Thursday, July 24, 2008


Today was a pretty overwhelming day in more ways than one. It was overwhelming because I was trying to squeeze a lot of work into the day and we had something pop up that I needed to handle. But, the cool reason that it was overwhelming is because I was able to attend a Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day featuring Gearld Fry! I only had two regrets from the field day. First of all I regret that I wasn't able to stay the entire time (I know I missed out on a lot!). And secondly, I regret that I wasn't intelligent enough to take it all in...

Although I was only there for two hours I could tell that Mr. Fry knew what he was talking about and I that I didn't know nearly enough. He spent some time talking in the barn and then we went out to the corral where he was evaluating come cows and eventually bulls. I was only able to be there while he evaluated two cows, but it was pretty interesting. Once I have some free time I know that I'm going read and re-read all of the articles on his website ... I was that impressed!

While I can't do it all justice and can't remember half of what he said (it was very overwhelming), let me just throw out a few bullet points from the day:
  • If you aren't line breeding you aren't doing the best that you can do. This is a pretty a pretty bold statement and it did prompt a few questions, but Mr. Fry was pretty strong in his beliefs ... I can't even begin expound on this idea, but it was very interesting.
  • Butterfat has a huge influence in meat tenderness. And a bald udder is an indicator of high butterfat content. Oh, and there were a couple of questions about genetic testing for tenderness. Mr. Fry said that it was good research, but also said he had no reason to give people money to do testing that he could do by looking.
  • There is a dime sized spot of hair on the back of a cow near the front shoulders that can indicate whether or not a cow is pregnant.
  • From about August through December (I think I got that right) is when a cows body most wants to get pregnant (you get the idea).
  • You gotta get your bulls from your own herd, and I think this is where he mentioned the importance of a paternal herd ... I think.
  • Bulls need to look masculine and cows need to look feminine.
  • Finally, this is the one I liked the best. We need to be studying what our forefathers of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries wrote about cattle, because they had it down!
There is just a little bit of what I heard/learned today, but I would suggest that you check out Mr. Fry anytime you have the chance ... oh, and don't leave early :(


sugarcreekfarm said...

We would have really liked to have gone to this field day. Pesky day jobs! I'm hoping PFI will have Mr. Fry speak at their conference one of these years.

Rich said...

"...If you aren't line breeding you aren't doing the best that you can do..."

From my understanding, line-breeding can quickly "fix" the superior qualities present in a superior bull in the following generations of the cow herd. But I've never seen a satisfactory answer for easily finding that "superior" bull with those desirable qualities. I also haven't seen how big of a cow herd you would need to implement an effective line-breeding program.

"...There is a dime sized spot of hair on the back of a cow near the front shoulders that can indicate whether or not a cow is pregnant..."

Where exactly is that spot and what does it look like when a cow is pregnant?

"...You gotta get your bulls from your own herd..."

I can see many advantages to raising your own bulls, but how exactly do you choose which ones to retain? Wouldn't your bull calves need to be at least 12 months old before you could start to evaluate them? I wouldn't have a problem with eating beef from a young bull, but there might be some bias (or a discount requested) if you tried to sell the beef to some if not all consumers.

"...I was only able to be there while he evaluated two cows..."

His linear measurement system is interesting, but how did he get accurate measurements? Did he have to run the cattle into a chute to measure them, or was it a matter of "eyeballing" them from a distance? I can just imagine chasing a cow around a pasture with a measuring tape trying to measure her neck length!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fry is a contrarian, and a wonderful one at that. I highly recommend others get familiar with his theory and practice if they are interested in raising grass-fed beef. You will find it very interesting the Mr. Fry, as passionate as he is about raising the very best quality grass-fed beef, has thrown EPDs out the window and has a very practical way of evaluating quality that you will find refreshing and common sensical.


Anonymous said...

My dad, brother, and I were there, and stayed for the whole thing. (I was wearing the green head scarf and my dad had the hat with the feather in it) It did seem like alot to take in. I had been reading his book (Reproduction and Animal Health- available through Acres USA) before I came, so much of what he talked about was familiar. We have a very small herd, but we are going to attempt to raise our own Jersey bull.

You do not need a large herd to do line breeding. I suggest you read Gerald Fry's book that I mentioned above. It is also available through
That dime sized spot is actually called the adrenal swirl- a swirl of hair on the neck or back. To preg check at about 60 days- if the hair in the swirl is standing up she's open, if the hair is laying flat then she's either bred or not cycling.
We have very tame cows so measuring is no problem, but when you are familiar with linear measuring you can readily eye cattle and know almost at a glance how they would probably measure up. Anyway, it is worth measuring your cows just once. But I understand if your cows are wild, it would be a challenge, to say the least.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...