Next generation shows commitment to family farm
By Jennifer Carrico
Commitment is important when it comes to farming and raising cattle. Commitment is just what Bryce Schmidt is doing at his family’s farm near Maryville, Mo., and learning how to let the land take care of the cows and the cows take care of the land.
Bryce is the fourth generation to raise Angus cattle at the northwest Missouri farm. While his dad, Steve, went the commercial route when raising cattle, Bryce hopes to move back to a registered Angus operation like his grandfather, J.R., used to do.
“I’ve been back here for about a year after attending college and I’d really like to take over where my grandpa left off and start raising and selling registered Angus seedstock again someday,” Bryce said.
The family has about 200 spring-calving females and 25 fall calvers. The spring group consists of about 140 cows and 60 bred heifers.
At birth, calves are tagged and their naval is treated. Male calves are castrated at that time. In May, prior to breeding, both cows and calves are vaccinated. Calves are given vaccinations against black leg and pinkeye and are fly tagged. Cows were given a Scourguard vaccine prior to calving and then are given a round of pre-breeding vaccines in May, according to recommendations from their veterinarian. The herd is wormed twice per year with two different kinds of wormer.
Angus bulls are purchased from purebred seedstock operations in the Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma areas. Steve said when selecting bulls for the cowherd, he looks for a more moderate framed bull, with good growth and fertility.
“My dad liked cows with a little more frame. I’ve been working to bring that frame down a little and still have the pounds of meat,” Steve said. “Fertility and milk are important in our cowherd. We still want growth, too. We just have to find a happy medium.”
While they have been artificially inseminating heifers for a while, they decided to select about 45 cows to artificially inseminate for the first time this past breeding season. The group of cows that was selected for AI was based on maternal traits and quality. Then bulls were matched to these cows and were bred as a group.
The Schmidts retain about 50 heifers for replacements in their herd. Those heifers, along with about 30 others black Angus heifers, which are purchased from nearby breeders to be artificially inseminated in a group. They also purchase about 100 Red Angus heifers and artificially inseminate them to be sold in January at the local salebarn.
“We’ve been selling bred heifers for about 15 years at the Maryville Sale Barn. Several buyers are repeat buyers of these heifers,” Steve said.
The heifers are set up on the 14-day CIDR protocol. They also take pelvic measurements on all the heifers in order to know their ability for calving ease. They are artificially inseminated to Angus bulls selected primarily on calving ease. Clean-up bulls are left in with the heifers for about 90 days.
In late August, the heifers are all ultrasound pregnancy checked in order to be grouped and sold accordingly.
“Farmers like to know when these heifers will be calving, and the AI-bred heifers usually bring at least $350 more per head at sale time than the bull-bred heifers do,” explained Steve.
In the spring, cows start calving out on pastures in mid-March, while heifers are bred to calve earlier and are in an area where they can be put in barns for assistance. After calving, pairs are turned out on pastures of a fescue grass mix. While Steve said fescue grasses can make for challenges in the cowherd, they have learned how to manage it to get the best result. Fescue pastures are clipped in the summer in order to cut the seed heads off and help prevent challenges that fescue can bring.
A good mineral program is a very important part of their nutrition program. Cows are provided with free-choice quality mineral.
The Schmidts have nearly 800 acres of hay ground, which is a main concentration of their time from May until August.
Steve and Rhonda’s son-in-law, Brian McGary, and daughter, Jayla, also help on the farm. They have some farm ground of their own in the area as well. Their 16-month-old son, Kollin, will be the fifth generation to be raised on the farm.
Brian helps a lot with the crop farming. They have about 900 acres of row crops that are in a 50-50 corn, soybean rotation. After the crops are harvested, cows graze the corn stalk residue. This summer they decided to try aerial planting turnips and wheat on about 140 acres of soybeans.
“There are several cattle producers in the area planting cover crops after their regular crops and then turning cows out for grazing. It’s all experimental. We didn’t get the rains we probably needed after the seed was spread, so we might not get the results we should,” Steve said. “They say it takes three hard freezes to kill these cover crops, so it should be good fall grazing for our cows.”
Corn grown on the farm is stored for use throughout the year. A corn, soyhull and dry distillers grain mixture is fed to heifers throughout the year as they are on a drylot. They are also fed free-choice hay.
At certain times during the year, cows are also fed this same mixture at a rate of about 4 pounds per cow per day to help them maintain their body condition.
A hay processor is used in the wintertime and liquid protein is sometimes applied to the hay and corn stalk bales for feeding when needed.
Prior to weaning, calves are vaccinated a second time, this time with the Missouri silver-tag program and are put back with the cow for about a month. In mid-September, calves are fenceline weaned. Steer calves are sorted from heifers after they are fully weaned, and steers are run on grass on the farm until they weigh 850 to 900 pounds, at which time they are sold as a group in August, along with other steers that are purchased to run on the grass as well.
Cows are pregnancy checked in November, at which time decisions are made on whether to cull open cows or retain and move them to the fall herd.
“We don’t typically like to move cows from the spring to the fall herd, but all factors are looked at as to why the cow is open before she is sold,” Steve said.
The fall herd calves in September. A small group of heifers is retained for replacements in that herd as well and the other calves are marketed at the local salebarn.
Steve said Bryce’s interest in being on the farm started through showing cattle and sheep and being actively involved with the farm. Bryce has worked hard on his animals, showing the reserve champion 4-H market steer at the Missouri State Fair a few years ago and the grand champion market lamb at this year’s Missouri State Fair.
“He has worked hard with his animals throughout the years,” Steve said.
It’s that work ethic and commitment that has brought Bryce back to the family farm and has helped him to understand how the cows take care of the land and the land takes care of the cows.
Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.