Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Showman - Myron Saathoff

Today we welcome another feature from our friend Brittni Drennan Communications Coordinator for the International Brangus Breeders Association. Meet Myron Saathoff a true showman! He began showing cattle in FFA and his career in the ring continues today.

Myron Saathoff enters the show ring grasping a lead rope in one hand and a show stick in the other trailing a line of perfectly fitted Brangus heifers. At the other end of the halter, Pearl glides alongside Saathoff following his directions. After getting set, Saathoff anxiously awaits the judge’s selection, knowing his heifer is bound to receive the prized purple banner.

Saathoff has stepped foot into many show rings over the last 40 years and is no stranger to the winner’s circle. He initially began showing heifers and steers in high school through FFA while growing up in Hondo, Texas. Now after two back surgeries, one hip replacement, and countless ribbons and awards won, Saathoff is unsure of how many more times he will be able to return to the show ring.

The earlier account was one of the most memorable moments of Saathoff’s show career. Pearl was the offspring of a champion that Saathoff bred and raised at JLS, Pearl’s dam, Tally, was awarded Show Heifer of the Year in 2003-2004, winning three of four major shows that year. Pearl was named International Champion and Show Heifer of the Year in 2009. The very next year, Tally had another daughter, Kelly, who was also an International Champion.

“I like being able to work with show cattle and demonstrate what you’re breeding and what you’re producing,” Saathoff explained. “It’s a way to advertise and showcase your operation to the public and showcase your best cattle.”

Upon graduating from high school, Saathoff attended Texas Lutheran College in Seguin, Texas, on a baseball and football scholarship and finished at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He then began working at the local auction barn where his father worked before transitioning to the ranch management sector. He first worked for Larry Blackman of B2B Farms at 20 years old. He got involved in showing again this time in open shows. It was at B2B farms that Saathoff used Big Sir 75/6 and Justana 40/8 as clean up bulls, two of the Brangus foundation sires of today. Big Sir was the grand sire of Titan, who was the sire of Transformer, Big Sir also sired General, one of the maternal foundation sires of the breed. Justana was the foundation sire of Robert Vineyard’s 100 family. Both of these bulls can be found somewhere in most pedigrees popular today.

After working for B2B Farms, Saathoff managed several other operations including Escoba, T Diamond, Star J Ranch, and Star Creek Ranch owned by Curly Taylor where all the Brinks 392 progeny was developed. Saathoff tried his hand in sale management and consulting before settling in at JLS International owned by Jeff Smtih located near Devine, Texas. Now almost 13 years later, Smith and Saathoff together have more than 70 years of experience in the Brangus seedstock business.

Saathoff has built an outstanding reputation breeding numerous champion heifers and bulls. To date, JLS is the only operation to win the Futurity three times. JLS was also recognized as the IBBA Breeder of the Year in 2007, and Saathoff has been honored as Herdsman of the Year twice. However, Saathoff still has goals for the operation and feels like he still has more to learn.

“I’m still going. Nobody has produced a perfect animal yet, but we’re getting closer,” Saathoff said. “Show animals and breeding stock are becoming more similar and are looking more alike than they did several years ago.”

With approximately 550 head of cattle plus bulls and heifers, JLS is still expanding and trying new techniques. Having obtained the most desirable cattle and some of the best performance cattle in the industry, Saathoff’s primary goal now is to improve genetic consistency in the registered herd. In order to achieve that goal, JLS recently generated five cloned heifer calves from the original 915C cow. Saathoff said the only way to tell them apart is by their ear tag number, and they even came into heat within three days of each other without using synchronization. Saathoff attributes the 915C cow for contributing to the success JLS has experienced over the last 13 years with last year marking 115 descendants from the 915 family.

JLS is also expanding their operation to include red Brangus cattle and now have seven red Brangus females. Saathoff showcased their red Brangus program in the show ring last year and received Red Brangus Show Heifer of the Year. JLS has implemented a breeding up to Brangus program in order to introduce new genetics and avoid line breeding. When it comes to genetic selection, Saathoff knows what to look for, and the success JLS has had is a testament to the extensive knowledge and experience he has gained.

When selecting cattle and making breeding decisions, Saathoff’s number one priority is performance. He wants a bull that can work in the South Texas climate and tough, rugged environment, which is the ultimate reason why he likes the Brangus breed.

“I’ve had experience with Angus, Brangus, Braunvieh, and from experience, Brangus by far out did everything as far as adaptability,” Saathoff said. “Brangus were the most fertile and had the best performance and best milking ability across the board.”

Saathoff said infusing Brangus into a herd will improve milking ability and mothering ability, and he compliments the Brangus female for being the best in the industry. He believes Brangus can improve the beef industry with the breed’s tremendous adaptability qualities as long as purebred breeders produce bulls the commercial man needs and can use. The biggest challenge Brangus breeders face involves marketing.

“They need to believe in the product they are producing and market their own product,” Saathoff said. “If you believe in what you have and are knowledgeable about your program, you can sell it.”

Saathoff said it was important for the Brangus breed to obtain more accurate data and genetic markers in order to improve consistency within the breed, but also to improve the market and increase the demand for Brangus cattle. With the constant change in marketing trends, Saathoff is still trying to learn new tricks.

“I definitely still have room to learn more about marketing and how those trends have changed,” Saathoff said. “The Internet is one really good tool that I need to learn more about.”

Saathoff said he follows examples by others who were successful marketers like Glen Brinkman and Joe Reznicek, who were both very involved and knowledgeable about their respective programs, but the Internet is a marketing tool breeders can easily take advantage of. It is accessible to everyone from businessmen to cattlemen, and all it takes is getting the information out there to the people who are looking for it, and Saathoff is one who continually looks for opportunities to keep growing.

“If you’ve got the information in front of them, you’ve got a better chance of selling them something,” Saathoff said. “Like live Internet auctions are an area that we can grow in, and it’s beneficial because people can view and buy cattle without travelling.”

Saathoff’s new goal for JLS is simple- to keep improving by increasing consistency. Maybe Saathoff is slowing down, but he is not done yet. He and his wife, Neva, are supporters of the junior association, IJBBA, and Saathoff said he enjoys watching juniors show his cattle as much as he liked showing. He likes the opportunity to give youth the experience they might not otherwise have been able to enjoy. Having two children who grew up involved in the IJBBA, Tanessa Sawyer and Tate, Saathoff knows how beneficial the youth organization is.

After 41 years in the cattle industry, Saathoff knows how to seek out and take advantage of the opportunities before him. He has made a name in this business and created a reputation built on integrity, and his reputation alone is what markets his cattle, selling close to 200 bulls on the ranch each year.

“Honesty is what has made JLS successful,” Saathoff said, “and everyone is treated the same regardless of experience in the breed or business.”

Among a library full of memories made in the show ring, Saathoff recalls another memorable moment in 2004 when the National Western Show was first hosted in Phoenix, Ariz. That year, JLS brought back both big prizes of Grand Champion Heifer and Grand Champion Bull. Another outstanding memory was in 2003 when JLS won Grand Champion Heifer at the Futurity for the third time by the same breeder. This third win allowed Saathoff to be the first person to take home the Brangus Futurity trophy engraved with all the past Futurity winners. This trophy had previously been displayed at the IBBA office and is now proudly displayed at JLS.

Saathoff is a true cattleman and showman!

Thanks Brittni for bringing us this great feature! To meet more Brangus producers check out their webpage, blog and Facebook page.

How are you involved in agriculture? We want to hear your story! Contact us a for more info about being the next feature!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Small Town Girl - Rosie Sanderson

Today we welcome small town girl and farm kid Rosie Sanderson who shares her family's proud farming history and tells her story with the hope of educating others about farming and agriculture. 

If I told you I grew up in a town with a population of 48, you would probably assume that I grew up with that typical “small town girl” story… and you would be correct. Anything you can think of to insert into a small town girl story could probably be applied to my childhood: I learned how to drive a Super M tractor before I learned how to drive a car, I crashed a go-kart or two into my dad’s grain bins, I spent my summers showing cattle, was constantly begging my parents for a horse (which I still haven’t gotten, by the way), and I had decided by age 4 that I was going to be a veterinarian when I grew up!

I was raised on a livestock and grain farm in northern Illinois. (No, not all of northern Illinois is Chicago! Population 48, remember?) My dad farmed with his dad and brother, so I was lucky enough to grow up with my dad, uncle, and grandpa at our farm every day. When I was little, we always had pigs out on the pasture at our house. I can remember riding out to the pasture in the truck with my dad to check the piglets, but he always made me stay in the truck (much to my dismay) because sows are very protective.

My brother Trent and I checking pigs with dad.
As I got older, our farm shifted from pigs to cattle. I got my first bucket calf when I was 7, and I was in love! I named her Wise-Guy (don’t ask me why, I don’t get it either). To this day, my grandpa tells the story about how sick my Wise-Guy got when she was just a small calf, and how I would lay in her calf hutch and sleep with her because I didn’t want her to be alone. As an experienced livestock farmer, of course my grandpa thought “Great, she is going to get attached to this calf and it’s not going to survive.” Well, she did! In fact, she is the cow that started what is now our herd of over 50 cattle. 15 years later, she is still on pasture at my parent’s farm. 

Me with my 15-year-old cow Wise-Guy.
With the help of Wise-Guy, I started showing cattle in 4-H when I was 8 and continued to show calves from our farm until the summer of 2008 when I moved to central Illinois to attend Illinois State University. Moving to college was a huge change for me. Not because it was away from home, family, friends, and grandma’s cookin’… but because these people had no clue about anything agriculture!

As soon as people found out I was an agricultural animal science major, the first question was always “Wait, you are from a REAL farm???” I thought to myself “Who are these people and where did they come from!” Where I grew up, everyone I knew was another farm kid. I had never met anyone that hadn’t seen a cow before. I thought I must have met the only people on this earth who had never been to a farm. People would ask me about chocolate milk coming from brown cows, brown eggs being healthier than white, if cow-tipping was a real thing… and all I could do was laugh! Were these people serious?

As I made my way through college and met more people, I realized that this wasn’t an exclusive group of people who had never been exposed to farming. In fact, I began to feel like the weird one because I HAD experienced these things first-hand. I started to realize that people wanted to know about farming, but they didn’t know where to go for the information. They didn’t have access to farming like I did growing up. This was a problem, and it was here that my passion for discussing farming and food production with farmers and urban folks alike. So I quit laughing when people asked me what I thought were silly questions, because I was their closest connection to farming. If they couldn’t ask me about these things, where did I expect them to go for their answers? 

My family in front of the house in Norway that our ancestors
left 170 years ago!
In 2011, my family had the amazing opportunity to travel to Norway and go to the farm that our ancestors left in 1843. We feel so lucky that we got the experience to stand in the house that they lived in and explore the farm that they left to bring us to where we are today. Farming has been in the family for longer than record books have been around! It is hard to wrap your head around how far we have come but how much has stayed the same, too.

I still have some cattle on pasture at my parent’s farm today, but I hope to move them to my own farm someday, just like all of my ancestors have done. When I have my own farm, I know that I will take with me the important lessons that I learned growing up on our family farm; including the importance of sustainability. Both crop and livestock production are jobs that come with a responsibility to conserve the environment, and that is a responsibility that my family has always taken seriously. Today our farm is more sustainable than ever with the help of new technologies. If that interests you, you can learn more about what we do at our farm’s website: In 2010, our farm even received an award for Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Family of the year from Orien Samuelson!

My family receiving a conservation award from Orien Samuelson.
One thing I wish people understood about my farm family is that we want to answer your questions! Farming is our livelihood, our history, and our passion. We take pride in what we do. If you have a question about agriculture, why not go straight to the source and ask a farmer?

I love what I do, and I think most farmers would say the same thing if you asked them. I feel so blessed to have been raised in “God’s Country” where I learned the importance of hard-work, responsibility, and most recently the importance of sharing what I know with people like you! 

Riding my mare, one of the many perks of living in the country!
If you ever have a food-production related question but don’t know where to start, visit my blog, Unpolished Boots, or facebook page and ask me! I will always be happy to answer your questions or get you in contact with someone who can!

Thank you Rosie for the fantastic feature! Remember - if you or someone you know is involved in farming, ranching, or the agricultural industry and would like to share your story here please contact us! YOU could be the next Face of Agriculture!