To be successful in any business, takes dedication, skills and the desire to improve efficiencies with new technologies while embracing tradition that still is applicable. Alpers Farms at Hudson, Kan., is one such business that has stood the test of time and has adapted to new technologies to improve proficiencies and increase profitability with each generation that returns to the family farm.
Tyler Alpers is the fifth generation to return to his family farm in west central Kansas. After earning a degree in Agricultural Economics from Kansas State University, he came back to farm with his dad in 2003, much like his dad did after he graduated college in the 1970s. The Alpers family runs a herd of Angus-based cows and relies on artificial insemination for breeding all of their replacement heifers and one-third of their spring-calving cows. They use a combination of Angus and Charolais sires. When selecting Angus bulls, they focus on balanced traits. They are transitioning more toward using the Charolais bulls for a terminal cross. With the use of DNA testing on replacement females, they are able to verify the sires and accelerate genetic improvements, according to Tyler.
He said their marketing strategy has evolved since he returned to the operation. When he first came back, the family sold all their stocker calves through a livestock market auction. Then, they discovered a genetic verification program that would help them receive a premium for the cattle they were breeding, Top Dollar Angus. Now, they retain ownership of them through the feed yard, so they can capture more data and more premiums on their cattle.
“When you sell them at a livestock auction as a feeder, you only get half the story. A lot of the information you can gain on how they perform in the feed yard and how they perform on the rail is the other half of the story and you lose all that. There is a lot of value in having that information. If you’re striving for the best genetics, if you’re not capturing that value and capturing the other half of the story; you’re kind of missing out,” Tyler said.
Alpers Farms understands the power of information, and they have used that feedlot and carcass data to help make breeding decisions. They are placing more emphasis on specific EPDs and indexes when selecting sires for their bull battery and A.I. sires. Tyler said the $Beef index in the Angus breed has been helpful.
Another resource that Tyler has found helpful for breeding time is the VitaFerm® Concept•Aid® mineral. He discovered the VitaFerm mineral several years ago in the spring of the year when he was getting ready to start breeding and decided to give it a try. He said he’s been using it now for three to four years, and it has made a significant impact on his herd. He said he sees three primary advantages to feeding the VitaFerm Concept•Aid mineral.
First, it has increased conception rates in their herd. Next, it has allowed them to shorten their calving window from 90 to 60 days. And finally, with a tighter calving window, their calf crop became more uniform in weight and size.
“Before we started using the Concept•Aid, we had a 90-day calving window. Now we’re pulling bulls at 60 days. Even with shortening the breeding season by a third, our conception rates are on average 7 to 8% higher, sometimes better than that,” Tyler said.
Recently, the Alpers family preg checked 220 cows and had a 96% conception rate on the group that will calve in February and March. They also manage a fall-calving herd that calves in September and October.
“To be honest, it is a little higher priced than what we had been feeding, but now I see that the investment is well worth it for the return. It’s just like anything else. Sometimes you have to spend a little to make a little more,” Tyler said.
VitaFerm Concept•Aid is a vitamin and mineral supplement for beef cattle specifically designed for reproductive success when fed 60 days pre-calving through 60 days post-breeding. The key ingredient in all BioZyme products is Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying the nutrient supply for maximum performance. 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. In addition, Concept•Aid contains high concentration of vitamin E and organic trace minerals to support the repair of the reproductive tract and provide more energy for reproductive success. Additionally, coupled with the Amaferm advantage, increased nutrient absorption and digestion leads to healthier and heavier calves giving you performance that pays.
In addition to feeding the Concept•Aid, Alpers Farms provides their cows VitaFerm Cattleman’s Blend™ when they are not on the Concept•Aid. They also use the VitaFerm Gain Smart® mineral for their freshly weaned calves to give those calves a kick-start with their nutrition program.
The Alpers rely on pastureland, corn and milo stalks as the primary source of feed for the cow herd, with the small exception of some hay. Hay is only fed when the ground is snow covered or for short intervals when the cows are brought back to the farm from the pasture – at spring calving time or for a week at weaning time. Hay is all home-raised and is crabgrass, prairie hay, sudan or alfalfa. Other than their mineral program, the only other feedstuffs they buy are wheat mids pellets, they purchase from a flour mill three miles from the farm that weaned calves are started on. The Amaferm advantage helps increase intake, digestibility and absorption of their forages, making them last longer and maximize the nutrient intake.
Finding value in the product that increased conception rates and produced a more uniform set of calves that are from genetic matings that Alpers Farms capitalizes on through a genetic-verified program are just some of the ways that the multi-generation farm has made improvements over the years. Not only are they getting more calves in a shorter window that grow faster and are more uniform, they are getting paid for information.
Alpers Farms is a progressive cattle operation that has been in Kansas for five generations. With continued improvements to make their farm more efficient and profitable, there’s no doubt this family farm will be there for future generations as well.