Posted by: Mary Simpson | November 13, 2010

Cattle farmers introduced to alternative method

by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript and Free Press

A cow bawled outdoors, birds flew overhead and a mouse ran underneath a makeshift screen but the barn lined with award plaques was like home to the select group of farmers who  gathered at the farm of Mike Earley, north of Kerwood, to be introduced to a new method of breeding cattle.

Gearld Fry, a seasoned cattleman and grass genetics expert from Rose Bud, Arkansas, was introduced by Earley who had worked with Stewart Simpson to bring the gathering to fruition.

With a twang in his voice and a cowboy hat on his head, Fry spoke to the group about his methods with the principal that all animals must possess, for profit and sustainability, purity in genetic density, utilization of grass, quality of product, high muscle mass and high reproductive performance.

Fry stressed that there’s a coming storm with “the U.S. feedlots dictating what kind of cattle we should have” and pointing to the lack of proper energy in calves with farmers using maternal bulls and not creating their own. “Five per cent of any commercial calves are as good as any other in the world.”

Suggesting that every cow should winter her calf, with the opposite resulting in an inferior calf, Fry said that farmers need to consider that “a cow is an investment. There’s no ration that will do what butterfat will. It’s incredible what 185 lbs. of buttermilk will do for a calf.”

Asking the group how many ween at seven months, Fry pointed out that if they are doing so, they are stopping the flow of butterfat. “If you cut the mother’s milk short, it will cut the calf’s ability to digest short for the rest of its life.” In discussing bulls, Fry offered advice that “If you create your own bull from your own herd, it will stay with you for eight breeding seasons.”

Offering no preference on the use of grass or supplements, Fry explained that the average calf gives 50 per cent return on grass. “You don’t want half body and half leg.”
Stressing that farmers have a responsibility for what they produce, Fry provided the perspective that “If I produce food and you eat it, I become responsible for your health.”

Saying that five per cent of each farmers’ cows have the correct style and possess genetic density to build strong herds, Fry offered pointers that the same cow should be used to rebuild the herd, that they should not calf until 36 months and that the herd bull should only be taken from the cows.

Outlining his linear measurement process, Fry explained that it is a tool that enables the producer to identify structure weaknesses and strengths.

Bulls with shoulders five to six inches wider than the width of their rumps are better. Stressing that “Form Follows Function,” Fry stated that cows need to be bred at the right time of the year.

Observing his linear measurement guidelines in action on Earley animals, the farmers also shared lunch and more of Fry’s presentation.

Marie Williams-Gagnon, Editor, Transcript & Free Press, Glencoe, Ontario


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