Apex Cattle Provides Genetic Benefits to Customers
Published on Tue, 10/27/2020 - 10:34am
APEX Cattle Provides Genetic Benefits to Customers.
By Heather Smith Thomas.
A breeder’s job is to supply superior genetics to commercial cattlemen, and this is usually facilitated through bull sales, production sales, semen sales, etc. This seedstock breeder takes this job very seriously.
Dan Leo (APEX Cattle, Dannebrog, Nebraska) says he grew up with Herefords, and showed Herefords in 4-H. He has been in the seedstock business since the early 1970’s. Dan is credited with bringing the first Line 1 cattle to Nebraska and having the state's first yearling Hereford bull sale back in 1974.
He has witnessed many positive changes, and tremendous progress over the past fifty years. Some breeds have come and gone, and others have become much better. “I recall when collecting birth and weaning weights first began, then the advent of EPDs, all of which traditional breeders had a very hard time accepting. Back in those days, the show ring dominated breeding selection.
Very few who exhibited at shows of that era are still in business, mostly because showing did not fulfill the needs of the commercial cattleman,” he says.
“Today, DNA technology gives a tremendous advantage to the cattle industry to genomically enhance the value of EPDs. This technology and science is used today by progressive seedstock suppliers, and demanded by bull buyers,” says Dan.
“We maintain about 500 breeding age SimAngus and Angus females, and develop their offspring (age-advantaged coming two-year-old bulls, yearling bulls, replacement females), and raise most of our feed. We have one full-time employee and occasional part-time help for working cattle, sale preparation and calving. At 73 years old, I can’t do what I once did but still do all the AI work, make the breeding decisions and handle all record keeping and I’m responsible for sale and semen promotions. EPDs, performance data, phenotype and good management traits are all very important to us,” he says.
“In our program, only a sire with a strong EPD profile is used, if his phenotype and docility is exceptionally good, and he came from a strong maternal cow family. Our herd sire battery is represented by multiple Simmental and SimAngus sires that rank in the breed’s elite top 1 to 5% for various EPDs, API and TI. Semen is sold domestically and internationally on several APEX-owned sires.”
“To maximize our genetic decisions at APEX Cattle, our entire cowherd, all sires and their progeny have Genomic-Enhanced EPDs. The DNA collection takes time and costs money, but we are confident it provides the very best genetic information possible.
“This is important to our breeding decisions, marketing information and customer’s breeding programs. Multi-trait predictability is astounding, and DNA verification ensures parentage accuracy, which is vital. The projected API (All Purpose Index) average of all our 2021 calves will be within the top 10% of the SimAngus database. Our customers demand and deserve the best, and we intend to make sure they receive the best cattle, genetics and service we can provide.”
The annual Heterosis Headquarters Bull and Bred Heifer Sale will be held Feb. 1 at ranch headquarters. “About two-thirds of the bulls are coming two-year-olds and the other third are yearling bulls that represent some of our newer genetics. Some people need a more mature bull to handle more cows and rougher terrain and some can better utilize a yearling bull. A total of 160 bulls will be sold, giving buyers a good selection and opportunity to assemble sire groups,” he says.
“Our goal has always been to raise cattle that will work in our environment and to produce SimAngus bulls that meet the demands of our customers. Most of our bull buyers run Angus or Angus crossbred cows. Using our SimAngus bulls, producers can maintain calving ease, get extra performance, produce replacement females that will be more productive than their mothers and wean off heavier calves that will have strong buyer demand. Calves are black-hided and have more future profit, yielding better feed yard closeouts. The only thing free in the cattle business is heterosis, and the benefits are huge with a good APEX SimAngus bull!” he explains.
“We believe the combined Simmental and Angus breeds meet the needs of the beef industry--whether calving ease, performance, maternal, stayability or carcass traits. Labor savings, better-producing females with more longevity and soundness, plus heavier pay weights are common among SimAngus cattle. Demand for SimAngus feeder cattle has been exceptionally good with over 35,000 lots marketed through Superior Livestock in the last eight years, reported by a recent KSU research project,” he says.
“Clay Center started their germ plasm project in the early 1970’s and established the added value of heterosis and composite females. Crossbred superior productivity is undisputed, and the SimAngus cross cow performs with the best of them,” Dan says.
“Heterosis is important to sustainability in agriculture, especially for our beef industry today. Grain, poultry and swine early on saw benefits of crossbreeding, and it was done without today’s precise DNA. Today it is nearly impossible to find purebred poultry, swine or grain because they cannot compete in a commercial environment, and I see the long-term future of the beef industry headed that direction,” he explains.
“I embrace DNA technology and heterosis combined with commitment to structural soundness and docility traits for future seedstock. Benefits of heterosis should be on the mind of every commercial cattlemen to achieve maximum profitability with the least labor and lower inputs.”
He feels the SimAngus composite is a great fit for the beef industry, now and in the future. For commercial cattlemen with British or Continental breed-based cowherds, heterosis can make a very positive impact; the crossbred female is best for fertility, longevity and more profitability.
The future of the beef business will depend more and more on composite cattle. I am confident that DNA-enhanced EPD technology will drive our direction, and it will not be by breed dominance; specific individual composite genetics will be the source of our future genetic leadership,” he says.
“Today, thanks to practicality, science, and emphasis on profitability and sustainability, we are in a better place. Adding benefits of heterosis via crossbreeding to the equation, we can take the industry to a whole new level.”