As we headed off into Kansas the country changed. This was no longer corn country but wheat and cattle country. These cattle were also mainly grass fed.
Our first stop was Womelsdorf Red Poll Cattle owned by Dan and Rene Womelsdorf. These cattle were very different to the ones we had been seeing. These cattle were smaller in frame and are clearly only feed on pasture. Although they were small they were still very productive. In a led was a cow with calf at foot ready to wean, the calf was two thirds of the weight of the cow! Also in the pen was her heifer calf from last year that had in fact grown taller than her and I suspect out grow her mother in weight as well. Very functional cows.
The following day was Monday and we headed further west to one of the oldest Red Poll breeders in he country, Wiese Farms. Wow! This would have to be my favourite herd so far. Bill and wife Angie met us along with family and although Bill was retired he talk the whole time about the herd. This was one of the bigger herds with around 80 head. On display in the yards was cows with keep bull calves at foot, cows with heifer calves at foot, keep heifer and sale heifers. These were larger cows but I wouldn’t say extreme, however they would weigh. Really like the structure of these cows and just their over all presence. Really a great herd to see, and such a wonderful family.
The next two days were hosted by the McKee family. Jim and Muriel McKee were on the first World Congress in South Africa and have been on everyone except for the last three. Jim along with his brother John have been breeding Red Polls for 70 years as McMarshall Farms. Jim and Muriel had seven daughters and daughter 1 and daughter 3 put together the days for us.
Thursday June 8th, morning was taken up by travelling but the lunch was well worth it! In Peoria Illinois we stopped for lunch which was McMarshall beef in this trendy wearhouse building. The meat was cooked beautiful and most people went back for seconds. After lunch was the Caterpillar Visitors Center where we were able to capture a very good family shot! That night we were given the best seats at a baseball game!!!
Friday June 9th we where taken to Marquis Energy which was a big ethanol plant which is huge! They run 24/7 and have over 300 trucks of corn come in a day. The at right on the Illinois river which runs into the Mississippi. They use the river to take their product down stream in barges. I think they said four barges of ethanol and two barges of by product grain go out a day.
That afternoon we were treated to lunch at the Marshall Fair Grounds and had our country reports. Unfortunately we never got to see any of Jims cattle due to age and health but we were still looked after.
Saturday June 10 was simply a travel day and we stopped to have lunch alone the Mississippi at Hannibal before making it to Kansas City.
So I guess Trent was right, we never got to see and Red Polls in the last five days however we still had a great time.
So Trent Storm from Australia has informed me that we haven’t see a cow in 5 days, let’s see if he is right.
Wednesday June 7th we are at Purdue University Illinois. In the morning before lunch we were split into to groups. The first talk was done by a student doing his honors. He had done a study to see if grass feed beef could be improved by dry aging. We learnt that in USA the meat that they preferred was grain fed and which also made up 90% of the meat produced. Which is just outragious to New Zealand who are 100% grass fed beef. We were given a small taste test which I was surprised I could really taste the differance and preferred the grass fed. I guess it all comes down to what you are use to and what your pallet becomes accustom to. The basis of his findings is that yes dry ageing improves the eating experience of grass fed beef.
The next talk was mainly about their markets and grading system. All are health inspected but the you can pay extra and get them graded a bit like our MSA grading system. However when they grade it is only on two traits, meat colour and age. If the animal is over that two year old mark then it’s graded so low you wouldn’t bother paying the extra to get it done. They are also kicked out if they are dark or have blood spots which is like us.
In the afternoon we were taken to one of the research farms to have a look at their facitilties. Their herd is made up of Angus cross black Simmental and we really only saw their heifers at a glance. We were told that most of their research is done on these younger animals until they have their second calf then they are put out with the breeding herd. One of the things they were excited to tell us about was how they improved conception rates with feed. What they did was fed heifers in there last trimester a high diet of distillers grain. This is a by product of the ethanol plants. What they thought would happen was correct, the calf size was increased and they had to pull most of the calves. However then kept them on this ration and when the time come to get them back in calf, their AI rate went up to 80% compared to the 65% they would normally get with synchronised AI. They are not sure what caused this but are hoping they can work out what part of the grain did this and turn it into a supplement lick or something.
A very big day at Purdure with some great talks. Looking forward to the next couple of days hosted by the McKee family.
The best part about these trips is you really get to see what the persons operation is like and sometimes the main part is not always cattle.
The cattle herd at the place is very small with only around 10 breeders. However for one reason or another the herd was all but dissolved. Now the father Mike is working on building up the herd again. Mike is using what he calls the Mohler Genetics which is a smaller type animal that is very productive on grass. Back when the herd was at its peak, Mike and his father froze a lot of embryos, his cows are very productive and with only just a few flushed they were able to freeze about 50 eggs. Of those 50 there is around 30 left and this is what Mike is going to use to build the numbers back up. Mike is also a very firm believer in line breeding and as a result has very similar cattle.
Mike runs these cows on his son Nate’s farm where Nate is growing vegetables organically. This type of farming is very intense and for me it’s always interesting. He does have some green house where he grows tomatoes and although it’s a little smaller scale to the Guyra Tomato Farm there is a lot of work involved. Nate was really good and showed us all of his equipment including a hydrolic carrot picker! His compost wasn’t very good but maybe when the cow numbers increase he will be able improve this.
So on theses tours it is just not all cattle studs, the host country tries to show some tourist type things as well.
Today we have been taken to the town Shipshewana in Indiana which has the third largest Amish settlement. The township it’s self only has a population of 300, however there is around 18,000 Amish living in the sourrounding area.
We were taken on a morning tour on the bus to three people in the Amish community. The first was a young farmer who was milking camels. At the moment he was only milking two camels by hand. With the camel milk he would either sell it a whole raw milk or use it to make soap and moisturiser which he also sold. The second person we visited was a lady, who looked young, with seven children and she just talked about what she did which was basically a house wife but with a lot more chores. She writes articles in some Amish paper about being an Amish farmers wife. The third and final person we visited was a bishop. Who talked about how he became a bishop and how they decide on things as a community and care for one another.
So things I learned about the Amish. They are Christian with big families. They are not really self sufficient which I thought would be their main aim. They are not against the modern world such as cars and motors, in fact they will ride in a car and although their hay cutter is pulled by horses it will have a motor to run the PTO. They choose things as a community so for example one region must of decided that it was ok to use a lawn mower and so it was allowed. To me a lot of the rules didn’t make sense however I find it interesting just the same. I do envy their family and community bond and it’s clear to see they help who ever in need.
After lunch we had some free time and I went to see the furniture shops as the Amish are renowned for their carpentry skills. The furniture was absolutely beautiful. If was all solid timber and build so well. Wish I could fit it on the plane back home.
That night we went to the theatre where there was a play on that was based on three fiction books about an Amish love scandle. Not sure if it really showed the life of the Amish however the actors were very good and talented.
I love looking at cattle however it is also good to see what else the US is made up of. I look forward to our other non cattle parts to see what else there is.
So this is the Red Poll herd that I know exported semen to Australia of the bull Carl’s Beaming Boy and so I was keen to see if the herd was similar to Australian herds.
I was impressed by this herd. There was a few udder problems however this was the best uddered herd we had seen. The cows we big and roomy with plenty of angulation.
We were in a cropping area so more focus was clearly on the cropping side of the enterprise. The cattle were fed everyday in a big red barn and were allowed to come and go as they pleased into the pasture outside. However the pasture was not well managed as it was just one big paddock. When cattle are weaned they are put into the other side of the barn where they are fed until slaughter at around 15 months.
One of the unusual points was that in his feed ration he had hog manure! Similar to Shuter Farms, Jim rented out his pig sheds and so had pleantly of manure to dispose. I will say that it wasn’t straight manure and it certinally didn’t have the smell. They would have the manure in their settling pond where they would stir it up and take off the solids. It’s these solids that they would mix with silage and whole corn and feed to the cattle.
Not sure if it’s my cup of tea but each to their own.
First full day of the two with two studs to visit. Last night was the welcome dinner at Versailles Winery Ohio. Beautiful little winery with an even better dinner, the tables were lined with newspaper and they came and dumped, yes dumped, an assortment of crab, shrimp, corn and potatoes in the middle. Absolutely my kind of eating!!
First stud to visit was Jackson Farms. Foundered by the late Bill Jackson and his wife Teresa. A very family orientated farm with plenty of relatives and friends there to greet us for breakfast on the farm.
The Jackson farms have beeen very successful recently in the show ring and after inspecting their herd of around 30 head I can see why. Their cattle were very thick and excellent up over the shoulders. They had a selection of young heifers that the grand children that they will be taking to the junior show at the end of the tour.
For lunch we travelled to the Spegal stud owned by Gail and Shirley Spegal. Another great stud with the two grandchildren selecting and breaking in the cattle. Young Cameron Spegal talked us through the breeding of the cattle and which lines he would like to focus on in the future. Again very thick cattle with great calves at foot.
Bother herds are in the state of Indiana and both very involved with the youth. I’m looking forward to the youth show at the end of trip!!
Spegal Red Polls