Bulines utilize data to improve quality and consistency
Crowheart – Jim and Pam Buline and their son Robert have actively participated in the WBCIA bull test for around 15 years and are being honored as the 2010 WBCIA Seedstock Producer of the Year.
The family ranches at Crowheart where their hay ground is supplemented by a summer forest grazing lease above Dubois. The operation consists of half registered and half commercial Angus cows. All cows are run together and are on the American Angus Association Herd Improvement Record System (AHIR). About 30 replacement heifers and 15 to 20 bulls are kept annually. The rest of the calves are shipped to Iowa, where Jim’s brother feeds them to fats.
“We feed those calves for Meyers Natural Angus. For the last 10 years our calves have been 85 percent choice or higher and marketed on a grid. To obtain this level of performance we have continually paid close attention to ribeye area and fat EPD’s,” explains Buline.
“I like to analyze all the calves at the end of the year and compare how much each calf brought. We know exactly what each animal made for us and that’s what I look at for culling within my herd. I find it very interesting that one animal can make you a $100 more than the average and another can lose you $50. There’s sickness and different things you have to justify within that, but I think it’s really important to note performance differences and carcass quality,” says Buline.
Buline believes in utilizing data in every aspect of his operation. “We get data back on everything we raise in one form or another. In addition to carcass and weight data on our calves, we ultrasound our replacement heifers every year. The bulls we put in the WBCIA are weight tested extensively. I really like the PAP testing, ultrasounding and DNA testing that is conducted on the bulls. It all comes back to a more accurate EPD,” says Buline.
Light birth weight and maternal traits are the primary focus for females in Buline’s herd. Replacement heifers are AI’d to a maternal bull. Young cows are naturally bred to a maternal sire and older cows are bred to a moderate carcass sire.
“In the feedlot I don’t notice much of a difference between the sire types because they’re all moderate and functional. They have to be,” explains Buline.
“Every bull or heifer retained for breeding purposes is out of a high ratio-ing female. Any cow can have one good calf in her lifetime, but very few are consistently high indexing cows with a great calf every year. Those are the cows whose offspring we want to keep in production,” says Buline.
“I have always noticed and appreciated the different types of cattle people produce. We probably have a pretty specific type at our place – it’s a result of our available resources. We probably breed a few cattle tighter than most people would, but I really like the result of them being very similar,” says Buline.
One unique management issue the Buline’s face are predators on their summer grazing lease. “When our cattle are on the forest they’re exposed to wolves and grizzly bears and some years are better than others in dealing with them. We have a full time rider who keeps tabs on everything as best he can. When we experience a loss we contact the appropriate people as quickly as possible. It can be difficult keeping cattle where they’re supposed to be, but we always try,” comments Buline.
The family’s biggest goal is to continue to improve the quality of their calves since they are the primary source of annual income. “I would like them to marble a little better and get into a little higher quality grade,” says Buline.
Raising bulls is something Buline enjoys because it gives him quality control on his herd. “I’m trying to produce a bull that would be beneficial to myself and guys in operations similar to mine. I don’t buy too many bulls and really like producing my own,” he says.
The Bulines’ commitment to quality has been long standing at the WBCIA and last year they raised the high selling bull at the test. Utilization of data combined with strict genetic selection has resulted in a high quality set of cattle that thrive in their home environment in addition to performing well in a variety of feeding situations.