Toedtli Ranch – Totally Committed to Quality Genetics, Nutrition and Marketing
September 26, 2018
When the word spreads that their calves lit up the Week in the Rockies Superior Livestock Auction video sale in Breckenridge, Colorado, this past July, Doug and Joe Hatch couldn't help but smile.
"Gosh, there are a lot of good cattle around, and it is pretty exciting to watch our calves sell and be among the top four or five high-selling Red Angus groups," said Doug Hatch, Toedtli Ranch, of Stoneham, Colorado.
"Receiving such a good price for our calves and the having the same people buying them year after year tell us that our steers must be performing. That makes you feel pretty darn good."
Doug and his son, Joe together manage the ranch, owned by Craig Toedtli. "Our goal is to have repeat buyers. That says our calves are working for the buyers and making them money," Joe said.
Come this fall, Toedtli Ranch's presold steer calves will undergo a Vac34 program. Then the calves will be sorted into three loads according to weight: 675 pounds, 615 pounds and 550 pounds.
Toedtli Ranch calves are the result of what Doug said are the three big things that a rancher has control over – genetics, nutrition and marketing.
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"We've found that all three factors must work together," Doug said. "Emphasizing one area and ignoring the other two won't cut it. The same for emphasizing genetics and nutrition while ignoring the marketing aspect.
"Of the three factors, marketing is perhaps the trickiest. You need to have the goods, and genetics and nutrition give you the goods, but then you have to market your product the best you can."
Red Angus genetics have been a part of Toedtli Ranch for close to 20 years, and Doug stayed with Red Angus when he returned to the ranch and took over management in 2010. His son Joe graduated college and returned to the ranch in 2014.
Today, the ranch has about 500 producing cows and an additional 80 replacement heifers. Doug and Joe each have 50 cows of their own that they run the same as the ranch's cows.
"Craig has allowed us to run the ranch as if it were our own, and the three of us make a great team," said Joe.
Located in northeastern Colorado – a stone's throw from where Wyoming and Nebraska state lines meet Colorado, Toedtli Ranch is cow country where the stocking rate is anywhere from 100 acres to 14 or 15 acres per animal unit. Cows get only mineral, water and grass –mainly Western wheat, buffalo and grama – in the summer. They are supplemented in the winter and get fed only when they calve. Toedtli Ranch cows have to be genetically engineered to convert grass and raise a calf that weans at 50 percent or more of her weight or they won't work on this ranch or in this country.
"The cow sets the tone for the calf," said Joe. "We raise feed-efficient cows that fit our environment.
"Our ideal cow is about 1,250 pounds that will wean a 650-pound steer calf. We know we have a few cows bigger than 1,250 pounds, however, as we weigh every cow and every calf and we keep a flow chart on every cow, we can go back and look what each cow has done over her life time in one chart."
Doug chimed in that one of his favorite days on the ranch is "cull day."
"We are ruthless when it comes to culling," he said. "If we have to help a calf get started, that female is gone. This is not a dairy. We don't milk cows."
Other factors that can lead to a female getting culled include bad udders, structure, poor production and undesired temperament. A cow gets only one strike against her before she's gone.
Doug pointed out that, because he and Joe "just run cows and don't farm," they spring calve. Heifers start calving March 15, with the cows starting to calve April 1.
"April is our big calving month," Doug explained. "April is typically a good month weather-wise for us, and it is closer to grass."
At 30 days into calving, typically all but 50 of their cows will have calved.
Fertility is a key criterion by which replacement heifers are selected. For a heifer to be considered a replacement, she must have been born during the first 21 days of the calving season. She must also wean off at 50 percent or more of her dam's weight – adjusted at 205 days of age, be of sound structure, have good feet and legs so she can travel and cannot weigh more than 1,400 pounds at preg check.
"And she must look like a girl," Doug added.
Last year, Doug and Joe selected 120 young heifers as replacements, and then used Red Navigator to narrow their selection to the top 80 head. Red Navigator is a DNA test specifically designed for commercial Red Angus females in which the genetic panel profiles heifers on the Red Angus EPDs suite. Owners receive results in the form of individual percentile rankings as compared to all other commercial Red Angus genotyped animals.
"We want to continue to make genetic progress in our herd, so using Red Navigator makes sense," Joe said. "Anyone will tell you that you can't determine genetic potential from looking at the outside of an animal. And, while Red Navigator has a cost associated with it, it's a tool that we believe is a good investment."
After their replacement heifers have been selected, Doug and Joe allow several neighbors to come to the ranch and pick replacements. They also consign replacement-quality heifers to one of their seedstock producers' bull sales.
"We are looking to continue moving forward with our replacement heifer business," Joe elaborated. "That is one of the things that we are most satisfied with, as our customers come back every year and buy replacement heifers for their own herd.
Wanting all the genetic power they can get, Toedtli Ranch artificially inseminates all of their heifers and 130 cows.
When it comes to natural-service sires, Doug said he and Joe have "no trouble spending money on bulls."
When a bull sale catalog arrives at the ranch, the men use a sortable data program to help identify their first cut of bulls. Doug goes through his sale catalog and marks his selections while Joe goes through his own sale catalog and notes his top picks. Then the father and son sit down and check which bulls they both liked.
"Bull selection is one of the most important things we do," Doug stated.
Every steer calf born at Toedtli Ranch receives a yellow Red Angus Feeder Calf Certification Program ear tag.
"Just because a calf has a red hide doesn't mean that it's a Red Angus, and we want our buyers to know that our calves are sired by Red Angus bulls," Doug stated. "The FCCP yellow tag is recognized by feeders and packers and guarantees the calf is at least Red Angus in genetic make-up.
"We do a lot of value-added stuff, and the yellow tag does add value to our calves."
Having spent a number of years working in feedyards, understanding what feedyards want when it comes to cattle and knowing that there are thousands and thousands of cattle available to buyers, Doug recognized the value of participating in the Top Dollar Angus program.
"I could tell someone our calves should perform well in the feedyard and on the rail, but why should anyone believe me? Anyone can say that," Doug said. "By participating in Top Dollar Angus, we have a third party that provides genetic certification that our cattle have genetic performance built in.
When asked to name one tool that added the most to Toedtli Ranch's profitability or contributed the most to helping produce highly desired steer calves and in-demand replacement heifers, Doug says there isn't one single tool that produces top quality calves. "All factors contribute," he said.
The Toedtli Ranch was honored with a Grid Master award and was named Commercial Producer of the year at the Red Angus Association convention in Watertown, South Dakota earlier this month.
–Red Angus Association of America