Many of the cattle feeders featured on Friday Feeders have been mostly based around complete rations with grains and grain by products making up the bulk of the feed. This week we visit a Central Nebraska Ranch that is developing bulls and heifers on a mostly forage and roughage based feeding system.
Flying H Genetics is owned and operated by several generations of the Helms family. Dick Helms is the Patriarch and spokesman for the ranch. Dick explained that the idea behind what is now their trademarked “Roughage and Ready” bull development system started all the way back in the 1960s when Dick started collecting performance data on his calves in the feedlot. From there Dick watched how the industry went from small framed light cattle to large framed heavy cattle in the 1970s. All the while, Dick was keeping a close eye on his data and what he saw was that good cattle are not at extremes and genetics outperform corn alone at the feed bunk.
Now the question to answer was how to identify those higher performing genetics before a bull was sold to a customer to pass along those genetics. That is where Flying H Genetics started background and developing their bulls with mostly forage rations and little grain. The result was being able to see the bull for what he was and not covering up issues with fat. Dick refers to this as breeding for profit with the right genetics and putting those genetics in a bull that is built to work servicing cows. Today all Flying H Genetics bulls must pass 17 standards before they can make the sale pen. Dick has another analogy to help explain their thought process on the bull development saying, “ It’s like a highschool football player. In the fall at the first practice a player can be out of shape and quickly exhausted. It’s the same with a fat bull when they are turned out to pasture with cows. Bulls that are in shape and backgrounded this way are ready to breed cows and in my experience are more often then not more aggressive breeders.”
With success starting to come from their “Roughage and Ready” bulls Flying H Genetics turned their attention to the females in the herd and started the heifer challenge. Here heifers that make the replacement pen must pass similar standards like the bulls to stay on the ranch or make the sale as a replacement heifer.
Dick says that they may leave some profit on the table because fat bulls catch the eye and attract higher prices, but he’s confident a bull he sells to a customer will perform and help make that rancher profitable.
One more note of success for Flying H Genetics is that they started as a Nebraska ranch, but have come to include a seedstock ranch in Missouri where they develop bulls and heifers on fescue grass.
Check out the full conversation and hear it in Dick Helm’s own words here: