Making Goode cattle better
By Jennifer M. Latzke
Jimmy and Glennette Goode have heard all of the puns about their last name, but they don't mind.
Through technology and sound breeding, they're making their "Goode" Angus better.
A future rooted in history
Just outside of Pampa, Texas, in the northern corner of the Panhandle, sits the Goode Angus Ranch. Here, on land that is itself a history lesson in Texas ranching, the Goodes use the tools of today to improve their registered Angus herd. It's a far cry from how Glennette's father, Glen Dawkins, used to ranch.
"At one time he ran a registered Hereford herd, but for the last several years he ran a commercial herd of Brangus with a variety of bulls," Glennette said. "He didn't tag his cattle, and he ran a bull with the cows year round but that was because he just liked to watch the calves. So, we'd spend a weekend two times a year rounding up calves and taking them to the market." Mostly, the herd back then was another piece of the family's diversified agricultural and real estate enterprise in the Pampa area.
When he died in 1997, the Goodes started to look at ways to improve the cattle part of the family operation. After much research they decided to sell the 75-head commercial cow herd and invest in 39 registered Angus females from the partnership of Gardiner, Lust and Dodd. Perhaps an even more radical change was their new breeding program.
Today, you won't find a herd bull on the place, the Goodes say. Instead, their goal is to use a 100-percent artificial insemination breeding program, combined with the tools of embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization to improve successive generations of Angus cattle. Improving their Angus bloodlines translated into added value for them and for the commercial cow-calf producer who's purchasing their registered breeding stock.
"I make decisions based on profit," Jimmy said. Commercial cowmen are looking for genetics that will improve their bottom lines as well. By using AI, the Goodes can bring the best and proven sires of the Angus breed to their ranch, improve their herd's genetics, and further help their customers in the long run. The Goodes found that by selling registered bulls they could garner a premium that was large enough to pay for the expense involved in AI and ET, and they wouldn't have to feed a bull in an off-season.
They've grown in the decade to a herd of more than 300 registered Angus females and more than 50 commercial recipient females, and they use cooperative herds for additional embryos.
Producing for the commercial cowman
"I researched a lot of breeds, and I found the Angus breed intriguing because of the information services they offer," Jimmy said. The database of information available on the breed is vast, and the marketing and organization of the American Angus Association is top notch, he added.
"What we're producing are bulls for the commercial guy," Jimmy said. Low birth weights, growth and carcass merits and proven sires are what he looks for in breeding selections--the more information he can gather, the better he can make genetic matches.
"Most of our customers are selling their calves on the grid," Jimmy said. "Our herd is based on taking advantage of grid marketing." Their females are bred to the leading sires in the herd for those characteristics that meet the ideals of the grid, so that their progeny can go on to produce calves that bring more money to the commercial producer.
The Goodes sell a few females through the Texas Angus Association's yearly consignment sale, but they market the majority through a production sale the first Monday of each October they put on with Steve and Laura Knoll, Hereford, Texas. The Prime by Design Female sale typically showcases their breed-leading genetics, many of which are mates to bulls that have sold well at other sales.
"We select for strong females with low birth weights and as much growth as possible without being too big," Jimmy said. They know the end result is more than a healthy calf on the ground out of their females, but also a calf that performs well in the feedlot and in the processing plant. And, that performance through genetics translates into a premium per head in the commercial guy's pocket, Jimmy added.
They sell their bulls through a cooperative effort with Gardiner Angus Ranch, Ashland, Kan., and usually have a few head in their fall and spring sales. "We've ended up selling bulls to 15 to 20 states through Mark (Gardiner)," Jimmy said. As a Gardiner Allied Producer, they follow a philosophy of mating proven, high-accuracy AI sires to daughters of high-accuracy sires.
"We use proven bulls that have been proven in several herds," Jimmy said. "We don't want a one-herd proof."
Because their customers are cow-calf producers, the Goodes do their best to educate individual buyers on how to use expected progeny differences and data to the best of their own herd needs.
Not only do they offer EPDs on every cow and bull they sell, but they also like to point out the Angus breed's use of $Value (Dollar Value) indexes to their cow-calf customers.
The $Value indexes are multi-trait selection indexes that estimate how future progeny are expected to perform at different stages of marketing. There's a Weaned Calf Value, Feedlot Value, Grid Value and Beef Value. Jimmy explained their buyers can make the most of their breeding selections based on their marketing goals. If they sell their calves at weaning, for example, they'll compare the Weaned Calf Value of their choices. If they choose to sell their cattle on the Grid, there are separate Quality Grade and Yield Grade indexes to compare.
"My advice to cattlemen is to know their market and whether they're using Angus bulls or others use the data that is available to them to enhance their profit," Jimmy said. The Goodes are proud that last year one of their cows was the leading $Beef cow in the breed, and they've taken steps to harvest as many embryos as they can so that her genetics can continue to improve the breed.
The Goodes also take care to educate their customers on recent genetic issues that have cropped up in the Angus breed, specifically, arthrogryposis multiplex and neuropathic hydrocephalus. They comply with American Angus Association rules regarding testing their bulls and their females for these genetic conditions.
They have identified all the carriers in their stock that have these genetic conditions and have moved them in the recipient herd. A recipient cow is a surrogate that does not pass any genes to the calf. Also, they do not use sires that are known carriers. It is important to the Goodes that their buyers feel comfortable with their purchase decisions. "You have to look at the different scientific data out there and treat this as if you had a cow with bad udders and you needed to breed around that," Jimmy said. It's important to be honest with customers about genetics when their profits are on the line, he added.
"We stand behind our cattle," Jimmy said. "We're breeding today for calves that will come two years down the line. That's why it's important to use proven bulls."
The people make the industry
Beyond the hard data, though, their work within the Angus association has brought them friendships and mentors, such as the Knolls, Mark Gardiner, Minnie Lou Bradley of Bradley 3 Ranch, Memphis, Texas, and Duane and Donna Jenkins of Littlerobe Angus Ranch, Higgins, Texas.
"This business is based on handshakes," Glenette said. She's a businesswoman who knows her way around contracts and clauses. Yet here, raising and marketing Angus cattle, they've only written one contract in a decade, and that was with a semen company that had seleced a Goode Angus bull for semen sales, she explained. That, she said, says a lot for the people in this industry.
The people of the Angus breed have been supportive of the Goodes and their operation, Jimmy said. Whether it was a piece of advice given over a piece of pie, or a helping hand in marketing, the people of the breed inspire the Goodes to be even better.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or firstname.lastname@example.org.