Leachman bags top ag honors for breeding better bulls

Lee Leachman is committed to spreading his unconventional contention that bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to greater profitability in the cattle business.

Rather than judging cattle on the typical measure of weight gain, Leachman advocates a scientific approach to developing crossbreeds with superior genetics resulting in other desirable traits ultimately more profitable than sheer weight.

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Leachman’s contributions to the cattle-breeding industry domestically and internationally earned him recognition by the Rotary Club of Fort Collins’ as Master Agriculturist of Year for 2011.

Leachman joins a distinguished lineage of farmers, ranchers and families honored since the award was established in 1964. All made important contributions to the agricultural community.

“He’s been a real leader in the field regarding breeding beef,” said Jim Harper, a retired dairy farmer who co-chairs the Rotary’s Rural-Urban Partnership committee.

Harper said the award committee seeks out nominees who are progressive, successful, leaders within their industry and active in the community.

Leland Leachman II is the third generation of a long line of pioneering innovators in the cattle-breeding business. An honors graduate from Harvard University with a degree in economics, he also completed graduate-level work in animal breeding at Colorado State University, according to his biography.

From 1992 to 2003, Leachman served as chief executive officer of the Leachman Cattle Co. in Billings, Mont. It produced genetics in the United States and South America and marketed its own brand of all-natural Piedmontese beef.

In 2003, Leachman moved to Colorado with his family and established the Wellington-based Leachman Cattle of Colorado, a seed-stock marketing company. He now advises cattle-breeding operations extensively within the United States and globally. In 2010, he launched a new contract breeding initiative in Paraguay, Brazil and Australia known as the Bull Improvement Co.

Leachman also oversees genetic research-and-development programs, and hosts “No Better Bull” web-based seminars promoting ranching profitability strategies.

Leachman employs his background in genetics and economics to “build more profitable cattle,” selling more than 2,000 bulls since moving here. Those “better bulls” result from studying bloodlines and analyzing what Leachman calls the estimated progeny difference.

In a March presentation at a Canadian beef symposium, Leachman described the EPD approach as a better way of identifying genetically superior cattle.

Despite some skepticism about the ability to change cattle, according to an Alberta newspaper account, Leachman said with his index ranchers can spot cattle that are different based on their genetics rather than variable environments.

These “outliers” are able to overcome what Leachman characterized as “antagonisms” resulting from the clash of desirable and undesirable traits, such as bigger birth weights that can cause more difficult deliveries. Such outliers, he says, offer greater profitability because the animals eat less and gain more weight.

At its Feb. 29 ceremony, the Rotary also honored the Poudre Valley Co-op with the Service to Agriculture award. The award was established by the Rotary in 2002 in recognition of individuals or companies not directly involved in agriculture who make a significant contributions to the rural community.