Gelbvieh Breeders Challenged to “Create Your Future”

Eight of the beef industry’s most influential speakers challenged members of the American Gelbvieh Association to “Create Your Future” in the first-ever leadership and genetic improvement seminar. The seminar was held December 8-9, 2010 in Kansas City, Mo. Fifty-seven AGA members from 17 states attended the two-day seminar. The American Gelbvieh Association and IGENITY® teamed up to sponsor the event, which overall, encouraged members to build relationships with their customers, other Gelbvieh breeders, their state and national breed associations, and other representative within the beef industry.

Dr. Tom Field of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was the opening speaker. Field discussed how consumer demands are changing and the influence they have over beef markets.

“In the wake of the multiple pressures and challenges confronting the beef industry, our goal must be to defend the opportunity for both producers and consumers to choose from a variety of production systems and products,” said Field.

Field shared research that showed 17 percent of consumers want to know more about food production processes. “I believe that number is going to grow because I think consumers want to know about production,” he added.

He concluded his presentation by encouraging members to engage the consumer and tell your story through social and traditional media, the political and regulatory arena, in classrooms, boardrooms, and family rooms.

The American Gelbvieh Association Director of Breed Improvement Susan Willmon asked members about their breeding strategy and provided them with an individual herd analysis for each member to evaluate the direction of their breeding program.

Willmon emphasized the importance of getting feedback from your customers. “Weaning and feedlot performance information from your customers’ calves is critical to evaluate if your breeding strategy is working. Your best friend should be the customer who gets harvest data on his calves. Feedlot performance and harvest data are the ultimate report cards to tell you if as a seedstock provider your breeding program is going where you want.”

Jim Gibb, technical services director for IGENITY®, discussed the progression of genetic improvement and how DNA is being used to enhance the tools we already have, as well as some of the new advances in DNA technology.

“We are not about replacing EPDs. Phenotypes are important. The ideal situation is to use both phenotype and genomics to evaluate performance,” said Gibb. “Our goal is to work with breed associations to incorporate both genomics and performance data into EPDs.”

He also commended the American Gelbvieh Association for being a leader in embracing DNA technology. “In May 2008, the AGA was the first significant U.S. beef breed association to transition to SNP parentage, followed by the American Angus Association in October, 2010.”

The American Gelbvieh Association is currently working to develop genomic enhanced EPDs.

The first day concluded with a presentation from Eric Grant, American Angus Association director of public relations. Grant shared his 24 years of experience working in agriculture communications and marketing. The take-home messages were to effectively market your program breeders need to have a website, they must be active on Facebook and Twitter, and that video works. Grant emphasized the importance of branding your program, rather than just selling cattle and to do so by telling the story of your program.

Tom Brink, president and COO of J & F Oklahoman Holdings, Inc., started off the second day by discussing the role of genetics in cattle feeding.

“The industry wants a steer that can produce a carcass that grades Choice, Yield Grade 3 or leaner, at an 850 pound carcass weight,” said Brink. “The ideal feeder animal is an Angus-Continental cross; 50-75% Angus and 25-50% Continental.”

Two of the beef industries most successful seedstock breeders, Dave Nichols of Bridgewater, Iowa and Galen Fink of Randolf, Kan., provided real-life examples of how they have been able to build their programs and create opportunities for their customers.

“Those farms, ranches, seedstock breeders and industries who ignore their customers’ real or perceived values, and lack the guts or the tools to control costs are doomed to the trash can of history,” commented Nichols. “Work as hard at selling your seedstock as you do raising them.”

“As seedstock producers, we have to make sure we know when our customers are marketing their calves so we help them if we can,” noted Fink. “Selling seedstock is about creating relationships. The customer can buy his bulls from anywhere. Customer service is number one. If you do not take care of your customers…someone else will.”

Closing out this tremendous line-up of speakers was Glen Klippenstein, Maysville, Mo. With a history in seedstock production, working with two breed associations and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and a newly elected U.S. Senator, Klippenstien motivated members to take all they’ve learned during the “Create Your Future” seminar and put it into practice in their own operations.

“This industry is one-third motion, one-third promotion, and one-third emotion,” said Klippenstien. “The ability to maintain flexibility equals success. It’s a marketing thing – try new practices and take care of your customer.”

Copies of the “Create Your Future” seminar proceedings including speaker presentations, an individual herd analysis, and a DVD of the live presentations are available for $85 by contacting the American Gelbvieh Association at 303-465-2333 or

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