Friday, January 18, 2013

Josie - Wyoming Cowgirl

Today we welcome a young lady from Wyoming. Meet Josie! She enjoys living and working on the ranch!

Hi everyone! I am Josie, also known as the Hillbilly Goddess of my blog, “Wild & Wooly”. I am 16 years young & live on a ranch out in the boonies of northeast Wyoming. I have a huge passion for agriculture, horses, and rodeo. We raise purebred commercial Black Angus cattle as well as American Quarter Horses, with Hancock/Driftwood bloodlines. My job on the ranch is to do anything that needs done, to the best of my ability. Whether that’s, cleaning corrals, making brownies, changing tires, or playing fetch, I’m able.

Me, getting on colt – Photo credit: Kate Tracy

Most of the year you can likely find me horseback; either, breaking and training colts, checking water, moving cows, or at a barrel race. Whatever the case may be, I love riding! I currently have 3 horses that I’m working with – a 5 year old brown gelding, Ranch Style Beans; a 2 year old dun gelding, Giddy Up Go Reno; and a blue roan yearling, Rock N Roll Roni. You can say I stay busy. I love the progress I see day-to-day when breaking a colt. It’s one of the most frustrating and patience-trying things I have ever done, but it is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling. I hope to continue to break, train, and compete for as long as I live.

My dad and I at chute – Photo Credit: Kate Tracy

I am homeschooled, and love it! I went to public school my 3rd grade through the start of my freshman year of high school. Now, a junior, I clearly see that homeschooling is a tremendous blessing pretty much every way I look at it. It has given me such a great opportunity to pursue my talents and interests! Math comes easiest to me, so it would have to be my favorite subject. I also enjoy accounting and business math, which I know will benefit me for the rest of my life. Homeschooling has also given me a greater opportunity to not only be of help on our ranch (and my grandparents’ ranch, who live about 20 minutes away), but to learn many things that the public school system may not ever discuss.

Our dog Gem herding a cow - Photo Credit: Josie 

My other found loves include photography and working out; neither I did before starting homeschooling. Photography is something I know I will be able to enjoy for the rest of my life. There is so much to learn, but I am getting a lot better and expanding my knowledge every time I take pictures of a different subject. I am thankful to live in such a place that I am able to take pictures of a wide variety of material.

I like to describe myself as an endorphin junkie. I love to work out. It’s a high! I enjoy Beachbody’s P90X andTurboFire. Insanity is next on the list to try. Staying fit, and as healthy as I can, helps me every single day. I sleep so much better and actually have more energy when I work out, compared to when I don’t. I motivate myself by remembering that I can’t ever expect my horses to perform at their top game if I don’t ask just as much effort from myself!

In my spare time I enjoy make jewelry, especially necklaces, and bandanas, with all sorts of fun junk on them! You can never have too many accessories. (: “Hey and that’s a fact Jack!” I am a lover of turquoise, sterling silver, good leather, REAL cowboy boots, silk scarves, and denim.

My favorite time of year on the ranch is spring. Wyoming springs can be quite bipolar, but seeing babies hit the ground and green grass start to come up just warms my heart, even if it is cold. It also signals branding, which ensures that school is almost over and summer is on its way. I get so excited! Most girls kick off their summer by taking a trip to some beach, I, on the other hand, would rather get bruised up and smell like burnt hair. I enjoy branding because all of the family comes to help and we are outside actually doing something; making real memories!

Mares and babies – Photo Credit: Tami Tracy

Ranch ladies are known for many things but their food would be close to the top of the list. I am very blessed to be able to learn from my mama, whom I consider to be the best cook ever. I wanted to share a recipe that I have made ever since I was a wee little squirt. These are, My Cookies. You should be honored to be receiving the great secret of “Speed Balls”.

1 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
½ Cup Instant Dry Milk
3 Tablespoons Water
Graham Cracker Crumbs

The directions are pretty self-explanatory…
Mix all ingredients.
Refrigerate till firm.
Roll into balls – hence the name, Speed BALLS.
Roll balls in graham cracker crumbs.
Then eat those babies! With milk. You will definitely want milk.

Boom. You have just mastered Speed Balls. You are welcome.

Speedballs - Photo credit: Josie

I could not be more proud of where I come from. Every morning, when I step outside, I know this is what I’m good at, this is what I enjoy, and this is what’s preparing me for my future. It’s teaching me how to suck-it-up, work a little harder, sweat a little more, and to embrace the journey. I thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for having a divine plan and purpose over my life. I trust in, rely on, and am confident in Him.

Be sure to drop by my blog and say hellooo(:

Thank you Josie for this feature!!! Keep up the great work! Be sure to check out her blog "Wild and Wooly."

Do you live on a ranch or farm? Are you passionate about agriculture - then we need your story! Contact us today!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Meet the Crooks - Brangus Producers from North Carolina

Today we welcome another great feature from the International Brangus Breeders Association. Meet Evon Crooks of North Carolina Special thanks to Brittni Drennan (Communications Coordinator for the IBBA) for bringing us this feature!

It does not take very much time talking to Evon Crooks to realize there is something unique about him. Crooks is one of four brothers, and yes, he came from a ranching family and has extensive experience breeding cattle. However, his unfamiliar accent suggests he might not just be a typical rancher from North Carolina.

Crooks and his three brothers grew up in Jamaica in the Caribbean where they worked on the family farm as adolescents. Their parents made a living raising beef and dairy cattle in the tropical, humid climate along with a number of other cattlemen. According to Crooks, there are three primary beef breeds that exist in Jamaica, red and black polled, similar to red and black Angus and Brahman cattle.

“Raising cattle is not new to me,” Crooks said. “I consider raising cattle a recreation and a stress reliever at the end of the day.”

Upon graduating from high school, Crooks moved to the U.S. to attend the City University of New York where he majored in Chemistry. He continued his education and attended graduate school at Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he received his Master of Science degree in Chemistry. He soon began working as a research chemist, which he still does today.

Crooks coached his children’s soccer team until they moved away from home to attend college. With his background and knowledge of the beef industry, he decided it was time to get back in the beef production business. Crooks and his wife of more than 35 years, Carol, operate the farm and now have 25 head of Brangus mother cows at EC Farms in Mocksville, N.C.

“My background in chemistry helps to improve nutrition and condition in cattle,” Crooks said. “I look at the industry from a scientific aspect, and I can more easily solve problems in a scientific, cause and effect relationship.”

Crooks started out raising Hereford cows but continued to experience having problems with his cattle contracting pink eye. After conducting some of his own research, he came to the conclusion that black hided cattle had fewer complications caused by diseases and would have less problems. Crooks decided to invest in the Brangus breed. In 1998 he purchased two cow/calf pairs from Doug Williams of Whip-o-Will Land and Cattle at his neighbor’s sale.

“We’ve been able to slowly build our herd, and we have a heard we are really proud to have our brand on,” Crooks said. “And it’s good to see our customers happy with our product.”

Since he initially began raising Brangus cattle almost 15 years ago, Crooks has developed a quality breeding program and is pleased with his Brangus cattle. He has produced the kind of cows that put producers in the black instead of the red when it comes to return on investments. He said Brangus cattle produce good mothers and provide advantages such as heat tolerance.

“They have very high growth rate and can wean calves at seven months old in the 600 to 700 weight range, and it’s hard to do that with other breeds,” Crooks said. “It’s nice to drive around in our pasture and see nice cattle that I know will work well in this area.”

Crooks said he selects for fertility, and as far as phenotype, he wants an animal that has broad shoulders, a stout rear end and depth in the rib. He also places a great deal of emphasis on calving ease. He said having live calves is crucial to success and is proud he did not have to pull any calves last calving season. But Crooks’ real secret to his success is plain good management.

“The cattle industry is a big investment,” Crooks said. “I can tell you what my intake is and what my output is in terms of feed and performance; I know how to be cost effective.”

Crooks implements rotational grazing on his pastures and works to develop his cows to turn a profit foraging on grass. He said it is more cost effective to have animals that can do well on grass without significant amounts of supplements, especially with the current increased price of corn and grains. He also implements artificial insemination (AI) techniques to increase efficiency and return.

“Feed cost is a significant cost of management,” Crooks said, “but I can put my herd on good quality grass, and they can forage well on my pastures.”

While continually improving the genetic quality of his herd, Crooks remains efficient because he knows quality and efficiency are both related and can greatly reduce input costs if managed correctly.

Crooks has become more involved in the Brangus breed and has since been a member of the Southeast Brangus Breeders Association. He has served the association on the Board of Directors and was recently inducted as President this September.

Thanks to the IBBA for brining us this feature! Check out their website, Facebook Page, and Beef Tips Blog

You can be the next FOA feature - contact us today!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Don and Sherry Atkinson - Brangus Producers

Today we have a post brought to us by Brittni Drennan, Communications Coordinator of the International Brangus Breeders Association. Meet Brangus producer Don Atkinson and family - they have been successful producers because they know what their customers want.

Anyone who is an expert in marketing will tell you the key to a successful marketing plan is to know your audience. When you know who your audience is, you can better serve them and market a product that fits their needs. Don Atkinson may not claim to be an expert in marketing, but he knows exactly who his customers are and what kind of product will fit the needs of their operation.

Don & Sherry Atkinson
“I want my customers to be successful in their endeavors,” Atkinson said. “I know my product and offer customers one type of cow that can thrive in their environment.”

A fourth generation cattleman, Atkinson knew at an early age what his calling was in life. Running cattle has always been a staple and a way of life in his family. Atkinson partnered with his father until his passing in 2001, and Atkinson took full ownership of the business and began ranching full time. His ultimate goal is to be remembered for creating a mother cow that thrives in her environment and maintains longevity.

Together, Atkinson and his wife of almost five years, Sherry, run 240 commercial Brangus cows and some registered Brangus cattle in Mullins, S.C. Atkinson switched to breeding Brangus when he bought his first bull in 1990 from Graham DuBose and John Spitzer. After breeding his commercial herd to the Brangus bull, he realized the advantages Brangus genetics had to offer, especially for the environment he was surrounded by near the east coast.

“People need to take advantage of crossbreeding to take advantage of all the opportunities hybrid vigor provides,” Atkinson said. “Crossbreeding allows producers to incorporate all the benefits of improved weaning weights, milk, [intramuscular fat] IMF and others.”

Shortly after buying his first bull and being pleased with his results, Atkinson went to Cow Creek’s Brangus sale in Mocksville, N.C., where he was introduced to Joe Reznicek’s breeding program. Atkinson has now been using genetics from Cow Creek for the last 21 years by utilizing artificial insemination (AI) techniques.

In 2010, Atkinson began breeding his Brangus cows to a registered Angus bull to create Ultrablack calves, following Reznicek’s model. According to Atkinson, his customers in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama want purebred Brangus to perform better in a harsher climate. However, Ultrablack cattle enable him to market his Brangus genetics to his customers farther north of the Gulf Coast states.

“If I’m selling to a breeder in Florida, they need to be Brangus to withstand the heat and humidity,” Atkinson said. “Here, not as many people take advantage of the heat tolerance that Brangus provide. They want Ultrablack bulls with a little less percentage Brahman blood. Registered Ultrablacks allow us to introduce Brangus genetics to those who are skeptical.”

Atkinson is especially impressed with the Brangus female’s mothering ability. His selection criteria are very strict because he knows the kind of female he needs based on his environment. Because his females are producing 75-pound calves at birth weight, he needs a tough cow that can perform satisfactorily and work efficiently.

“She’s my factory; she has got to be on the job every day of the year,” Atkinson said. “We drop our calves in November or December, and my cows have to be able to work. Brangus have excellent mothering ability, and their calves have hybrid vigor. Even with low birth weight bulls, we don’t experience any less performance in our calves. And her longevity speaks for herself. We can sell a cow as a 12-year-old and still get a good price because she’ll still perform.”

Atkinson retains his heifers to fully develop them, breeds them back, and around May 15, he ultrasounds his now bred heifers to check for pregnancy. Atkinson said utilizing ultrasound technologies extensively was key to their success. In accordance to his customers’ preferences, Atkinson able to sell them in groups so they calve within 30 days of each other, making it easier and less management for the buyer due to a shorter calving season. Atkinson is able to sell all of his bred heifers by June because he has listened to his customers and knows what they want.

“If they’re buying 20 heifers, they had rather have them calve within 30 days than within 90 days of each other,” Atkinson said. “It’s a big help on my customers’ work loads as well as on the marketing end when they start to sell their calves.”

Atkinson also implements other technologies to help him market it his cattle. He is enrolled in the OptimaxX tagging program, an age and source verification program offered by the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA). Atkinson said it was very easy to keep detailed records through the OptimaxX system and has been enrolled in the tagging program since it originated. In relation to cost, Atkinson said the program is very comparable to other similar tagging programs and is very proud to market his cattle as certified Brangus cattle.

“You have to live what you preach,” Atkinson said. “I sell Brangus cattle, and I carry that all the way through my marketing. At a sale, I list my cattle as sired by Brangus genetics or with an Ultrablack bull; it’s something that I’m proud of.”

Atkinson said there is a stigmatism in South Carolina about cattle with Brahman influence, but he is helping fight the negative stereotype by marketing a successful breeding program with Brangus genetics and selling Ultrablack bulls.

“I’m only 40 miles from the coast,” Atkinson said, “and my cattle have to have that Brahman influence because they do better.”

Atkinson said he prefers Brangus cattle, especially when he can get the results he desires. At Atkinson Cattle Company, bulls are strictly selected for fertility and disposition and emphasis is placed on producing a more moderate framed herd. Atkinson has received recognition and several awards for his successful program including the Commercial Cattleman of the Year by the South Carolina Cattlemen’s Association in 2007. He has also received the 2007 Outstanding Conservation Farmer from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Marion County, and in 2002, Cow Creek Ranch awarded Atkinson the Mark of Excellence award.

“My favorite part is just doing what God has call me to do and go out and do what he has planned for me that day,” Atkinson said. “And raising Brangus cattle is just the chocolate icing on the cake.”

The next generation
Thank you Brittni for sending us this great feature! You can learn more about Brangus producers on their website, Facebook page and blog!

You could be the next FOA feature - contact us today to learn how!