Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Perfect Cow - My Journey

Mother told me my second word was 'horse.'  I have often said I was born to be a horsewomen!  At the tender age of eight I started taking hunt seat lessons.  The only saddles I have not ridden were are racing and sidesaddle.  My favorite is dressage and I affectionately call it yoga on horseback.  As the horse market changed over the last two decades, I made the decision to always own an equine but I wouldn't participate in a market breeding horses due to changing perceptions of horses were now pets instead of livestock.

I started Lynn and James with rabbits in 4-H due to where we lived at the time.  What a wonderful journey that was teaching Lynn the principles I learned from so many knowledgeable horseman and horsewomen in the Arabian world.  I read and read and read some more on breeding the perfect Arabian.  I studied pedigrees memorizing them then went to look at pictures of the horses in those pedigrees at the tender age of eleven.  I studied the photos of their offspring.  What I learned is that one will never breed the perfect Arabian but one could come darn close.  When it came to the rabbits James went a different direction which was a Great Thing.  Lynn became determined to breed the perfect rabbit.  As rightly she learned you will never reach perfection but come darn close.  Her efforts result in many show wins and three National Championships.

From rabbits we moved to cattle.  And as I have written before Flying J&L Ranch was born in 2001 with Santa Gertrudis Cattle.  In 2006 we moved into Lowlines for numerous reasons I've written about.  Our first two animals had their registrations in the 5000's.  Our ranch registered the animal with the number 10,000.  We are now pushing 18,000 animals registered in the breed.  At the time I began to study Arabian pedigrees there were about that number registered in AHR, now known as AHA.  Once again I take the principles I learned with Arabians to the Lowlines

What is the perfect cow?  To me she must be pleasing to the eye, correct in conformation, efficient on pasture, longevity in producing a calf one year to the next, produce milk in abundance, have proper udder stucture, and excellent leg structure.  In my mind neither is more important then the other.  Yet I still find myself looking at legs first.  The adage a horse is only as good as his four legs can also apply to a cow.

As I did with Arabians I have studied pedigrees, studied pictures, and dream of breeding that perfect cow.  We were so fortunate as seed stock producers to have from 2007-2012 heifer years.  Three of those years we had a 3/1 ratio of heifers to bull calves as we built our Lowline herd and beef herd.  This year has been a huge flip.  We are at a 3/1 ratio of bull calves to heifers.  My husband somewhat dismayed by that ratio was gently reminded we were due for this to happen and how fortunate we were to have an abundance of steers to sell in 18 months as beef.  I am always reminded that with each year's calf crop there is always a rainbow in the result.  Last year I quietly didn't say anything about who the Fullblood Lowline cows were bred to.  About half of them I patiently wait for a heat and put them with the bull I wanted them to be bred to.  Last night he commented on what a great job I had done in my breeding choices.  'The calf crop looks great, how did you do that?  They are all nice calves even if they are mostly bulls.'  I smile as Lynn and I have picked out three bull calves so far to develop.  I have over the last six years explained to him the principles of breeding an animal.  Again last night I explained.  Next year I will be taking a few of the cows and heifers we have bred try something I learned from breeding Arabians, linebreeding.  This will be a true test with such a small gene pool in the Lowlines.  I don't believe we can do an inbreeding cross and come out ahead.  I think the closest we can come is linebreeding grandparent to grandchild.  If that cross works then I might try half sister to half brother.  Honestly, I also think the emphasis should be on the dam lines just as it is in the Straight Egyptian Arabians when I try linebreeding.  We put way to much emphasis on bulls as we do stallions in this country.  Your dam lines as I study the most  successful Lowlines become even more important factor in any breeding of offspring.

At this point I also want to thank Jeannette Stebbins of Ardrossan Stud in South Victoria, Australia for her wonderful insights into the Lowline Cattle.  She is now the only remaining charter member of ALCA, from when the Lowline Cattle were released from Trangie and Glen Innes herds.  She, too, like the founding Straight Egyptian breeders in our country place the emphasis on the dam lines.  Thank you, Jeannette and Peter for visiting last week after HLSR and affirming we are moving in the right direction.  We also appreciate all of your great advice!  We look forward to your next visit!

I end this with I dream of that cow I breed who will be the Perfect Cow who 'Performs in the pasture and dresses up for Sunday Shows.'  A cow were Form and Function Meet, as the motto we live by.

Thank you to Alice Womble-Heitmann owner of Horse Gate Ranch Brahman Cattle for the quote in the above paragraph!  My dream will be very close to reality in the future as I will never reach perfection but I will become darn close! 

1 comment:

Juliana said...

My...I made it to the end of this and I actually learned quite a bit! It is all really quite fascinating!!!