For my #onthefarm Twitter interview this week, Troy Hadrick, a rancher from South Dakota, joined me to talk about a range of topics. I didn’t get off to a great start on this one, as I was running late. I asked a few odd questions off the bat, but I think Troy and I picked up the pace and the conversation about 30 minutes in.
As has been the case in all of the interviews, I learn quite a bit about what Troy’s farm life is like. Each time I do this, I develop a greater appreciation for our family farmers and those who work in agriculture. Troy was very gracious with his time today and handled my rather simple questions well. He made some excellent points during the conversation–my favorite was about how he thinks spending time online with social media is the key to making sure his children become the 6th generation to farm.
I hope you enjoy reading the transcript. Once again, I’m flattered at the replies and retweets and the attention this little segment has received. It’s just my way to learn more about agriculture, but I’m happy to see it’s bringing some value to others in the ag community. Thanks so much for your support! And more important, thanks to our country’s family farmers like Troy who spend countless hours ensuring that we have the most stable and safest food supply in the world.
n_web: Great, thanks for joiing today, Troy. Q1: Tell me a bit about your operation. Take a few tweets for that one!
n_web: BTW, I swear I didn’t know it was World Vegetarian Day when I decided to interview a cattleman . . .
TroyHadrick: My wife and I live on the ranch along with our three kids. The ranch includes her father, uncle and brother.
TroyHadrick: It’s called Blair Bros. Angus Ranch. We sell commercial Angus bulls by private treaty, and retain ownership of steers….
TroyHadrick: which are marketed on quality based grid. We focus on light birthweights, efficiency, carcass genetics.
TroyHadrick: We use artificial insemination, embryo transfer and ultrasound to accomplish these goals.
n_web: Q2: How long has the operation been in the family and what part of SD?
TroyHadrick: I’m a fifth generation rancher, 4 of those have been in the state of SD. I grew up in north central South Dakota.
TroyHadrick: We are currently here on my wife’s family’s ranch, which is located on the western edge of SD, just north of Sturgis.
n_web: Q3: This is elementary for you, but not for non-aggies like me: walk me through the life cycle of your Angus bulls.
n_web: And what I mean by life cycle, is their cycle through your ranch operation, and ultimately, the food chain.
TroyHadrick: We calve in Feb and March. After branding, the cows head to grass, hopefully by May 1 it’s greened up enough
TroyHadrick: We normally wean in September, using low-stress weaning methods. Over the winter, the bulls will fed in our yards.
TroyHadrick: Starting in the spring, we will privately sell those bulls. We provide as much data on them as possible to customers.
TroyHadrick: Our steer calves will be kept here after weaning for awhile but eventually end up at Poky Feeders in Scott City, KS
TroyHadrick: When they are finished we market those steer calves on a quality grid and get paid premiums for higher quality carcasses.
n_web: Q4: Who are your “customers”?
TroyHadrick: Our bull customers are from all over the United States, most all of them are family ranches that we work with to improve thr herd
TroyHadrick: Our other customers are everyone who wants a good cut of beef. We strive to raise cattle that will provide better beef.
n_web: Q5: What kind of data do you provide customers? Carcass weight? Marbling? Why are those important?
TroyHadrick: Pedigree, weights, semen eval, carcass ultrasound data, etc. It helps us and the customer to make sure they get the right bull
TroyHadrick: Every customer has different needs as far as genetics go, so we use the data to point them in the right direction.
TroyHadrick: It also helps us get to know our customers and build those relationships.
n_web: Q6: So it’s safe to say technology is important for your farm? Do your families remind you what things used to be like? :)
TroyHadrick: We use as much technology as we can.It’s made us better cattlemen, even if it’s taken a little of the romance out of cowboying.:)
TroyHadrick: The technology has also allowed us to manage our cows heath and nutrition needs as well. We don’t just throw out some hay anymor
TroyHadrick: They get formulated rations depending on stage of production. Our cattle’s health and performance has never been better.
TroyHadrick: Things certainly used to be different, maybe even easier, but what’s best for the cattle is most important to us.
n_web: Q7: I would imagine better health and performance translate into better meat for consumers?
TroyHadrick: Absolutely. Safe, affordable beef starts with healthy, efficient cattle. And that starts at 1 of the 750,000 family owned ranches
TroyHadrick: I know that my reputation is on the line every time someone takes a bite of beef. I want to make sure it’s a good bite!
n_web: Q8: That’s interesting, that it may have been easier. How do you and the family stay on top of things? •
TroyHadrick: It takes a big effort, but that’s in the job description of anyone who raises livestock. It’s certainly a family affair.
TroyHadrick: Everyone pitches in and helps whenever it’s needed. 3 growing kids & our work promoting ag as well keep us hopping.
n_web: 1st audience Q from @OliverRanch (u may have answered): how do you tell which calves get to be to bulls v steers, cows v heifers.
TroyHadrick: That decision is based mostly on their pedigree and performance. They have to meet certain standards.
n_web: Q10 from @DebbieLB: “Most ranchers say SM takes time away from work. How do you justify your time on blog/twitter/facebook? ”
TroyHadrick: The work I do online is probably going to have as big an impact on the ability of my kids to be the 6th generation of my family..
TroyHadrick: to ranch as my work outside. With so many ppl not understanding beef production and ag in general I have to be educating everyday
TroyHadrick: I realized this need several years ago, but just in the last 3 with us starting Advocates for Ag has it really grown
n_web: Q11: What have been some key interactions/learnings from your Advocates for Ag work? Outside of the ag sector?
TroyHadrick: I’ve learned that most consumers trust farmers and ranchers to do a good job, they just need to be reassured and educated…
TroyHadrick: about the modern practices we use. Today’s ag doesn’t look like grandpa’s farm, but neither does most anything else we use.
TroyHadrick: I’ve had nothing but good experiences talking with consumers, especially in urban settings. They really enjoy talking with us.
n_web: Q12: What’s the future of cattle production? Is the demand there? If yes, can we meet the population demands down the road? How?
TroyHadrick: I’m nothing but optimistic about beef production. We continue to raise more beef with less inputs, the efficiency continues to..
TroyHadrick: get better, and we continue to learn better ways to manage our cattle and our grass. Since we aren’t gaining any grass..
TroyHadrick: we will have to continue doing a better job with what we have. The demand for beef is good and I look forward to filling it.
n_web: Two final Qs left: Q13: What’s ag look like in SD in 10 years?
TroyHadrick: For the most part I don’t think it will look that much different, we will always have to get up and check cows, water tanks, etc.
TroyHadrick: But the little things that we do will make us better cattlemen. DNA info is getting cheaper and more reliable. That will help…
TroyHadrick: us do a better job of selecting cattle and in turn we can make better beef. The basics are the same as they were 50 yrs ago..
TroyHadrick: It’s the details that make all the difference today.
n_web: Final Q: What are a couple of your favorite things about being a rancher? I’m guessing Advocates for Ag is on that list . . .?
TroyHadrick: I love being a rancher because it’s the same job my dad, grandpa and great grandpa devoted their lives too.It’s feeding America.
TroyHadrick: I don’t think there is a more important job in the world than taking care of our livestock and feeding people.
TroyHadrick: Advocates for Ag is a great new addition to that list. We’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the US working w/ ag groups..
TroyHadrick: sharing our stories and experiences in promoting ag and hopefully it is an inspiration for them to do the same…
TroyHadrick: We’ve had good and bad times, but lessons can be learned from all of them, that is what we want to share with r fellow producers
n_web: Thanks for the time, Troy. Sorry I was late and a bit slow at the start, but I think this turned our well. Always educational!
TroyHadrick: I appreciate the opportunity to tell my story. Enjoy that steak tonight because a some rancher worked hard to bring it to you.