Commercial and Registered Cattle
The year 1980 was an important one for the Schwerin family. That’s when Dennis and Marlene began their now 1,000-acre ranch including registered, foundation line Quarter Horses and cattle. Their herd still consists of foundation bloodlines, but is consolidated to include a dozen of their best ranch horses made up of their herd sire, two brood mares and the ranch’s top working cow horses while selling any extras.
The Schwerin cattle operation has three components: a registered Brangus herd, a Brangus based commercial cow/calf herd, and stocker cattle. They retain ownership of the stocker cattle through the feedlot where the cattle are then purchased by major packing companies, an efficiency that allows for the most profit.
The registered Brangus herd is comprised of 20 brood cows and 12 bulls. The registered bulls are rotated between the registered and commercial herds in order to maximize use of the excellent bloodlines with extra bulls being sold to other breeders and commercial producers through private treaty, at livestock shows or at events like Farm Fest in Springfield, Mo. The Schwerins also keep a show string of Brangus heifers and bulls to promote their breeding program, as well as the family’s passion for exhibiting livestock. The family looks forward to seeing all four grandchildren (Naaman, 7; Natalie, 3; Paden, 3; and Paxton, 1) carry on this family tradition.
The registered herd is bred by AI twice before a cleanup bull is used. A few of their commercial cattle which are also bred by AI though live cover is the most predominant reproduction method. Replacement registered heifers calve when they are two years old while registered heifers not used for replacement purposes are sometimes sold open or as bred heifers by private treaty. In addition, show stock is fed a specialized diet in order to optimize genetics in the show ring. That diet is reevaluated every 30 days with adjustments of fat and protein content for each animal according to the individual’s condition.
Chrisie and Kaleb are an integral part of the business and work full-time on the ranch. Chrisie earned an ag business degree from Arkansas Tech and attended the Graham School for Cattlemen in Kansas, a week-long intensive reproduction session.
“The most economical way to enhance genetics is AI because you take advantage of high quality genetics without the price tag of owning high-dollar bulls,” Chrisie said.
According to Chrisie, semen is selected from bulls with good carcass data, including both EPDs and DNA results. All cleanup bulls have already been tested by ultrasound for ribeye, intramuscular fat, and back fat.
“Our registered herd is the top of the pyramid of our operation which filters down to our commercial herd,” Dennis said. “This practice results in buyers paying a premium for the superior carcasses determined individually to be prime or choice rather than the more standard select meat most common in supermarkets.”
“We are serious about promoting the Brangus breed because the breed has strong mothering characteristics as well as being disease and insect resistant and heat tolerant,” Marlene added. “We have continually upgraded our registered and commercial herds, so that our commercial herd now looks nothing like what we started with 20 years ago. Quality is higher and more uniform, which is true of the Brangus breed in general, as well.”
One result of the uniformity is that when they flush two registered donor cows for 10 to 20 recips per season, the recip selection is based on the cow’s reproductive stage rather than individual characteristics.
The Schwerin’s commercial herd consists of 200 Brangus-cross females and produces both fall and spring calves. Any animal not of breeding quality goes to the feedlot. Replacement heifers are used to replace culled cows or marketed as breeding females.
The bulk of the Schwerin operation is the purchase of 800 feeder cattle per year. Dennis typically buys the calves at area sales barns in Decatur, Stillwater and Siloam Springs. The calves weigh 400 to 700 pounds and are taken to the ranch where they are processed within 24 hours.
Calves are vaccinated with a seven-way vaccine with black leg and pinkeye, as well as IBR and BVD. A pour-on is used for lice and an oral wormer administered. The animals are branded, ear-tagged, castrated and dehorned. They typically spend 150 days at the ranch and weigh more than 800 pounds before being sent to the feedlot for an additional 150 days before being marketed at 1,300 to 1,400 pounds. When taken to the feedlot, the feedlot provides online data, such as feed consumption per day, the cost per day and individual animal health.
Approximately 300 acres of land is set aside for hay. The grasses are composed of fescue, white clover and Bermuda on well established land rarely seeded since soil testing indicates little variation from year-to-year. Occasionally, the Schwerins drill wheat with added clover in the fall to bolster winter pastures.
A close look at the Schwerin operation reveals efficiency honed by many years of experience. They make maximum use of bloodlines by using their own plus AI, they take under-managed calves and turned them into highly marketable beef, and they adjust feed patterns according to what is best for each herd and, in the case of the registered herd, each animal. Finally they adjust their custom mixed feed according to commodity prices while maintaining the preferred nutrition profile.
The Schwerins are active in the International Brangus Breeders Association, with Marlene involved in the International Brangus Auxiliary. Among its many activities, the Auxiliary provides scholarships for junior members.
“If you want to do good things for kids, take them to church, join 4-H and get them involved in a good breed association such as the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association,” Marlene said. “Those activities involve year round family time.”
Dennis and Marlene’s other daughter Susie and her husband Nate live in Oklahoma on their own spread and raise commercial beef cattle.