When Bill bought his first Gelbvieh bull and cows in the early 80's, he based his decision on the 1980's MARC data, which showed the Gelbvieh breed's superiority in both performance and maternal characteristics. Although those traits are still recognized as the major strongpoints of the breed, Gelbvieh cattle have come a long way in some of the less desirable traits, such as moderating their mature cow size and improving carcass quality. In addition, the introduction of the Balancer breed in 2000 further improved the desirability of Gelbvieh and Gelbvieh-influenced cattle. In order to provide their customers with superior genetics, the Wilkinsons began incorporating top quality Angus genetics into their Gelbvieh herd to produce Balancers, while maintaining the purebred breeding, as well. As such, they can offer their individual buyers the best combination of genetics, in order to provide the optimum balance of pounds and carcass for each of their customer's individual herds.
The Wilkinsons consider a variety of factors in their breeding and management decisions, but the rough arid environment of Southeastern Colorado is probably the most important one. Typical stocking rate is between 75-100 acres/cow, so their cows and bulls must be structurally sound in order to walk the miles they need to for water and grazing. In addition to soundness, the Wilkinsons emphasize strong maternal traits, for which Gelbviehs are known. Cows must have moderate milk production, with good teat and udder structure. Cows calve unassisted out in the pastures and the calf must get up and suck immediately, which is why teat size is so important. Predation can also be an issue so having a good mother is extremely important, as well.
When making breeding decisions, bulls are chosen for their potential maternal, performance and carcass characteristics. Because they are trying to push the envelope with performance, without sacrificing birthweight or mature size and carcass, this selection process is always a challenge. Additionally, not only do the Wilkinsons want to produce more pounds for their customers, but they also want their customers to keep their own replacement females. That is one strong characteristic of the Gelbvieh and Balancer cattle -- they are dual-purpose in that they produce outstanding mamas, as well as performance oriented steers. Bull selection for their herd sires is based on these basic principles, whether they are selected from their own herd or purchased from other Gelbvieh/Balancer breeders. Over the years, we have found that running multi-sire groups results in an almost 100% breed-up. With the size of our pastures, we realized that cows were simply not being covered; so having 2 sires has been a tremendous plus for us. The added expense of sire testing is easily covered by the increased conception rate. Plus, it was a real eye-opener for us. Many calves that we thought were out of the AI time window have tested back to their AI sire, so we feel much more confident in what we are now reporting.
In the Spring of 2018 2019, we AI’d all registered and commercial heifers to AT EASE A357, SHIPWHEEL CHINOOK, CONNEALLY COMRADE 1385, EGL LIFELINE B101, SCHIEFELBEIN EFFECTIVE 61, JRI IN DEMAND 254F839 ET or KM BROKEN BOW 002.
Cows were AI’d to CAROLINA BIG HARVEST 6012D, CAROLINA TUXEDO 6028D ET, DIRECT IMPACT 568Z, JRI PROBITY 254D28, EGL LIFELINE B101, JRI IN DEMAND 254F839 ET, HOLE IN ONE 93D, and SCHIEFELBEIN EFFECTIVE 61, HOOVER DAM and BGGR HIGH DEFINITION 8063E.
After AI, cows were sorted according to breed make-up and EPD’s, then turned in with one of the following multi sire groups: SYD BOONDOCKS AXEL 3116A ET and PLAINSMAN DIRT ROAD 6144D; BNW EDUARDO 7134E and FLYINGH 355Z/LEVERAGE 91E E; BNW ECLIPSE 7104E AND BTBR MR BLACK CROSS 8235 ET. Heifers went with BTBR Mr. Black Cross 8009 and PLAINSMAN 6163D
Calving interval is also planned around the environment. Heifers are bred to start in March, whereas the cows start in early April. The hope is to avoid the severely cold winter storms while getting closer to green grass. The Wilkinsons normally hold back 35-40 replacement heifers (registered and commercial) and develop them on a heifer development ration, then synchronize and AI breed them to calving ease sires, usually Angus or higher percentage Balancer sires. After one round of AI, they are turned out with calving ease herd sires.
Roughly 75% of the registered cows are also AI bred, allowing them to "customize" each potential calf. They generally look at three specifics: 1) the need to increase or decrease the Gelbvieh make-up in the calf, 2) the genotypical characteristics to complement the cow's EPD profile, and 3) structurally correct cattle, with some eye appeal. As with the heifers, the cows are turned out with our herdsires after one round of AI.