True or False: Gelbvieh-influenced and/or Balancer-influence calves won't grade and won't work on the grid.
If you answered "False," you are correct.
Judd Ranch bull customers who have been following their Gelbvieh-influenced and Balancer-influenced fat cattle on the rail and selling on the grid have found that their Judd Ranch-influenced Gelbvieh- and Balancer-influenced cattle outperform the U.S. industry average of 7 percent to 8 percent Prime and 70 percent Choice. And they either meet or surpass the averages of the American Gelbvieh Association's 2017 Steer Challenge and Scale and Rail Carcass Contest where 85 percent or more of the 107 Balancer steers from across the country graded Choice or better.
Performing on the Rail
Greg Shilling, Shilling Brothers, Kansas, has been purchasing Judd Ranch bulls since 2013, zeroing in on bulls that combine strong maternal traits with growth traits and carcass traits.
This past May, Shilling Brothers' sold 36 head of Judd Ranch-sired fats to National Beef on the grid: 34 of the 36 graded Choice or higher, with 12 YG 1's, 17 YG 2's and five YG 3's. In July, they sold another group-this time 39 head-to National Beef. Three of those graded Prime, with the remaining 36 head grading Choice or higher. Yield grade showed four YG 1's, 18 YG 2's and 12 YG 3's.
"These two groups were high," Greg comments." We typically average, however, 75 percent Choice or higher. I am not a professional feedyard by any means, and sometimes I move cattle quicker or slower than I should. These two groups, however, were right on the money."
Greg says he doesn't push their cattle as hard as some people. Shilling Brothers background and slow grow, utilizing their self-produced roughage. Then they grain feed for, what Greg calls, "a bit longer than conventional practices."
"I may not be the sharpest geneticist or cattle feeder in the world, but I know our Gelbvieh X Continental cattle are grading pretty doggone good."
What might surprise a lot of people is that the calves involved were crossbred Continentals: Judd Ranch Gelbvieh and Balancer bulls X another Continental breed of cow.
Commercial cowman Gerald Merz from Missouri has had a similar "happy camper" experience as Shilling Brothers selling his Gelbvieh- and Balancer-influenced fats on the grid.
Every steer in Gerald's first load of 36 head of fats this year graded Choice or better, with 14 of the 36 grading Prime and 11 qualifying for the CAB program. Sired by Judd Ranch purebred Gelbvieh bulls and out of Angus cows, these steers were what Gerald calls "the industry's highly desired Continental X British crosses."
In another group of Judd Ranch Gelbvieh- and Balancer-influenced fats 11 out of 18 went Prime and four or five went CAB. All were Choice or higher.
The Missouri cattleman's formula for success: Judd Ranch purebred Gelbvieh and Balancer bulls on Angus and Angus X Judd Ranch-influenced females.
"I've been using performance bulls for more years than I can count and have been retaining ownership and selling on the rail for 15 to 20 years. I figure I can either get paid for my better genetics or someone else will," Gerald states.
"With the dryness, I've been weaning the middle of August. The calves go on silage and a little corn. They stay on that ration, and I increase their corn as they get bigger. They're 17 to 18 months old when they are harvested.
"As the kill sheets show, Judd Ranch Gelbvieh-sired and Balancer-sired cattle are definitely performing mighty fine on the rail for me."
Bill and Kathy Stoltz, BK Ranch, Wisconsin, are among the cow-calf producers who expect more from their Gelbvieh-influenced cattle and simply wouldn't be happy if only 7 to 8 percent of their fat cattle went Prime.
"We're getting right at 50 percent Prime, and it's been a long time since we had any cattle grade less than Choice," Bill states.
The cattle that have been performing so well on the rail for Bill and Kathy are "more Gelbvieh than anything else." The Stoltz's cowherd has a "bit of Angus" in them and a whole lot of Judd Ranch Gelbvieh. Bill adds that, the last five to six years, they have been using straight Gelbvieh bulls.
"If people think Gelbvieh and Balancers won't grade, then they might want to pick different bulls," Bill interjects. "A lot of how cattle grade hinges on picking the right bulls. I am really fussy about buying bulls with good carcass values, and that has been paying off."
Tracy Lake, a cow-calf producer from Idaho, has been using Judd Ranch bulls for close to 20 years. He's also been feeding out cattle and selling them on the grid for the same amount of time. His 1,500 head of mother cows are black crossbreds: primarily Gelbvieh X Simmental or Gelbvieh X Angus.
Using Charolais bulls on his Judd Ranch-influenced Gelbvieh cross females, his calves are been averaging 61 to 64 percent on yield. Tracy estimates that, on average, his steers hit about 10 percent Prime and 70 percent Choice-or better.
"Genetics are important, and feed is equally important," he tells. "We like to turn over the cattle. As soon as we think they will grade, they sell on the grid."
Tracy attributes being successful on the grid to two factors: genetics and feed. And he's adamant that it takes a darn good cow to produce a good calf that performs start to finish.
"We love our Gelbvieh-influenced cows," he continues. "I can't say enough good about our Gelbvieh crossbred cows. Their calves perform well on the rail."
Mark Wray started feeding cattle when he got out of college. At first he purchased what he thought was "really good calves" from the auction barn. But, despite the calves being Angus, he said the calves were missing the boat when they hung on the rail.
"Then I heard a guy giving a presentation say that the best animal you can feed is a Continental X British cross, and that got me to thinking," Mark elaborates.
"I knew Judd Ranch just down the road had the best Continental cattle out there and I could raise my own cattle and benefit from selling them on the grid. Plus I could improve my cowherd at the same time.
"So I started buying Judd Ranch bulls-purebred Gelbvieh-and putting them on our 300 Angus mama cows. I knew that with Judd Ranch bulls that I would get bulls that excel in maternal traits and growth traits and my calves would be that highly desired Continental X British cross."
This commercial cowman from Kansas says his first set of home-raised Judd Ranch-influenced Continental X British cross calves hung on the rail "really well."
"But the big benefit to using Judd Ranch bulls was once my Judd Ranch-influenced heifers were in production," he explains. "For the past three years, I've been putting Judd Ranch Balancer bulls on my crossbred (Angus X Gelbvieh) females and 'Wow!'. Our yield on those calves went up a full percent.
"That's a $20 to $30 a head premium."
Mark adds that, year in and year out, 10 to 11 percent of his calves are grading Prime and another 80 percent are grading Choice. That's 90 to 91 percent consistently grading Choice or better.
He points out that Judd Ranch genetics are giving him the yield he needs to sell on the grid, without sacrificing quality grade.
"We've been using Judd genetics to make better mama cows, and we're picking up some yield at the same time," Mark states. "The myth out there that Gelbvieh or Balancers won't sire calves that will work on the grid is not accurate. It's just that-a myth. It's a false belief."
"Our calves and the premium we've been getting are proof that Gelbvieh-cross and Balancer-cross calves work on the grid. Heck, I sure enjoy that extra $20 to $30 per head."