Young Cattlemen Series helps farmers grow their business
By Kelby Newcomb
While many great professional development programs for agriculture are offered across the state, they’re not always convenient for farmers to attend.
County extension agent Olivia Foster said that is why she and district conservationist Kristin Whittmore wanted to develop the Young Cattlemen Series.
“Kristin and I get the opportunity all the time through our jobs to go and participate in professional development with all these different speakers and trainers,” Foster said, “but farmers don’t always have that opportunity. So we wanted to create that for them here in the county.”
The Young Cattlemen Series held its fourth and final session at Gaskins Cabin in Eureka Springs last Tuesday, Feb. 26, wrapping up the program’s second year in Carroll County.
Foster said she and Whittmore began brainstorming ideas for the program last year.
“We sat down and brainstormed some things we think could help producers improve their operations,” Foster said, “to make them more profitable and so we came up with this list of things.”
After the first series concluded last year, she said they had the students fill out an end of course survey.
“They gave us feedback on the 36 topics we had as well as the program as a whole,” Foster said. “We asked about the things they liked, the things they may like to see be different and areas they wanted us to expand on a little bit more. We took that and used it to change up our program for this year.”
She said they scaled the series back to 24 topics in order to go more in-depth on the areas the students thought were beneficial.
Foster said the series was divided into four sessions: Resources and Finances, Feed and Forage, Herd Improvement and Herd Health.
For Resources and Finances, the series featured speakers like regional credit analyst Clayton Whittmore discussing “Farm Credit Services of Western Arkansas,” Anstaff Bank vice president and loan officer Don Foster discussing “Cash Flow and Loans” and certified public accountant (CPA) Jackie Bosshardt discussing “Taxes.”
“Resources and Finances is the necessary evil of farming, so to speak,” Foster said. “That session is fully indoors, and we bring in the most speakers that day.”
The second session, Feed and Forage, featured a lot of hands-on activities, she said, such as fence-building, a weed identification exercise in the field and a rainfall simulator where students got to see how the rain affected erosion.
“We bring in several people from Little Rock, including Kenny Simon, Dr. Shane Gadberry, Dr. John Jennings and Jeremy Huff,” she said. “Jennings and Simon are forage specialists for the state extension service. Gadberry is the beef nutritionist for the state, and Jeremy Huff is the grazing land specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).”
Foster continued, “Kenny brings a whole trailer full of electric fencing, so the guys and girls actually got to build fences this year. We also brought in a mobile computer lab for them to use this year. Gadberry sat down with them and balanced out rations with them. They did hay tests for all 15 individuals in the class, and then they got to plug in their hay test and develop a ration based off of that program.”
For the Herd Improvement session, Foster said the class met at the Sale Barn in Green Forest.
“I went over selecting bulls or replacements for your herd based off of structure and evaluation,” she said. “We went over market animal selection as far as when an animal is ready to go to be slaughtered or processed.”
She said the class then toured Harpo’s Das Butcher Haus and see how animals are brought in and processed.
“We got to see the locker where the meat is stored and aged,” Foster said. “Then we came back in to see how it’s processed from primal cuts to retail cuts. We went back to the Sale Barn, and they fed all the guys.”
Brent Cooper and Tom Murray of Big Branch Breeding Service met the class at the Sale Barn, she said, to discuss breeding season, expected progeny difference, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, genetics and genomics.
“They spent the whole afternoon with them,” Foster said. “One of the changes the guys had asked for last year was more time with Big Branch Breeding Service.”
Last week’s final session was on Herd Health, she said. Landon Watkins with Zoetis discussed “Veterinary Feed Directive and Vaccination Program,” and Chris Kyle with Vitaferm discussed “Vitaferm Mineral Program.”
“We had a pharmaceutical rep come talk about all the different vaccine programs, antibiotics usage, wormers and plants,” Foster said. “Then we had a mineral rep come and talk about mineral programs. Both of those guys are really good because they are salesmen, but they don’t just talk about their products. They’re honest about which products are better. It was lovely to have them come talk.”
She said Mike McClintock, the county extension agent for Boone County, also talked about direct marketing.
“He is from Kansas, and his family had three sale barns and feed lots,” she said, “so he has hands-on knowledge he can come and talk about. He talked about what buyers are looking for and basic practices you can have on your farm to help market your animals.”
Kristy Armer said she thought the Young Cattlemen Series was great and very interesting.
“My husband and I have been married 14 years, and we’ve run cattle that whole time,” she said. “I didn’t come from a farm background, but he did. This was informative for me. It taught us a lot of current practices we can take back to our beef operations and put into practice ourselves.”
Armer said she recommends the program for any farmers who have the opportunity to take it.
“It’s worth your while, and you’ll learn a lot,” she said.
Berryville High School senior Jerod Hood said he was one of two high schoolers who took the course this year.
“The reason I wanted to take it was to learn more about the business,” he said, “because I have a small herd of about 10 head of my own and I manage a small farm for someone. I wanted to learn more about the industry.”
Hood said the series covered things about cattle operations that you don’t normally think about, such as medicine and marketing.
“They discussed marketing animals online instead of just at the sale barn,” he said. “It was definitely worth the time. We met once a month for four to five months. The knowledge you gained from it was outstanding. They had speakers from all aspects of the job.”
Hood said it was helpful for people who want to learn more about the industry and improve their operations.
“I appreciate everyone who helped put it together, like the sponsors and speakers,” he said, “and especially Olivia and Kristin.”
Foster said it would not have been possible to put on the Young Cattlemen Series without community support.
“It’s wonderful that the community is as supportive as they’ve been. We couldn’t do it without them,” she said. “We’re so grateful to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, NRCS, Anstaff Bank, Cornerstone Bank, Equity Bank, Farm Credit, North Arkansas Livestock Auction, Powell Feed and Milling, Worley Tire, Vitaferm and Zoetis for backing this program.”
Foster said they may take a year off on the Young Cattlemen Series next year because students have been asking for an advanced program.
“So Kristin and I have thought about sitting down and developing an advanced course,” she said, “and these 30 who have gone through the first course can participate.”
Armer and Hood said they would both be interested.
“I would definitely like an advanced course where we got to go deeper on some of the topics,” Hood said.
Foster said they are thinking about alternating between the Young Cattlemen Series and the proposed advanced program each year.
“I think this is a program we’ll want to repeat again,” she said. “It was a good group both years, and they really seemed to enjoy it. It made Kristin and I very happy that they want an advanced course because we both spend a lot of time planning and calling and implementing behind the scenes. It made us feel good that they wanted more.”