Pounds+Premiums  = Profits

An Indiana operation capitalizes on source-and-age-verification.

 

              Krieger Farms, owned and operated by Mark and Jame Krieger (rhymes with eager) of Universal, Indiana, focuses on the production of Simmental-cross commercial cattle that consistently bring bottom-line enhancing premiums at the sale barn.

            “We strongly believe in the SimChoice program,” Mark says. “Buyers are willing to pay a premium of $10 to $15 more per hundredweight when our calves show up with those Simmental Genetic ear tags, just because they know that the calves are age-and-source verified. It is a powerful and effective sales tool for us.”

            And that’s not all. That value-added premium continues to follow the cattle. Andy Allen, who moves about 3,000 heifers per year through his feedlot at Champaign, Illinois, has bid on Krieger heifer feeder calves and is convinced that verification is becoming more and more significant. “Out of all the sales I’ve been to, source-and-age verified cattle are the top sellers in the sale. I’ve paid a premium for the Krieger cattle because they’re worth more to me and I’ve had to out-bid other buyers to get them,” he said.

            “I’m a supplier for Creekstone Farms and I’ve realized an average premium of $42 per head. Now, Krieger cattle have some other things going for them, too,” Allen added. “They’re healthy and easy to get along with. I haven’t had to ‘needle’ a single calf, and have never lost one. It makes my job a lot easier if I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the hospital pen.”

             When the Krieger calves are ready to leave the farm, they’re hauled to Reel Livestock Center, owned and operated by veteran cattle marketer Les Reel at Congerville, Illinois. Reel is equally impressed with the source-and-age verification process. “It works. Andy Allen wants every Krieger heifer he can buy — and he has a lot of competition — the buyers fight over them. That tag results in a very nice premium, and it is only going to become more and more important in this cattle marketing business,” Reel predicted.

 

 

The Verification Process

            The extra work that is required pays off handsomely. “It does take some paperwork and you have to work for that premium,” Krieger explained.

            He points out that the entire verification process begins with healthy, quality cattle. When the calves are born, ranch identification tags are applied. When the calves are weaned, the ranch tags are removed and the American Simmental Association (ASA)-designed Simmental Genetics and EID (Electronic Identification) tags are installed.

            After Krieger submits all data, including birth dates, to ASA, the Association then turns around and sends those records electronically to Micro Beef Technologies. “Micro Beef conducts the audit on our cattle. Ben Tarr, Mechanicsburg, Illinois, is the Micro Beef auditor who comes to our farm and carefully goes through our cattle and records,”

he said. “Every time Ben comes through, we are issued a group certificate based on the number of calves he has checked — it could be for five head or 200 animals — until all our calves have been confirmed for age and source.

            “From that point on, our cattle are worth more. When they have that Simmental tag in their ear, we’ve added value, whether they’re fat cattle or feeders,” he said. “One other major benefit is that every time an animal is harvested or transferred where they run through a scanner, we receive an e-mail from Micro Beef, informing us about that animal’s status. If carcass data is available we can get it.”

 

The Family Connection

            In conjunction with other family members, Mark and Jame maintain a time-consuming mini-conglomerate.

            For instance, their Indiana Farm, which straddles the Indiana-Illinois state line, about 20 miles north of Terre Haute, runs a Simmental-influenced cow herd of 650 cows on 6,500 acres of mostly reclaimed coal strip-mined land. Their labor force includes major contributions from their two teenage children, Anna, 16, and Peter, 15. In addition, one full-time employee, Jason Morgan, lives on the place with his wife and two small children. “We couldn’t operate without Jason. He does almost all of our feeding and has been with us for 13 years,” Mark said.

            Jame, whose maiden name is Secondino, has been employed in the field of livestock insurance since the 1980s, and presently writes for American Livestock, Inc., working out of their home.

            The third leg of their trio of major endeavors involves Krieger’s Wholesale Nursery, located at Mark’s hometown of Bridgman, Michigan and specializing in production of small fruit plants. The nursery utilizes two farms, which have been in the Krieger farm for several generations, and is co-managed by Mark and his mother, Marilyn. Sadly, Mark’s dad, Larry, passed away a few years ago after a courageous eight-year battle with cancer.

            “The nursery is about 220 miles from here and I try to get up there as often as I can, especially during planting season. We grow blueberries, raspberries, asparagus, currents, grapes and rhubarb plants, selling over the internet to nursery outlets across the country. We also harvest 65 acres of commercial blueberries. We have a full-time crew of employees up there and they stay busy year-around,” he reported.

            Mark has fond memories of his youth — growing up in agriculture. One grandfather had a Holstein dairy, while the other had the nursery. His own diversified family farm allowed him to become active in the American Junior Simmental Association (AJSA) in the early 1980s, when he became part of a Michigan team that competed with teams from Texas and Kentucky in a friendly battle for supremacy within the AJSA program. “Those were great years and I made friends through that program that I still have today,” he says. He attended Michigan State University and credits Drs. Harlan Ritchie and Dave Hawkins of the MSU Animal Science Department for their lasting influence.

            Jame was raised on a grain and cattle farm at Shirkieville, Indiana. Her parents, Pete and Sue Secondino, showed cattle all over the country and in 1957, shortly after they were married, won the prestigious International Show in Chicago with a steer appropriately named “Honeymoon.”  Honeymoon was purchased by radio personality Arthur Godfrey for a still-standing Chicago record of $32 a pound, money they used to purchase a piece of ground to start their farm. Incidentally, that initial land purchase was from Birch Bayh, then a US Senator from Indiana.

            At an early age, Jame and her sister, Jody, began to carry on the family tradition of showing livestock, exhibiting in Chicago, Kansas City and Denver, in addition to numerous local and area events throughout the Midwest.

            After earning a degree in Ag Economics from Purdue, Jame migrated into the livestock insurance business and has been deeply involved ever since. “We are a true Simmental story,” she commented. “Mark and I met at the Mount Brilliant Simmental Sale in Kentucky. Keith “Sundance” Ruff introduced us to the crowd as the ‘most eligible bachelor and bachelorette of the Simmental breed.’ We began dating, got married 24 years ago, and now Anna and Peter are deeply engaged in youth programs and our farm. Anna is more into the youth programs like FFA, 4-H and the AJSA, while Peter prefers the hands-on aspects of working with the cattle and the farm.”

            In 2007, she assumed responsibility for coordinating the AJSA National Classic that was held in Louisville. “That was a very rewarding experience. We had a terrific group of volunteers from several states who came forward to successfully pull that event together,” she said.

 

The Cow Herd

            Mark’s relationship with Simmental dates back to his days in the junior program, while Jame’s first exposure came when she showed 4-H steers at the county fair level.

            After they were married in 1985, the young couple moved into a house down the road from Jame’s parents at Universal. “We rented a house from Peabody Coal Company which was strip-mining the area, working 24 hours a day. They were reclaiming that ground as they went along, and we started doing reclamation for them, seeding, working the ground, vegetating it. We saw an opportunity for some low-cost pasture, so we purchased 25 commercial cow-calf Angus pairs for $650 apiece,” Mark recalls.

            “I’d previously acquired 30 head of Simmental, primarily from Jon Callendar’s Singletree Farms at Charlotte, Michigan, so we moved those cattle down here, too,” he said. “As soon as we would get one group paid for, we’d buy another set of cows. When the coal played out, we happened to hold the maintenance contract on the land. By then, we had the resources to buy and lease more ground. We presently own 2,000 acres outright and rent another 4,500 acres.”

            They have established several center pivots, leading to a profitable hay enterprise. “Our winters are generally open, so we don’t need a lot of hay to get through the winter,” he elaborated. “We bale mid-sized square bales and market hay all over the Midwest, primarily to beef and dairy farmers.” Irrigation water is plentiful, and is pumped from huge strip mine pits to enhance production of hay, wheat and soybeans.

            “Over the years, we’ve used purebred Simmental bulls that we either purchased or raised. The F1 cross is what we’ve gone for, combining Simmental and Angus genetics,” he said.

            Krieger focuses on maximizing production of red meat. “Our motto is ‘pounds to town.’ When we sell a fat calf that weighs 1,400 pounds, we calculate that’s an extra $200 an animal that we wouldn’t otherwise receive. My goal is big, functional cattle. I’m aware that large carcasses are not always that popular, but after all is said and done, we’re selling pounds of beef.”

            They need to look no further than their own children for a viable source of Simmental genetics. Anna and Peter run a purebred herd of 40 head, while making efficient use of artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

            “They’re producing stout, structurally correct cattle with great capacity — those traits are absolutely necessary to survive here,” Jame said. “The children do their chores before school every morning and every evening. They’re very actively involved in everything we do.”

            Much of the time, the Kriegers market their calves as feeders. If they feel a little uneasy, they’ll grow the calves out in their own feedlot until the market is right. “And that premium is still there, regardless of how long we decide to feed them,” he said.

            Ever vigilant for more efficiency, Krieger has identified several means of extending available feed supplies. He stockpiles enough forage to get the cowherd through a normal winter. He utilizes distiller’s grain from an ethanol plant and gluten from a starch plant for his feedlot cattle. “We buy several truckloads on contract and have our pits full by fall, utilizing a vertical mix wagon to mix the feedlot ration,” he continued. “And we take a lot of pride in our herd health. We’re on the Pfizer program and the calves are given all their needed shots.”

            “These Simmental tags, certifying our Simmental-sired cattle, are well worth the time and investment. The extra premiums we receive make a huge impact on our ability to function and grow,” he concluded.

 

   

 


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