Van Newkirk
Van Newkirk, Oshkosh, Nebraska, was named the 2018 Beef Improvement Federation Seedstock Producer of the Year during an awards ceremony June 22 in Loveland, Colorado. Pictured are (from left) Steve May, BEEF magazine, award sponsor; Sara, Kolby, Joe and Cyndi Van Newkirk; and Donnell Brown, 2017-2018 BIF president.

By Codi Vallery-Mills

The Beef Improvement Federation hosted its 50th convention in Loveland, Colo. June 20-23. The event is routinely a place for cattle producers, animal scientists and breed associations to come together to talk about the latest in cattle genetics and breed improvement.
Six hundred and twenty-two individuals from the U.S. and seven foreign countries were in attendance.
Dave Nichols of Nichols Farm in southwest Iowa served as a board director in the 1960s when BIF was getting started. Through the years he has held various leadership roles with the organization and has attended the event annually.
He told The Cattle Business Weekly what he has appreciated about the BIF gathering through the years is the different backgrounds – cattle producers to scientists – coming together to have conversations, respectful disagreements and productive meetings that aim to help producers create the best cattle and beef there is.
During the three days of speaker sessions there was a variety of topics within the world of cattle genetics covered. And like Nichols alludes to, there were speakers that helped push the envelope in how cattle producers will be operating in the future.
Among favorite speakers was Sara Place who serves as senior director in sustainable beef production research with the National Cattlemen’s Association. Place offered information to attendees on beef’s carbon footprint saying that in the scheme of things beef cattle are not the methane belching, ozone destroying animals many climate change theorists would like you to believe.
“Beef and agriculture are not the right way or place to focus on climate change,” Place says. “Beef productivity is really tied to sustainability and the U.S. has increasingly produced more pounds of beef with less cattle.”
She also adds that beef upcycles plants and land that aren’t consumable by people making beef the “original plant-based meat”.
Marty Ropp with Allied Genetic Resources challenged the audience of cattle producers by giving his insight to the great fallout in the swine industry in the 90s and asking if the cattle industry has a few of the same warning signs.
Among the many things he has learned from the pig industry is that the livestock industry is a food business first and producers should operate that way. Producers do need to listen to what consumers are asking for and not just “producing the type of cattle I want to raise”.
Ropp also says the cattle industry has to operate as a serious business. Without product and profit improvement cattle producers can’t be taken seriously as protein suppliers. Producers can’t continue to operate at a loss. “And in a competitive industry science based decisions and profit will win over opinion and dogma,” Ropps says.
The 2019 BIF Symposium will be held June 18-21 in Brookings, S.D. All cattle producers are encouraged to attend.


Van Newkirk Herefords named Seedstock Producer of Year
BIF presented Van Newkirk Herefords, Oshkosh, Nebraska, the BIF Seedstock Producer of the Year Award. This national award is presented annually to a producer to recognize their dedication to improving the beef industry at the seedstock level.
Van Newkirk Herefords is a family-owned ranching operation dating back to 1892, when Lorenzo Van Newkirk started mating Hereford bulls to his Longhorn cows. In 1942, A.J. (Bud) Van Newkirk started the operations registered Hereford herd.
Today, the ranch is operated by the third and fourth generations. Joe and his wife, Cyndi; son, Kolby and wife, Meg, and grandsons, Barrett and Sloan; son, Nick; and daughter, Sara; along with longtime hired man Travis Kezar are passionate about breeding quality Hereford genetics.
The ranch’s herd has grown from the original five registered cows to 600 registered cows today. Center pivots and efficient use of surface irrigation have been utilized, making it possible for the Van Newkirks to produce 90% of their winter feed supply. Summer grazing is on native Sandhills pasture.
The Van Newkirk family is committed to gathering accurate, timely performance data. For more than 45 years, performance testing has been a high priority, and continues to evolve with technology. Individual weighing of calves started in 1969, and in the 1980s they began collecting ultrasound data. Since the 1980s, cull heifers and steers have been fed out and feedlot and carcass data gathered. In the 1990s, they implemented genetic testing.
The Van Newkirk family is passionate about improving Hereford genetics and strive to strengthen the beef industry by offering superior genetics, utilizing sustainable management practices and being good environmental stewards.
The Van Newkirks will host their 46th annual sale on January 21, 2019, selling 210 bulls and 260 heifers. Demand has grown over the years, and the Van Newkirks attribute the success of their operation to repeat customers.


Woolfolk Ranch named BIF Commercial Producer of the Year
BIF presented Kent and Tyler Woolfolk of Woolfolk Ranch near Protection, Kansas, the BIF Commercial Producer of the Year Award. This national award is presented annually to a producer to recognize their dedication to improving the beef industry at the commercial level.
Woolfolk Ranch LLC is located in southwestern Comanche County, Kansas, and northeastern Harper County, Oklahoma. Kent Woolfolk and his son, Tyler, represent the fourth and fifth generations to operate the ranch. The ranch encompasses about 17,000 owned and leased acres of grass and around 1,000 acres of cropland.
The Woolfolks maintain around 1,100 Angus-based cows that calve in the spring, starting about March 15. They also take in nearly 150 Angus cows year-round on a custom per head basis. The cows are managed alongside their personal herd. Depending on moisture availability, the ranch will custom-graze 750 to 1,200 yearlings each year. In 2014, the Woolfolk family began the process of constructing a feeding facility to use for weaning purposes and as a drylot for cows during the fall and winter months, which would allow them to feed a low-cost maintenance ration.
The feedyard lets the Woolfolks develop and market their own replacement heifers, grow steers to feeder weight and custom-develop heifers for other ranches. It also is used as part of a drought plan put in place by the family, allowing the ranch to destock pastures much more quickly if the need arises.
The cow herd is rotated during the grazing months using a three-pasture rotation system. This provides adequate rest between grazing cycles prior to weaning, which begins in early September.
All cattle are handled horseback using low-stress cattle handling techniques, which allows the growing sixth generation to help when available. Woolfolk family members, while always looking for new management techniques and technology to improve cattle efficiency, still pride themselves on ranching traditions passed down from previous generations
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