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9 April 2003
Letter from America by Expatriate Scot
Tullyfergus Herd, Lyons, New York, USA
(Filed 8 April 2003)
Its difficult to believe that it is nearly
5 years since Linda and I, along with our son Oliver, dispersed
our Tullyfergus Aberdeen Angus herd in order to start a new life
breeding, what else? Angus cattle in the USA.
Originally we came over to manage an existing
herd here in Upstate New York but unfortunately that did not work
out as planned. So we decided to set up the second Tullyfergus herd
which was based on a core of 30 cows selected from the herd we came
to manage, and moved onto the farm we purchased when we first came
over in October 98. Whilst here we have also been blessed
with the birth of a second child, Charlotte, born in October 3rd
Thats the background. What are we doing
now? In this article I will talk a little about how we went about
creating a brand and a market for our genetics and some of the events
and organizations we have participated in.
The Tullyfergus brand.
Branding, one of the hot and current buzz
words of the beef industry.
As new Angus breeders we had to create
both a niche in an already burgeoning market and also a recognizable
name that would identify us from the rest. The first step was to
activate a plan I had been formulating while still in Scotland;
that was to set up a marketing program for our bull buyers feeder
(weaned suckler) calves that would give them a premium price and
also return carcass data.
Of course if you are going to set yourself up
as providing high quality feeder steers produced from your genetics
you have to have some inside knowledge of how your cattle perform
already. Because we selected our foundation stock from the herd
we managed we had already studied the kill sheets from cattle finished
out of the herd and discovered that they graded, on average, choice,
yield grade 3 or better. To translate that into the EUROP system
it would approximate R conformation or better with 4H fat class.
It was also marbled beef to the degree of about 5.0% or more intramuscular
According to the data, we had the genetics with
which to back our claims to the potential feeder buyers. We also
had several herds to which we had sold bulls and who had previously
been marketing their steers through local sale barns (auction marts).
Over the past 5 years this program has returned, on average, a premium
of 10 cents / lb over the market, or $99 / head on a 550lb (250kg)
steer. We also offer guarantees to the buyers of these calves that
the group will be of uniform weight, within given parameters usually
450lbs to 650lbs (200kgs to 300kgs) within a given age range (usually
born March 1st to June 1st for December 15th delivery), weaned,
eating grain and having completed a vaccination program for respiratory
and clostridial diseases, pasturella and somnus. They will also
have been treated with a pour-on wormer. Weaning management plays
an important role in future carcass quality, and study after study
has demonstrated the value of keeping calves healthy and thriving
through the traumatic experience of weaning and maintaining growth
rates. So that, essentially, is the program which gives tangible
returns to both the seller and the buyer. Our payoff comes from
selling our yearling bulls at a price we can dictate whereby we
can turn a profit.
New York is an extremely difficult place to market
bulls of any beef breed as there is an underlying belief that a
bull is only worth beef price, or perhaps less! For many producers
the bull is simply there to settle the cows. Herd improvement is
rarely considered, in part due to the fact that they take their
calves to sale barn and get, on average, 15 to 20 cents / lb less
than the producers of feeder calves in the main beef producing States
like Nebraska, the Dakotas, Montana and Missouri. Multiply
20 cents / lb by 500, then again by 30 and you are looking at an
additional $3,000 on the sale of one bulls progeny! Thats
clearly why the ranchers west of the Mississippi tend to pay, on
average $2,000 to $4,000 for Angus bulls whereas in New York the
average price for an Angus yearling bull will be closer to $1000
It is obvious that $1000 for a bull is not enough,
given that you will be expected to stand behind that bull should
something untoward happen, given that our bulls average between
660lbs and 750lbs (300 and 340kgs) at 200 days which, if we sold
them through our own program as steers, would realize somewhere
around $550 to $600. Add in development cost to a year of age, at
minimum $1 / day, more realistically $1.35, would add another $160
to $200 per head, plus the registration fees and AI service certificates
and you are already in to the bull for $750 to $850. Advertising,
trucking, veterinary costs and all still to be added, and then selling
that bull for $1000 makes it look more like a charitable exercise
than a business! We basically price bulls from $1,500 and up, depending
on pedigree, performance and potential. We make every effort to
fit the bull to the customer in order to show them the biggest improvement
we can in their calf crop, followed by marketing those calves for
the highest dollar we can.
Our experience has shown we can keep our bull
buyers with this strategy and also, as time goes on, they place
an order for a bull that will complement a previous purchase. They
will place less emphasis on what they like and more on our recommendation
of what will work best for them (and we try not to keep or develop
The second step we took was to develop a functional
The dam of Braveheart was the first cow we flushed,
and from her first flush we got 7 calves, 4 heifers and 3 bulls.
Since then we have a further 4 daughters and 2 sons along with a
natural heifer calf from her.
We also purchased a donor cow from the Forever
Lady cow family, which has gained immense prominence here in North
America, and stems from Forever Lady 395GDAR who some of you will
recognize as the dam of Oscar 711. Our donor is a daughter of GDAR
Forever Lady 11, who is the only daughter of 395 sired by one of
the best female producing bulls the breed has seen Traveler 124
GDAR, and sired by VDAR Rito 953 who himself is a very well known
sire, being a son of Rito 2100GDAR and out of Miss Wix 903 of McCumber.
We have flushed this cow to a number of bulls and while the number
of embryos produced has been low we will put all production into
recipients this summer.
After running a total AI program for the past
3 years, which has maintained both calving interval and conception
rates whilst infusing new genetics into the herd, this year we have
purchased a herd sire to clean up after a one shot AI program. SAV
New Day 2317 is from the Schaff Angus Valley program in North
Dakota and is a son of a bull we will be using heavily in our AI
program; Boyd New Day 8005 and out of a daughter of Bon View Bando
598. We will also be using an AI sire called SAV 8180 Traveler
004 who is out of New Day 8005s flush sister. For the
yearling heifers we will be breeding AI to Bon View New Design 878
who is out of a Bando 598 daughter.
With the use of these 3 AI sires and our natural
service bull we will be able to neatly tie together all of our bloodlines
and improve EPDs for growth, milk and ribeye whilst maintaining
marbling, mature size and carcass weights and lowering birth weights.
To say were excited about the next generation is an understatement!
2003 also sees our first production sale, scheduled
for November 1st, and in cooperation with 3 other Angus breeders
from our region of NY State. We plan to catalog 20 lots that will
include cow / calf pairs, bred yearling heifers, heifer & steer
calves with show potential and some embryo pregnancies. We might
also offer our Forever Lady cow for sale if we get good conception
rates on our embryos.
From the start we have taken an active role in
the State beef producers association and the State Angus association.
I am currently vice-president of the Western NY beef producers and
a director on the State association board. I am also vice-president
of the NY Angus Association. We have exhibited cattle at the NY
beef expo and at the NY State Fair in Syracuse, along with participating
in a number of beef producer events such as the Empire Farm Days
(EFD) (think Highland Show machinery lines!), which also includes
an exhibit tent and beef BBQ which is extremely popular with attendees.
We organized a commercial Angus open day that
proved very popular at a farm that has been using our genetics,
and which also acts as a cooperator herd for our embryo program.
We are planning a similar event for this August to run during the
EFD located just a few miles to the north.
In addition we established an Angus breeders
calf show, similar to the Black Beauty Bonanza at Thainstone, and
which attracted over 50 entries in its first year. The show, however,
was a little unconventional in that it involved judging the cattle
unled and unfitted in small paddocks, a format that many people
enjoyed as there was no way for the judge to know which animal belonged
to which exhibitor!
To parallel with the registered Angus herd we
have also started a consulting business called Angus Genetic
Solutions. It is a service to both commercial and registered
breeders offering advice and strategies for using and acquiring
Angus genetics for their new or established herds. For a small subscription
we offer a monthly e-newsletter highlighting various aspects of
the registered and commercial business including promising new sires,
proven sires that may have been overlooked by the mainstream, marketing
outlooks and opportunities.
Robert, Linda, Oliver & Charlotte Groom
Tullyfergus Angus Herd
8974 Cole Rd.
Lyons, NY. 14489
001 315 946-8204 e-mail;
Further Reading Recommended by Land-Care
Sundstrom, Brian (2002). Breedplan - Australian Based International
Beef Cattle Genetic Evolution Programme.
(Filed 2002, www.land-care.org.uk,
click here to
Hammack, Stephen P. and Paschal, Joe C. Expected Progeny Difference
(EPD) in Beef Cattle. The Texas A&M University System. (Download