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NMSU Tucumcari Bull Sale opportunity for beef producers to improve herd genetics

TUCUMCARI, N.M. -- Rebuilding the cowherd in drought afflicted regions of New Mexico will be coupled with opportunities and challenges, according to a New Mexico State University cattle specialist.

Six cowboys holding jackets.
Tucumcari Bull Test 2011 top indexing competition winners receive jackets from Manny Encinias, NMSU beef cattle specialist and Tucumcari Bull Test director (far left). Winners are, from left, Frost Smith and TJ Smith, Smith Land and Cattle, Ft. Garland, Colo., for the red angus breed; Robert Abercrombie, Abercrombie Ranch, Tucumcari, for the hereford breed; Patrick Sanchez, Sanchez Angus Cattle and Farm, Belen, for the angus breed; and Scott Milligan, Milligan Cattle Company, Vega, Texas, for the charolais breed.

When the drought lifts and New Mexico beef cattle producers decide to restock their ranches, it has been estimated that more than 100,000 beef cows will have to be replaced to return the state's herds to the 2010 inventory levels.

The industry has experienced a herd inventory reduction of more than 20 percent since 2010 according to Manny Encinias, New Mexico State University beef cattle specialist and New Mexico Beef Cattle Performance Association's director of operations.

Although drought conditions still persist throughout many areas of the state and the Southwest, New Mexico cattle producers are optimistically looking forward to rebuilding their cowherds with higher quality genetics from regionally adapted registered cowherds.

"The two largest challenges the cow-calf producers will face when restocking will be finding the females that are adapted to our arid production environment," Encinias said, "and then being able to afford these replacements."

Nationally, the beef industry is experiencing record prices for all classes of live cattle due to the lowest national cow inventory since the early 1950s and a strong domestic and global demand for United States beef.

With the shortage of grass on New Mexico rangelands and the high cost of production, Encinias said there is no doubt that many of the lower-producing cows on ranches have already been sent to market and only those who are meeting production thresholds remain.

"From a strictly quality perspective, the drought has forced a genetic-cleansing of the New Mexico cowherd," he said. "As we restock, there will be a tremendous opportunity to upgrade the genetics in many of the cowherds across the state."

This will allow New Mexico cattle producers in the future to take advantage of higher prices for offspring from proven high quality genetics.

For cattle producers in the Southwest, the 51st annual bull sale at the Tucumcari Bull Test is a source of quality and proven genetics from regionally adapted cowherds.

Since 1961, progressive seedstock producers from throughout the Southern High Plains have sent bulls to the Tucumcari Bull Test to evaluate sires and individual bulls for economically important post weaning growth traits, such as average daily gain and feed efficiency.

Fifty years ago, performance testing bulls was a novel idea by a few regionalized seedstock producers to learn more about the post-weaning performance of their in-herd sires.

Today, the performance-tested data is essential for seedstock producers selling registered bulls, and a valuable selection tool for commercial cow-calf producers.

This data can be used as an additional selection tool to compliment other selection tools such as expected progeny differences (EPD), which is commonly used to select bulls. While EPDs estimate how a bull should perform, a performance-tested bull actually tells how well an individual performed amongst a group of bulls that are the same breed and relative age.

From Encinias' perspective, this data is more valuable today as producers seek to cost-effectively meet the beef quality parameters set by domestic and global customers consuming U.S. beef, and yet keep in perspective important economic traits that drive profitability on the ranch.

This year's Tucumcari Bull Test Sale will be kicked off Thursday, March 15, at 6 p.m. with the annual Buyer's Bull Session, Social and Supper at Tucumcari Convention Center. This event will include award presentations for top performing bulls at this year's test and also include a remote presentation by Lee Leachman of Leachman Cattle of Colorado entitled "Don't Waste 10 More Years of Genetic Selection!"

On sale day, Friday, March 16, bull viewing will begin at 9 a.m. A lunch will be served by Cargill Animal Nutrition at 11:30 a.m., and the live sale will begin promptly at 1 p.m. with auctioneer Jack Blandford.

For more information on the sale or to view video presentations of the sale offering and the electronic sale catalog visit http://tucbulltest.nmsu.edu or contact Encinias at 505-927-7935.