City, Mo. — A bus load of seedstock and commercial producers, and farmer feeders spent four days traveling through South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas visiting Hereford seedstock and commercial ranches, feedlots, and packing plants, plus spent hours discussing beef industry topics and sharing knowledge. The group included producers from 16 states with a total of 14,000 cows ranging from a handful to 1,000 head individually.
“An eye-opening experience” summarized most tour participants' comments about the High Plains Hereford tour, which covered 1,600 miles. The tour started in Rapid City, S.D., Sept. 10 and traveled through Nebraska and Kansas returning to Rapid City Sept. 13.
“The purpose of the tour was to give producers the opportunity to see different segments of the beef industry,” said Jay Elfeldt, American Hereford Association (AHA) fieldman and tour co-chairman. “It was truly a great learning opportunity and exceeded all of our expectations.”
Darrell Ailshie, Tennessee Livestock Producers general manager, Columbia, Tenn., described the tour as “leadership in action.” He said participants were excited about the Hereford breed and were being proactive attending the tour.
The event was more than a cattle tour; participant John Woolfolk, Columbia, Tenn., calls it a rolling seminar. Between tour stops, producers had the chance to discuss different topics ranging from $Profit Indexes to Hereford Verified to DNA testing. Participants also introduced themselves, shared why they attended the tour and, while returning to Rapid City, discussed what they had learned on the tour.
Greg Shaw, Caldwell, Idaho, said what he enjoyed most about the tour was how all facets of the industry were represented. “It was a captive audience and there was great dialog,” he said.
Greg's wife, Cleo, added, “It was neat how participants shared their ideas and then just agreed to disagree.”
A highlight was the opportunity to tour a packing plant. One group toured National Beef Packing Co. LLC while the other toured Cargill Meat Solutions “Excel.” More than two thirds of the group had not been in a large packing plant in the last 20 years.
Kansas Hereford breeder Glenn Oleen said, “Seeing a packing plant firsthand you realize how elaborate the process really is. It was amazing to see them standing shoulder to shoulder breaking down the carcass.”
Oleen said the tour demonstrated the differences and similarities of various feeding operations, packing facilities and producers. The three feedlots had different management and marketing objectives. Decatur County Feedyard Inc. specializes in individual cattle management and retained ownership. “There's no more average management and no more average marketing,” said Warren Weibert, Decatur County Feedyard owner and general manager.
Weibert also explained the importance of consistency and quality of beef, and gave the following analogy: “We're not shooting with a shotgun; it's now narrowed to a rifle with a scope.” Weibert and his staff demonstrated the Micro Beef Technologies' AccuTrac system. The system sorts cattle based on a wide range of physical and economic measures.
Later, on Tuesday, the group visited Ford County Feedyard Inc., Ford, Kansas. Danny Herrmann, owner and manager, toured participants around the yard that has a one-time capacity of 50,000. Ford County has been a licensed Certified Hereford Beef (CHB) feeder since 2004 and has supplied more than 15,500 eligible cattle to the CHB and Hereford Verified programs. The yard had 32 pens of cattle enrolled in the Hereford Verified program. Ford County markets to specific brand niches and commodity cash.
Wednesday the group visited Royal Beef Feedyard, which is one of Irsik & Doll's feedlots. The six feedlots have a combined one-time capacity of 200,000. Royal Beef is a 95 percent investor or customer-based feeding operation that markets cattle on grids and commodity cash.
At Royal Beef participants toured the feedmill and processing facilities. Royal Beef has been home to the National Hereford Feedout for four years.
South Dakota commercial producer Dick Kolousek, Washington Springs, S.D., said the tour was a great opportunity to learn about the variety of marketing opportunities available.
The tour included visits to four Hereford seedstock ranches: Monahan Cattle Co., Hyannis, Neb.; Jamison Hereford and Quarter Horses, Quinter, Kansas; Sandhill Farms, Haviland, Kan.; and Van Newkirk Herefords, Oshkosh, Neb. At each stop participants had a chance to see some of the top Hereford genetics in the country.
During the Tuesday evening stop at Sandhill Farms, Lorna Marshall, manager of sire acquisition for ABS Global Inc., said ABS is experiencing more demand for Hereford bulls from its commercial customers. The company has had several large breeding heifer projects — more than 1,000 heifers inseminated — that have utilized Hereford bulls. She commended Hereford breeders who are stepping up and producing bulls that commercial producers are demanding.
The tour finale was a stop at Olsen Ranches, Harrisburg, Neb., which has been testing Hereford bulls through the National Reference Sire Program (NRSP) since 1999 and was the 2005 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Commercial Producer of the Year.
“Visiting Olsen's was like being in the heart of Hereford genetics,” said Glenn Kopp, Peterborough, N.H. “It was amazing to see all those genetics side-by-side.”
On Sunday evening some tour participants visited Baker Herefords, Rapid City, S.D. Bakers along with JBN Livestock, Box Elder, S.D., sponsored lunch on Monday before the bus left Rapid City.
Alan Dufur, Caddo, Okla., said, “The opportunity to network with producers outside our geographic region and outside our expertise was the best part of the tour. If the American Hereford Association would sponsor a tour like this in another month, I'd go again.”
Jim Williams, Certified Hereford Beef LLC vice president of supply and tour co-chairman, said, “It was the most intriguing tour I've ever been on. It was not the places we went or the people we met. It was the group we were with. They were hungry for knowledge. They made the tour a success.”