Calf checks. In fact, calf checks belonging to other cow/calf producers. That is what caused Brent Bettels of Amoret, Mo., to add Gelbvieh-particularly Judd Ranch Gelbvieh- to his sire battery that was comprised strictly of Angus. Then it was his own calf checks that convinced him to go replace every Angus bull with a Judd Ranch Gelbvieh bull.
"Before my current position at Allen Bank, I was the bank's agricultural lending officer and had numerous calf checks come across my desk in payment of loans," Bettels says. "A couple of our customers handed over big checks that were quite impressive. The 'big' wasn't due to number of calves sold; it was due to the pounds of calf weaned and the price the calves received at the sale barn.
"When I started comparing my calf checks with those of a couple of our bank customers, I realized that they knew something that I didn't and that I needed to find out what they were doing different."
Two of Bettels' first steps were to pay close attention to the calves of bank customers when he was making on-farm inspections for loans and to ask about the bulls being used. The next step was to find out where these producers were buying their bulls.
The bulls siring the most impressive calves, Bettels states, came from Judd Ranch. Thus, in 2002, Bettels purchased 2 Judd Ranch bulls. The next year, he purchased three more head.
"Through the years, we have slowly switched all bulls from Angus to Gelbvieh-Judd Ranch Gelbvieh," Bettels says.
JR- Influenced Calves
Today, every calf born at Bettels' farm is Judd Ranch-sired. That's calves out of 750 cows: 500 spring calving cows and 250 fall calving cows. About two-thirds of the dams are Angus base while the remaining one-third of females are Simmental-cross, Charolais-cross and other crossbreds.
Birth weights out of Judd Ranch bulls hover around 85 pounds.
"That is very mangeable." Bettels states. "In fact, I pull just two to four calves a year and the reason is a leg back or something along those lines."
"I can flat state that we have no problems with birth weight of calves out of Judd Ranch bulls."
While he's a happy camper about birth weights, this Missouri cow/calf producer is even happier about the weaning weights of his calves. His Judd Ranch-sired calves are averaging 625 pounds at weaning. That's a hefty increase of 100 pounds over his calves sired by Angus bulls.
"To put this in perspective, last year we weaned off all of our calves and then preconditioned them," Bettels tells. "After preconditioning, the Judd Ranch-sired calves hit the scales averaging 625 pounds on sale day. The calves by the last few Angus bulls left on the place needed an additional 75 days to hit the 600-pound range, and even having 75 more days to put on more weight, they still did not hit what the Gelbvieh calves did 75 days earlier.
"That's 75 days more of feed and labor. Easy decision why we now have strictly Judd Ranch bulls."
But the advantages don't end there. Bettels has found a following of buyers for his Judd Ranch-sired calves. He says the guys at the sale barn where he markets his calves share the positive feedback they receive from buyers.
"One guy who buys a group of our calves backgrounded them, then returns to sell them at the sale barn where he bought them," Bettels relates. "From what I understand, he was pleased with how the calves had performed. He was pleased enough to make a special trip back to bid on my fall calves but was outbid."
Calves Top the Market
In addition to impressive weaning weights and ready buyers, Bettels' Judd Ranch-sired calves are topping the market.
"Financial advancement is the one reason why I use only Judd Ranch bulls," Bettels states. "Calves by our Judd Ranch bulls have enabled us to pay off our cow debt faster."
I am 33 years old, and we have 750 cows that are very close to being totally paid off," he shares. "Those payments have been made with calf checks, and it's the Judd Ranch-sired calves that have contributed the most. After all, our Judd Ranch calves have been returning an additional $100 or so per head over the calves sired by other bulls."