Larry Leonhardt

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artesianspringsfarm

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I dropped into the KC which I do every once in a while and saw that Larry Leonhardt has died. Whether you bought into his philosophies or not, he was certainly an outside the box thinker when it comes to breeding and I greatly respect what I've read from him. I can tell that there are folks on here who have loved genetics and breeding beef cattle for a long long time and I'd love to hear what you like or dislike about his theories. Please be respectful but I can tell he loved talking breeding, so have it! What do you think about the Shoshone bloodlines, his thoughts on linebreeding/inbreeding/heterosis/consistency (not sure how to succinctly word it.)
 

gizmom

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I copied this from another site for those that don't know about Larry Leonhardt.

We have discussed Larry Leonhardt's philosohy and his contribution
to the Angus industry here before. Western Farmer Stockman interviewed him and I thought you would enjoy what he had to say. I looked
on their website www.westernfarmerstockman.com to see if the article was up there yet and it is not. So in the interest of many of you, I retyped the whole article. (WHEW)

The article is titled:
Seedstock breeder returns to methods from the past

There was a time when Larry Leonhardt's Shoshone Angus Ranch at the top of Wyoming was a destination for beef producers seeking the hottest bulls of the day.

Through the right connections back in the 1960's and 70's, he acquired some of the desired Wye Plantation bulls and began to breed and sell the progeny from his operation around Cowley.

"We did well and sold a lot of high-priced cattle", Leonhardt recalls.
"I made a lot of money breeding trait leaders. But by the end of the 1970's, I saw the cows were gettng bigger and bigger", he says.

"The good cows weren't leaving good daughters. I was looking at my cows and seeing the biggest cows had the smallest calves. I also
thought I must be the worst bull buyer in the world because I run all over
and pay ridiculous prices, and invariably I'm disappointed with the calves-
especially the females", he adds.

Like many others, Leonhardt began to question the wisdom of bigger-must-be better thinking. This kind of breeding had become a contest rather than a focused purpose, he says.

"I thought, 'this is crazy. We're trying to take a bulldog and make
it run like a greyhound'", Leonhardt remembers.

SETTING NEW GOALS
As he began rethinking his purposes, he determinded: "First we have to
have function, and a cow's function is processing forage. I thought about how we need lines the commercial industry can take and use to
profitably to produce beef, not just more beef."

Leonhardt says he went through several years of intense study and re-evaluated his goals.He considered what options could successfully reverse the direction he had taken. He also began seriously doubting the
still-prevalent concept that hybridization could be achieved within
a breed by lining up expected progeny differences and other numbers
and mating cattle that are unrelated or outside the normal range for
certain traits.

He also came to believe that "using the top to bring up the bottom"
leads to unending, problematic cycles of change.

"Hybrids tend to outproduce purebred parents, but there's less
repeatability," Leonhardt explains. "I decided I was going to breed
for three things in separate line: carcass, performance and maternal
traits. It took a long time for me to decide how much cow I want," he
adds, "And there is no cow that will work everywhere."

Over time he shucked all the trappings, all the influx of someone
else's genetics, all the measurements and the paperwork. His primary
focus became maternal lineage. Then Leonhardt began with what
he had, knowing that inbreeding was the quickest way to fix some
traits, and fully aware that it would make or break his program.

As a farmer, Leonhardt says he thought about the way hybrid plant lines
were produced. "I asked myself, 'Why do they have the inbred plant lines?' The answer is 'to control the traits and harness hybrid power.'
"And I thought, 'Shouldn't there be some consistency and reliability of
traits for a breed, other than just color?" he says.

LEARNING FROM OTHERS
He decided to breed for "functional purity that breeds true for characteristics." He wanted good conception, fertility, mothering ability,
decent udders, longevity and freedom from other unmeasured
problems. He sought out old-time breeders and learned from them.

"The purebred business is a con-artists paradise", Leonhardt says.
"I decided I'm just going to breed cattle for myself--that you just
can't successfully breed for everybody."

Leonhardt selects the bulls and cows he likes, knowing they are
all related, and pasture breeds them. He doesn't worry about all the
details, but he focuses on the traits he wants and on moderation
and symmetry.

"If someone says to me, 'That's a nice, long animal', I think I
better shorten him up a bit.'"

Anything that doesn't fit is removed. Over the years Leonhardt
has culled less and less.

He sells about 250 bulls a year, nearly all to commercial beef
producers and all without advertisment.

"When I was changing everything, I thought no one would buy these
closely bred, lower EPD bulls," he says.

But a strange thing happened along the way. As he selected for the
kind of cow he wanted--the moderate, well balanced cow with good
reproductive traits--he got good bulls. They became more masculine, more "boss", more trouble-free and more alike.

FINDING REAL VALUE
Leonhardt says he also began looking at the energy dollars going into
his herd--the amount of money he spent maintaining it--and he
learned that his moderate cattle were just as profitable as the big-bodied
big dollar cattle he once raised. The difference was he spent less,
took in less and made about the same profit with fewer hassles
and problems.

Commercial beef producers saw the value.

"My customers don't spend all their profits on buying bulls from
me now," Leondardt says.

"I've had people say, 'Larry, I admire what you are doing, but I
can't afford to do that.' I ask them why," he says.

"If you spend $50,000 on a bull, you have to earn $50,000
on his progeny. If you don't spend more than you make, you
can do anything you want."

Leonhardt adds, "My customers don't need papers filled with
costly measures. They need to know what my bulls will and will
not do."

CREATING HIS VISION
Where the undercurrent flows beneath the hype of the purebred industry,
Leonhardt's thinking has made him somewhat of a legend. Read a few
chat theads about beef breeding on the Internet and Leonhardt's name
will invariably pop up, along with Jim Lents and a few others.

But Leonhardt says he's really not interested in all that.

"I didn't do this to become famous," he says. "I just did it because
I'm a farmer and I know what they do in the plant world, and I
figured out how I could apply that to my beef cattle."

Moreover, Leonhardt's vision for the industry harkens back to the
old-time model of regionally distributed seedstock, sold to
commercial producers so they can have environmentally adapted
parents for whatever breeding scheme they find most profitable.

"As a purebred industry, we lack the more specific parent stock
the commercial producer needs," Leonhardt says. "I really want the
industry to breed strains for specific purposes, If we had more prepotent
and secific strains, the commercial producer could go pick out the cattle
with the traits he needs to produce the product he gets paid for--
with greater reliability."



_________________
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
– Abraham Lincoln
 

Dylan Biggs

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Artesianspringsfarm, thank you for the post. Gizmon, thank you so much for sharing this article. I personally am very saddened to hear of Larry's passing. I had the honor of meeting and spending time with Larry and for me he was and will remain a true inspiration, in life and in cattle breeding, an understatement if ever I have uttered one. I feel exceptionally blessed to have spent the little bit of time I did with Larry.

For those who new Larry and or his family the link below is his obituary and condolences may be shared there also.

http://www.haskellfuneralhome.com/obits/obituary.php?act=addtrib&id=597626
 

gizmom

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I I never had the honor of meeting him but have the utmost respect for his knowledge and dedication.

Gizmom
 

Oldtimer

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He truly was a cattle breeding legend... I have one of his books- and I find myself constantly thumbing thru it for ideas or looking for material on certain bloodlines... A lot of our herd is built around the Cole Creek Ranch breeding- which has a generous amount of Shoshone bloodlines interspersed into their herd thru bulls like Shoshone Encore 6310, Schearbrook Shoshone, Shoshone Intent KGEA27, Shoshone Viking GD60, and numerous other Shoshone bred cattle....

His legacy and memory will live on in all the Shoshone bloodline's running thru the Angus and Red Angus herds....
 

Aero

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Larry had been spoken of highly forever. I wanted to see the cattle that came so highly recommended. I called Larry and told him I would like to visit and we scheduled a two-day visit for the following weekend. I drove to Cowley from Colorado Springs and got there a little after lunch. He and Betty welcomed me in like we had been childhood friends. I was asked to come down to the office and I assumed it would be to get the keys for the truck or something.

We sat down there for a couple of hours and after about the third time he told me there was nothing special to see, we went out to see the cows. He was right; there was nothing special to see and he had very little to say other than: "They are just cows." We looked at young bulls and it seemed pretty strange that he sold his bulls for all the same price as commercial bulls. We went back to the house and on the way back I told him I needed to go to town and find a room. He laughed a little and told me I was welcome to go look around but the spare bedroom would probably work better for me. They invited me to supper as well and then we sat around the office for a couple more hours.

We discussed a lot of things including the standard Angus way and how lucky Larry had been to make good money on some of his early bulls that werent what breeders needed but only what breeders wanted. Before bed he gave me a copy of a brand new booklet he had printed and told me to read it that night and we could discuss it the next morning. I started reading that night and quickly figured out that this was not a promotion piece of any kind. I could only digest a paragraph at a time and usually I would read through each paragraph multiple times. The words had a density that I had not seen before and I realized that these words had been crafted over many hours and revisions. I felt bad that I only made it through the first few pages before giving up for the night. The only thing I knew by then was that this was a different kind of cattle visit and there was a foolish swing of the pendulum back and forth between cattle types. The spark set in that maybe none of the people I had been learning from knew anything about what they were trying to accomplish. They all just wanted more.

The next day we talked most of the day away around that desk piled high. We talked about the heterosis/inbreeding scale and a lot of discussion about "how high is up?" One important thing that turned on was that bringing in genetics adds new genetics that are good AND bad. There are few genetics that are worth the trouble they bring. That we know almost nothing about a bull that we didnt raise... and nothing about the females in his history. Larry had an anecdote for almost every question I had.

I later found out that there had been many before me that did almost exactly the same visit with almost the same life changing (of varying degrees) results. My visit will be something I treasure from now on and the wisdom I witnessed while there has been applied to many aspects outside of cattle.

Larry showed me that it is possible to have animals that fit the system. That the system does not have to be in continual rapid change or "improvement". That they are just cows and that if you are working hard to fix a problem with the cows, the problem isn't with the cows.
 

Oldtimer

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Dogs and Cows":2q3j383e said:
Oldtimer":2q3j383e said:
He truly was a cattle breeding legend... I have one of his books- and I find myself constantly thumbing thru it for ideas or looking for material on certain bloodlines... A lot of our herd is built around the Cole Creek Ranch breeding- which has a generous amount of Shoshone bloodlines interspersed into their herd thru bulls like Shoshone Encore 6310, Schearbrook Shoshone, Shoshone Intent KGEA27, Shoshone Viking GD60, and numerous other Shoshone bred cattle....

His legacy and memory will live on in all the Shoshone bloodline's running thru the Angus and Red Angus herds....

Oldtimer...can you give the title of the book? I have looked and can't find any by him...and I am always wanting to read and learn! Thanks,

Tim

It is called A Shoshone Collection- and is a collection of some of Larry's writings thruout the years... It was compiled a few years ago- and I'm not sure if there are any left... Try contacting Briann Larson, Kimbal S.D. 605-730-6353 e-mail [email protected] ... That is who had them printed up... I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't get another printing...

You can read a lot of Larry's more recent writings at http://www.Keeneyscorner.com under the topic Reflections from LL ...
 
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