Being Involved in Brangus
It is all about teamwork for Dennis Schwerin’s family. Whether it is doing chores, rounding up cattle on horseback or showing in the ring, the family relies on each other to be successful as a whole.
Dennis and his wife, Marlene, along with their two grown daughters, Susie and Chrisie, own and operate Schwerin Farms, Inc., located five miles north of Siloam Springs, Ark. With nearly 1,000 acres of land and over 1,000 commercial cattle to care for, Dennis said it is a good thing his daughters are interested in agriculture.
“We never forced them to take an interest in cattle or horses or showing,” he said. “We just wanted to give them the opportunity, and we’ve been working toward their success all along.”
The Schwerins run a cow-calf operation, background their own cattle and retain ownership of them when they are shipped to feedlots in western Kansas. They even raise their own Quarter Horses to use on the ranch, and everybody is involved when it comes to feeding or gathering cattle.
“Dennis’ famous quote around here is ‘chores are fun,’ and we can usually manage to have a little fun no matter what we’re doing,” Marlene said. “We enjoy working together as a family, and I think the girls appreciate what they have because they helped achieve it.”
In addition to commercial cattle, the family also owns about 50 registered Brangus cows, and the girls have been showing the breed for 14 years.
Chrisie, the younger daughter and a sophomore at Arkansas Tech University, said they chose Brangus cattle because the breed’s characteristics worked well with the family’s existing operation and because it is a versatile breed.
“As the Brangus breed has improved, the cattle have become more uniform. It is a good breed if you are looking for cattle that will work well in the field," Chrisie said.
In addition to choosing a breed with desirable characteristics, the Schwerins have also taken advantage of technology to improve their herd.
“Today’s technology offers the ability to artificially inseminate and breed better genetics into a herd, and our family has even had success using embryo transfer on a few cows,” Marlene said. “However, we still use registered Brangus bulls – many that we have raised ourselves – to service many of our females. We use ultrasound to measure the bulls’ ribeye area and back fat. Since we feed out a lot of cattle each year, information like this helps us select the best bulls for our program.”
The family’s willingness to use a mix of traditional and advanced methods of breeding has paid off in the show ring, with many state and national champion awards.
Since the girls sometimes competed against each other, Dennis said he encouraged them to see the bigger picture when it came to winning.
“No matter who came out of the ring with a higher placing, I would tell the girls ‘be happy for your sister when she wins because we win as a family,’ and that has always been our belief,” Dennis said.
While Susie and Chrisie have enjoyed success in the show ring, they said their greatest achievements have come from the other activities and leadership responsibilities related to the Brangus breed.
Both of the girls have held leadership positions in the Arkansas Junior Brangus Association and the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association. Chrisie is currently the president of the IJBBA, and Susie was a member of the organization’s board of directors in 2002-03. In her role as president, Chrisie plans the board’s bi-annual meetings, writes articles for the Brangus Journal and helps the other board members plan and run the junior national show. She is the first Arkansan to serve in the position.
“Serving as president of the IJBBA has given me the chance to travel to several states and meet other Brangus breeders from across the country,” Chrisie said. “Being involved in the organization is more than just getting in the show ring; I have really learned a lot about the cattle industry as a whole.”
Susie, the older Schwerin daughter and a senior at Southern Arkansas University, said she appreciates the opportunities the IJBBA provided now that she is preparing to enter the workforce.
Marlene said that her daughters are both attending college on 4-H, FFA and IJBBA scholarships, in addition to academic awards.
“We encouraged the girls to get involved in 4-H at an early age, and Dennis and I made it a point to serve as leaders,” she said. “I think the two best things parents can do are take their children to church and 4-H. We have definitely seen the impact it has had on our lives and the girls’ futures.”