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2013 Commercial Producer Nominees

The Beef Improvement Federation recognizes seven regional nominees for Commercial Producer of the Year.

Each year the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) recognizes outstanding commercial cattle operations during its annual symposium, crowning one overall winner as Commercial Producer of the Year. Nominees are evaluated on 10 criteria including short- and long-term goals, records systems and implementation, breeding systems, selection objectives/culling criteria and process, marketing practices and customer relations, carcass data collection and application, forage resources and stewardship, innovations/improvements and use of technology, contributions to community and industry, and vision of BIF's role.


Seven nominees were recognized this year during an awards luncheon June 12. Darnall Ranch Inc., Harrisburg, Neb., was named Commercial Producer of the Year. Following are short bios of each of the nominees.


Berk-Mar Farm | Darnall Ranch Inc. | Irsik Ranch | Mayer Ranch
Roberts Farms
| Rosen's XL Farm | Wood Ranch


Berk-Mar Farm, New Canton, Va.

Owners: Berkley "Lin" Jones, Brenda Jones and Kathleen Jones

Managers: Berkley "Lin" Jones and Brenda Jones


Berk-Mar Farm, located in Buckingham County in the central part of Virginia, was established in 1968. Lin and Brenda Jones began managing the farm in 1980. It is an Angus Gelbvieh-cross beef operation, currently grazing approximately 200 head of brood cows. The farm totals 555 acres — 300 acres of pasture with 255 acres of hayland. Berk-Mar’s breeding program consists of first service by artificial insemination (AI) and natural-service cleanup, resulting in a 90-day calving season beginning in October.


Berk-Mar Farm has been a member of the Buckingham Cattlemen's Association (BCA) since 1990. Lin and Brenda are both on the board of directors, and Brenda is treasurer.


Berk-Mar Farm believes strongly in best-management practices and value-added marketing, which is accomplished through the Virginia Quality Assured Feeder Cattle Program and Virginia Premium Assured Heifer Programs. Berk-Mar participates in the BCA’s fall feeder-calf sale and its annual Bred Heifer and Young Cow Sale.


Their herd health program has resulted in consistent, healthy animals in the feedlot and provides the buyers with a uniform and quality beef product. Pasture and hayland management includes 50 acres of fescue stockpiled for late fall/winter feeding and 17 acres of alfalfa, in addition to the orchard grass/fescue hay mixtures.


The Jones’ have been recognized with the Clean Water Farm Award from Peter Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District in 2000, the High Cow Conception Rate Award from ABS Global in 2011, and are active 4-H supporters and volunteers.


Darnall Ranch Inc., Harrisburg, Nebraska

Owner: Gary Darnall

Managers: Gary Darnall and Lane Darnall


Darnall Ranch Inc. is a family-owned cow-calf operation, feedlot and farm located in the Panhandle of Nebraska, 30 miles southeast of Scottsbluff. The ranch was originally homesteaded in 1889 by Scott Darnall and incorporated in 1973. The operation has been in the family for 124 years.


Mattie Darnall is third-generation, Gary and Emilie Darnall are fourth-generation, Lane and Robin Darnall along with Bob and Lisa (Darnall) Brenner are fifth-generation, with the sixth and seventh generations living and working on the ranch.


Darnall Ranch began more than 40 years ago with 150 Hereford cows and 1,400 acres of farm ground, selling their calves at weaning. Today the cow herd consists of 1,700 commercial-Angus females utilizing SimAngus bulls, which produce 300-400 replacement heifers annually. Bulls are developed using expected progeny differences (EPDs), genomics and the GrowSafe system.


The balance of Darnall Ranch offspring are fed out in the 22,500-head Certified Angus Beef LLC-licensed commercial feedlot, where records are collected for conversion, rate of gain, grade and yield, along with a profitability analysis each year. Twenty-five thousand acres of grass along with 2,400 acres of irrigated and 4,700 acres of dryland farm ground are used to grow feedstuffs to help support the cow-calf, yearling and feedlot operations.


The cow herd calves in February and March with the first-calf heifers calving two weeks before the cow herd; and 75% of the calves being born in the first 30 days. Darnall Ranch strives to use the land and cattle as an efficient and economical multi-generational agribusiness.

Irsik Ranch, Cimarron, Kansas

Owner: Irsik Farms; Manager: Jim Reimer

Irsik Ranch is headquartered 10 miles north of Kalvesta, Kan., or 45 miles northwest of Dodge City, in the northeast corner of Finney County. The ranch was founded in 1981 by the Irsik Bros., with Steve Irsik as one of the owners and Jim Reimer as ranch manager. Brandon Seifried joined the ranch in 2008 as Irsik Ranch herdsman. Cliff Benner is the manager of the Nebraska ranch.

The operation consists of commercial cows, a backgrounding/grower yard and a dryland farm producing wheat, alfalfa, cane feed and sorghum silage. A Nebraska Sandhills ranch was purchased in 2012 to hedge against the drought in Kansas. The purchase of the Nebraska ranch began as a way to save the genetics developed through years of an intensive AI program, but also should prove to be an opportunity to grow the operation. Native wet meadow hay and alfalfa are harvested on the Nebraska ranch.

Normal carrying capacity between the two ranches is 2,000 cows plus replacement heifers. High-performing black-Angus cows provide the base for the entire operation. In 2007, 1,000 of those cows were AIed to industry-leading Hereford bulls. The hybrid vigor realized by crossing top Angus and Hereford genetics produces an animal that not only survives, but also thrives in the harsh range conditions in which they are expected to live. The Irsik Ranch continues to cross Hereford bulls on their Angus cows, while black-whiteface cows are bred to Angus bulls.


With Steve Irsik’s founding leadership, trust in its managers and a detailed accounting of all aspects of the operation, Irsik Ranch is in a position to be profitable, while improving its natural resources well into the next generation.

Mayer Ranch, Guymon, Oklahoma

Owners/Managers: Joe and MaryAnn Mayer

Joe Mayer’s great grandfather moved to Texline, Texas, from Savannah, Mo., to assume management duties of the Buffalo Springs Division for the famed XIT Ranch. Trailing cattle to Dodge City, Kan., they passed through this “No Man’s Land,” which is now the Oklahoma panhandle. They eventually settled there in 1883, establishing their own ranch known as the “Anchor D.”

Joe and MaryAnn were married in July of 1971, and after receiving his degree from Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU), assumed co-management, along with his father, of the family’s operation. For 100 years, the operation had consisted of Hereford cows, but eventually became a commercial Angus operation, beginning that transition in the mid- to late 1970s.

Today’s ranch consists of 1,400 head of commercial, spring-calving Angus cows that graze 26,000 acres of native range. They recently purchased another ranch at Unionville, Mo., that consists of 1,640 acres. They retain their own replacement heifers, and feed their steers and cull heifers at a commercial feedlot in Kansas. Believing that quality is paramount, the cattle are bred for carcass traits and are sold on a grid that pays premiums for carcasses that grade USDA Prime and qualify for the Certified Angus Beef® (CAB®) brand.


The couple has three children, two of which are involved in the operation. Son Paul lives near Hardesty, Okla., and is directly involved with the ranch. Daughter Margie lives on the ranch and keeps the recordbooks. Oldest daughter Katie lives in Evergreen, Colo., and is an attorney with degrees from Harvard.


Roberts Farms, Corning, Iowa

Owners: Glen and Tom Roberts


Nestled near the rolling hills of southwestern Iowa, the Roberts operation includes Glen, son Tom and grandson Ryan, who together manage the 700-head operation.


Glen and Tom were pork producers for several years before they switched to a cow-calf operation in 1988. At that time they purchased their first Limousin bulls and have purchased four or five bulls every year. They have developed a trusted relationship with their seedstock supplier, Leih Limousin, who helps them to add new genetics annually to increase weaning weight and improve fertility in their retained heifers.


The Roberts herd is made up of 500 spring calvers and 200 fall calvers. They have a strict 45-day breeding window using a 15:1 cow-to-bull ratio. They purchase a few bred heifers per year in addition to retaining approximately 60 home-raised heifers. Cows are pregnancy-checked, and open cows are sent to the market. Steers and commercial replacement heifers are marketed after an extensive vaccination and backgrounding period to ensure the utmost quality and health for their customers.


Rosen's XL Farm, Ruscaloosa, Alabama

Owners: Gordon and Ann Rosen; Manager: Miguel Ruiz


Gordon Rosen graduated from high school in Fort Sumner, N.M. While in Fort Sumner, a father of a friend of Mr. Rosen’s was the manager of the XL ranch. While on the XL Ranch in the 1930s, a love of ranching and cattle handling was instilled in Gordon. He adopted the XL brand for his own cattle operation in Tuscaloosa, which he still uses today. Gordon Rosen began raising cattle in a modest way in 1968 and acquired more cattle after expanding his acreage by acquiring larger farms.


He joined the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (AL BCIA) in the late 1990s. The AL BCIA program provided the basics for recordkeeping and the knowledge to improve the performance and productivity of his cow herd. Rosen’s XL Farm consists of 90 Simmental- and Angus-cross cows grazing 340 acres of pasture consisting of Bermudagrass, Bahiagrass and tall fescue; and seasonal grazing with planted Marshall ryegrass, crimson clover and annual crabgrass. Throughout the year, limit, rotational and strip grazing are used as well as stockpiling, to maximize forage resources.


A fall calving season to capture market advantage for feeder cattle begins in late September and goes through early December. In the fall of 2012, 82% of the cows calved in the first 30 days.


AI has allowed this higher percentage of the calf crop to be born early in the calving season. With the use of AI, the 2011 calf crop was 8.7 days older than the 2010 calf crop and produced 23.5 pounds (lb.) of additional weight per calf with an average daily gain of 2.7 lb. from birth to 205-day weight collection. This herd’s success was achieved through careful selection for both culling and replacements, extensive use of AI, utilization of a forage based program and, of course, meticulous recordkeeping. Rosen’s XL Farm has also been honored with earning numerous AL BCIA Gold Star Cow Awards.


Wood Ranch, Coleman, Oklahoma

Owner: Dell Wood; Manager: Rusty Daniel

Rusty Daniel has managed all cattle operations at the Wood Ranch since 2005. The ranch consists of several properties totaling 3,550 acres around Wapanucka, Okla. There are approximately 475 Angus and Angus-crossbred cows and 20 terminal Charolais bulls.

Cows calve in a 75-day period starting the end of January through the first of April. In a typical year, hay is fed for two to three months and is purchased off the ranch. Feed supplementation is provided as needed based on body condition score (BCS), and mineral is provided free-choice. Supplementation costs are less than $100 per cow in a normal year.

During the growing season, cows are rotationally grazed to best utilize the forage resources. The forage base is predominately Bermudagrass over-seeded with ryegrass and scattered fescue.

Cows are vaccinated according to a herd health plan that was developed with the assistance of the Noble Foundation and herd veterinarian. Calves are vaccinated according to the requirements of the Integrity Beef Alliance.

All calves are retained after weaning and backgrounded to the point that cost of gain equals the value of gain, typically around 750-850 lb. Least-cost rations are developed by a Noble Foundation livestock consultant and bulk feed is purchased to decrease costs. Calves are marketed directly to the feedlot, and performance and carcass data are returned to the ranch.

Editor’s Note: The above bios were provided courtesy of the Beef Improvement Federation.


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