Bradley 3 Ranch Genetics Can Enhance Your Herd

Published on Thu, 11/19/2020 - 2:01pm

 Bradley 3 Ranch Genetics Can Enhance Your Herd.

 By Heather Smith Thomas.

James and Mary Lou Bradley-Henderson run a unique Angus and Charolais seedstock program in the rugged country near Memphis, Texas.  Her great-grandfather, Rufus Jack Bradley, started with Longhorns in the 1870’s, then ran commercial Herefords. In the early 1950s, the ranch started using Angus bulls on Hereford cows--a radical move at that time.

Always innovative, the Bradleys built a beef-processing facility in 1986 to meet demands of consumers--marketing high-quality beef and rewarding participating ranchers with premiums.  B3R Country Meats, Inc. produced one of the first branded beef products with a value-based marketing system, and was one of the original beef processing facilities to produce beef for Certified Angus Beef® brand Natural.  The meat plant was sold in October of 2002 to Booth Creek.

The Bradleys have endured, and so have their cattle.  Their ranch is big and rough with lots of brush.  On a good year it takes 30 acres to run one cow-calf pair.  Cattle must be able to travel long distances for grass and water. Weather can also be a challenge.  It might be 112 degrees in summer and drop to 6 below zero in winter, sometimes with 90-mile-an hour wind.  

Cattle raised in these conditions will work about anywhere for any producer, but not the other way around.  These cattle must be able to travel and be easy keepers.  A hard-doing cow won’t survive here, and won’t breed back again even if she does survive.

“When we had the meat-packing facility (for 18 years) we learned a lot about types of cattle, so our view of registered cattle is different.  We looked at all the data and visited with producers who raised the cattle and the feedyard who fed them, looking at close-out sheets--feed conversion, cost of gain, and data on the rail with red meat yield and quality grade.  If people can understand that we saw $750 difference in value in carcass, they’d want a better bull,” Mary Lou explains. 

All bulls in their catalog have DNA results, to give customers as much data as possible, along with weights. 

“We focus on the whole picture genetically, looking at all traits, not just growth or marbling.  We want a bull that sires daughters that can do the job as cows.”  They won’t be profitable if they can’t hold up, breed back, and stay in the herd a long time.

Cows should last a long time and be profitable, and not have to be replaced too soon with a heifer that costs money to keep and develop. “We keep our best older cows and put a lot of pressure on them to get bred and do everything they need to do in our environment.  This is reason enough for people to consider our genetics.”

The Angus breed has focused too much on growth.  “We haven’t gone that direction; a 1400-1600 pound cow or larger won’t work in our situation, and won’t work for most commercial ranchers.  We look at how many pounds we generate on a per-acre basis rather than pounds per cow.  We want to run more medium-sized cattle (1180-1250 pounds) because they wean off a higher percent of their own body weight than a bigger cow.  We post that data—what percent of her body weight she weaned--in the catalog,” Mary Lou explains.

The ranch offers Angus and Charolais bulls with complete data, including weights, ultra-sound, gnomically enhanced EPD’s, etc.

These cattle are also accustomed to being handled by horseback, 4-wheelers and on foot.  “When we sell bulls, we know they are easy to handle.  All bulls have a full breeding soundness exam prior to sale, and not just semen checked.  We make sure they will actually be able to breed a cow; we butcher any bull that doesn’t pass the whole test,” she explains.

“Customers tell us these cattle perform well at Superior Livestock sales, in the feedyard, and on the rail.  We invite folks to our annual bull and female sale Feb 13, 2021.”