Sometimes I tend to stereotype businesses by their name or their industry. For instance, Express Ranches. It’s in the cattle business.
When I consider Yukon, OK-based Express Ranches, my preconceived ideas instantly kick in. Herds of cattle. Large pastures. And cowboys on horseback bringing them home at the end of a long day on the trail.
What I learned on a recent visit with Express President Jarold Callahan at the Yukon ranch is that this is one of Oklahoma’s most efficient, high-tech operations, regardless of industry.
Genome mapping. Artificial insemination. Embryonic transplants. Selective breeding for optimal offspring.
Express has incorporated it all into its pure-bred cattle business. Click here to read about it in the Bio Matters column for The Oklahoman I wrote about Express.
First, an aside. I learned that Express has provided more than $3.2 million in to 370 young scholars in a Junior Scholarship program it has managed for almost two decades. I didn’t want the fact of its generosity to get lost in my excitement over discovering the high tech aspect of their business.
There was so much about the company’s purebred cattle breeding operation that I couldn’t get in the column, so I want to share some of it here. For instance, the quick pace of improvement in cattle breeds that Express is making. And where it’s all leading.
“The advancement we can make in selection has just skyrocketed with these genomically enhanced EPDs, or expected progeny differences,” Callahan told me.
That means that by looking at the DNA of a bull and a cow, Express professionals can accurately predict how the offspring will turn out as far as birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight and marbling of their meat.
That’s a big deal for butchers, grocers and consumers who like to grill out on a Saturday afternoon, for instance.
It all adds up to better performing cattle that pass those genetics to future generations in cattle herds across Oklahoma and the United States.
“Our end user is the commercial cattleman,” Callahan said. “Where we sell most of our bulls is to the commercial cattle industry in the Southwest. Oklahoma and Texas are our two biggest states.”
Express employs a certified embryologist among its 50 employees who uses in vitro fertilization techniques on eggs taken from donor cows and then implanted in surrogate others. It runs genomic test panels on every bull and female on the ranch that guides decisions on which animals are going produce the next generation.
“Because of genomics, we’ll have more advances in the next 10 years than we did in the previous 100 because we have information available to us that we never had prior to it,” Callahan said. “It’s making cattle so much better so much quicker.”
It’s a brave new world of genetics and better performing cattle.