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

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