Kniebel Cattle

Come with Katie Sawyer as she tours Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel’s farm and ranch located outside of White City, Kansas. We’ll learn the history of their farm and how it evolved as the market and the agriculture industry has evolved.

Closed Captioning is brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. the Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Katie) Hi I’m Katie Sawyer and this is That’s My Farm. Today we’re visiting with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel on their farm and ranch outside White City, Kansas. We’ll be learning more about their cattle operation, their unique marketing aspects, their crop rotations. So stay tuned. Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission, the Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers. BREAK (Katie) Hi I’m Katie Sawyer, welcome to That’s My Farm. Today I’m here with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel on their farm and ranch outside of White City, Kansas. Kevin, can you talk to me a little bit about the history of your farm and ranch. (Kevin) Sure. In 1868 my Great Grandfather settled here. And it’s continued through the generations. There’s now three of us involved, my Dad, my brother and I and our families. And you know, we’ve always marketed our cattle. We’ve never sold a calf off the farm. So all our cattle are always finished when they leave. From marketing through the rail head to Kansas hauling into Kansas City and going on to the packer in Emporia, at the time IBP. And so that’s kind of the history in a nutshell, but we’ve progressed through the years and this background that you see is where the original homestead was. (Katie) And Mary Ann talk to me about how the different techniques you guys have used and talk about just kind of how the cattle themselves have changed over the years, different breeds or grazing techniques. (Mary Ann) You know they were pretty much a Hereford operation, they had used some Black bulls and had Baldys. When Kevin and I got married, me coming in with a masters in repro, had done a lot of ET and AI work. We wanted to go ahead and start AIing cows. And we bought a semen tank from a sale in Oklahoma that had a bunch of Red Angus semen in it. And that was our introduction to the Red Angus. And we really like how the cattle were and things kind of progressed from there to where we pretty much do a three breed rotation with Red Angus, Angus and the Hereford. And like the heterosis and the combination that brings to us. And then in ’95 being a small feed lot operation, you know we have a thousand head feed lot that we finish cattle out for ourselves and for our bull customers. Worrying about sustainability of that operation is what led us into U.S. Premium Beef and the market access that it gave us so that we can continue to do what we’ve been doing. (Katie) Talk about how the buying of the U.S. Premium Beef has changed your marketing and then your emphasis on quality because you guys do place a lot of emphasis on the quality of the cattle that you guys are raising. (Mary Ann) There was a really steep learning curve when we first sent those first cattle to the grid because you go from selling cattle like we did live, we had very little information coming back, to going on a grid and you get all your information back. We used to think that that last 30 days on feed, for instance, was let’s just get them gone as soon as we can. And we realized that putting more days on those cattle is where your true premiums come in and it was not a sink of money, it was a pool. And pretty steep curve of learning how to manage those cattle to fit those imports. (Katie) Well it sounds like you guys have evolved, as the market has evolved and the industry as evolved and you guys continue to run a very successful operation. (Mary Ann) Well, thank you and hopefully we’ll have it set up for the next generation. Chuck’s got three kids, we’ve got two kids. None of them at this point are ready to come back to the farm, but at some point they’d like to, we hope, and we want to make sure we have something left to send on to them. (Katie) Stay tuned for more on That’s My Farm.

(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Katie Sawyer, here with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel. We are in Morris County, west of White City. Kevin, talk to me a little bit about your cattle, what genetics you’re using and what processing you are using to improve your cattle herd. (Kevin) Katie, we have a three breed rotation involving Red Angus, Angus and also Hereford. We utilize that to get the most heterosis that we can. And it’s working very well. (Katie) Mary Ann, you guys emphasize quality in all your cattle so what are you guys doing to ensure you are always producing the highest quality animals? (Mary Ann) You know since we finish out all of our own cows, we get a lot of carcass data on everything and so that gives us a feedback on the genetic choices that we make. And so we tend to want it all. We want the good performance, we want a good replacement heifer, but we still want a good steer. And we stayed with the British breeds of the three breed rotation because they do tend to have the highest quality as far as in the carcass. But they also do very well in our environment here. And are easy keeping cattle and also a little more docile when it comes to working with Grandpas, kids and everything that we have. (Katie) Moving forward, what do you guys… what are you guys looking forward to in terms of genetics? What are you guys going to continue working with? You guys have evolved over the years, so what do you see as far as evolution moving forward. (Kevin) I think each breed has their strengths and weaknesses, so we have to improve on what we have for a base. And genetic testing is very important. It seems like each breed has, like I said, their weaknesses, so we’ll look at that and go forward from there. (Mary Ann) We can utilize a lot of AI especially in the registered side to try to choose those traits that we’re trying to enhance. And that’s one of the benefits of the age that we live in now with the genomic testing and the better EPD’s compared to when we first started 25 years ago AIing. You had a birth weight, but you didn’t have a lot for EPD. So, a lot of the enhancements that sort of happened through science has been a boom to those of us trying to make better choices. (Katie) Mary Ann, you talk about heterosis, but Red Angus and Black Angus are two very interrelated breeds. How do you get heterosis with those two? (Mary Ann) That’s a good question because we talk about this a lot in our circle of friends. But you know if you look at genetic testing, you can’t do the same genetic test on a Black Angus as you can a Red Angus. Those breeds have evolved so differently and we see heterosis when we cross a Red and a Black. And the way you can’t deny that is your longevity in a cow because on our commercial cows when they age out of the herd is the same as if their a Baldy cow. So you are seeing heterosis in that cross because they are really genetically different. (Katie) Very good. We’ll be back with more on That’s My Farm.

(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer, here with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel on their farm and ranch outside of White City, Kansas. Kevin, I understand you guys welcome some visitors to the farm every couple of years, tell me about that. (Kevin) Yes Katie, we try to have the second and third graders out. They always ask for a field trip and so we bring them out and they learn all about the farm, from the grains to the cows and everything in between. So, they have a lot of fun climbing on tractors. You know, this year we gave them an ear tag of cows, and they went out and tried to find their cow, and which they did find them. And it was all fun and education for them. They really enjoy it and we hope to do more of that. (Katie) And you guys are on a fairly rural setting but do you feel like a lot of the kids you bring on to the ranch still have that connection with the farm, or is a lot of this first time visits for some of those kids? (Kevin) You know, as a rule, we probably run about 10 percent of the kids that have actual farm roots, but this year there was a higher percentage, but no, there’s just a lot of them that don’t know that much but they’re very receptive to things. (Katie) That’s a great learning opportunity you guys are providing. Mary Ann, what else are you guys doing in terms of helping advocate for agriculture and just advocating for your own family farm? (Mary Ann) You know we’re not speakers, we’re not bloggers or anything like that, we leave those to the people who are really good at it. But we do believe in being very active within our community and within the industry. Kevin’s brother Chuck is the Fire Chief up at Delavan. He’s also on Quails Unlimited. Kevin was on the school board for a long time. He’s on the Farm Bureau Board. We’ve both been involved with KLA, so we’ve been on their boards currently on their boards, NCBA board. I’m on Secretary Vilsack’s advisory committee. Any ways that we can help enrich the industry, we feel it’s very important to give. You get so much more back than what you give. So, it’s really time well spent. (Katie) How does that help you guys in terms of bringing messages back to the farm or helping just improve what you guys are doing on the ground? (Mary Ann) You learn something from everybody you visit with. I bet you really enjoy your position and look at all the things you get to learn as you go see people. We feel the same way. There are things you can pick up from what other people do that you say, You know this is something I could take home and tweak a little and make it fit our operation. And that’s where you really gain a lot of information from what other people tell you. (Katie) Mary Ann I understand you are involved in the KARL Program. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience and what you are able to take from your time with that organization? (Mary Ann) You now the KARL Program was just amazing. Not only do you learn so much more about your state and things that are involved within your state, than you ever thought you would, but you also learn from across the country. And then with the international trip from across the world. Opens up your eyes to so many things that you didn’t realize we’re not that far from you and kind of helps remind you to not go through life with your blinders on, pay attention to what’s going on and be involved. (Katie) And I understand because those classes, you guys are together so much, you probably made some great relationships with your classmates that has allowed you to learn a lot. (Mary Ann) There are no secrets when between you when you’re done after spending that much time together. But it’s such an eclectic mix because you have lawyers, you have; every kind of person involved and they do that on purpose. And it’s wonderful, because you learn something different from all of them and that was the best part of the whole deal was what you learned from your classmates. (Katie) Sounds like you had a great experience. More when we come back on That’s My Farm.

(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Katie Sawyer here with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel on their Farm and Ranch outside of White City, Kansas. Kevin, in addition to caring for your cattle you guys also raise crops. Tell me a little bit about your farmland and what you guys grow. (Kevin) Sure. We raise a whole host of crops. Wheat, grain sorghum, corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and you know with some cash grain and a lot of it tailored to the livestock operation. We have a rotation that we follow. Soybeans with wheat and then wheat followed with either grain sorghum and corn. And that seems to work quite well. And not saying that it won’t get tweaked at some point but that’s where we’re at right now. (Katie) And have you guys tried implementing any new strategies such as cover crops? (Kevin) We’ve done that a little bit, just experimentally. And I know a lot of people are sure making it work and seen a lot of benefits from it. But we’ll continue to work in that area and you know we’ll see how it plays in with no till and you know cattle feed and everything else. (Katie) And because you guys grow your own crops, you are able to control a lot of the inputs that go into your feed, so how does that help you in terms of management and then just profitability of the whole operation? (Mary Ann) When you can use crop residue for cows, when the grass season is over and not have to feed them until the come back to calving pastures in January, it adds another three months that you are not physically feeding those cows, they are out feeding themselves and require very little supplementation. It definitely adds to the profitability but also to the labor side. (Katie) Good, and the drought has affected all of Kansas. Have you guys tailored what you guys are doing on the crop side and has that affected the feed rations and what you guys have played with in terms of feed stuffs? (Kevin) We’ve planted after harvest crops to provide extra forage or extra grazing following wheat with some of those crops. And so we’ve done that and you know you utilize straw, you utilize a lot of things that you traditionally don’t do and at the same time you do have to feed that soil when you do that and you need to be on top of your soil nutrition and all that to make that sustainable. (Katie) Sounds like you guys have a full plate. Join us for more on That’s My Farm.

(Katie) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Katie Sawyer here in Morris County, Kansas, with Kevin and Mary Ann Kniebel. Mary Ann, you mentioned earlier you guys have never sold a calf off this ranch before. So talk to me about your marketing because that must mean some unique things for you guys. (Mary Ann) You know being a conception to consumption ranch is maybe a little different in that we actually have a feedlot instead of just selling calves when they’re weaned. And in the ’90s we started to get concerned about the longevity of our operation, are we gonna be able to continue to do that and that was what kind of led us to be part of the formation of U.S. Premium Beef, which has served us well to give us market access and be able to maintain what we do. The value added things that have come around in the last ten years are just a bonus that we hadn’t really planned on. The market access is still what’s important for us so that we can continue to feed our own grains to our cattle and get them marketed in a good way. Because we want to make sure that we have something here for the next generation to work with and build on. (Katie) And Kevin talk about what that means for the next generation. Have your marketing tactics and changes proved successful? (Kevin) Oh, I think so. You know we’re all part of team, my Dad and brother and our families all work together. And one of the next generations here in the background and so I think that moving forward it’s just going to help further things along. There’s always room for improvement but I think we’re headed in the right direction. (Katie) And you guys have a sale each year to allow the public to access some of your genetics and your animals. Tell me about your sale, where can we find information and when will the sale be happening? (Mary Ann) Our sale is always the first Friday of November. It actually happens at Downey Ranch, which is east of Manhattan and we have a website. It’s, the letter “K”, And that will have all the information on the sale and we sell 20 month old bulls and we sell bred commercial heifers. (Katie) Wonderful. Thank you for joining us on That’s My Farm.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission, the Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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