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.
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!
Going further north in the US, to visit Waukaru Farms, didn’t seem to cool the weather down, but a swim in Lake Michigan certainly did! Waukaru is a Shorthorn herd located in Rensselaer, northern Indiana and owned by the Jordan family. The first registered bull purchased by the family was in 1902, which perhaps makes them one of if not the longest running purebred Shorthorn herd in the United States. It felt very much like home when I arrived at their place and saw this sign!
Along with breeding Shorthorn cattle, they also raise some crops, with 1225 acres of land this year planted to field corn. After the corn is harvested, they are are then able to utilise the corn stalks (left over after the ears are harvested) as feed to winter their cows on. A lot of farmers in the United States rely heavily on corn stalks to winter their cows on, and due to the prevailing drought (the worst in 50 years) that is affecting a big majority of the country, there will not be the feed available that there has been in previous years. A further 500 acres of pasture land is used to run their cattle on. They have a herd of almost completley pure red cows for greater market acceptability, and also breed some Durham Red bulls (Shorthorn/Red Angus cross). The Durham Red program is a composite breeding stratergy that capitalises on breed complimentary, between Shorthorns and Red Angus, and heterosis. This year they will join 300 females, including heifers.
I got to look around all their cows and calves, including some embryo calves and saw the mother of Waukaru Patent 8161 ET, that is being used in Australia at the moment with some great success by Sprys Shorthorns. As well as Australia, the Jordan’s have exported cattle and genetics to a number of countries around the world. We did some general cattle work, put mineral out, stacked hay, fed cows and prepared their show team for the state fair.
I was able to go and spend a couple of days with Chuck and Brian Hannon at Donor Solutions, an embryo transfer business. The first job was to semen test a young bull. The semen was collected and then put under a microscope to assess it. The microscope was connectetd to a TV screen so I could see what they were seeing and they could explain it to me. Next job was to flush 2 cows. They flushed each cow and then took the embryos into the lab and sorted them under a microscope. They explained what made the best embryos and what did not and then I got to look at them to see firsthand what they were talking about. We got to talk about different methods of flushing cows and different types of hormones used when flushing. I was also able to palpate both of the cows as one cow gave more embryos than the other to feel the difference in their reproductive tracts. They took me through the whole process from harvesting the embryos out of the cow, to sorting them, placing them into straws and then cooling them down so they can be eventually placed into liquid nitrogen.
We were also called out to a couple of farm visits (as Chuck is also a vet) to some cattle. Dr Hannon and his associates are food animal vets, which includes cattle, sheep and pigs, but no horses. They also have recently started artificially inseminating sheep and goats at their facility. They A.I.’ed quite a number of sheep and were using some fresh and also frozen semen to inseminate the ewes. I was able to watch the entire process which was really interesting and even get to help out!
The Da Es Ro Angus herd of Bob & Marillyn Schlutz had been in operation for almost 60 years with around 150 breeding females. We looked at some cows and calves, their show cattle as well as a couple of their best donor cows. We looked through the pedigrees of most of their cattle after looking at them in the paddock, which highlighted what was breeding well for them.
They recently had 3 winners at the Iowa Angus Preview Show, which is held before the National Junior Angus Show as a warm up to the event. Two of the bulls they bred themselves and the other was a bull they have just purchased a half share in. As Bob is also on the Iowa State Fair Board, we went and visited a couple of county fairs. No judging was taking place, but it was good to go and tour around the cattle sheds and have a look at the exhibits.
While still staying with the Jensen family, I visited Ohlde Cattle Company near Clifton, Kansas. They run a total of 800 cows, with half of that number being registered Black Angus. Those involved in the Angus breed may recognise them as O C C. They are breeding a more moderate sized cow, with the aims of increasing efficiency and doing ability. As well as their purebred Black Angus operation, they have a herd of a number of different breeds which includes Simmental, Hereford, Charolais, Red Angus, Shorthorn & Senepol. They were instrumental in the development of the Senepol breed, and also exclusively developed high percentage Angus cattle, known as Angus II. They are normally about 7/8 Angus, with the other 1/8 being beef fresian. They A.I. 500 every year, which includes all their heifers being done at least once. They sell around 250 bulls annually that are mainly registered Black Angus, but also sell some crossbred bulls, like the Simmental/Hereford cross calf shown. I was able to look at their mature cow herd, as well as some of their herd sires, and talk with them about their unique approach to breeding.
Well, it’s not quite like home (although, according to the Wizard of Oz…..), but after the conclusion of the Charolais Jr Nationals I headed to Courtland, Kansas to stay with the Jensen family. They run a 200 cow herd which comprises 100 registered Hereford cows and 100 recipient cows. They put embryos in the latter cows every year from their 10 best donor females. The remaining 90 purebred females each get A.I’ed once and then back up bulls get put out after this to ensure pregnancies. They had a female sale last October in which they put up for sale a number of their females to give other breeders an opportunity to purchase genetics from their herd that have been successful for them. Along with their purebred operation, the Jensens’ also have a genetic centre which comprises of semen collection & testing and bull housing.
The Jensens are taking 8 heifers to the Hereford Jr Nationals in Grand Island, Nebraska and each morning has been spent feeding, rinsing and blow drying & grooming the heifers to prepare for the show. Combining this with temperatures above 40 degrees everyday, it was a pretty hot job for both us & the heifers! We also had to do some general livestock duties, which included heat checking cows so they could be A.I’ed.