Many of you are used to seeing Jessica Allan’s name in this space, but she asked if I’d be willing to fill in while she’s out of the office on maternity leave. I’ll certainly do my best to provide some of the unique insight you’re used to receiving in her agvisor pieces, but first let’s congratulate Jessica and her husband on the birth of their baby boy Ryder!
It’s readily accepted by most in the production agriculture industry that crossbreeding can be very beneficial and lead to enhanced economic returns, whether that be weight, yield, disease resistance or so many other positive attributes. This is known as heterosis and, generally, it’s a good thing. Since we live in the heart of cattle country, I will mostly refer to the beef industry, but remember that the underlying process of crossbreeding works with most species of plant and animal.
It doesn’t matter if you’re raising or selling beef, lamb, goat, poultry or forages, the effect of utilizing a crossbreeding program can increase output by as much as 25 percent. When margins are tight, prices low and inputs high, the added value from crossbreeding can mean the difference between making a profit or leaving potential income unrealized. By no means is a crossbreeding program the answer for every issue facing producers, but it can be a useful tool when implemented with purpose and direction.
In a true crossbreeding system, the continued use of any one breed on commercial or purebred cattle will quickly result in the loss of heterosis and the anticipated complementary breed effect. By definition, a complementary breed effect matches the strength of one breed to offset the weaknesses of another. While this is desirable, also keep in mind that it’s important to maintain purebred lines as a foundation for a well-conceived crossbreeding program.
A real-life example that occurs in cattle herds throughout Southwest Missouri is the consistent use of a single purebred breed of bulls on commercially crossed cows. This works very well for the first or second generation, but as heifers are retained and added to the herd the producer reduces the benefits of crossbreeding and the complementary effect that results.
So why would an agricultural lender be concerned about discussing crossbreeding programs? Hopefully, the lender and producer value the relationship they have forged and are able to openly discuss options, opportunities and future decisions affecting the agricultural enterprise both from a profitability and a sustainability standpoint. Continued growth, taking advantage of additional management practices to enhance your operation, and realizing financial success in the business venture should be some of the priorities for both. After all, a good lender and customer relationship means both parties have a vested interest in being profitable and meeting future goals.
As we quickly approach the fall breeding season, now is a great time to start investing in a well-managed, thought-out crossbreeding program. If you are looking at replacing or upgrading your bull, ram or buck, take some time to look at what areas of improvement would benefit your operation the most.
Breed associations offer detailed genetic information that make selection much easier and offer accuracies that help take some of the guesswork out of the process of purchasing a sire. Buy quality and look for those genetic improvements that complement your bottom line. Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions from others, do your research and remember that half of all future production will be influenced by your decisions today.
Gregg Bailey is an agricultural lender and commercial relationship manager at Guaranty Bank in Nixa, Mo. with nearly 25 years of banking experience. He and his family operate a beef farm showing and selling registered cattle.