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Brangus, Brittni and Beef

BY LAUREN CHASE (Montana Stockgrowers Association)

I was so excited when Brittni Drennan began her job with the International Brangus Breeders Association last year. Right from the beginning, she was doing great things for the Brangus breed on social media and quickly becoming a wonderful advocate for the industry. If you don’t follow her on social media, I suggest you do! Let’s meet Brittni now….

Brittni Drennan grew up in a small farming community population of 150 in Welch, located in West Texas. She was very familiar with crop production and showed sheep and goats starting the time she could walk. Also, Brittni was very involved in 4-H and FFA contests and activities, which helped form the foundation of her agricultural communications experience.

Brittni graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Communications from Texas Tech University in December 2009. While pursuing her master’s degree, she conducted research in preharvest interventions at the cow/calf level. Upon obtaining her M.S. degree in Agricultural Communications in August 2011, Brittni began her career in agriculture as the Communications Coordinator for the International Brangus Breeders Association.

How did you become interested in the beef industry?

I initially became interested in the beef industry while working in a meat science laboratory on Texas Tech’s campus my freshman year. My interest and passion for the beef industry grew as I began my own graduate research, which sought to discover the most effective interventions at the cow/calf level to reduce the risk E.Coli outbreaks.

What made you decide to study agriculture communications and to earn your Master’s degree in that field?

I remember beginning freshman orientation at Texas Tech thinking, “I have no idea what I want to do or what I want to major in.” I started out in the ag department because, with my background and involvement in 4-H and FFA, ag is what I knew and where I felt most comfortable. As I was looking at the list of degree plans, I saw Agricultural Communications. I decided it would be a great idea to combine my passion for the ag industry and something I loved- talking to people about ag.

I stayed to get my master’s because, due to the state of the economy at that time, there were not many jobs available. Plus, I was offered a job as a research assistant while getting my degree, and I wanted to extend my knowledge of the beef industry.

What’s one piece of advice you could give about communicating effectively about agriculture?

Check your sources and make sure the information you are communicating is clear and factual and cannot be misinterpreted. Also, cite your sources. My second would be to tell your story from your own perspective. I think people are more willing to listen if it comes from personal experience, and they know you have literally walked through those shoes.

Tell us about your position with the International Brangus Breeders Association. What is your role? Favorite part of your job?

As the Communications Coordinator my primary role is to promote the Brangus breed. That includes everything from writing features and news releases for our two publications and others nationwide to managing our digital media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, a weekly online newsletter and our Beef Tips blog. I also help with advertising design and sales, assist with planning events and attend industry events.

My favorite part about my job is the variety. I do something different from day to day, and I absolutely love talking to our members and commercial producers about their stories, operations and how they work to feed the world every day.

What is your favorite thing about the Brangus breed? What makes this breed different from other cattle found around the country?

My favorite thing about the breed, and also what makes Brangus unique from other breeds, is its versatility and ability to adapt to so many different climates and even the harshest environments. I have heard from many of our producers in the north who have Brangus that thrive in the coldest winters and turn around and do wonderful in the summer also. Living in San Antonio where the weather is hot and humid, I know producers select Brangus, particularly for the breed’s mothering ability, because they forage well, work better in the summer heat and out perform other breeds in those types of weather conditions.

We have to ask, what is the best part about working with YPC past-chairman, Ben Spitzer?

Ben definitely has a great personality. He knows how to make you laugh when you need it the most. He helps create a relaxed, pleasant work environment, but still knows how to be a professional. Plus, he is great at his job and can relate to producers.

Finally, what do you hope to do in the future? Would you like to have your own cattle someday?

I would most certainly stay involved in the agriculture industry. I feel communications and interacting with people are my strengths and hope to continue working in that area while developing my photography business.

We have some family land in the south Texas area that I would like to further develop. My family has discussed going into the cattle business together, but with damages from wildfires last Spring and the continuation of the drought, it seems that may be a distant goal.

Follow Brittni and IBBA:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GoBrangus

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gobrangus

www.gobrangus.com

 

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Veteran Attributes Integrity for Success in Seedstock Production

By Brittni Drennan, IBBA Communications Coordinator

From the United States Marine Corps’ (USMC) All Weather Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-553) to cattle rancher in western Arkansas, RC Smith is a man of intelligence who knows his genes and has worked his way to the top.
 
Smith grew up in Oden, Arkansas, on the farm he now owns and manages which his family started in 1904. Smith transformed Polk Creek Farms into a successful, registered Brangus breeding operation, but not before he thoroughly researched the facts.
 
Smith has an extensive educational background. After high school, he attended the University of Kansas on a Naval ROTC scholarship where he received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1983. He then attended flight school after he was commissioned in the USMC. After flight school, he joined Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-553), attached to Carrier Air Wing 3 and the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier. While serving as a Bombardier/Navigator in the A-6E Intruder, Smith completed two “Med Cruises” on the JFK, totaling almost 300 arrested landings before being assigned as Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) at the Naval ROTC Unit at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. While serving as MOI, Smith obtained his Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance at Northwestern University’s JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1992. Upon graduation, he resigned his commission and was hired by Credit Suisse First Boston in New York City as an associate in their Mergers and Acquisitions group. Ten years later he retired from a position as Head of Mergers and Acquisitions for SunTrust Banks in Atlanta, the ninth largest bank in the U.S., and moved his two children back to his hometown in Oden where he had high hopes for the family farm.
 
Smith bought the family farm and its herd of quality mixed-breed cattle but was interested in breeding registered cattle. After extensive research into cattle that would be suitable for his environment and would be in high demand, he decided on the Brangus breed.
 
“Primary benefits are the maternal abilities. They’re just good mothers and take care of their calves,” Smith said. “In addition to their heat tolerance, their longevity is important; I’ve had cows 16 to 18 years old still producing quality offspring on my farm. ”
 
Smith has always had an eye for cattle since he was the top-rated livestock judge at the state FFA competition his senior year in high school. However, after being out of the cattle business for several years, he knew he could not get started without some help. Smith received some advice and insight from the likes of Don Hall of Benton, Ark., and Finis Welch in Centerville, Texas.
 
“Don was influential in getting me into the Brangus breed,” Smith said, “and I purchased most of my foundation females through Finis’ production sales at Center Ranch. Both men exercise sound judgment and are of the highest integrity; if they tell you something you can take it to the bank.”
 
Having a thorough background in accounting, Smith looked at the mathematical aspect of the business and put the numbers to work, utilizing the most advanced techniques offered today.
 
“I knew early on that I had to do my homework. I needed to buy the best genetics I could afford and then build my herd through artificial insemination and embryo transfer,” Smith said. Among the registered purchases, he bought proven donor cows, primarily Brinks, Center Ranch and Salacoa Valley bloodlines, for embryo transfers, utilizing his best quality crossbred females as recipients. He also applied artificial insemination techniques to take advantage of the most proven and breed leading genetics.
 
“I purchased a heatwatch system and AI’d every female, keeping them away from the bulls until 24 days passed in order to AI again if necessary,” Smith said.
 
After this, the cows were cleaned up by quality bulls purchased from Camp Cooley, Doguet’s Diamond D Ranch or top-end bulls Smith had bred. He also looked at expected progeny differences (EPDs) and requested production records to inspect calving intervals before going to a sale or purchasing cattle. When purchasing bulls to utilize in his herd, Smith said he looks primarily at EPD’s and confirmation, but that was just as important as the consistency of the bull’s dam.
 
“I will not use a bull in my herd unless it is out of a cow that produces one of the top calves in her respective herd almost every time she calves,” Smith said.
 
Smith retains the top cut of his heifer calves to use in his registered herd, constantly striving to increase the quality of his cattle. Smith said he culls extensively, dropping the bottom 15 to 25 percent of the registered cows out of the herd in order to make way for new heifers or new purchases.
 
“These are typically high quality cattle but just not quite good enough to retain in the registered herd,” Smith said. “They are in high demand among my customer base, though, as commercial brood cows.”
 
While Smith is striving to develop a herd of good-tempered cattle with exceptional depth of body, thickness and eye appeal, he also realizes commercial buyers have a variety of preferences.
 
“I’ll be honest and tell the customer the strengths and weaknesses of that particular animal and let the customer determine which animal is right for them,” Smith said. “They need to find a breeder they can build a relationship with and trust in the long term. You’re buying honesty and integrity as well as the animal, and you want somebody that will treat you fairly.”
 
Ten years in the registry business, Smith now has 65 registered, breeding age females down from 110 a year and a half ago due to the record drought conditions that drastically impacted the South. But he has goals to increase his herd size while improving consistency in producing deep, thick, long calves.
 
Polk Creek Farms has also been successful in the show ring. Smith’s children showed the Grand Champion Heifer at the Arkansas State Fair for five consecutive years in the early 2000’s. He has also won national titles with calves he has sold, including the 2008 IBBA Show Heifer of the Year shown by Abby Jorgenson of Tyler, Texas. In addition, Polk Creek Napoleon 99T ranked seventh in the IBBA show bull standings two years ago, while his current junior herd sire, Polk Creek Genghis Kahn 146W2, was ranked fifth in the world last year. Both Napoleon and Kahn, as Smith refers to them, were shown by Randy Deshotel and his three daughters of Ville Platte, La., who helped Smith get involved in showing cattle.
 
Deshotel said Smith is meticulous and honest in his record keeping and knows how to breed for genetics. He weighs at birth, at weaning, utilizes sonogram testing, uses Total Herd Reporting (THR) correctly and uses the IBBA registry system to its full potential. But Deshotel encouraged him to begin improving the phenotype in his herd for the show ring to help market his cattle.
 
“We show for him on the show circuit and can help him market his cattle on the national level,” Deshotel said. “That helps when he’s located in such a secluded area.”
 
Deshotel said they have done very well and been successful with Smith’s bulls and heifers. Deshotel’s daughter, Allison, won IBBA’s photo contest with a photo she submitted of one of Smith’s heifers which is published on the cover of the IBBA publication, Frontline Beef Producer. The Deshotel family has built a relationship with Smith and become friends since Smith joined the Brangus community. Deshotel said he holds a high respect for Smith because of his character and integrity.
 
“You meet all kinds of people in this world, and I have a very high respect for veterans. Smith carries that honor with him,” Deshotel said. “He keeps his word, and I think that is why he’s successful.”
 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Meet YPC’s 2010 Past Chair, Ben Spitzer

The Young Producers Council asked the leadership board to provide our readers with a little background information on themselves. Today we feature Ben Spitzer. Though Ben no longer serves in a leadership role on the board he is still a very active member in the organization. 

Ben Spitzer grew up in the cattle business and very early in life made a conscious decision that animal agriculture would be his life’s work.  His family involvement goes back several generations and has included both commercial cattle and registered cattle of several breeds.

Ben and his two older brothers were very involved on a County, State and Regional basis with 4-H and FFA; showing their home raised Brangus cattle and cross-bred lambs with much success.  Ben was a founding member and elected as Vice-President, then President of the South Carolina Junior Cattlemen’s Association.   Through his active involvement with the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association (IJBBA), Ben was the recipient of the Southeast Brangus Breeders Association (SBBA) scholarship as well as the International Brangus Auxiliary (IBA) Underclassman Scholarship.  All during this time he was an active part of his family’s operation and helped with day to day management and genetic selection.

Ben attended Oklahoma State University (OSU) on an academic scholarship and majored in Animal Science with an animal production emphasis.  While at OSU, Ben was selected to the OSU President’s Leadership Council and to the prestigious Oklahoma Agriculture Leadership Experience.  He was actively involved with a variety of club activities, was elected President of Cowboys for Christ for two terms and served on AG Council.  He worked a variety of jobs and was able to help care for animals and assist with several research projects as an employee at the Animal Science Department’s Nutrition and Physiology Center.  Upon graduation from OSU, Ben decided to continue his formal education at Colorado State University (CSU) and enrolled in the Integrated Resource Management Master’s Degree program in 2004.

As part of his Master’s Program, Spitzer interned with the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) in Denton, TX.  He was involved with several projects, including a strong emphasis in commercial marketing.  Upon graduating from CSU, he accepted the position of Communications/Member Services Director at RAAA.  In this position, he represented the Red Angus Association at national, state and regional meetings, field days, and sales, as well as industry events across the country.  He assisted with several aspects of breed promotion, including writing and editing news releases and articles as well as attending conventions and trade shows.  He also performed compliance audits of commercial cow-calf operations, stockyards and feedlots to ensure strict adherence to RAAA’s USDA verified Genetic, Source and Age verified feeder calf program.

Ben returned to an active role in the Brangus breed as General Manager of Salacoa Valley Farms, Fairmount, GA in July of 2007.  During his time there he was actively involved with the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA), attending multiple functions both locally and nationally as well as serving on the Commercial Marketing committee and as Vice-Chairman of the Promotions committee for IBBA.

In June of 2010, Spitzer accepted the position of Marketing Programs Director at the IBBA.  In this position he oversees IBBA’s Commercial Marketing Programs as well as advertising and promotion of the Brangus breed.  The IBBA is committed to adding value to the genetics used by commercial cattlemen through value added programs for both Brangus influenced feeder cattle and commercial Brangus females.

Ben was a founding member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Young Producers Council (YPC) and served as the YPC delegate to the NCBA Membership Committee.  He served as Chair of YPC in 2010 and in an advisory role to YPC as Immediate Past Chair in 2011.  He hopes all cattle producers, especially young people, will become more involved in their county, state and national associations and make sure their voice is heard in the shaping of the future of the Beef Industry.

 

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