Farm Talk

November 7, 2012

Coal Valley Angus strives for “elite”

by Danielle Beard

Parsons, Kansas — After seven decades of raising commercial cattle, Jackie and Don Coltrane, of Coal Valley Angus decided to make a switch.

“Our profitability was down, and we didn't have much say on how our cattle did at the market, which was frustrating, so we started looking for a change,” Jackie Coltrane said.

In 2009, they began that change by purchasing five yearling registered Angus heifers, and then started  research on learning how to artificial inseminate. The following year, the Coltrane's attended the 8th Annual Hinkle Prime Cut Angus and Bull Sale in Nevada, Missouri, and Gardiner’s Angus Sale in Ashland, Kansas. It was at these two sales where the Coltrane's realized the importance of genetics and the effects they would have on cattle produced.

“We discovered by changing genetics our profit was increasing with the same input costs as we had with raising commercial cattle,” Jackie said.

He continued to say that they had found the extra work put into changing genetics pays for itself as well.

“By changing, we increased our calving ease without sacrificing growth or carcass merit,” he said.

One thing they noted after the change was weaning weights.

“Weaning weights were much better—up to 100 pounds different.” Jackie said. “Which was amazing to see, since we were feeding exactly the same, but seeing such different results.”

The Coltranes’ both agreed that leaving the commercial world and becoming seedstock producers forced them to become more disciplined in their operation.

“We switched to AI in order to tailor individually to each cow, and to build upon her genetics,” Don Coltrane said.

With the help of Kenny Hinkle of Hinkle Prime Cut Angus and Mark Gardiner of Gardiner Angus, Coal Valley was able to expand their AI knowledge to increase genetic performance as well as how to tailor each cow’s genetic needs and create elite lines.

The second phase in Coal Valley Angus’ change was to begin embryo transfers.

“We wanted to create an elite group of cattle,” Jackie said.

According to the Coltranes’ it takes a very special cow to become a donor for an ET program.

“To become a donor they need to be elite in multiple traits,” Jackie said. “We focus on carcass merit, calving ease and weaning weight, and work to keep and build on all three of those traits.”

April 2013 will be the fourth year since Coal Valley Angus made the switch to purebred, and the Coltranes’ say it’s been an exciting four years of continued knowledge and growth.

“We haven’t sacrificed from the change, we’ve only benefited,” Jackie said.

Now Coal Valley only AI’s their elite and turns the rest of the herd into recip cows. With the help of Embryologist, Dr. Clay Briener, they are able to discover where they need to improve and tweak different genetics.

“We decided to build upon our program further by purchasing lot one bull at  a HPCA sale,” Jackie said. “By purchasing this bull, it allowed us to give a second chance for cows to breed without sacrificing quality.”

According to Don, raising purebreds is a whole different ball game with criteria that has to be met. With that Coal Valley has taken steps to better their product.

(“We installed a heat detection system,” Don said. “The transmitter that is attached to each cow’s tailhead sends a signal to a receiver, and from there to the computer, which lets us know exactly when cows come into heat.”

According to the Coltranes’, statistics show the best time for conception is 12-14 hours after a cow first comes into heat.

“We live by that,” Jackie said. “Because of that we breed around the clock.”

He continued to say, “Timing is what AI is about. We want to know we are breeding cows at the right time, not throwing mud at the barn wall.”

Along with AI and embryo counseling to improve genetics, Coal Valley also has 50K testing done, in order to aid EPD’s.

“The 50K helps us have foresight at a younger age, it also raises the accuracy of EPD, which helps us guarantee an elite animal,” Don said.

Nutrition  of their cattle is also something Coal Valley has always taken pride in, but even more now with an improved genetic herd.

“We feed better or more accurately to utilize genetics to their max,” Don said.

Along with soil testing and fertilizing their own hay fields to produce the best possible hay, Coal Valley has any hay tested before they buy.

“We raise about one-third of our hay supply, and purchase the other two-thirds,” Don said. “We believe in always having the hay tested before we buy in order to know what we will need protein wise for the cows needs.”

From there the Coltrane’s work hand-in-hand with a nutrition rep.

“We work with Mark Grotheer, our Purina rep to create a nutrition program that fits us, and from there we fine tune his program to meet our ideal body score for each cow,” Jackie said.

Don added that while nutrition is where the greatest expense lies, it’s the most crucial.

“If you don’t take care of your nutritional needs it becomes a weak link,” he said.

Despite still being relatively new to the purebred world, Coal Valley is happy to say they already have repeat customers.

“We sell everything private treaty,” Jackie said. “We stand behind our product and believe in customer service, and we’re happy to say we’ve sold out the past two years.”

The Coltrane’s believe in holding themselves and their cattle to a high standard.

“We feel that if you start your business that way, it won’t take long before it will be that way,” Jackie said.

Satisfied customers is what Coal Valley aims for.

“We raise predictable animals that we are proud to stand behind,” Jackie said.

Don added that, “Our cattle speak for themselves. We offer cattle that will work well for the registered or commercial producer.”

Coal Valley offers bulls and females for sale in the spring and fall, as well as replacement stock. Their advice to producers who are looking to buy is to shop early.

“The best go first,” Jackie added.

The Coltrane’s credit much of their success and business ethics and discipline to the continued guidance from Hinkle and Gardiner.

“They’ve been like big brothers to us,” Jackie said. “They’ve bent over backward to offer advice, and provide a support system.”

“We learn from their example, and apply it to the way we do business,” he added. “We’ve been taught by the best to stand behind our product.”

 Part of being able to stand behind their product, is being involved in every aspect of their operation.

“We eat, sleep, and live this business, it’s an everyday relationship,” Don said.

Jackie followed with, “we live our business, it’s family run, so we don’t have hired hands, we do it all.”

“We are passionate about what we do, we stand behind our product, and we serve our customers with a service that brings them back to us,” Jackie concluded.

You can find more information on Coal Valley Angus at www.coalval£