Guenzis depend on Simmental’s efficiency
January 4, 2019
The Guenzi's cattle operation is steeped in tradition, from the land they farm and run cattle upon to the family involved, right down to the matriarch, Evie, still doing the books at the age of 90. Kenny Guenzi began with sugar beets and slowly purchased land while custom farming and added sons John and Dave to the operation.
To complement tradition and to support returning generations, the cattle operation is incorporating new ideas and relying on the efficiency of their cow herd.
Carson Guenzi, Dave's son, returned to the Sterling, Colo., farm and ranch after college and joined the operation, raising corn, sugar beets, wheat, alfalfa and cattle.
The Guenzis began using Simmental and SimAngus bulls in 2012 through AI sires from Select Sires at the recommendation of longtime friend Jay Hill. Hill worked for the Guenzis when he was in college and now runs cows with them as well as serving as their Select Sires representative.
"He came to us and said we've pretty much used everything in the Angus book and we've got a great herd but we're not going to gain anything by continuing in the Angus breed right now," he said.
They decided to switch it up and use the Simmental and SimAngus bulls and have reaped the rewards. Hill, who has been a part of the ranch since the early 1990s, said the advantages of utilizing Simmental genetics is multi-fold. It has allowed the ranch's heavily marbling Angus genetics to produce a larger ribeye, has allowed them to steer away from bulls that are carriers for a number of genetic mutations to make retaining herd bulls easier, and has tipped the scales at market time.
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In the past, the family has retained ownership of calves but recently began feeding calves to finish, and marketing finished cattle to Cargill on the grid. This is the first year Guenzi fed cattle at the ranch, utilizing feed grown on the farm. Guenzi also utilizes a custom feedyard in Merino, Colo., to feed customer cattle to their endpoint. One of the perks of selling to Cargill on the grid system is the data capture. On their first load of steers, they graded 100 percent Choice, with another 22 percent grading Prime.
"It was a pretty good turnout and we hope to continue on the path, especially with our own calves," he said. "We want to capture some premiums through the grid and we like to think that we have good calves and we purchase pretty good calves to go on top of them and there's some money to be made there."
With the data, came some lessons to fine tune future loads. The cattle, Guenzi said, were marketed at about 1,700 pounds, making most of the cattle yield grade at 4 and 5.
"We're used to the live market where you put as many pounds on as quickly as you can and get paid on a live basis and a carcass," he said. "We'll have to pay attention a little more and maybe do some sorting so they're finished at the right point rather than just aiming for a weight in mind."
Even so, the cattle yielded over 64 percent, a number he said he can be pleased with. Moving forward, he knows he can market cattle earlier and will have additional data in hand.
When it comes to selection, temperament is key for Guenzi, who has to balance cattle and farming. Longevity and stayability is important. as well as calving ease. After calving 200 heifers over two years and only assisting five head, the proof is visible for their bull selection.
Carcass traits, specifically marbling and ribeye scores, tend to be where the Simmental and SimAngus bulls shine when paired with good mother cows who can produce and raise healthy calves. With less emphasis on weaning weights based on their marketing, Guenzi said they may be different than some cow calf operations.
"We're still after good mothers who stick around a long time," he said. "The heifers we retain carry on those traits and even exceed what their mothers can do."
This year, Guenzi began working with SimAngus and Total Herd Enrollment (THE) to test DNA samples. The goals of THE include data on a female's entire contemporary group, a move that offers more informative EPDs. Once enrolled, a female's continuous data is collected, adding to genetic improvement of the breed.
"We're trying to hone in on what we're looking for and to select clean up bulls out of our own herd as well as replacement heifers, and which cows are really performing and which ones can be culled," he said.
Data-driven decisions have added power to Guenzi's management and are another tool in his toolbox when decision making time arrives. Heavy culling is key for them, not keeping any cows older than 10. Last year they culled especially heavily, he said, and their oldest cow is 8. This keeps a young herd, allows for more rapid genetic improvement, and keeps the herd performing on a uniform basis.
"The more that finish at the same time, the less work I have to do," he joked.
When selecting clean up bulls, he sorts calves with data in hand, rather than selecting on phenotype alone.
"Now I can go in and use the data to find a sleeper in there that has really great EPDs and his mother was a great performer, because now I have her data, too, and hone in on the good ones," he said.
While they retain the majority of their heifers, he said the handful they do sell are better marketed with the data accompanying them. The same goes for cows.
"We have a strict 30-day calving window for heifers and cows and if they haven't calved in that 30-day period, they go to the sale," he said. "It's not that they're bad cows, they just were bred late and we've got to get farming."
Selling those late bred cows with data can add some value to Guenzi and the buyer who he said may appreciate the data as much as he does. It also gives Guenzi the opportunity to take advantage of the spring bred cow market, a move that many other cow calf producers are unable to make.
"There's a lot of opportunity with the DNA," he said. "Being in the first year, we haven't been able to exercise it yet but we're excited for the possibilities." ❖
— Gabel is an assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 392-4410.