EAST BERLIN, Pa. — With feed prices constantly trending upward, livestock producers are always searching for new methods to cut costs. Beef cow-calf producer Beaver Creek Angus is no different.
Beaver Creek’s solution — selecting breeding bulls whose offspring weigh more at weaning. Those calves are genetically more capable of using the available feed to gain weight quicker, which can be advantageous at slaughter, breeding or even in the show ring, in addition to being more feed efficient.
“As cow-calf producers, the No. 1 thing affecting our bottom line is pounds of calves weaned.’ This suggests when selecting bulls on performance, we should look closely at average daily gain from birth to weaning,” according to Beaver Creek’s advertisement in the Pennsylvania Angus Association’s March newsletter.
Coming up with such a solution didn’t happen overnight. Fourteen years after Beaver Creek Angus got started in 1999, the Grim family has grown its herd and built a reputation for rearing quality cows, calves and breeding bulls.
Before 1999, father Greg Grim was partners with his brother in a 300-head commercial cow-calf and feedlot operation. Until then, his four children — Sarah, Denton, Kyle and Hannah — weren’t heavily involved in showing registered Angus.
“Sarah, Kyle and Denton showed some steers from the feedlot, but Sarah bought the first registered heifer. Then the boys bought cows. Those were the foundation animals for Beaver Creek Angus,” said Hannah Grim, adding that she wasn’t old enough for 4-H before 1999.
Hannah Grim is still young enough to compete in local and national junior competitions. In March, she was named the Pennsylvania Junior Cattlewoman of the Year. She was the top senior showman at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Junior Angus Classic and the 2010 Pennsylvania Angus Queen. She has also received numerous scholarships, including a 2012 Atlantic National Merit Award.
All of the siblings are involved with the operation today. Kyle focuses on the cows, calves, breeding and show animals. Denton works with the bulls and has a custom bale wrapping business. Hannah comes home from Penn State most weekends and helps wherever needed.
“It’s fun to go home and see how much the calves have grown. I like doing the herd management and I enjoy showing a lot,” Hannah Grim said.
While Kyle Grim was away at Penn State studying animal sciences, he also took advantage of other opportunities, including working on an Angus seedstock operation in Nebraska that’s owned by former York County, Pa., resident Bill Rishel.
His experiences and education helped him and his family develop a goal for their young operation — to become a genetic supplier, or seedstock producer, of Angus cattle.
This means the Grims strive to breed genetically superior individuals and then sell a portion of those individuals to others in the industry.
Beaver Creek Angus holds an annual performance-tested bull sale in the spring. Bulls are advertised and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Females and show animals are sold at www.AngusLive.com in the fall.
“Performance tested” refers to something dairy producers know as a “proof” — a set of animal-specific numbers that indicates how that animal’s progeny should perform compared with breed averages.
Performance information includes such things as birth and weaning weights, calving ease, average daily gain and docility, according to the American Angus Association.
So how does Beaver Creek achieve breeding desirable Angus genetics?
In the fall of 2012, the family was the host for a Penn State Extension workshop on cow-calf management. During that workshop, Kyle Grim told attendees that the family strives to keep a good balance of low mortality, longevity, high conception and heavy weaning weights.
His example of how they accomplish this came with a bull calf they weaned in October 2012, weighing 1,045 pounds at 278 days old — the heaviest bull calf ever weaned at Beaver Creek.
The balance was visible in four ways: one, by the calf being so large; two, the mother sacrificing her body condition in exchange for the higher quantity of milk her calf wanted; three, the mother still bred back for the next season, the ultimate goal; and four, both mother and calf had access to favorable environments and feed that helped them reach their full potential.
The bulls for sale this spring averaged 3.4 pounds of weight gain per day pre-weaning, equating to an average bull weight of 794 pounds at 205 days old.
At the current time, Beaver Creek Angus has more than 130 registered animals. In 2011, it had only 64 registered Angus, making it the fifth largest breeder in the state at the time.
During the spring calving season, there were 10 embryo transfer calves out of 37 total calves born. While those seem like acceptable numbers, Kyle Grim isn’t all that pleased with the next — only 11 of the total calves are heifers.
While the family will sell a lot of those bulls to other producers for breeding purposes next spring, Kyle Grim wishes they had more heifers to help expand their cow herd.
The cow herd is bred to the top Angus bulls in the industry through artificial insemination, which Kyle handles. The farm also uses embryo transfer for its top females, such as BCA Scaara Eagle Eye 155. She was the grand champion calf at the 2012 Pennsylvania Farm Show and the reserve champion at the 2012 Pennsylvania Angus Breeders’ Show.
When selecting cows to flush, Kyle Grim will look for ones that are thick and deep with good feet and legs, and have produced low birth-weight calves in the past.
The family isn’t looking for the largest cattle either. They’d prefer animals to be “in the middle of the road when it comes to frame size,” Kyle Grim said.
Hannah Grim added that when using in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and ET, Beaver Creek has used sexed semen to ensure the birth of a heifer to be sold in its fall heifer sale.
Beaver Creek will also use one of its live bulls for cleanup breeding, but select animals are purposely bred naturally to BCA Flawless 119. He was the grand champion Angus bull at the 2013 Pennsylvania Farm Show, reserve grand champion bull at the 2012 Keystone International Livestock Exposition, and grand champion bred-and-owned bull at the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Junior Angus Classic and 2012 Pennsylvania Angus Junior Breeders Show.
After calving season has ended, Kyle Grim will synchronize groups of cows and heifers for breeding beginning on April 20 each year. Groups are synched every three weeks.
Animals are bred from observed heats. If any cow or heifer hasn’t settled by July, she’ll get to spend some time with one of Beaver Creek’s bulls.
According to the 2013 Angus Pathfinder report published by the American Angus Association, Beaver Creek has one cow that qualifies — BCA Queen Elba Networth KS72 — with an average weaning weight ratio of 112 on four calves.
According to the report: “The Angus Pathfinder program was started in 1978 in an effort to identify superior cows in the breed based on Angus Herd Improvement Records. In identifying these superior cows, emphasis was placed on early puberty, breeding and early calving, followed by regularity of calving and above-average performance of the offspring.”
Grim family members say they would like to continue to grow their cow herd into the future and maintain selling their genetics twice a year, plus showing their best animals with the hope of bringing home more titles.
Hannah Grim’s dream includes building a farm store to sell their own Angus beef.