Red Angus and Simmental breeders from around the nation gathered in Sioux Falls, S.D., July 25 – 27 for the annual Young Guns Summer Conference co-hosted by the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) and American Simmental Association (ASA). The joint seminar reflects the two breeds' new collaboration to run multi-breed genetic evaluations of their growth and carcass trait EPDs.

The conference focused on the factors driving the future of the seedstock industry.

"Both ASA and RAAA have a long-standing philosophy of focusing on the needs of commercial cattlemen and providing genetics, selection tools and marketing outlets that enhance our customers' profitability,” said Clint Berry, RAAA Commercial Marketing Director. “By combining our efforts and co-hosting Young Guns, that commitment is enhanced through education, leadership development and heightened awareness of the opportunities and challenges that face our industry today and in the future."

The Young Guns conference kicked off with a cattle display and welcome supper at Milton and Peggy Ustad's ranch near Sioux Falls, S.D. The group engaged in discussion topics and addressed the issues affecting the beef industry.

The Future of Ranching

On Monday morning, Dr. Barry Dunn, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Dean of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, spoke to the Young Guns about the future of ranching and the importance of devising a strategic plan to help maintain profitability.

“Strategic management is about anticipation, adapting to, driving and capitalizing on change,” said Dunn. He encouraged attendees to identify the important elements in their lives and ranches in order to adapt to the changes in the beef industry and grow their profitability.

“Your participation in this seminar,” said Dunn, “means you are committed to leadership and life-long learning.”

Turning Generations … One Ranch at a Time

Dunn's comments on successful management transition set the stage for a panel discussion. Red Angus breeders Craig Bieber of Leola, S.D., Melvin and Todd Leland, Sidney, Mont.; and commercial producers and feedlot operators Peter and Jay Bakken of Garretson, S.D., shared their experiences and advice on transitioning management responsibilities to the next generation.

“Start the transition earlier than you think is necessary,” recommended Melvin Leland. “And remember what is fair isn't always equal; and what is equal isn't always fair.”

Peter Bakken said, “It's important to be transparent – even with non-farming siblings – during the planning process.”

Todd Leland said if you are planning on joining the family operation you should have compassion and an interest in the lifestyle, plus appreciate the freedom of self-employment. Jay Bakken said he worked as an employee of his family's feedlot before joining the partnership and taking over the feeding operation.

Bieber recommended starting the transition process with a frank, honest conversation and follow-up with regularly scheduled meetings. “Transition plans can change based on taxes and laws, so be sure to stay up-to-date and understand the risk involved.”

Beef's Future Value Drivers

Blake Angell, of Hays, Kan., director of feeder cattle procurement for Meyer Natural Angus, moderated a panel discussion on the values that drive the beef industry's future. Dan Dorn of Oberlin, Kan., supply development for Decatur Feedyards, and Mark Guge of Esterville, Iowa, value based beef marketing for Two Rivers Cattle, LLC, shared their views on how producers can increase their bottomline on retained ownership cattle.

Guge, who was instrumental in helping ASA develop their 70/70 Grid, said over the years producers have increased the number of cattle that grade Choice, but in the process have sacrificed yield grade. He strongly recommends producers take advantage of age and source programs to receive additional premiums.

Dorn agreed that Yield Grade is an important and often overlooked economic carcass factor that can mean the difference in a premium or discount. “We need to get as close to the carcass target as efficiently possible.” That target, said Dorn, is a 999-pound hot carcass that grades Choice with a yield grade 1. He emphasized dry matter feed conversion is the most significant profit driver once a calf enters the feedlot.

He encouraged breeders to study their carcass data, especially the “return to ranch” and scrutinize trends in sire lines. “Concentrate on making the most genetic change to the bottom 20 percent,” Dorn said. “These improvements will do the most to increasing the amount of profit returned to your ranch.”

What Commercial Producers Expect

The Young Guns group visited the campus of South Dakota State University (SDSU) in Brookings, S.D.

Dr. Robbi Prichard, distinguished professor of ruminant nutrition, addressed how seedstock producers can increase their product's worth by creating more value for their commercial customers. “Your bull isn't worth more money if your commercial customer isn't capturing more value for his calf,” said Prichard. He challenged seedstock producers to be the information source commercial cattlemen turn to, helping educate them on industry issues and breed tools such as EPDs. “We can expect as much change in our industry in the next five years as we have witnessed in the past 30 years,” predicted Prichard. “We need to be prepared.”

Bruce Durheim of Ellendale, N.D., Wayne Gronseth of Mitchell, S.D., and Homer Buell of Rose, Neb., sat on the commercial producer panel, shared their management practices and discussed their expectations and needs from their seedstock suppliers.

Following supper, the group viewed cattle at SDSU's beef facility and compared index values, noting how different values can combine for the same profitability index.

Genetic Evaluation Workshop

Dr. Wade Shafer, Director of Performance Programs for the ASA, addressed genetics, phenotype and EPDs, and how these elements work together to help producers measure traits that will increase profitability in their cattle. “Using phenotype alone is not a wise idea when making selection decisions,” said Shafer. “Measurable components, such as EPDs and Economic Selection Indexes, will give producers a more accurate prediction of an animal's genetic ability.”

Shafer also stressed crossbreeding, specifically hybrid vigor, as the first commandment for commercial producers to increase profitability.

Better Seedstock Solutions

The Young Guns conference wrapped up at the Steve Eichacker Ranch, Salem, S.D. with a live cattle display of fullblood and percentage cattle, noon meal and seedstock panel discussion.

Willie Altenburg, Genex Associate Vice President of Beef Marketing, moderated the seedstock supplier panel discussion regarding the future of the industry and the ever-changing needs cattlemen regularly face. The panel addressed issues that are important to their current customers, their ability to be flexible to the industry's changing needs and the importance of customer service – that includes listening to their customers, being engaged in their successes and challenges, and standing behind their seedstock product.

Donnell Brown of R.A. Brown Ranch, Throckmorton, Texas, recapped the conference. He mentioned the challenges producers have overcome in the beef industry, assessed current challenges and opened attendees' minds to challenges on the horizon. He closed the conference reminding breeders of the reasons they enjoy their lifestyle and encouraged their success in the future.


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