Beef Or Cattle – What’s Your Business?
In its vision statement, Broseco Ranch, Decatur, TX, says it wants to produce a wholesome, healthy product that has great eating quality. “We are,” says Tom Woodward, “in the beef production business.”
Woodward is general manager of the 10,000-acre operation that’s home to around 2,700 crossbred commercial cows and a 200-head registered Red Angus herd. He says that, not that long ago and even still today, if you asked a rancher what business he or she was in, the answer might be, “I’m in the cattle business.” That answer is changing, Woodward says, as cattlemen’s perception of the business changes. “I think a lot of ranchers now are saying ‘I’m actually in the food business.’”
That’s why, when Woodward equates the beef business to a relay race for the consumer, he says, “I’m the first man out of the gate with the baton. If I do not run my first quarter-mile lap properly, the other three are at a real disadvantage. So I need to get out of the gate good, and that gate is using the right kind of genetics.”
Of course, the perception of “quality” varies, but to Woodward, quality is tenderness, juiciness and flavor. “So I’ve got to do the job (right) to get the right kind of cattle that meet the specs these other people in the process say they want.”
However, he says a good start is just part of running a good race. “I’m only going to touch these calves a couple of times in their lifetime before I send them down the road. And it’s like you’re heading into that last turn and getting ready to make the handoff with the baton.”
He’s done everything right so far – he’s got good genetics and the calves are heading into weaning. “I come in for the handoff and I drop the baton. Well, I’ve just ruined the race for the rest of these guys. So what I do with that calf in terms of its immune system, how I handle it in the weaning process, all has an impact on what happens down the line.”
Woodward can remember back when the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) concept first began to take hold and cattlemen changed injection sites from the top butt to the neck and implemented many of the other BQA recommendations. And he’s proud of what cattlemen have done in the ensuing years to ensure their calves get a fast start out of the blocks.
“I’m proud of the fact that each day, I can go to work and say we’re doing the best job we can in producing good product. And that’s a culture I think we need to keep fostering. The challenge is never over at the ranch level, but I think we’ve made some tremendous progress,” he says.