amelia woolums, antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, ncba

Calving for Keeps

It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Glenn Cantrell’s Lone Grove, Okla., and Rush Springs, Okla., ranches.

“We’ve had 97 calves born in 11 days,” the 82-year-old cattleman says with a grin as he invites me to join him and his wife, Mary, at the dining room table.

Glenn and Mary Cantrell, Lone Grove, Okla., were halfway through with calving season when I visited Jan. 31. It was a beautiful day, but they’d battled plenty of cold, too.

When I last visited Glenn, it was August and I was interviewing him for a story for the Angus Journal and the introductory post for this blog series. He told me about his goal: Cattle that go 96% Choice and 75% Certified Angus Beef® brand. I was thrilled when he agreed to let me check back in over the next year as he worked to get closer to that target.

So, I returned January 31, right in the middle of his calving season. It was a beautiful morning, on its way to a 74-degree day, but the Chamber of Commerce weather didn’t tell the whole story. Sure, there’d been plenty of nice days since the first cow calved on Christmas, but there had also been record lows. Frostbitten- and ice- injured calves that had to be brought in the house for some extra TLC. One that didn’t survive the cold.

Last year, Glenn made the decision to breed all his females to Ten X (AAR Ten X 7008 SA). His goal? To get 50 “really good” replacement heifers out of this year’s calf crop. And then do it again, with a different sire, for each of the next few years.

Babies, babies everywhere… In the 11 days prior to my visit, 97 calves had been born on Glenn’s ranch.

“It’s going to take a while,” Glenn says. “But, pretty soon, we’ll have all daughters of top bulls like Ten X and Discovery and Epic. And, eventually, we’ll have a really high-quality cow herd that will help us reach our goals.”

But just because he wants to keep 50 heifers back this year, doesn’t mean he will. They’ve got to meet his criteria.

“Phenotypically, they’ve got to be the very best we have,” Glenn says. “They’ve got to look the part, but they’ve also got to be the part. They need to grow well, be structurally correct and have good udder development.”

As he works to improve his genetic base, Glenn has also made some management changes he hopes will help him get closer to his target. He vaccinates and deworms more often, and provides his females with more and higher-quality supplements. These changes add substantial cost, but he’s confident they will be worth it in the long run.

“They’ve got to look the part, but they’ve also got to be the part.” For a female to stick around Glenn’s place, she must have the genotype, the phenotype and raise good calves.

“In today’s market, sometimes it feels like the lowest-cost operation may be the most successful,” he says. “But I think once the market catches up, we’ll be where we need to be with a focus on quality.”


P.S. These aren’t the only calves we’re following. Check out these installments that take you to Bruce Keaster in Montana and Troy Hadrick in South Dakota.



Katrina Huffstutler is a freelance writer based in Electra, Texas. She’s a frequent contributor to the Black Ink team and lover of functional cattle and quality beef.

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