Nothing has been so destructive to the American cattle industry than chasing the very latest. Our “finest minds” have brought us to a point where the only consistency in beef is poor quality…the only consistency in our cows is poor health…the only consistency in our balance sheets is red ink.

Trends come and trends go. One trend replaces another and most of the time for the flimsiest of reasons; certainly not for anything that could be considered sustainable. In fact, most of what we like to call trends are fads. Fads in cattle are like fads in fashion; shaped by the ads in slick magazines.

We certainly want our cattle to look like those thousand-dollar ads in the catalogs. What we like to call consultants certainly aren’t going to recommend anything that isn’t going to match the pictures in the trade press either. After all, who wants cattle that look different than the neighbors?

Very few are brave enough to say: “Hold on folks. Will this make the meat taste better? What are going to be the consequences if I follow down this road?” The more times we change the shorter the trends last and with each change the greater the damage and the greater the loss of quality milk and meat.

We chase size (tall-short) for awhile, then length, then color, then intra-muscular fat, then no back-fat. Well, maybe we have the wrong calving season; no, let’s only select bulls that grade choice; no, it’s bulls that…etc…etc.

Let me state this flatly: trends in the cattle industry are destructive by nature. They are bad by definition. Trends happen so fast the full expression of that trend is never fully revealed before we change again and are off on another tangent. A generation for a cow is a four-year time period and then it takes another 4 or 5 generations to know if this very latest and hottest idea is productive. Add it up: to truly test this great, new idea could take as long as 16 years.

It’s not enough to put a calf on the ground…you have to breed it, raise it and examine its quality and production and then do the same to for succeeding generations. Only then can you make a judgment about quality and production; only then can you be sure have something that is not only good but can be sustained.

Finally, let’s keep in mind that as breeders, when we change bulls, we’re really only starting a trend. We have to pray that it is not a fad. Changing bulls produces a different type of calf. Change bulls again and you have changed the basics again. What are we selecting for? Where are we going?

Most of us change bulls with every three calf crops and many more often than that. About the time we are beginning to get the first look at what we’re doing, we change. If your program gives calves grain through the winter to make them look better, even aside from the damage you have done to that animal’s rumen, how do you judge the impact of the genetics? What are the benefits genetically when you’ve confused the results with multiple inputs.

Finally, let me ask you a direct question: are you breeding to establish a consistent gene pool that has as its focal point grass performance and quality of milk and meat?