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How to Make Reproductive Strategies Pay:
A Seedstock Perspective

Seedstock producers have responsibility to ensure they aren’t proliferating fertility problems for their customers genetically.

by Troy Smith, field editor, for Angus Journal

It is heard repeatedly at nearly any cattlemen’s meeting where discussion includes both genetics and reproduction. Apparently, people need to be reminded that fertility is “the” most important trait of beef cattle. According to Galen Fink, it is the responsibility of seedstock producers like himself to address challenges to fertility through the genetics they provide to commercial cattle producers.

“We can fix some fertility problems with genetics,” stated Fink, whose family operation near Randolph, Kan., annually markets some 700 bulls representing two breeds.

Galen Fink Galen Fink challenged seedstock breeders to consider whether the fertility of their customers’ cattle might be challenged by “man-made” problems.

Speaking in Manhattan, Kan., during the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) Workshop hosted Aug. 29-30, Fink noted several potential problem areas that seedstock breeders should prioritize. These included feet and other structural soundness issues in seedstock and semen viability of yearling bulls. Fink pointed out that hair coats that don’t shed out in summer are problematic, particularly in hot humid climates. He also called extremely large mature cow size and high milk production antagonisms to high conception rates.

“All of these things do affect fertility, but we can control them with genetics,” said Fink, who issued a challenge to seedstock producers. “Can you look your commercial customers in the eye and tell them you are doing all you can to produce genetics that promote better fertility?”

Fink challenged breeders to consider whether the fertility of their customers’ cattle might be challenged by “man-made” problems, such as keeping a subfertile purebred cow in production and passing her genetics along to customers. He called low fertility due to “fattening” of bulls during development a huge problem. He also called the use of “rare and valuable” semen another issue that sometimes contributes to low fertility.

“Why is it rare and valuable? Is it from a proven sire that produced good semen until he died at 15 years of age, or is it from a bull that never did produce good semen?” asked Fink.

“We have to be alert,” cautioned Fink, “so we don’t create problems that will have long-term negative effects for the commercial producer.”

To listen to Fink’s presentation or to view his PowerPoint, visit the Newsroom at Compiled by the Angus Journal editorial team, the site is made possible through sponsorship by the Beef Reproduction Task Force.

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, New Mexico.

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.