The blizzard dubbed "Atlas" that hit South Dakota and the surrounding states on October 4, 2013 is gut-wrenching. The total death loss of livestock will take months to tally and probably never be totally known, however are estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Some producers lost the majority of their herds. The after effects in loss from abortion by bred females will add to the economic impact.
It is a grim reminder that in what it takes producers years to build Mother Nature can take away in two days. It is out of our control. It's a feeling of total helplessness for those producers and hard for others to fully comprehend.
As producers deal with the after effects of this tragedy, one thinks about the trials that livestock producers endure. Drought, floods, and blizzards are very difficult if not impossible to pre-plan and manage. When they occur at catastrophic and record setting levels producers take the punch and come back stronger and wiser. They have dealt with adversity before; they know how to come back. They are dedicated to the business. They have a dedication to a way of life most outside the industry cannot comprehend. Some will not recover because the magnitude of loss is too great.
We are fortunate that we do have control over many things in the livestock business. Producers make managerial decisions daily that have a direct effect on the product they produce and how they do it. The majority of our decisions can be managed and are within our control.
Arguably, the most significant decision cow-calf producers make is selecting the genetics introduced into the cow herd. This is a decision producers have direct control over. Based on individual environment restraints and market targets, the decision of which genetics to add is not the same for everyone. Producers have varying needs in the genetics they select. This isn't a bad thing but rather shows that they are managing their total ranch resources and market.
There are certain traits that are, or should be managed and selected for in any environment. Reproduction continues to be the number one trait that has a direct and lasting effect on the profitability of any cow-calf operation. Cows that breed and calve in a short calving interval always are more profitable than those in a herd that do not. Although not highly heritable, good cowmen will tell you that reproduction can be managed and selected for, and can show vast improvements over time. The ability of heifers to reach puberty, get bred and to continue to rebreed year after year is the number one priority for any good cow-calf program. It's number one for increased profitability.
In making management decisions producers determine what breed or breeds are going to be used in their breeding program. Some will make this decision based on what is the "breed of the month" rather than what breeds actually have been proven to add the most profitability to their operation for the long haul.
It has been proven with Meat Animal Research Center data that when compared to other breeds Gelbvieh heifers reach puberty earlier. It has been proven that Gelbvieh cows wean more pounds of calf per cow exposed. It has been proven in research conducted at Colorado State University that Gelbvieh cows have more stayability with a higher conception rate when compared to other breeds. The best testimonial may very well be that when commercial producers are asked why they use Gelbvieh in their breeding programs, the most often response is, "Because they make good cows."
With all that said shouldn't one "manage" to have Gelbvieh incorporated into their breeding program? You do have control and can manage making Gelbvieh part of your breeding program. It is the right decision based on documented third-party research and producer testimonials. There are enough other things that are out of your control, manage the reproductive efficiency of your cow herd with genetics.