Selling Bred Heifers
What makes an operation successful.
“Boy, heifers are a lot cheaper.”
That’s what Doug O’Hare’s father told him on the phone years ago while he was buying steers to feed at their ranch near Ainsworth, Neb. After some debate, heifers were purchased, and later bred and sold.
“It worked,” O’Hare told his audience those attending the ARSBC symposium. So began the bred heifer program at O’Hare Ranch.
The first year, O’Hare Ranch purchased, bred and sold 500 heifers. The cow herd was sold to focus on the bred heifer program. The next year, the ranch purchased, bred and sold 1,200 heifers. Today, they’re up to 1,800.
“A lot of the callers that called on the heifers wanted to know if they were pelvic measured, wanted to know the EPD of the bulls and wanted to know the background of the heifers,” O’Hare said. “We didn’t know any of that.”
The next set of 1,200 heifers was pelvic-measured, artificially inseminated (AI), and pregnancy checked by a dairy veterinarian. O’Hare called the first year “a disaster,” with about a 33% conception rate. The following year, O’Hare Ranch utilized ABS Global to set up an AI breeding program, using MGA with a shot of prostaglandin ] on Day 17. A few years later, O’Hare Ranch partnered with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to experiment with giving the shot on Day 19. Accuracy of heat detection and conception rates improved.
Today, O’Hare Ranch breeds about 1,800 heifers in three days using a double alley and Bud Box system. They still use MGA for 14 days with a prostaglandin shot on Day 19. All heifers are given a shot of GnRH at breeding.
A few years ago, the ranch partnered with ABS and UNL to try out CIDRs. In a trial, 1,400 heifers were split into two groups of 700 head: One group received CIDRs for 14 days and the other group received MGA for 14 days. The results were very similar, O’Hare says, and they scrapped the CIDR idea for the original MGA, prostaglandin and GnRH system.
What’s made the ranch successful?
“We try to buy good heifers,” O’Hare said. All heifers are purchased Angus or Angus-Hereford-cross. Heifers are still pelvic-measured and palpated prior to sale.
Customer service keeps customers returning, O’Hare said. The ranch keeps track of purchasers and keeps in contact to ensure customer satisfaction.
“Service is a big seller,” he said.
Even with the ranch’s success over the years, O’Hare said there have been plenty of mistakes.
“Do not run your heifers through the chute on Day 5, 6 or 7,” O’Hare said. “It’s a very fragile state for the embryo.”
O’Hare also emphasized the importance of minimizing stress. The double alley and Bud Box system minimizes stress on cattle and people.
“AI has been a big seller for us,” he said, adding that O’Hare Ranch has utilized the same sire for 12 years. “Our customers like him, we like him.”
Ultimately, what’s made the ranch successful is the use of AI, the use of ultrasound, the use of pelvic measurement and good customer service, O’Hare concluded.
O'Hare spoke during Tuesday’s ARSBC session focused on application of reproductive technologies. Visit the Newsroom at www.appliedreprostrategies.com, which features comprehensive coverage of the symposium, to listen to his presentation. Compiled by the Angus Journal editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force. To access video of the presentations, visit the Beef Reproduction Task Force page on Facebook.
The 2017 ARSBC Symposium was hosted by the Task Force and Kansas State University Research & Extension. Next year’s symposium will be Aug. 29-30 in Ruidoso, N.M.
Editor's Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal, an Angus Media publication. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270.