By David Bowser
SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas Some 80 percent of the cattle raised in Texas come from producers with 35 to 40-head herds. Such producers don't always have access to high quality bulls to improve the genetics of their herds until now.
Producers in this area have formed the North East Texas Beef Improvement Organization. Among other things, they are setting up a bull leasing program this month.
"We're starting a bull leasing program to try to infuse better quality bulls into our area," says Joe Don Pogue, owner of the Sulphur Springs Livestock Market. "We're working with an organization in Michigan, the Michigan Livestock Exchange. They have a program where you can find bulls."
MLE is working through the Production Credit Association in Sulphur Springs to lease bulls.
"You can lease a bull instead of owning the bull," Pogue explains.
Larry Spradlin, the Hopkins County agent here, says initially they will concentrate on Red Angus, black Angus and Charolais bulls.
"Those seem to be the type bulls that work good on cows in our area," Pogue says.
"This program, we thought, had lots of flexibility to it," Spradlin says. "It's not so strict that it has to be this way or nothing."
NETBIO has formed an alliance with MLE Marketing and AgriLand Farm Services, formerly North Texas Production Credit, to offer its membership an opportunity to lease genetically superior bulls at affordable prices. Selected seedstock producers will offer bulls meeting high genetic and conformation standards to all interested producers. The bulls will be available on a three-year lease with the producer having the option to purchase the bull at the maturity of the lease.
Pogue says there is a strict criteria on bulls that are selected for the program.
"There's not a lot of this being done in Texas," Spradlin notes. "A lot of these alliances are popping up in the Midwest and up in the northern states."
The bull leasing program is one of several steps NETBIO is taking to improve the markets for their cattle. Last year, they initiated special cattle sales at Pogue's sale barn like the one he has planned Nov. 10, to form uniform load lots of calves from a variety of small producers.
"If you look at cattle in East Texas, we have lots of challenges," Spradlin says.
Just in Hopkins County, he says, there are cattle with Brahman influence, dairy influence, exotic influence and English influence.
"It really does give you a different variation," Spradlin says.
He says the next step of the organization is to tighten up the breeding.
"A lot of the people in the industry tell us they want a more consistent product," Spradlin says. "What we would like to do now, our next step, is to make a more consistent product."
Spradlin says he often gets calls from people wanting good bulls.
"There are some really good seedstock operators out there, but they are hard to find," Spradlin says. "There are a lot of high quality bulls of any particular breed."
But to go to one place and find a wide variety of the same breed of cattle with the high quality standards they want is difficult.
"We got a chance to meet with a man from the Michigan Livestock Exchange," Spradlin says. "The company has been together for several years. They feed a lot of cattle. They buy a lot of cattle."
Spradlin says they have been leasing bulls for several years.
"We had a chance for him to come down and visit with us and put together a program that would offer people in East Texas an opportunity to lease a bull," Spradlin says.
The bulls will be acclimated to the area, he adds.
"We're not buying bulls out of the North or leasing bulls out of the South," he says.
They arranged for some bulls from Throckmorton, from Bryan, from Mississippi, from Missouri, from Louisiana and from East Texas.
"What we've tried to do is set some standards," Spradlin continues. "We with NETBIO have worked with MLE. We gave them some specifics that we need in these bulls."
Later, Spradlin says they may look at some maternal traits from different types or breeds of bulls.
"The typical East Texas producer now has at least 50 percent Brahman influence in his cows," Spradlin says.
He says they thought for now it would be better to look at increasing the continental or English influence in the herds.
"That's why we're looking for these three breeds," Spradlin says.
The bulls will be in the top 50 percent of the EPDs in the breed.
"That is in maternal traits and in muscling and marbling," Spradlin says. "That's in the Angus."
He says the Charolais bull requirements will be a little different.
"We're not as concerned about the maternal trait lines as the muscling and marbling," Spradlin says.
Producers can lease a bull from the organization.
"They will find you the bull that you wish to select," he says.
They also offer bulls that can be bought in different price ranges.
The lease agreement is based on what is spent on the bull.
"On a $2000 bull, you would end up spending about $500 a year to lease," Spradlin explains.
That also includes insurance on the bull.
"One of the major concerns among our producers was what happens if this bull dies," Spradlin says. "There is an insurance package that goes along with the bull."
In three years, the producer can turn the bull back in to the association, and they will get the producer another bull, or the producer can buy the bull.
"We have talked to some other bull leasing operations that at the end of three years, they wanted you to kill the bull," Spradlin says.
The thinking is that the bull has used up all his value for the producer after three years, and they didn't want the bull to be out anywhere else.
"We thought we had enough neighbors, we thought we could probably pass this bull around and help somebody else," Spradlin says.
The bull lease program is just another step in trying to improve area herds, Spradlin says.
"The next step is we're looking at is trying to tighten up our calving," he says. "We have one calving date in East Texas. It's all year long. We would like to see it a little bit tighter, but that's on down the road."
The result Spradlin says NETBIO is looking for is to get buyers to come to East Texas and pay a premium for cattle.
"In order for buyers to come and pay a premium for the cattle, the cattle have to perform for them," Spradlin says. "We starting to build that up. We're starting to get some feedback on them."
NETBIO focuses on improving management practices, genetics and marketing for beef cattle in Northeast Texas. NETBIO will market an estimated 10,000 head of calves that meet certification requirements through four to five sales this year at Pogue's sale barn. The added value of the cattle offered through these sales has ranged from $2 to $12 per hundredweight with an average between $5 and $6 per cwt., Pogue says.
Established in 1922, MLE Marketing is the largest livestock marketing co-op in the United States. Recently, the organization merged with Southern States Cooperative. They now have business interests in 17 states. They own and operate a number of auction barns and buying stations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. For qualifying members, MLE Marketing offers a carcass data collection program through their approved feedyards. They have also worked with small producers in their area to pool feeder calves into uniform lots for marketing purchases. They have experience with branded beef programs, helping producers design breeding programs to meet specific market demands.
AgriLand Farm Credit Services is a cooperative that was first established in 1933. It has more than 2000 stockholders who finance their agricultural operations through 10 offices from the Red River to the Gulf Coast. About 50 percent of AgriLand's lending activities are directly related to the beef industry.
"What we're trying to do is narrow down the window on our calves," Pogue says. "We not trying to tell people what kind of bulls to use. We're in the auction business. We're going to sell what they bring, but we are trying to do things that the industry is leaning towards."
Pogue says they are trying to get more uniform calves for sale.
"It's unbelievable when you get to sorting those cattle how many different kinds you have," he says.
While good calves bring a premium, some of the plainer calves at Sulphur Springs will bring more when they're grouped into uniform lots.
With the bull leasing program, Pogue says, "We want to try to have a little bit more uniform type calves and maybe just a little bit better quality."
"We're really excited about it," Spradlin adds.
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