I feel like I always do my brainstorming for these posts while I am at work...usually processing piglets on a Saturday morning. I tend to let my mind wander away from the pigs and focus on my cattle. Weird I know, but sometimes even my radio headphones don't help with listening to the little piggies squeal...
Last weekend I had the privilege to represent my county at our Michigan Young Farmers Leadership Conference where I was able to listen to a variety of speakers including some on the direct marketing concept. I was able to try and reinforce my current knowledge base with some new info and that got me thinking... what's our farm plan or what's our philosophy?
As someone that was pretty much born into being a Dexter breeder... (literally my family has had Dexters for 30 years, and I am now 26 with my own small herd) I need to have a breeding philosophy. Every breeder should.
So, what's the goal? What are your preferences? Everyone has them... even if they haven't put anything down on paper or really thought about it. Subconsciously we all have things we like and dislike. So mine? I like a well rounded Dexter... one that can sufficiently produce a calf every year that is hopefully better than the dam. Said calf needs to either be able to become a strong brood cow/bull that is lucky enough to have that "Shamrock" name or be able to put some of the best beef around on the table. As I have mentioned in previous posts, structure is so unbelievably important. We need to be able to produce the best possible product that we can- beef or breeding stock. Just because we have heifer calves, doesn't mean that they are worthy of being kept around as breeding stock. Heifers actually get fatter faster. They will be able to put out a high quality graded product with less feed. However, they will finish at lower weights. In short, heifers eat just as good or even BETTER than steers.
There are genetic preferences as well though... we all have them in our breeding program.
~Horns? For us, we strive to keep that horned aspect of the breed. Our whole herd (30ish cows now?) are all horned, most are dehorned though. You need more space and heavier duty equipment for horns...but like I said we do have a couple just to show what they look like. ( I should note that a few weeks ago we did buy a small herd that had a handful of polled animals in it... however we will be looking to sell most them.)
~Color? Color doesn't matter to us, we have all three recognized colors but put no preference on any of them.
~Milk beta casein status? We don't really put preference on this either...we do test majority of our young stock though as we do sell some heifers to be milk cows later in life.
~Height? Our cows are all non-Chondrodysplasia meaning in the old terms "long legged." We don't have the stereotypical short Dexter and that's ok with us. Taller Dexters=heavier carcasses for our beef customers.
So in short? (ha, at least I tried...) Breed the best animals that you possibly can with what is available to you. We are trying and I feel like most of the time succeeding... especially since we are still around after 30 years. There are so many more aspects of to breeding these wonderful cattle that I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.
Do you have a breeding philosophy? If not, I hope you start thinking about it...
~Until Next Time