I’ve been thinking a lot lately about family traits. It amazes me that Mike and I have been blessed with two sons whose personalities are so very different. Upon closer evaluation, each of them has taken parts of our personalities and combined to make a very unique personality of their own. Need proof? This week was Jesse’s 18th birthday. I posted about what we love about him, including his strong will. My sister made sure to point out that strong will came from somewhere and she pointed toward my side of the family. She may have been pointing directly at me. Then last night Chris and I were watching a TV show about mining gold in Africa and I could have sworn his father was sitting next to me. Mike got home from work and began a rant that sounded the same just focused at some political happenings. Family traits sure do run strongly in some families.
The same is true for cattle. Not only do physical traits get passed on, but attitudes and dispositions do too. We like to get a little background information on the bulls we use in our AI program before trying them out. That way, if we have a cow who tends to pass on a little more fire in her calves, we can pair her up with a bull that has a gentle disposition. Does it always work? Not every time, but most of the time we can handle what we get. So, when you see the calves we sell each fall and notice they’re fairly tame, it’s been several months of planning and work to get there. Nine months gestation, about 8 months from birth to sale and there you have it….nearly a year and a half to a gentler calf.
Physical traits are also quite heritable in people and cattle. When Jesse was born our family doctor had a concern with how the bone on one of his feet curved. My parents and Mike’s parents were in the room with us when he pointed it out and asked if anyone else had a foot that was shaped like that. My dad piped up and said, “Isn’t everyone’s foot like that?” Mystery solved. My family throws a curved foot bone. When Chris was about 7 years old we were looking through some old pictures. We came across one of Mike’s dad with a birthday cake. He had glasses on and Chris was studying that picture intently. Finally he looked at me and asked, “When did I have a birthday cake that looked like that, Mom?” Chris’s poor eyesight and facial features definitely came from the Bastian side.
Again, that year and a half leading up to our sale, there’s a lot of focus on physical traits. Some bulls throw calves with lots of hair and a big hip. Others add volume. Still others add femininity to their daughters. It is vitally important that we look at what each cow is lacking and attempt to pair her with a bull that will fill in the missing parts. We are sticklers for good structure in our calves. If they have a problem when they’re little, we usually send them to the feed lot. Structure typically does not improve with age and weight. In our opinion, it’s not worth it to have a great animal who cannot travel. Heifers have to go on and produce offspring and poor structure limits their productive lives. While steers don’t have to live for years, they do have to be able to get to the feed bunk and water tank and will eat better if they don’t have joint pain.
So, there you have it. Family traits are important to pay attention to, both in livestock and in people. Those traits will help you get a good idea of how your time with those people or animals will go. Have a great week.