Community Agriculture Alliance: Seedstock operation in the cattle business

Erika Murphy
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Team Rubicon embarked on a two day deployment to clear a 150 foot buffer around the communication tower at Emerald Mountain.

This article is about what it means to be a seedstock operation in the cattle business. Seedstock producers, also known as cattle breeders, are genetic suppliers that sell breeding bulls and heifers with specific genetic traits to commercial ranches.

Commercial operations use the registered bulls to breed to their own cows or add purebred heifers to their existing cow herd for the purposes of breeding them and raising calves that are then sold to become beef. 

Seedstock suppliers typically have herds of purebred cattle, registered with a breed association, meaning each animal has papers and data showing information about their linages and their genetic characteristics and potential. Examples of beef cattle breeds are Angus, Hereford, ShortHorn, Limousine, Simmental, Charlois, Salers, Gelbvieh, etc.

Running a seedstock herd also means that data is collected on each animal, from birth throughout its life. Information such as weight at birth, docility, calf vigor, ease of birth on the cow, condition of the cow at calving, weight of calf at weaning, amount of milk needed to raise a calf, fertility of bulls when they are grown and are ready to be sold, quality of feet, size of frame, feed efficiency, carcass traits, mothering ability in cows and many other items, defines the genetic potential of the animal. This data is then turned into the breed association along with the parentage and expected progeny differences — EPDs — are generated. 

EPDs allow buyers of a bull or heifer to know what traits that animal will pass on to its offspring. By looking at the animal’s physical appearance, combined with its EPD information, the commercial rancher can select a bull or heifer that results in good mothers in their herd, and calves that grow efficiently and have the carcass traits that ultimately make great steak. 

For example, birth weight, weaning weight, milk production, and docility are just some of the important EPDs to consider when buying a bull. There are many other traits that buyers can look for, depending on what and how they want to improve their herd.

Like many other businesses, good seedstock producers know their customer’s needs and strive to provide the traits in high-quality breeding animals that will help commercial cow-calf ranchers be successful. And, like all other types of ranching, it is a labor of love and provides for a meaningful lifestyle caring for animals and the land.

Erika Murphy is a seedstock rancher from Coyote Creek Angus and a member of Routt County Cattlewomen.

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