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'Real-world' judging criteria make Beef Empire Days special

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Schurrtop Angus and Charolais, Farnam, Neb., has a reputation among cattlemen for genetics that perform well in the pasture, the feedlot and the packing plant. So, it's no wonder that this family livestock operation has competed for many years in Beef Empire Days--a show with a reputation for emphasizing "real-world criteria."

"Our family started carcass testing in 1970 and it's been one of the main criteria of our breeding program," said Marty Schurr. "So, as we've gotten involved in Beef Empire Days more than 12 years ago, it all fits into what I call 'real-world criteria'--those things that make the beef industry click. Beef Empire Days, in my opinion, is one of the best shows. People talk about the stock show in Denver and the stock show in Louisville, and those are fine and dandy. But, this is the real world and Beef Empire Days judges look at criteria that prove that this is really and truly the best animal."

For the Schurr family--previous winners of the Earl C. Brookover Memorial Award, and last year's exhibitor of both the Champion and Reserve Champion Heifer Carcasses--winning at Beef Empire Days begins with sound breeding decisions at the ranch.

"If you look at our record of how our cattle have done at Beef Empire Days it's more proof of what our genetics will do," Schurr said. "If you look at our bull customers in general, a pretty large percentage retain ownership, feed and sell their cattle on a carcass grid. Competing in Beef Empire Days is one way to prove our cattle can compete against some of the biggest feed yards and operations in the Midwest and our cattle have done well."

Those breeding decisions have come about through the education from watching and participating in previous Beef Empire Days, Schurr added. For example, the Beef Empire Days Carcass Index System, he said, has been updated in the last two years to more truly represent today's beef industry and the consumer's wants and needs.

"I think the shows have really done a lot for opening people's eyes on what we are really producing," Schurr said. "We all have an idea or have had an idea of what's ideal. We can pick out a steer or heifer in a pen and say that's ideal. Then, the live judge evaluates and then you see the real truth on the rail. Most people will pick out something that's too fat. I think that's what's really great about the show is that we see the difference between fat and muscle and get to see what's really under the hide.

"People get woke up to what they're really producing," Schurr said. "Ten years ago there were a lot of cattle that were way too fat. Look how we've progressed in the industry since then and we see a lot fewer yield grade problems and excess fat cover than we did 10 years ago. It tells me people are getting smarter at picking cattle."

Schurr said the healthy competition between exhibitors each year is a way to improve the industry overall.

"We aren't afraid to put our cattle up against anyone and everyone," Schurr said. "At the same time, if someone is doing better than us we want to know why. We want to be part of the improvement.

"I think it's an under-attended event for the value of education that's there," he added. "I think the normal cow-calf producer, the feed yard manager and the feedlot employee all have so much to learn by just watching the live show, making a judgement and then looking at the carcass traits when the cattle are harvested. Tradition and bragging rights and all that are good, but it really, truly is the show for real-world cattle production."

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807, or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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