Polled Shorthorn Selection ProcessGrass-fed Genetics
Before designing a breeding program one must decide what phenotypic and genotypic characteristics they want in their herd. This is not easy because of the variability of heritability and the impossibility of selecting for more than a few select traits. Given Joe’s long history in the dairy industry many of our ideas have been modified and transformed to reflect what we see as realistic objectives with our Polled Shorthorns.
At Whisper Polled Shorthorns our selection process is based on both phenotypic and genotypic traits. Phenotypically we want our females to have a wide variety of colors (not just red) with an emphasis on roan varieties, and with classic Shorthorn heads that are Smooth Polled. Smooth Polled Shorthorns by definition do not have any scurs. Structural correctness with excellent body capacity is paramount. Without capacity they cannot eat, milk, or have easy calving. Udder conformation and milking ability are particularly important in Whisper Polled "Dual Purpose" Shorthorns. Longevity is strongly tied into capacity too.
They should have an adult size of 1400-1600#. We are not “downsizers”. Downsizing leads to a variety of issues including small calves which cannot finish as grass-fed steers in the 1300-1400# range at 17-19 months of age. Consistency of size is very important because it leads to more reliable calf size, effective cow evaluation, and breed uniformity.
Native "Heritage" Shorthorns
Generally they are smaller than Modern Shorthorns. Our goal is to have all our cows in the 1300-1500# range so that the "dual purpose" aspect will still result in steers of 1200-1300#'s at 17-19 months of age in a totally grass fed environment. Consistency of size is very important because it leads to more reliable calf size, effective cow evaluation, and breed uniformity.
In accordance with our view of where the beef industry is headed, forage genetics & feed efficiency lead our genotypic traits selection. Packers ultimately will want a standardized beef cow just as is seen in the pork and poultry industries. If small breeders are to survive they must find a beef animal that will meet the demands of the discriminating consumer yet have a low cost of production. Properly selected Polled Shorthorns fit this role. Other genotypic characteristics we emphasize are ease of calving and high artificial insemination conception rate.