Tag Archives: animals

More Than A Competition

14 Oct

wde-14-181-editedI am no stranger to livestock shows, but I recently had the opportunity to attend my first World Dairy Expo. I have to admit, some things are VERY different. Fitting is one of those on the long list. We are always in the mode of growing hair in beef cattle. In fact, I don’t think you can have too much. So, how do you fit a dairy cow who has such little hair?

That question and more were answered when I strolled through the dairy barns and got the chance to talk with Steven Nelson who won the youth fitting contest at World Dairy Expo. Steven lives in Grovespring, MO and that just happens to be my home too. There in the small southern Missouri town, Steven milks 45 head of cows with his dad. He is in charge of all the milking year-round, tackles hay in the summer months and works for his neighbor who milks 100 head. Steven plans to take over the family operation when he finishes college.

Steven further explains the competition saying he had one hour to get one dairy cow ready for the ring. “You have to blow up the hair on their top line because you want their back to be perfectly straight. You also blow up their belly hair and blend it in with their body to make her look deeper and fuller, but also making her look sharper and more angular.” A professional fitter serves as the judge and watches each contestant throughout the entire competition.

Steven didn’t bring any of his own head to show during the Expo, but was working for another Missouri string. He said it didn’t really matter how well they all did and that it was more about the opportunity because all the cattle at the World Dairy Expo were good.

Listen to my complete interview with Steven here.


State Fairs – A Family Affair

21 Aug

IMG_0332 editedI literally grew up at the Missouri State Fair. I was just a little one when I first attended the fair with my dad and I haven’t missed a year since. My dad worked for the Missouri FFA and ran the FFA Building during the two-week event. I remember hanging out with the State FFA Officers while running through displays of corn and soybean seeds, flowers of all shapes and sizes and thinking all the ag mechanics projects were my own personal playground.

The Missouri State Fair brings back so many great memories for me. We ate meals in the youth building, slept in the administration building and when my sister and I were lucky, we even got to ride some rides. But the best memories come from exhibiting Hereford cattle year after year. Whether we walked away with a blue ribbon or not, we did it as a family. I actually met my, now husband, at the fair. The 2014 Missouri State Fair marked our 10 year anniversary of dating. How many of you can say you met the love of your life at the fair?

IMG_0346 edited Now we stay in a camper and eat our meals around a grill with our friends and family, but we still show cattle at the fair. However, my family has grown. This past year we had the privilege of welcoming a new member to our family. Miss Harper James Johansen attended her first state fair this year. When we pushed her stroller up and down the aisles of the barn or carried her as we tailed one to the ring, I have never seen my husband so excited and proud.

State fairs across the country are a family affair. My daughter’s state fair moments have already begun, even though she won’t quite remember them herself. I look forward to watching her grow up exhibiting livestock, eating corn dogs and creating friendships that will last a lifetime. Thanks dad for instilling a love of fairs in me and all the hard work and good times that go along with them.

Cattle Commentary

25 Feb

Stock Exchange Logo EditedThe Stock Exchange, powered by DV Auction, works hard to bring you news about the beef industry each month and recently launched a new weekly beef news show, Cattle Commentary. Each week we hope to share industry news, as well as, address issues facing cattlemen and women across the country.

After getting the first one under our belts, we are really excited about what the show can bring to breeders. My husband and I have been part of the DV Auction crew for over three years now and are true proponents of what the company can offer. When asked to host the Cattle Commentary, I jumped at the opportunity to dive into beef news and share the story of producers nation wide.

This week’s beef headlines include:
–Stanley Stout Livestock Marketing Center to be Dedicated at KSU’s 100th Cattlemen’s Day
–Cast your votes for the Cattle Feeders Hall of Fame
–Sec. Tom Vilsack warns of posssible fifteen day furlough of all Food Safety Inspectors

Check out the first edition of Cattle Commentary below.

They also met up with attendees and exhibitors at the 2013 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show. Companies shared new products and experts gave insight into the future of the beef industry. You can find these interviews at here.

Calving…ET Style

10 Jan

January marks the start to a pretty busy time of the year for many farmers and ranchers across the country. Why you might ask? Well, the answer is simple, it’s time for those cows we bred last spring to start calving. Although the answer is simple, the process may not be.
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Many chose to avoid calving during this time of the year because of the chance of cold and inclement weather. We don’t have that luxury because most of our customers desire a spring born calf. Luckily, weather here in Southwest Missouri has been pretty mild compared to past years. But as many from around here know, that couldn’t easily change tomorrow.
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Because all of our cows are synchronized, they should all calve between about a two week interval. This isn’t an exact science and sometimes mother nature takes over and cows calve early or later than their expected due date. Just like in humans. Our group of calving cows are checked at least three times a day. Once in the morning, once before dark and then again at about 3am. How do you synchronize these pregnancies? The cows are implanted with a CIDR for one week. It projects a hormone making them come into heat at the same time and therefore bred at the same time.  Once the CIDR is removed the cow will come into heat seven days later.

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You might be wondering why this black, cross-bred cow has a white, Charolais baby calf. Our operation is a little different than normal. We run an embryo transfer (ET) herd. Those in the purebred cattle business want more offspring from their best cows. That’s where we come in. These breeders send us their superior mama cows (we call them donor cows) and we give them hormones that enables them to produce more than one egg during a cycle. While still in the cow those eggs are artificially fertilized. Then before they have time to grow inside the cow they are flushed out. This process is very similar to IVF in humans, but the embryos are either frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored in tanks or immediately implanted into recipient (recip) cows. These cows are similar to what people would call a surrogate mom. The recip cow carries the calf until birth and nurses it until it is weaned. Once it is time for weaning, the ET babies are then sold back to the purebred breeder and our recip cows are once again synchronized for their next breeding.

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Babies of different breeds, owned by different people are born each day on our farm. Because of this, records are extremely important. Each breeder is assigned a different color ear tag that each calf is given. The information on the tag includes: date of birth, sire, dam and the recip cows tag number. This information is also recorded in a notebook kept in the feed truck and is later entered into our computer database program.

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Calves are tagged right after they are born to eliminate any confusion later. This time is also the easiest time to actually catch the calf. They haven’t quite adjusted to life on Earth and don’t know how to exactly use their feet yet. But it is always a good idea to keep an eye on mama cow. She is typically very irritated by this process. Wouldn’t it be easier if they could understand that we are just trying to help?

For us here at Utopia Genetics, we will be calving out spring babies through March. We get a short break during the summer months and then fall calving kicks off in early September.

Does anyone have any memorable calving stories or tricks of the trade that help make this time of the year easier on both farmer and bovine?

Important Cattlemen Issues

14 Nov

I wanted to share a post I did for AgWired that truly hit home for me. Growing up in the wonderful world of beef production and now making a living from it has made me passionate about issues faces friends, family and fellow farmers and ranchers across the country I don’t even know.

Issues faces the beef industry and agriculture as a whole where a top priority for organizations who attended last week’s Trade Talk at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting’s annual convention. I took this chance to ask National Cattlemen’s Beef Association representatives about hot topics going into 2013.

Don Pemberton, Chairman of the NCBA Policy Division is also a beef farmer from central Missouri. He truly understands the ups and downs of the beef industry and brings a personal passion to his role at NCBA. Don discussed not only his outlook for the cattle markets and the Farm Bill, but how the recent drought affected him and his neighbors.

“We are doing what we can do from the Washington D.C. office. We need this Farm Bill passed, we are working with all of our counterparts to get congress to pass the Farm Bill. The version that passed the Senate, we are fine with. The version that passed the House Ag Committee, we are fine with. So, now that the election is over with I hope they can put politics aside and come together and get the Farm Bill passed before 2013.”

Listen to my complete interview with Don here.

Craig Uden, Chairman of NCBA’s Federation Division, works with all 45 beef councils across the country. He shared how Beef Checkoff dollars are going to educate influencer groups. These people consist of those vocal in social media, nutritionists, dietitians and others who really need to understand the difference between what beef is today and what they learned as a child.

“One thing we have seen with less numbers is less dollars. We have had to become very efficient. We have had very good organizational meetings to dive down and see where we need to be. One thing is we always want to get the money where the people are. How do we do that? We are working with a lot of influencer groups out there. The money comes in will be appropriated by the Beef Operations Committee and a lot of that will be directed to the state beef councils who are part of the federation to host influencers for tours. That has been very successful because a lot of people are removed from beef production and don’t understand how the cattle are raised and processed.”

Listen to my complete interview with Craig here.

NCBA is also urging US House of Representatives and Senate to provide farmers and ranchers with a permanent relief from the estate tax. The current estate tax relief is set to expire at the end of 2012 with exemption levels dropping to $1 million per individual and the tax rate increasing to 55%.

J.D. Alexander, NCBA President, said that at a minimum, NCBA supports extending the exemption level to $5 million per person and retaining the top rate of 35 percent until permanent repeal is achievable.

“If Congress allows current estate tax relief to expire it will have a devastating impact on the cattle industry. America’s farmers and ranchers are small business owners who cannot afford to foot the bill for government inaction. The fate of American agriculture and our economic recovery rests on there being certainty in the tax code and continued relief from the burdensome death tax.”

I challenge you to get involved and find out more about what NCBA is doing to promote beef, educate consumers and give a voice for producers.

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Food Fit For A King

12 Oct

Summer show season has come and gone…thankfully! I love showing at state fairs and other local summer show, but it is always so dang hot. I would rather bundle up in layer after layer then sweat my butt off while in the showring. Our barn if full of stock we are taking to shows this fall and winter. The American Royal is right around the corner and I can’t wait!

While feeding this morning I got to thinking how we worry more about the diet of our show cattle then we do our own. Don’t get me wrong, I try and eat healthy, but it just doesn’t always happen. Each animal in our showbarn gets a different hand-mixed ration. Check out the mixture for our fat and sassy show heifers.

Show cattle feed

I am sure you can ID many of these ingredients, but I don’t want you to strain your brain so I will help you out.

Sweet Feed

Cottonseed Hulls


Wet Beet Pulp

Dry Beet Pulp

Full Tank

Sure Champ


When I mix feed a song from my childhood comes to mind. Has anyone ever heard of Raffi? I believe the song Oats, Peas, Beans & Barley Grow was on a CD I had of his growing up. My mom may tell me different, but I am certain it was ingrained in my brain from the ever famous Barney. Yes, I was an avid watcher of the purple dinosaur. Incase this little children’s song has never graced your ear I have shared it with you below. Maybe you two can learn a little bit from Barney and his friends. Sorry the quality isn’t the greatest.

The Bottle Calf

4 Oct

You met Vanessa yesterday, now see her on the move. It seems she thinks she is our pet rather than a baby calf. Yes, the video is cheesy, but it should at least make you laugh a little.

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