Cattle enthusiasts who have been involved with the Angus business know that females with names like Missie and Proven Queen have not only made their way to the backdrop at countless shows across the country carrying the purple banner, they have also gone onto become superior cow families within the breed. Those cow families originated in Central Illinois at Prairie View Farms, a fourth generation Angus operation that raises superior females, and is also the home to outstanding sires like PVF New Horizon 001, PVF ALL Payday 729, and most recently PVF Insight 0129, ranked in the top 11 bulls for registrations in the entire Angus breed for the past three consecutive years.
Raising superior genetics with the PVF prefix is something that hasn’t happened overnight. It has taken years of work, dedication, proper mating decisions and principal management practices to achieve the reputation that Prairie View Farms has earned as a successful seedstock producer. What started as a simple herd of show heifers for siblings involved in the National Junior Angus Association (NJAA), has grown into a premier cattle operation that relies heavily on advanced reproductive technologies like embryo transfer (E.T.), in vitro fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination (A.I.).
Prairie View Farms is owned by Alan and Theresa Miller in close partnership with his sister and her husband, Cathy and Brandon Jones at Gridley, Ill. The cattle born with the PVF prefix are in high-demand across the country. With the use of E.T., IVF and A.I., the Miller and Jones families can propagate the superior genetics that their customers have come to rely on, especially the high-quality females, which they market through several sales each year. They host a live fall production sale each spring and conduct numerous online sales throughout the year, where they market heifer calves, bred females, pairs, embryos, pregnancies, bulls and an occasional steer. Alan, who oversees the daily management of the operation as well as the marketing efforts, said they are putting in embryos nine months out of the year – to meet the needs of their customers – so they are constantly doing E.T. work, flushing or A.I.
Between their spring- and fall-calving herds and cooperator herds he expects they have nearly 300 calves each year to sell, with a majority of those born as the result of one of the technologies mentioned. Due to the number of recipient cows required along with limited forage resources, the cows are fed a total mixed ration (TMR) year-round, and that TMR includes a mineral package from VitaFerm® with the Amaferm® advantage.
“We feed the TMR heavy through winter, but also use it during spring and summer transitioning from a dry lot to washy summer grass. It helps keep our cows on a level plane of nutrition, and that has certainly helped performance on recips,” said Miller, who also has his Ph.D. in Ruminant Nutrition.
Miller said they have been adding the VitaFerm Concept•Aid® 5/S into their ration for at least six years. Last year, he switched over to the VitaFerm HEAT® mineral during the summer months, to help prevent heat stress on his herd. Mixing the mineral in with his TMR ensures his herd gets all the nutrition they need.
“We mix the mineral program religiously through our TMR. That provides us peace of mind instead of the free-choice route because we know then that our cattle are getting all the nutrients they need,” Miller said.
The Amaferm in all the VitaFerm products is a precision-based prebiotic that impacts intake, digestibility and absorption, helping the animal get the most nutrients from its feed resources. It is research-proven to increase the energy available to the animal resulting in more milk production as well as to the ability to initiate and maintain pregnancy and fertility. The VitaFerm HEAT, designed to help reduce heat stress, contains plant extracts that will help maintain body temperature during periods of extreme heat or when grazing fescue. It also contains garlic, to deter insects.
“We fed the HEAT mineral last summer for the first time, and our cows appeared to handle the summer heat better. They spent more time out mingling in the pasture grazing and less time under the shade trees,” Miller said.
With a livelihood that depends on reproductive performance to produce the highest quality genetics, Miller understands that keeping his herd on a quality mineral program is of upmost importance. He suggests that if anyone is considering ways to reduce input costs, they should not start skimping on their mineral program.
“Any kind of reproductive program like E.T. or A.I. is going to be costly. For the money, labor and time a producer devotes to an embryo transfer program, the money you invest in a good mineral program will be minimal. IVF and embryo work are expensive, and the last place you want to cut corners is nutrition because nutrition is key to your reproductive success,” he said.
A 45 to 60-day calving window can sometimes offer its own challenges. But imagine breeding females using the latest technological advances 270 days out of the year! With superior genetics as the base, premier management practices and a nutrition program that includes the Amaferm advantage, getting cows bred and keeping them bred becomes less challenging for progressive cattlemen like Alan Miller and his family operation at Prairie View Farms.