Great Responsibility brings Great Pride

by Patrick Dupuis

Bruno Langlois, agronome

Conseiller spécialisé en production bovine à La Coop fédérée


As I write these lines, I’m on my way back from a study trip to Nebraska and Colorado.

I could talk to you about what I’ve seen, like a research station in which some 8,000 cows graze 21,000 acres of pasture (1,000 troughs). Or the Maddux Cattle Company that’s been in operation for the past 132 years: 45,000 acres of semi-arid land, 3,000 calvings and 5,000 backgrounded calves every year. Then again, how about North Platte Feeders, with a capacity of more than 80,000 heads of steer in one location and where feed troughs, from start to end, reach 43 kilometres in length! Let’s not forget Deer Valley Dairy (4,400 lactating cows) and Feldpausch Holsteins (contract breeding of 8,000 dairy heifers).

However, this is not the topic I’ve chosen to write about. No more than the topic of Nebraska’s position on the U.S. cattle scene: The number one state for steer (2.77 million) and fourth for slaughter cows (1.9 million across 20,000 farms). As they say in America, it’s Huge!

What I do want to talk about is how our group of Quebec feedlot owners felt as they visited the various sites.

First, the quasi-poetic passion expressed by John Maddux when he talked to us about his cross-breeding program, his bull management approach and the plant species that make up the pasture. Then there is the determination of Dr Patsy Houghton, president of Heartland Cattle Company, a business specialised in the preparation of replacement heifers for slaughter (125,000 over 28 years) and in the preconditioning of calves, who aspires to perfectly meet the needs of her clients is obvious, and so is that of making a positive contribution to beef production competitiveness. 

In fact, how can we explain why Ed Wildenburg, owner of Deer Valley Dairy, taking over two and one half hours of his time to meet a group of Canadian beef producers other than his desire and delight in sharing his experience? He was applying a principle brought forth by Dr Doug Ford, a veterinary and friend for more than 25 years: “Your mission is to find your gift. And when you find it, your goal will be to give it away.” Talk about philosophy!

This brings me to think about the conviction of Dr Tom Noffsinger, a colleague of Dr Ford. The animal handling techniques he taught for the best part of his life now let allow North Platte Feeders to efficiently receive and ship more than 155,000 beef cattle every year. On the morning of our visit for example there were 3,000 beef cattle (90 semi trucks) headed to the slaughterhouse and 2,000 calves (of the 9,000 planned throughout the week) were expected that same afternoon.  

What of the emotion expressed by Chad Engle? For this cow-calf farmer and manager of the Clay Center research station, beef producers all have a role to play: To be stewards of the land, which means to make it better for future generations.

Finally, there is Erik Mohrlang, manager at Feldpausch Holsteins, who entrusted us with an interesting message: “What I learned from Dr Temple Grandin was that beef cattle didn’t choose to be kept in captivity. So I am responsible for their well-being. I have zero tolerance when it comes to handling animals: Shouting and hitting are immediate grounds for dismissal! It’s also my responsibility to reassure the public on our farming methods. It’s a question of life and death for our company, the same goes for our industry.”

All of this to say throughout our meetings, American cattle farmers clearly stated that they carry a heavy burden of responsibility, but are very proud of the work they do every day to honour their duties. I’m sure Master Yoda would have said: “Very alike are Quebec beef producers.”

Think about it!

Patrick Dupuis's picture

Patrick is Deputy Editor at the magazine Coopérateur.Agronomist graduated from McGill University, he also studied sustainable development. He works at the Cooperateur for over twenty years.