Genetics are very important when raising cattle. Many people do not know, but cattle come in a variety of breeds, just like dogs or horses. Angus is my favorite. Herefords are next. Cattle breeds are divided into two groups: milk breeds and beef breeds. The Angus breed is considered a beef breed, although making milk is an important quality for any cow. Angus are known for three very important qualities. First, excellent marbling. Second, calving ease, and third, milk production.
Marbling is something most beef eaters are familiar with: it means fat. Fat that is interwoven throughout the meat as opposed to just on the edge. I am not that impressed by a well-marbled steak produced by a corn/grain fed animal. That is why you feed corn; to add fat. But a well-marbled steak from a grass fed animal shows that the breeder is using proper genetics and has waited the proper amount of time. Grain speeds things along. A grain fed animal reaches harvest weight anywhere from 4 to 12 months sooner than a grass fed animal. Grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed, and will have less marbling, although there should be some marbling on cuts, especially the ones near the loin.
Calving ease is the ease with which the mother delivers her calf. This is especially important for a Free Range Pasture Based ranch because the mother is out on the ranch delivering her calf without the assistance of humans. If a calf is too big he may get stuck, and if no one is there to help, both mother and calf will suffer. There is a lot involved in selecting cows and bulls so that they are easy calvers. I have been studying genetics since I was 12 years old and my father was studying genetics before that. Our herd is beautiful and made up of good strong mama cows. We keep some of the heifers from our calf crop every year to add to the herd and every few years we pick new bulls. It is an exciting yearly event!
Angus cattle are known for being strong milk producers. This is even more important when raising cattle on grass. Grain is more calorie dense then grass and breeds that are not good milkers need the grain to produce more milk. If you see a skinny calf nursing or trying to nurse a cow that has a lot of flesh that cow is not a good milker. When resources are scarce a cow that is a good milker will lose weight while her baby stays fat. A good mother cow’s weight will fluctuate. When she is lactating she will lose some weight because she is turning all the energy she is eating into milk before using that energy for herself. This is important because calves live off milk before they eat grass. When a cow cannot produce enough milk her calf grows slowly and is not as healthy. A calf that is not as healthy requires more treatment and treatment equals antibiotics and stress.
The Angus temperament, color, and the fact that they are polled are a few more reasons this breed is fantastic . Angus cattle are a calmer breed. Other breeds like Herefords are also calm, and I like Herefords as well. I like Herefords even more when crossed with Angus. A calm animal is less stressed by human interaction and less stress means better meat. Although Herefords are calm like Angus, they are not black like Angus, and they are not all polled like Angus. Having a black hide is a good thing for a few reasons. The dark pigment helps with insect issues, and is less susceptible to pink eye and cancer. All of these things equal less need for treatment. Angus is also a breed that is polled. Polled means that they don’t grow horns. This is important because since they are polled no dehorning is required. Dehorning is a stressful event that Pure Black Angus cattle do not have to be put through.
Besides Angus, we also have a few Herefords and Hereford Angus crosses in our herd. The cows that are not Angus have been selected because they are exceptional examples of their breed and good mothers. We only use Angus bulls. Other breeds make up less than 4% of our herd; the rest are Angus. If you want to know more about the Angus breed or the other breeds I have mentioned, feel free to contact me via the store or at 760-954-0353.
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