From the very start of our herd and over the many years since one of the traits we have insisted upon and continued to demand in our cattle is depth of body and overall body capacity. For even though we raise small framed cattle we still want them to have tremendous depth and capacity for their frame.
That depth and capacity can allow for the efficient intake and effective digestion of mass quantities to better produce milk and beef. That depth and capacity will allow for easy carrying and development of calves. That depth is synonymous with easy keeping, well-doing cattle.
So how do you go about improving depth in your herd? Well obviously you will want to use the depth and capacity of the sire, dam, and siblings in your selection and culling criteria. You will also want to use the phenotype of the animal itself. Is it deep? Does it have the capacity from heart girth through the flank you want to see? In addition to those obvious methods, here's the secret, come closer...take a look at the navel flap of calves.
Yes, I know you've heard all the time about those animals with loose navels. You go to a cattle show to "learn" about selection and you hear the judge downgrading this animal or that for being "loose in the navel". Well, frankly when when we show anything under 12 months of age and we get commented upon by the judge about our navel flaps being 'trashy' or 'loose'; we know we're on the right track with that animal!
Bottom line if we can't see a prominent navel flap of a young calf -we'll be enjoying that animal with a nice baked potato in about 12 months.
That navel flap on a young animal is a lot like the 2 sizes too big shoe you buy your 11 year old with the comment, "You'll grow into it." If that navel flap is small and tight at a young age that animal is not going to have the depth and capacity that we want in our herd.
Here's a prime example in one our bulls from a few years back that grew into his navel and boy did he. This is SMD Paycheck Ballan #033108 at a few months, at 6 months, 2 years, and at full maturity. There's nothing wrong with the navel flap or sheath on that mature bull. Tight as a drum but boy howdy is there some depth!
So, focus on depth and capacity. It is critically important even in short cattle. I've seen a tendency in our breed, because we want smaller framed cattle, to select and cull in such a manner to significantly decrease both depth and capacity. This is not a good thing which results in animals that are not efficient and effective forage processors and that resemble more an antelope than a bovine.
Select and cull for depth and capacity (next blog post will be on determining depth and capaciousness of an animal). Do not select or cull a young animal based soley upon too much navel flap....perhaps on the lack thereof!