Dr. Carla D. Sanford, with Dean Farms in Georgia, gave a presentation on beef cattle reproductive technology advances at the first RancHER program hosted by Oregon State University.
This webinar series in December was organized by Juliana Ranches, Assistant Professor and Beef Extension Specialist at Oregon State University. This first edition of RancHER was developed to bring information to beef cattle producers by highlighting the work of talented women in the beef industry. The program was sponsored by the OSU Women’s Giving Circle, and was free for attendees.
The program was well received with more than 200 registrations and 120 attendees from the U.S., Canada, and Brazil. Female speakers from across the U.S. were invited to discuss different topics related to beef cattle production. Sanford discussed recent trends in reproductive technologies for beef cattle producers, with a talk entitled Strategies for Optimizing Beef Cattle Reproductive Performance on Your Ranch.
Sanford is from Georgia, where she obtained her B.S. in Animal Science. She completed her M.S. degree at Texas Tech University with an emphasis on applied reproductive strategies in horses, and earned her Ph.D. at University of Florida where she focused on fetal developmental programming in beef heifers and cows. She continued this research at Montana State University where she was an Assistant Professor and Beef Cattle Specialist in Bozeman, Mont. During her time in academia, she worked with other researchers and extension programs on continuing efforts to improve reproductive efficiency, heifer and bull development, as well as investigating nutrition and reproduction interactions.
“I have since returned to our family farm operation in southern Georgia. My husband and I are the 6th generation on this diversified operation with row-crop, produce, hay production and commercial beef cattle,” Sanford said.
She was recently hired as the Southeast regional verification specialist for IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From. She verifies producers for third-party verification and value-added programs. Sanford also works on her family’s cow-calf operation and feels that reproductive performance is critical for success.
Sound herd plan
A complete reproductive beef cattle herd plan may consist of several assisted reproductive technologies including synchronization of estrus, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, in-vitro fertilization, or ovum pickup. In her presentation for the RancHER program, she discussed the foundation of a sound reproductive herd plan, where to start, and how to get the most from your ranch breeding program.
“I met Juliana while we were both doing our doctoral programs at the University of Florida. When she invited me to give this talk on beef cattle reproductive performance in her RancHER program, I appreciated her objectives and lineup of speakers. I hope she will continue to put on more programs like this, in years to come,” Sanford said.
“I started my presentation by saying I grew up hearing the quote that ‘You do not want to be a jack of all trades and a master of none’ but the full quote goes on to say that being a jack of all trades and master of none is oftentimes better than being a master of one.” Cattle producers today have to be versatile and able to do many things!
“So I mentioned the full quote from Adam Savage, because all too often it’s been shortened. I remember being told the short version when I was a participant in youth ag programs growing up--but I had many interests in many different areas. In my RancHER presentation I talked about the need to be a ‘jill’ of all trades.” To survive in agriculture a person has to be innovative, open to new ideas, trying new things.
“On our ranch, my husband goes from working cattle to being a mechanic, working with software in high-tech tractors and other pieces of equipment, to being a business manager. My whole family—father, mother, sister, brother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law—is involved in ag business. One thing I’ve learned from my family is that you have to be able to work well with people and also willing to get your hands dirty,” Sanford said.
Farming and ranching is often romanticized, but ag families understand the sacrifices that have to be made on a daily basis, to do this type of work. “I was excited to be able to present at the RancHER program and talk about women in U.S. agriculture. I quoted a statistic from the USDA Census of Agriculture; back in 2012 only 31.5% of American producers were women. By 2017 this number had increased to 36%, and 56% of all operations had at least one woman operator, It is becoming more evident, how important women are in agriculture, so I felt it was very timely for Juliana to have this program with various presentations by women.”
Sanford’s talk focused on beef cattle reproduction, which was the focus of her Ph.D. work at the University of Florida. She worked with Dr. Cliff Lamb before he went to Texas A&M. His research focused on applied reproductive physiology in cattle, emphasizing synchronization of estrus in replacement heifers and postpartum cows.
“I talked about the impact of reproductive efficiency and how important it is to the beef industry, and some of the things a person can do on their own ranch or farm to optimize reproductive efficiency. Data from the Beef Cattle Research Council in 1977 indicated that reproduction is 5 times more important than growth rate and 10 times more important than carcass quality, and this is still very true.” A cow must first become pregnant and have a calf before you can even start to think about the growth and quality of that calf.
In her presentation for RancHER, she summed up by saying estrus synchronization and AI can add value to an operation. “There’s usually a protocol that will work, for any individual situation, especially if producers can be diligent about the task and the timing.”
Other speakers focused on various aspects of ranching, and some of the new research. Fernanda Ferreira, Cooperative Extension Specialist with the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine discussed how the beef-on-dairy trend among dairy producers could potentially affect beef cattle production. Vanessa Schroeder, faculty research assistant for Oregon State University’s Extension Service presented data on her master’s work evaluating the potential effects of cattle grazing and weather on wildlife in sagebrush country. Virginia Brandao, Dairy Technical Manager at Micronutrients, presented an overview focused on mineral nutrition of beef cattle with emphasis on mineral sources.
The last day of RancHER included information regarding beef quality, presented by Carol Lorenzen, Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department head at Oregon State University. Natalie Kovarik, from Kovarik Ranch, shared information and tips on how to share your history and how to advocate using social media.
The webinars were recorded and can still be accessed by interested people at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/collection/rancher-2021-webinar-recordings. The current goal is to host RancHER annually, either online or in a hybrid format.