By Jim Bradford
Market cattle hit a new high this week – up to a $1.53 – and demand seems to be strong. Pork hit a limit-up the other day. So demand for red meat has been strong, and the demand for breeding stock continues to increase. The cow herd numbers are at their lowest since 1951 due partly to low moisture around the country, but it looks like we could see some expansion in heifer numbers in the coming year.
Buying cattle is a long-term investment. Investing in livestock is a sound strategy in terms of holding your money during times of inflation. It offers somewhat of a safeguard when you hold something tangible, such as land or cattle, as money itself declines in value.
Our livelihood has always been the cattle and, therefore, has forced us to select for economically important traits that pay the bills and educate the kids. Fertility is the number one trait we build upon. We look at many other desirable traits and try to bring them along, but there’s nothing we would do that would demean fertility. We’ve been emphasizing this since 1958.
To understand fertility in our cattle, we’d like to offer the example of one particular cow in our herd. This 13-year-old cow has had 11 calves, with an average weaning ratio of 111. The average calving interval on those 11 calves is 364 days. She is proven, and this is why she’s allowed to become a Brad Z Ranch donor cow.
Jim Bradford (right) with herdsman Josh Eisentrager after Brad Z Ranch steer won second place in 2013 ICA Carcass Challenge.
Our cattle have done well in competition. We had a steer in a carcass challenge held by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association last year, and he earned reserve champion in terms of value per day of age.
We’ve been selling breeding stock for 50-plus years from a herd we built with the expectation that we could make a living from them. We hope to help you do the same. See you at our sale on March 10.
The work of Kansas State University animal science professor, Barry Bradford, son of Brad Z Ranch’s Jim and Mary Bradford, was featured in another article – this one in the Midwest Ag Journal. It explains how milk production varies based on whether the cow’s first calf is male or female. It’s easier to understand if you just read the article yourself. And be sure to ask Jim what research he’s going to try to talk Barry into doing next. He’s got a plan.
Jim and Mary Bradford’s son, Barry, was recently mentioned in a National Geographic article about the milk production of cattle. It was called “Study of 1.5 Million Cows Shows Daughters Get More Milk than Sons” and began:
For decades, the dairy industry has used data to supercharge the humble black-and-white Holstein cow into a milk-producing machine. Across the US, thousands of dairy farmers keep assiduous records about how much milk their cows produce, and the volume and composition of that milk. All of this information feeds into mathematical models that predict the total amount of milk a cow makes over its lifetime. Farmers use this information every day to decide how to care for and breed their animals. As a result, cows today make four times more milk than they did in the 1940s.
The articles described how Barry Bradford, a Kansas State University animal science professor, helped provide data that proved that cows produce more milk on average when they have female calves. The article wrapped up:
All in all, a cow that has a daughter first time round makes around 445 kilograms more milk across her first twolactations than a cow with back-to-back sons. That’s a sizeable amount, equivalent to a production boost of 2.7 percent.
You know how it works on most farms or ranches: one of the adults becomes the main operator while their spouse may play an exceedingly important role, even though that work sometimes goes unnoticed. At Brad Z Ranch, Jim and Mary Bradford have long operated this way. The ranch was Jim’s dream, career and passion, but it has been Mary’s life too. And she has loved living this country life.
We got a reminder of the blessings of life when Mary was discovered in mid-November to have a brain tumor. Within a week, she underwent brain surgery. Luckily, the brain tumor was benign as the doctors had guessed, and the consequences of the surgery itself and a surgery-triggered stroke were moderate to minor considering what might have been. However, by Thanksgiving, shortly after being released post-surgery, Mary was diagnosed with severe pneumonia. It took another month and half before she could be released from the hospital. We don’t know if she was ever so happy to be home after a long two months of almost constant hospitalization. In the few weeks since she has been back, she has regained her strength rapidly and is slowly getting back her old life. We want to thank all of you in our area and in the cattle community who have thought or prayed for Mary in this battle.
Mary Bradford with her just-released book, Green Grass of Home.
To the right is a photo of Mary right before surgery. She had in the preceding months finished writing a book that she had begun long ago. It is called “Green Grass of Home.” In it, she tells the story of her ancestors’ journey from Ireland. As Jim likes to say: Mary, like her ancestors, had a long and difficult road, but has found her way home.
Join us for our 2014 sale on Monday March 10. We have another crop of high producing bulls that will positively impact your herd. We again are offering a select group of females this year.