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BIF Commercial Nominees

Six commercial producers nominated for Seedstock Producer of the Year.

Stan & Lisa Buzzard | Downey Ranch | G.W. Jones & Sons Farms
M&B Limousin | Duane Martin Livestock | Optimal Beef LLC

Stan & Lisa Buzzard
Owners: Stan & Lisa Buzzard, Beecher City, Ill.
In 1996, Stan and Lisa Buzzard of Beecher City, Ill., purchased 27 bred heifers from the Elite Heifer Program at Paris, Ky., which was the start of their commercial cow-calf business. The Buzzards now manage an 800-acre grain and commercial beef cattle operation consisting of 120 cow-calf pairs and 45 replacement heifers. The smoky-colored brood cows are an Angus x Charolais-cross and are bred to high-performance, superior-carcass Angus bulls to produce approximately 25% smoky calves and 75% black calves.

In the spring the cow-calf pairs are divided into groups and are placed into multiple pastures. They calve February through April. The herd has a tight calving period, with 85% of their calves born within the first 30 days of calving.

With multiple pastures, the Buzzards are able to analyze the performance of each individual sire. They maintain a 96% weaned calf crop weaning in August at 165 days of age. Weaning weights average 526 pounds (lb.). The steers are finished in the feedlot, and the heifers are enrolled in the Illinois Heifer Development Program. The Buzzards have consigned heifers in the spring-calving sale since 2003, receiving premium prices with repeat buyers.

Stan began farming in 1973, while also working and co-owning a concrete construction company. In 2000, he sold his shares of the company to devote his time to the farm.
Stan and Lisa Buzzard are nominated by the University of Illinois Extension and the Illinois Beef Association.

Downey Ranch
Owners: The Joseph L. Downey Family; Managers: Joe Carpenter and Barb Downey, Wamego, Kan.
Downey Ranch Inc. (DRI) is located in the Flint Hills just southeast of Manhattan, Kan. Formed in 1986 by Joe Downey, the ranch encompasses more than 6,300 acres of mostly forages and a herd of 550 cows. The ranch calves 425 spring cows, which includes 140 registered Angus and 285 commercial Angus, F1 baldies and Red Angus x Angus cows. In addition, there are 125 fall-calving commercial cows with the same breed make-up.

From day one, DRI has focused on the efficient production of high-quality beef utilizing a multitude of practices to make sure no animal "ever has a bad day." Low-stress handling of all cattle; integrated disease management, including vaccinations and providing an environment to prevent disease; fenceline weaning; early weaning; research- and feedback-based management; and individual end point management of feedlot cattle are tools used by DRI to accomplish this goal.

Currently, almost all calves (except seedstock) are marketed through U.S. Premium Beef (USPB) on an age- and source-verified quality grid. Commercial bred females and registered bulls are marketed through an annual production sale. DRI assists female and bull customers in optimizing return on their calves using those tools that have proven successful.

With a good handle on production, DRI now is focused on intense financial analysis, having added a family member to the team for that purpose. With all these tools, DRI hopes to ensure a well-run business - capable of supporting family members and employees - that exists long into the future.

The Kansas Livestock Association nominates Downey Ranch.

G.W. Jones & Sons Farms
Owners: Raymond B. Jones, Elizabeth Jones Lowe, and Carolyn Jones Blue, Huntsville, Ala.
In 1804, the Jones family's ancestors moved to Madison County, Ala., from Lincoln County, Tenn., to farm. For the last 205 years, the family has continued to farm in Madison County, currently operating 2,000 acres for the cattle operation, which began in 1939. It has now been surrounded by the city of Huntsville.

The farming enterprises have also expanded through the years and include farming operations in Jackson, Marshall and Limestone counties.

From the 1940s through most of the 1980s, Horned Hereford cattle primarily comprised the cow herd. Today, half Red Angus, half red Gelbvieh, or Balancer, herd sires produce a calf crop consisting of approximately half Red Angus, half red Gelbvieh.

The cow herd consists of approximately 450 cows with a fall calving season of 63 days beginning Oct. 1. All performance data is collected, maintained and evaluated using the Red Wing Cow-Calf software. Calves are marketed at the end of May or June. The steers are sold at an average of 650 lb. in truckload lots directly to a feedlot. A select group of heifers are retained as replacements, with the balance being sold to local cattlemen.

G.W. Jones & Sons Farm has received favorable feedback from their customers on the feedlot and carcass performance of their calves. Their reputation of performance has resulted in repeat customers for the past several years. Future plans are to continue to improve using all the tools available to the 21st-century cattlemen. Available tools to improve genetics, expected progeny differences (EPDs), recordkeeping and forage production will be utilized as the family continues their farming legacy in this wonderful country called America.

The Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA) is proud to nominate G.W. Jones & Sons Farms.

M&B Limousin
Owners: Mike & Betsy Cravens, Lee's Summit, Mo.
The Cravens have been in business for more than 20 years. Their operation is comprised of 1,050 acres. They maintain both spring and fall calving seasons on their 280-head operation.

M&B Limousin started as a small commercial herd with rented Limousin bulls. Impressed with the calving ease, performance and sturdiness of the breed, they have expanded their herd of crossbred cows and maintain 110 head of registered Limousin cows.

The Cravens believe in sound science and readily use EPDs and genomics data in selection and breeding decisions. They have developed strong relationships with Strauss Veal and Laura's Lean Beef, two branded programs, through which the Cravens market a large percentage of calves. They also appreciate the economic advantages of age and source verification and keeping calves natural.

The Cravens have operated single-handedly, with both working full-time jobs. Retirement has allowed full operational focus, improving their cow herd and maintaining industry ties. True stewards of the land, the Cravens are continually working on pasture improvement and preservation of the land. As well, they have continued to upgrade facilities and working equipment in an effort to improve operational efficiency. Mike and Betsy are always looking for ways to increase reproductive efficiency and performance of their cattle. They have fine-tuned their nutrition program and honed their selection criteria.

Mike attributes much success to a formal background in animal science, judging livestock at the University of Missouri, and 40-year ownership of "The Old Mill, Grain and Seed."

M&B Limousin is nominated by the North American Limousin Foundation.

Duane Martin Livestock
Owners: Duane Martin Family, Ione, Calif.
Duane Martin Livestock is a diversified ranching operation covering seven states including California, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Duane has been in the ranching business for 46 years. He started out driving a ready-mix cement truck. He earned enough to buy his first cows at age 24. Ever since then, every dollar he's made has been related to the cattle industry. He is involved in order buying, cattle feeding, and grazing stockers and cow-calf pairs.

The calving season is both spring and fall, which is determined by the climate and location of the ranches. The cow-calf operation includes more than 8,000 mother cows. Duane Martin Livestock owns Magnum Feedyards of Wiggins, Colo., and feeds many of his cattle there as well as in other feedlots in the heartland.

Duane continues the philosophies passed on by his father, Frank Martin: "Never sell a thin animal," and "water (availability on a ranch) is half the feed." This commitment to animal welfare reaches further, with continual improvement of facilities, professional development for staff, and the ranch policy to not sell sick or injured animals, but rather to heal them or euthanize.

The links between cow-calf, stocker and feedlot provide much of the advantages of vertical integration, without being rigid since the strength of the business has been to take advantage of marketing opportunities and knowing when to buy or sell cattle into the various markets.

Everything is centered around cattle, not with money from other businesses. There has been no outside inheritance or capital. The Martins believe that theirs is an example of what beef production should be - a business that can profitably stand alone, and that is their goal. They say there is never enough time in the day to do it as wonderfully as they want.

Duane Martin Livestock is nominated by the California BCIA.

Optimal Beef LLC
Owner: Alan Graybeal, Blacksburg, Va.
Optimal Beef is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. The cattle operation has been in existence since 1950, when Alan's father purchased land and began his beef cattle production system. Alan joined the cattle enterprise fulltime in 1993, at which point they purchased additional land and significantly expanded their cow herd.

Currently they maintain a herd of 400 Angus-Simmental crossbred cows. Cows are calved in February-March and in September-October. Generally all cows are bred by artificial insemination (AI), and then herd bulls are introduced for 64 days.

All calves are weaned and backgrounded at the farm. Replacement heifers are selected from their calf crop and developed to enter the cow herd. All remaining calves are fed for retained ownership through Circle Five Feedyard in Henderson, Neb., and enter an age- and source-verified program.

Their cow herd is maintained on 800 acres of owned land. Pasture and hay management are critical to the success of their operation. Rotational grazing is used on all their land, and they strive to maintain a mixture of grasses and legumes in their pastures. Some paddocks are also used for haying, and in late summer some are stockpiled for winter grazing. Their goal is to feed hay for only 75 days during the winter months.

Optimal Beef is proudly nominated by the Virginia BCIA.


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