Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Irvine Ranch - Manhattan 19/8/12

Leah and I arrived at the Irvine Ranch where their family were among the first settlers in Manhattan,  Kansas area, arriving in 1855.   Their cowherd can trace its roots back over 80 years with many of the cows in their herd can trace their roots back to the 1927 foundation. Through the years, they have supplemented their existing cowherd with the acquisition of a handful of superior purebred Simmental and Angus cows.  The Irvine Ranch is located very close to Manhattan where they have great access to bull and embryo collection facilities through Kansas State University and also local store markets.

In 1968, the Irvine family started using Simmental bulls in their AI breeding program with commencing to use Angus genetics into their herd in late 1980s.  The Irvine Ranch have an annual bull sale on the 1st Saturday of November since 2005.  The Irvine family are firm believers in the value of Simmental genetics which are well suited to provide balance of beef production along with the Angus genetics being applied to complement the strengths of the Simmental genetics.

Their herd improvement is focused on improving genetic traits affecting profitability of their beef-producing customers with improving early growth, carcass quality, feedlot and maternal efficiency while maintaining easy calving cattle that are fertile, good-tempered and moderate in mature size.  The entire herd is polled.  

The Irvine family run 150 head of stud cows where they are artificially inseminated.  All heifers are mated at 14 months and scanned to assist with their selection process of breeder cows to be retained in their herd.  John researches each animal by matching the sires to each individual cow by using EPD's.  All cattle are on a 60 day mating period and then are pregnant tested using a blood sample which can detect pregnancies at 30 days.  All their sale bulls are scanned, vet checked and prepared on a corn, fish meal and lucerne ration twice a day with a ration for each bull receiving 12 pounds of corn and fish meal.  The Irvine family produce all their own corn and soy bean with local processors harvesting the crops.  The majority of ranch is under centre pivots with very fertile soils reaching depths up to 30 feet.  The ranch receives a 32 inch rainfall with some of this received through snowfall.  

The Irvine's welcomed Leah and I as one of their family members where we were lucky enough to camp on their property for the night and also experience the real American family Sunday bbq.  We had a fantastic time with all the Irvine family and they will stay dear in our hearts forever.  We wish them good luck for their upcoming bull sale.    


ASA #: 2384721

          G A R PRECISION 1680
          G A R EXT 4927

          IR MS VIENNA H658
9J9 GAR 856


Olson Ranch - 17/8/12

Leah and I arrived at a little town called White Oak where we visited Wally and Doris Olson.    They are running a 7000 acre ranch with 1800 to 2000 head of mixed cattle.  The ranch is on an average of 32 inch rainfall and some snowfalls in their winter, however this year they have received minimal rainfall.  Wally and Doris are a great example of Bud and Eunice Williams stockmanship and marketing practises where they are very close friends and mentors for Wally and Doris.  Wally practises a holistic grazing system to a certain degree where all their paddocks are divided into a mile long and 660 feet wide with their cattle herd of approximately 508 head grazing from one to three days.    Wally and Doris practice a 90 day mating period, with a system where he pregnant tests the cows at 60 days, with the cows in calf at this time he keeps in his herd and the remaining cows, not in calf or late in calf will be sold to the open market to maintain a fertile herd.

Wally also trades a lot of weaner cattle where he monitors the local markets and agents to help predict when to sell or buy.   These weaner cattle are entered into a feeding paddock system where they are fed in a paddock, not as confined as a feedlot with lucerne, mineral supplements and some corn-cottonmeal based supplements until they reach a saleable market weight.  Wally sometimes trades in the hairless sheep and meat goats.  Wally and Doris also lease land out to young ranchers how want to get a start in life in cattle ranching.  These young ranchers have to be independent on all financial responsibilities however Wally and Doris will assist them with any advice or direction they want to pursue.

Wally took Leah and I to a nearby town of Bowlin Springs which has only approximately 8 families living there.   We had all you can eat ribs and beer for lunch, it was delicious!!   

Leah and I had a great day with Wally and Doris with Wally not just sharing his knowledge with pasture management but also his marketing strategies.

Oklahoma State University - 16/8/12

After getting lost on the huge university grounds, we finally found the Animal Science Building on campus and met with Dr Megan Rolf who is an Assistant Professor and Beef Cattle Extension Specialist in the Animal Science Department at OSU.  We spent the afternoon and night in conversations regarding the genetic side of beef cattle production and also the nutrition of cattle.  We spoke using genomics and knowing which is the best test to use, where we agreed that the 50k snip is the most accurate.   Megan has a goal to apply genomic studies in a commercial cattle herd.

OSU has five branch campuses including its main one in Stillwater.   Animal Science is the largest major on campus and offers the largest departmental scholarship offering, but it is perhaps the most personal department as well.

The Department of Animal Science sponsors the dairy cattle, livestock, meats, poultry and horse judging teams. All have established enviable national reputations in competition, and the livestock judging team is the reigning national champion. 

Thanks to Megan Rolf for her time and insight of beef genetics and nutrition.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Grazinglands Research Station - 15/8/12

Leah and I left the Noble Foundation and travelled to El Reno, Oklahoma to the Grazinglands Research Laboratory. This research laboratory mission is to develop and deliver improved technologies and management planning systems for integrated crop, forage, and livestock systems under variable climate, energy and market conditions. 

Dr David von Tungeln, the Veterinary Medical Officer (Forage and Livestock Production Research Department) at the research lab gave us a tour of the grounds and where they conduct research across a broad range of topics of special interest to livestock producers in the Great Plains. The research focuses on solving problems in two topical areas: genetic improvement and management of forages, which requires scientific expertise in agronomy and plant genetics; and livestock production, which requires expertise in animal nutrition and genetics.

The Research Station practice a holistic grazing system with a similar 32 inch annual rainfall.   Most of the cattle producers in America mate their maiden heifers at 14 months of age, with them calving out at around 24 months of age.    They have brangus based cows at the facility where they cross them either with a red angus, bland angus or a charolais bull on a 60 day mating period.  I was quite surprised to learn that wheat forage compared to forage sorghum had better weight gains per day.  (e.g.  cattle that were flash grazed on wheat pastures were putting on 3 pounds and over a day and cattle flash grazing on forage sorghum were putting on 2 to 2 1/2 pounds per day).  The Research Station are also conducting trials planting legumes into pastures to increase soil fertility.

Dr David von Tungeln and his wife Mary Beth had dinner with us where his knowledge on beef cattle and pastures was endless.   We would like to thank all the staff at the Research Station for their knowledge and time spent with Leah and I.

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation - 14/8/12

We arrived at the world reowned Noble Foundation where we were greeted by Mary Means with a presentation of the history and work of the foundation. After an amazing tour of the greenhouses and state of the art facilities at the foundation and also a brief presentation from myself to the agricultural division of the foundation, Ryan Reuter and James Rogers, both Assistant Professors in the ag research division spent the day with us taking Leah and I on a tour of two of the foundations' ranches. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is an independent, nonprofit institute headquartered in Ardmore, Okla. Founded in 1945 by Lloyd Noble to assist producers better manage their land. The Noble Foundation conducts direct operations, including assisting farmers and ranchers, and conducting plant science research and agricultural programs, to enhance agricultural productivity regionally, nationally and internationally. The Noble Foundation, is the largest private foundation in Oklahoma and is in the top 44 in the United States (based on asset size). The foundation operates a 500,000-square-foot central campus having research, program, infrastructure and administrative space and also has more than 12,000 acres of farms in southern Oklahoma for research and demonstration projects. The foundation assists more than 1,700 farmers and ranchers in a 47-county service area (southern Oklahoma and north Texas) in achieving their individual financial, production, stewardship and quality-of-life goals. We spoke to Ryan and James regarding feed efficiency measuring tools and also their holistic grazing system. We also looked at spot burning to control cedar trees along with more sustainable forages for their livestock through plant biology, forage improvement for their ranches and serviced ranches that they consult with. The Noble foundation was kind enough to allow Leah and I to stay at their magnificent conference centre. We would like to thank all the staff involved for a very memorable day.  Website - www.noble.org

Monday, 13 August 2012

McAnelly Ranch/ Brush Country Angus 11/8/12

Rick and Deborah Machen kindly took Leah and I out to meet with Phil & Linda McAnelly who live at Yancey, Texas. Phil and Linda are fifth generation ranchers, who raises their angus herd on the same ranch their family has owned since 1883. Their cattle are sold through the Grassfed Livestock Alliance who provides a fair, sustainable market for family-owned and operated ranches. All members must adhere to holistic, environmentally focused land management techniques and compassionate animal handling standards. Cattle are born and raised on pasture without use of antibiotics, growth hormones, animal by-products or ionophores. The McAnnelly Ranch have a 20 inch rainfall, who usually run approximately 1000 head of angus cattle, however with the current drought they are experiencing their numbers have fallen to approximately 400 head. Phil gave me a great run down of bull selection methods he uses by recording attributes such as eye muscle area growth over certain periods of growth times in the animal's life, dna testing for feeding efficiency and most importantly personally knowing and trusting the stud's history of their genetics. Phil mates his heifers at between 12 to 14 months of age and mates his breeder cows all year round as his weather patterns are not predictable. As Phil told me, a cattle breeder should never stop learning and always have an open mind!!

Texas AgriLife Research & Extension 10/8/12

After flying into San Antonio, Texas, Leah and I drove to Uvalde and spent two days with Rick Machen (a Professor & Extension Livestock Specialist) and his lovely wife Deborah, at the Texas AgriLife Research & Extension. With its Texas A&M System partners, the state legislature, and the communities it serves, the mission of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service to serve Texans through community-based education. With a vast network of 250 county Extension offices and some 900 professional educators, the expertise provided by AgriLife Extension is available to every resident in every Texas county. Rick took Leah and I out to the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Sonora to meet with Dr Charles (Butch) Taylor who has been at the Research Station for 41 years. Dr Taylor oversees projects in restoring West Texas Rangelands by managing the Juniper and prickly pear by using methods of prescribed burning and then coming through after the burn with the goats grazing the forage at a sustainable level. Texas AgriLife Research is selectively breeding goats to increase the amount of juniper in their diet. Through DNA testing they are identifying goats that eat more juniper, their goal is to make an already effective method of control of juniper even more efficient. The Texas AgriLife Research Station at Sonora, established in 1916, is on the Edwards Plateau region. Dr Taylor and his personnel not only develop state of the art fire prescriptions but also teach people how to use them. The 500 member association is a direct result of the station's successful promotion of safe and responsible use of fire in controlling noxious plants. I would personally like to thank Rick and Deborah Machen and also Butch Taylor for spending time with Leah and I, we thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Green Clean Boulder 8/8/12

Leah and I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon and dinner with Jim and Daniela Howell who are co-founders of the Savory Institute. They live in Boulder which is located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 5,430 feet. The city is 40km northwest of Denver which thrives on living a clean, green and healthy life. The majority of the restaurants source their products from local organic farmers creating a great healthy lifestyle. Jim and Daniela shared with us their knowledge of restoration of healthy soils. We would like to personally thank Jim and Daniela for sharing the night with us and if you ever want a great book to read regarding global case studies of grazing in nature's image, For the Love of Land by Jim Howell is very informative. http://www.savoryinstitute.com

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Chico Basin Ranch - 4/8/12

Leah and I arrived on the 4th of August at Chico Basin Ranch and was lucky enough to spend a couple of days there. This Ranch also practices Alan Savory's work. It is an 87,000-acre working cattle ranch 35 minutes southeast of Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed under a one-of-a-kind lease by Duke and Janet Phillips and their family. The ranch offers education and recreation opportunities for adults and children also. The Chico Basin Ranch uses a cell grazing system where they run approximately 2000 head of mixed cattle, including their own Beefmaster herd. The Chico Basin has an average rainfall of 12 inches (including snow). The ranch consists of shortgrass and sandsage prairie, spring-fed lakes and meandering creeks. Their grazing system ranges from one day grazing to a ten day grazing pattern where they at least try to rest the paddock for 90 days or more. Their management is very similar to the Lasater Ranch as Duke Phillips worked at the Lasater Ranch for ten years prior to leasing the Chico Basin Ranch. The cattle herd were in good condition even though their season isn't treating them kindly. The Ranch also has a small flood irrigated pasture of lucerne which is used for the horses and cattle. Duke, Janet and all the employees at Chico Basin Ranch were very welcoming and made us feel like we were at home. Have a look at their website for more in depth information >> http://www.chicobasinranch.com/

Roaming with the Bison - Zapata Ranch - 7/8/12

After leaving Chico Basin Ranch, Leah and I travelled to the sister ranch, Zapata Ranch which is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed through a one-of-a-kind partnership with Duke and Janet Phillips Family. The ranch is a 103,000 acre bison and guest ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. It borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest National Park in the United States. The high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. The ranch and surrounding valley is a wildlife mecca and is home to thousands of elk, bison, deer, coyotes, birds and many other species. The ranch has a 8 inch annual rainfall including snow, with 500 head of cattle and 1500 head of bison. The Zapata Ranch also practises Alan Savory's work. The cattle herd consists of yearlings and mother cows that graze on native rangeland. Depending on variables from year to year, such as drought and markets, some of the cattle are owned by third parties who contract with Zapata Ranch to manage their cattle. All other cattle are owned by the ranch. Jeff Gossage, the Ranch Manager, kindly let us join him for the day where we drove through Bison herds, the Bison yards, giving us a tour of one of their many cell grazing systems where they run yearlings and breeders. The bison herd is located on the North end of the ranch in a 50,000 acre pasture, called the Medano Ranch. The bison are managed as a conservation herd, meaning that they run as a wild herd: no branding, supplimental feed or weaning. The Zapata Ranch has endless amounts of high quality water with it feeding from the Artesian basin. On the 7th of August, Leah and I went on a horse trail ride with Julie Phillips, Anna (An Australian wrangler intern) and four other ranch guests where we rode 20 miles along the edge Great Sand Dunes National Park and ranges. It was an experience that Leah and I will never forget. I would like to personally thank, all the employees at Zapata Ranch who where a great bunch of down to earth people. The website for the Zapata Ranch is http://www.zranch.org

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Lasater Ranch 3/8/12

Today Leah and I visited Lasater Ranch which is situated approximately 80 miles from Denver which is operated and owned by Dale and Alex Lasater and family. The Lasater are the founders of the breed called Beefmaster which is a three way composite cross of Brahman, Hereford and Shorthorn. The development of the Beefmaster herd commenced in the early 1930s by Tom Lasater (Dale's father). Some of the concepts he used to create the breed go back to the early 1900s. In those years some of the breeding and management policies behind the development of today's beef masters were began by Edward C Lasater (Tom's father). The Lasater Ranch sells Beefmaster semen and embryos worldwide to Australia, South Africa and Mexico. All of their herd are pasture based only, they are just provided with a mineral supplement. Some of their practices are 45 day breeding season, starting as yearlings; wean a good calf every year; unassisted calving; not killing of feral animals; no use of any insecticides for more than 40 years; limited use of vaccinations (7in1); annual feet and udder evaluation; home-raised herd sires grown out on grass and selected for their superior growth traits; cattle with poor dispositions are culled; every cow has to have a calf every year otherwise culled as well. Cows are not culled for age, they are only culled by fertility. The wean their calves between nine to ten months of age. The Lasater herd has been a closed herd for 40 years. The Lasater own and lease a total of 35000 acres which is very hot and dry climate with an annual rainfall of 12 inches (a combination of rain and snow). The temperament and condition of their cattle was outstanding even though the cattle are under harsh conditions. They look as if they have been living in a feedlot. They have unique herd sire bull selection based upon weaning weight, post weaning gain and yearling weight. The test consist of 100 days between actual weaning weight and actual yearling weight. This type of development demonstrates a bull's ability to efficiently convert native forage into pounds of beef. The Lasater Ranch a practises Alan Savory's method of cell grazing and it is evident in the cattle and pastures that they are both thriving. Alan Savory is a great mentor in holistic management. I personal thank-you to Dale and Alex Lasater for sharing your knowledge and time with his, it was a very memorable day. The Lasater beef master herd and family's practices would suit Australia's conditions. The Lasater Ranch website is www.LasaterRanch.com

The Great State of Colorado 2/8/12

For the next month, my wife Leah will be travelling with me around the States for my final leg of my Nuffield trip. We arrived in Colorado Springs late on the 1st of August, still jet lagged and overwhelmed that we were actually by ourselves without our three children in another country!! After a good night sleep, we visited local tourists attractions in Colorado Springs consisting of Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Pikes Peak and Prca Prorodeo Hall of Fame. Manitou Cliff Dwellings is one of the most accessible examples of cliff dwelling architecture. These alcoves provided shelter from wind, rain, and snow, therefore avoiding the effects of the harsh climate. Pikes Peak is the backdrop for the historic city of Colorado Springs, commands a full altitude of 14,115 feet above sea level, and is the 31st highest peak out of 54 Colorado "14ers". From the summit, panoramic views are all the way to the horizon. Leah kissed the ground once we arrived at the summit after 19 miles of driving, as she was very nervous driving up. The ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy is the only heritage centre in the world devoted to ProRodeo. The museum has hundreds of displays of historical cowboy gear and clothing, memorabilia, western art and sculpture gardens.