Arizona Rancher Says Raising Quality Beef is a CallingTue, 13 May 2014 12:24:43 CDT
When Chuck Backus bought his Arizona ranch, the career scientist's first goal was range improvement. He methodically increased the land's productivity and now he's doing the same thing with the cattle that inhabit it.
"We've come a long way but we still have a lot of bottom end clearing to do to get rid of all of those who are either select carcass producers-they all look good-but I've learned now over the last several years that you can't judge anything by looking at a cow."
Keeping comprehensive records, increasing Angus genetics and using artificial insemination have helped his cattle reach more than 70-percent Certified Angus Beef and prime. Backus retains ownership of his calves on feed, so that's important to him. But, he says, everyone in the business should look to improve.
"If you have below-quality-priced cattle, you're going to get less and less for them compared with that commodity price. If you have above-average cattle, you'll get more and more above that commodity price. So it should pay, then, to try and produce. But in order to produce them, you have to keep data on your animals."
Recent history shows the spread in premiums and discounts continues to widen as buyers know more than ever about the cattle they purchase regardless of how they're procured.
"A lot of our ranchers in Arizona don't collect data. They don't really know how good their cattle are. They sell them as weaners and never hear from them again, so they have no idea what they are producing. They may have a group of calves they think are really a good set. They are good looking calves and that's all they know. And, so, I'm trying to emphasize you've got to measure things on your cows. You've got to choose your bulls by EPDs and not just how good they look in order to improve the herd and get the better price."
Although it is about making more money, Backus says producing quality beef is also a calling.
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