Heartstone Angus, LLC
Silver City, New Mexico
Here in the arid Southwest, we are continually being asked to do more with less. Faced with increasingly fickle monsoon moisture, we are having to re-evaluate our stocking rates and re-calculate our supplement amounts. We ask our cows to produce more pounds of weaning weight with less input, while they are having to travel farther to water.
At Heartstone Angus, LLC in the Burro Mountains southwest of Silver City, New Mexico, we require our registered Angus cows to perform under the commercial conditions experienced by our bull buyers. Our primary selection process is entirely based on individual performance. These cows are stress-tested under range conditions, with minimal inputs, and must maintain a calving interval of less than 365 days and wean a calf at least 50% of the dam’s body weight to stay in the herd. Their range runs from approximately 5000-7000 feet in altitude.
Over the years, we have noticed a significant disparity between EPDs and actual performance. Our protocols have been established to identify the most important indicators of profitability, such as calving interval, actual birth weight, weaning weight as a percentage of the dam’s mature weight rather than contemporary groups, range utilization, and water utilization. How do you compare two calves in a contemporary group that both wean at 600#, when one comes from a 1000-pound dam and the other comes from a 1600-pound dam? You can’t. The smaller cow will make you significantly more money.
Another important protocol is calving interval. We have cows as low as 348 days. We require all our cows to calve within a 60-day period. Even then, a calf born at the end of the 60 days will return $240 less than the first calf born. This is why intervals consistently over 365 days reduce your profit substantially.
The strict production and fertility protocols that we have placed on our cows have resulted in a cow herd that ranks overall in the top 15% of the entire Angus breed for feed efficiency. This involves two factors: dry matter intake (DMI), and residual average daily gain (RADG), two traits that seldom go hand-in-hand. For example, there are bulls that have a very low DMI, which means they don’t eat very much, but they also may not gain very much. Conversely, some bulls have a great RADG, which means they gain at a good rate, but they may eat a tremendous amount to do so.
We were fortunate to produce Heartstone C060, one of only 5 bulls in the Angus breed to rank in the top 1% for both DMI and RADG. He weaned at 67% of his dam’s body weight, with a weaning ratio of 130 (829#) and a yearling ratio of 128 (1199#). He ranks #33 out of more than 24,000 sires in the breed for DMI. His first son, who we retained, also ranks in the top 1% for both traits, according to his 50K DNA analysis. He ranks #19 out of more than 208,000 non-parent bulls for DMI. We also have six heifers ranked in the top 50 of the breed for DMI.
The result is a cow herd that has a 92% calving rate in the first 60 days of the calving season. Our cow maintenance costs average $90-140/cow/year, including protein, salt, and mineral. In 2018, after we sorted the replacement heifers and sale bulls at weaning, the younger and lighter calves averaged $811/head at the sale.
Our goal is to produce bulls that are acclimated to the conditions that we face here and know how to cover terrain and climb hills. They have demonstrated their soundness and come from generations of stacked females who have maintained calving intervals and weaning weight standards under harsh conditions.
What’s in your pasture? Daughters of Heartstone bulls will improve your profit margins.