Among the hills of Northern California exists a three-generation seedstock operation that is striving to produce the kind of cattle that will add profit to their commercial bull buyers’ herds. Dan and Chris Byrd started Byrd Cattle Co. at Red Bluff, Calif., more than 40 years ago. Ty and Brooke, their two children enjoyed showing cattle, so the early years were focused on both the show ring and the commercial bull market. Though the marketing focus and the cattle have changed over the years, the family’s goals have not. The Byrds stay committed to raising high-quality, structurally sound, economically efficient bulls that will work for the commercial cattle producer.
The Byrd family runs about 350 registered Angus cows over multiple ranches. They manage their cattle much like their commercial customers would, and the cows graze on native forages. The primary difference is at Byrd Cattle Co., they do use 100% artificial insemination (A.I.) to get females bred, and nearly 50% of their calf crop is the result of embryo transfer (E.T.).
“Believe it or not, California is a pretty challenging environment to get cattle bred in, not just because of the different climates, but the different temperatures and different grasses coming on in different times of the year. We had tried a lot of different mineral that cattle would eat great for two months and then stop cold turkey. Literally on one day, they would all stop eating it,” Ty said.
Tight calving windows mean tight breeding windows for the Byrds. A majority of their herd – 70% – calves in the spring, during a 60-day calving window, and the fall calvers are even tighter – 48 to 50 days – since they sell bulls as yearlings in their fall sale. Cow herd nutrition is vitally important to them, and they knew they needed their cows on mineral more than just two months out of the year, so they set out looking for a new mineral program.
“In our program, we’re not so much concerned with what something costs, we’re concerned with the total picture and what we can get back. If we can make more pregnancies, then ultimately, we are putting more money in our pocket. We were basically looking for something that our cows would consume. We tried some of this Concept•Aid® one day, and it appears to be the only thing we can get our cows to consistently consume,” Ty said.
Byrd Cattle Co. has been feeding VitaFerm® Concept•Aid in both the loose mineral and tub form now for three or four years, and has seen marked improvements in its conception rates, both A.I. and E.T. Ty said their IVF conception rates are also running close to their embryo transfer conception rates, something he gives a lot of credit to the use of feeding Concept•Aid.
“I would also tell you we are making better embryos when we flush here, and the only change we have made the last 3-4 years is in the mineral,” he said.
VitaFerm Concept•Aid is a vitamin and mineral supplement for beef cattle specifically designed for reproductive success when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding. It is especially beneficial in A.I. and E.T. breeding programs. A key ingredient is Amaferm®, is a prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase intake, digestion and absorption.
With an increase in conception rates, Ty knows he’s getting more calves. He can offer more high-quality cattle to his customers so they can continue to remain profitable in the cattle business. He said that is an advantage to having big cow numbers; he’s been able to make them more efficient, thereby eliminating problem cattle and making the entire operation more profitable.
“The cattle have to play by our rules. We sell about 120 bulls in the fall, some of which are only a year of age so they need to be very uniform. As for the females, we sell those privately, and we’ll sell one or a semi load,” Ty said.
Some things have changed at Byrd Cattle Co., during the last 40 years, including introducing a premium mineral program with the Amaferm advantage. However, as the younger generations become more involved, one thing won’t change. This family operation will continue to raise low birth, high growth cattle with marbling, muscle and feed efficiency to help their customers stay more profitable.