Goodbye U S of A!

What a wonderful 11 weeks I have been able to spend here in the United States. I have learnt so much and made a wealth of contacts within the beef industry. What an amazing opportunity to be able to learn about, and from, one the worlds largest cattle and beef producing nations.
From National Junior Breed Shows, purebred breeding operations, artificial breeding centres, feedlots, abattoirs and universities, I certainly was able to cover a lot of the beef industry in the US. This of course would not have been possible without the generous help of so many people! I will get to thanking these people at the conclusion of my study tour. It is not all over yet though! Now back to Canada to look at some more breeding operations.

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Meat & Livestock Australia

Washington D.C. is the North American headquarters for Meat & Livestock Australia. As well as looking after the United States, they also cover Canada and Mexico. I got to spend a day in their D.C. office and talk with the staff about what they are doing to build demand for Aussie Beef in North America.
The staff are present at a number of trade shows from the east to west coast of the United States. They always cook product at these trade shows to give people a chance to taste Aussie beef (as well as lamb and goat) and through this, a number of networks are built within the retail sector. The main aim for MLA in North America is to promote a point of difference for purchasing Aussie beef. One example includes chilled Australian beef has a 120 day shelf life, whereas US beef only has a 45 – 50 day shelf life, something very important for retailers in particular. Australia will export 250,000t of beef this year to North America, which makes it our second largest export market.

Consumers, not only the United States, but worldwide, are becoming increasingly aware of where their food comes from, and sustainibility and food safety are high on the list of importance. Part of the job in promoting our beef to chefs, hotels and food service operators, is that their philosophy is line with what MLA in the US are trying to sell. If a famous chef, for example, is then pushing Australian beef, consumers are more likely to want to buy it. There is also an opportunity in niche markets for Aussie beef in the US, such as organic and Wagyu.

What a great opportunity to get a firsthand look at how our beef is being promoted to the US!

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Wreck ‘Em Tech!!!

I was able to go and see a football (Gridiron) match at while visiting Texas Tech between the TTU Red Raiders and Northwestern State. College football is extremely popular and very competitive at Universities in the US, with everybody that comes to the game dressed up to support their respective teams. The Texas Tech colours are red and black, so being a home game the crowd was a sea of red to show their support for the Red Raiders. Wreck ‘Em Tech is the slogan for the university, and luckily they did, beating Northwestern State by 44 – 6. The universities team mascot, the Masked Rider, led the team onto the field on horseback. It was a great experience to see a college football match, certainly something to remember!

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Cargill Abattoir

After the feedlot tour I visited the abattoir also operated by Cargill. The abattoir is ideally located, being about a 15 minute drive from the feedlot. This means the cattle do not need to travel a long way to be processed, which in turn is better for not only the cattle, but also the consumer.

I was given a brief tour of the abattoir, which started just as the carcases were headed for the chillers. Before the carcases enter the chillers, they go past a machine which takes a photo of the ribeye area (EMA) to assess the quality and yield grade of the carcase. The carcases are then sorted according to these quality and yield grades and grouped together and are placed in different chillers. Before they go to the chillers, the carcases pass through a light acid wash, to control any bacteria that may be present. One of the chillers I went into has the capacity to fit 5000 bodies into it, or 10,000 sides of beef (and this is considered one of the smaller processing plants!). The carcases are then held in these chillers for 3 to 4 days before heading to the fab floor to be cut up. Once a carcass hits the fab floor, it takes around 15mins to completely cut the carcase up and place it into boxes ready for shipping. Cargill try to be as sustainable as possible at all their feedlots and processing plants and therefore try and capture all water and gas for reuse within the facility where possible.

Again due to Cargill regulations, no photos were allowed to be taken inside the abattoir either.

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Cargill Feedlot

I was able to tour extensively a feedlot in Lockney, TX, operated by Cargill. It was originally an independent feed yard until purchased by Cargill a number of years ago. It is permitted to hold 70 000 head, however is currently feeding around 52 – 53000 head. The cattle purchased for the feedlot are from all around the US, with the big majority being Angus cattle. It is a unique feed yard in that it does not do a days feeding program, 80 or 120 days for example. Instead, after the cattle have been started on feed for a certain amount of time, they are weighed and scanned for fat, marbling and REA (EMA). They are then put into new mobs accordingly, so cattle are placed together that are similar in terms of fat depth, marbling and rib eye area. They are then feed accordingly to their scans, which in turn maximizes efficiency of the whole system. All the cattle in a group therefore should have similar quality & yield grades.

They have 6 different rations which they feed the cattle, depending on which stage they are – from entry into the feedlot to a finishing ration. Like the majority of cattle feed in the US, it is a corn based ration with the ethanol by-product, Dried Distillers Grain also used. There is also a number of other components that make up the diet, which includes a number of micronutrients, like zinc and copper.
The cattle are fed 3 times daily and about 650,000 gallons or water is used per day. The pens that house the cattle are cleaned once every week to remove manure and try ensure the animals are always in good health. It is then stockpiled and taken by an independent company for different purposes.

Unfortunately due to regulations put in place by Cargill, I was unable to take any photos at the feed lot, so I cannot share any with you!

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Texas Tech University

A trip across to the other side of Texas after WHR Shorthorns to visit Texas Tech University. I got to spend the week at the Animal & Food Sciences Department. When I first arrived, I got a tour around the Gordon W. Davis Meat Science Laboratory. The Meat Science Department has their own miniature processing facility which has the ability to process cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. The University’s meat judging team is then able to use the product to train for upcoming competitions. The product is then put in retail packages and sold through the university under the label Red Raider Meats. All the products are US inspected and passed by the Department of Agriculture. Anybody can buy the meat and the money from the sales goes toward funding scholarships at the university. I also met with a number of the staff and faculty members throughout the week and talked about some of their research projects that are currently being undertaken. I went into the ICFIE lab (International Center for Food Industry Excellence) where they were doing experiments on bacteria levels in bovine lymph glands and faecal matter. They were doing analysis for several different bacteria, with results from these in a matter of hours with a new system, known as BAX system.

I got to sit in on some classes and also go out to the university farm, where they run a SimAngus program. They had their cows and calves in a dry lot feeding them, due to the drought being very prevalent in that part of Texas. They also sell some half blood bulls, produced via their breeding herd, privately throughout the year. It is much cheaper to feed them this way instead of find pasture land to lease and graze them on. They also have a feedlot for which they do a number of trials in, and also have their own feed mill so as they can mix their own rations according to the different types of research being undertaken.

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WHR Shorthorns

After a short plane ride, I finally arrived in the Lone Star state to have a look at the WHR Shorthorn herd of the Rasor family. As we were driving through the front entrance to the property, the herdsman was holding up a Rattlesnake that he had just killed!!! What a great introduction to Texas!

The Rasor family run around 300 cows. 150 being registered Shorthorns, with the other 150 being recipient cows. They flush about 10 of their best cows every year and put their embryos into these recipient cows. One day was spent pregnancy testing some of these cows and heifers that had either been joined by either A.I or natural service, or had embryos implanted. The cows were preg checked by ultrasound. One of the heifers that was checked was in calf about 30 days and you were able to see the foetus pretty clearly, along with the heartbeat.

I also got to help out with their show cattle, of which they sell a number of (mostly heifers) to junior cattle enthusiasts every year. They give these young people all the assistance they can to get them more involved and to be successful in the beef industry. They have a production sale every year, held the last Sunday in March, selling show prospect and donor females, as well as bulls. We also did some general cattle work, which included taking some cull cattle to a sale barn and weaning calves.

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Runs like a Deere……

As well as having cattle, Sydenstrickers also operate 10 John Deere tractor stores, all located in Missouri, which also includes one of the largest outlets in the United States! They have all sorts of machinery, new and used which includes combines, tractors, mowers and ATV’s and precision agriculture equipment that utilises GreenStar precision technology that is able to gather information, reduce input and labor costs, increase efficiency, or better manage land and water resources. I got a tour of their entire store from the offices right through to the workshop which included a massive wash bay that is big enough to get a combine into!

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Sydenstricker Angus Genetics

After leaving the Jordan family and a long day traveling, I arrived in Mexico, Missouri to visit the SydGen Angus herd. The herd was established in 1952 and operated as Sydenstricker Angus Farms and went under the S A F prefix. Then a little over 10 years ago they started to operate as Sydenstricker Genetics to signify the business they are in and bring forward a unique naming prefix for their cattle, in SydGen. Two of perhaps the most identifiable bulls in the Angus breed, S A F Fame and V D A R New Trend 315 are also buried on the property.
We toured around their entire herd, which included weaner and yearling bulls, cows and calves, and joined heifers & cows to calve this autumn and herd sires. They have around 800 breeding cows of which they will calve 500 this autumn and 300 in the spring. Of these calves, around 25% would be by embryo transfer. They run their cow herd on about 3000ac of owned and leased land. We got to talk a lot about genetics and cattle throughout my time at Sydenstrickers, which was great!
It was great to work with the SydGen team for the week, and a very busy one it was at that! We hauled sale cows from different pastures back to their home place for their upcoming sale this November. We also preg checked cows, did pre weaning treatments for calves, tattooed calves, fly and worm treatments, put out mineral and blocks, fed cattle and other general duties. Like a lot of the country, it is very dry where Sydenstrickers are, and as their corn crop wasn’t as good this year, they chopped it all and made it into silage, which they will then be able to utilise as feed for the winter. Thanks to the Sydenstricker crew for a great week!

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Indiana State Fair

Indiana State Fair is held in Indianapolis annually and would be the equivalent to the Sydney Royal Easter Show or Royal Queensland Show in Australia. All the judging took place inside a big, air-conditioned coliseum. I was able to watch the junior 4-H showmanship competition, where they split the judging of the showmen into different groups depending on what breed of animal the juniors were showing. The 4-H cattle judging was the next day where I watched the Shorthorn, Simmental, Angus, and Chi Steer judging. They also have as part of the 4-H show dairy steer judging, which was by far the largest entered event by the juniors. There is also an open show where anybody is able to exhibit, not just the junior competitors, but is held after all the 4-H and junior events. At the open show, I was able to watch the Angus & Shorthorn judging. The Jordan Family exhibited two heifers at the open show, one of which was Reserve Junior Division Champion. I also got to tour the sheds and look at the cattle exhibits as well as see all the attractions at the fair and have a famous Hoosier Rib-Eye Steak!

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