellet,” he says, noting that along with a reduced cost, the new pellet also adds additional ingredients.
“We put in a yeast package and a mineral package with the pellet,” Pingetzer said. “We also fed a distiller’s grain meal instead of pellet.”
Overall, he comments, “These little changes must have really worked because the gains were tremendous.”
In anticipating the cattle to be sold, Pingetzer adds that they are currently backing cattle off the test ration in preparation for the change in ownership.
“We back things off to make sure the cattle adjust to new ownership after they are sold during our March 11 sale,” Pingetzer says.
Full results from the test are available on page A9.