When you look back over everything Mardi O’Brien has packed in during her time in the United States of America, it is easy to see that she is one to watch in the future.
Mardi’s final three months have seen her learn new skills, travel across the country and further her networks in the beef industry.
Following Mardi’s last report she had the opportunity to learn about Artificial insemination (AI) and was asked to help out with the AI of the heifers at the K-State purebred unit.
‘I have literally had absolutely nothing to do with artificial insemination in cattle or any other species of livestock for that fact. Given my background with feedlot cattle, where the aim is to maintain pregnancy levels as close to zero as possible and commercial naturally bred sheep, where rams are set out to get the job done on their own, this class introduced me to the practical component of a side of beef production I had only ever known the theory behind,’ said Mardi.
Mardi also attended the Production Animal Consultation 2017 Beef Summits Conference in Kearney Nebraska, where speakers from all over the world, including Dr Simone Holt and Kev Sullivan from Australia, spoke about ‘Providing the finishing touches’ in relation to growing fat cattle in a feedlot setting.
‘There were some truly inspiring, world-renowned veterinarians and industry people with tremendously valuable insight to many different areas of beef production specific, but not limited to, the feedlot industry. I really got a lot out of the conference that day,’ Mardi said.
As her time at K State came to an end Mardi visited western Montana up in the mountains visiting a commercial Angus cow calf herd just out of Dillon Montana, the Johnson Ranch and experienced a ‘cowboy branding’ at a commercial Red Angus ranch.
Mardi also visited the Flitner Ranch, Shell Wyoming, who run a large commercial Angus cow calf herd and a small feedyard.
While in Montana, Mardi visited Yellowstone National Park and ticked a couple of things off her bucket list.
‘I was extremely lucky here because I got the rare opportunity to see a wild black wolf! Not very impressive if you are local and they are eating your entire calf crop but if you are a tourist like me and have hoped for it forever, I can assure you, this was pretty impressive,’ said Mardi
Following her time in Montana, Mardi visited with Wulf Cattle Co, a large Limousin and LinFlex seedstcok operation, for a week and a half.
‘I met with Robbin Metzger (Jerry Wulf’s Daughter) in South Dakota and through the start of the first week we toured their South Eastern, South Dakota Feedyards and a few different feeding facilities in Iowa,’ said Mardi.
After this Mardi made the trip down to Wulf Cattle Co’s Nebraska feedyards and cow herds, where Jerry explained his breeding philosophy to her and showed Mardi some of the technology they use in their production system.
‘Jerry explained to me how they use complementary heterosis through combining the genetics from really nice commercial Angus mothers with straight Limousin bulls to produce a calf crop with brilliant terminal traits produced to excel through their performance in the feedlot environment and produce high yielding, good quality carcasses upon harvest,’ Mardi said.
Wulf Cattle Co utilises Grow-Safe feed and water troughs to measure feed conversion and RFI on selected bulls. ‘The information is used to improve genetics selected and used in their feedlots to improve performance and cutability,’ said Mardi.
From Nebraska, Mardi headed to the north end of South Dakota where the Wulf family have a feedyard and ranch for growing out weaners in the Standing Rock Indian reservation.
This particular feedyard ran Limflex cattle, bred out on the Wulf ranches in Nebraska and also bought back from ranchers all around the US using Wulf Limousin bulls over Angus mothers.
‘I was very impressed with the cattle all throughout this company, I absolutely could not believe the muscle in those calves, they seriously looked like show hogs the way their butts and loin area bulged out, Mardi said.
Mardi O’Brien in USA
While at the South Dakota operation Mardi had the honor of attending a meeting with Jerry and one of the Indian Chiefs out on the reservation, during this time all of the tribes in the area were gathered.
‘There were horses, kids, dogs, people, trailers just everywhere! We went inside, asked a few questions and found out they were all riding for days through all the historical places relating to the past chiefs of each tribe in the area and the first stop was the location that Sitting Bull was shot’, Mardi said.
Other highlights for Mardi during her trip have included working with graduate student in the K-State pig nursery with his research on palatability and preference between three different feed types for the number 2 ration given to young pigs, helping with the controlled burning of the K-State Purebred Unit’s pastures, a grazing management strategy that is widely implemented and utilized in the Flint hills of Kansas; a visit to the Creek Stone Farms abattoir Arkansas City, Kansas, the Collegiate Cattleman’s Club’s 2017 , industry tour in Nebraska, a visit to the Nebraska Bull Service centre, a visit to the North Platte Livestock Feeders in Nebraska an 80,000 head feedlot that covers 700 acres of land, the Schramm Feedlot in Yuma Colorado, the Snowshoe Cattle Company Bull Sale, Montana, and visits with ORIgen Breeder to Breeder Genetics Services and Vermillion Angus Ranch in Montana, just to name a few of the amazing experiences Mardi had.
Mardi has also spent a lot of time working on her extended family’s ranch in Colorado and fitted in many tourist activities along the way and attend her classes at K-State.
‘I have really enjoyed my time touring around the American beef industry and am grateful for the experiences this has given me,’ said Mardi.
The experiences that Mardi is had during her time as the recipient of the Angus Foundation Kansas State University Scholarship winner are second to none and have set her up to further develop her career in the beef industry.