If one million cattle increase in value by $20 to $40 during the short time they are in a stocker producer’s hands, that adds an average of $30 million to the Kansas economy.
K-State Researchers Share Results with Ranchers
Richard Porter took an unusual route to being a rancher.
He earned a chemical engineering degree from K-State then worked for the EPA enforcement division while completing a law degree. After four years in environmental law, he returned to his roots in the Kansas Flint Hills. His operation now includes about 8,000 head of cattle and 12,000 acres of crops and pasture.
He received the 2010 Beef Stocker Award, which was developed by BEEF magazine to recognize stocker cattle operations that excel through improved efficiencies, innovation, and management. Stockers are young cattle kept as stock until fattened or matured and suitable for breeding or slaughter.
As a businessman, Porter is open to new ideas. He relies on K-State research and events such as the Beef Stocker Field Day, developed by K-State animal scientist Dale Blasi, to provide timely research-based information. Blasi recently hosted the 11th annual Beef Stocker Field Day at the Beef Stocker Unit northwest of Manhattan.
“This event brings together the top experts and stocker operators from around the state,” said Porter. “It’s clearly my best source of information about running my stocker program. I’ve attended every year and will continue ’til I die. Before Dale built up K-State’s stocker program, this was an underserved area. It’s very important to Kansas because it encompasses our huge grazing resources, growing cattle in confinement, and meeting the challenges of starting calves.”
Blasi offered an example of how important stocker cattle are to Kansas. “Given the tremendous variability in weather conditions, it’s almost impossible for one to know the number of stockers raised on Kansas operations. However, the January 2010 estimate for the ‘cattle available for placement outside of feedlots’ was 1 million head in Kansas. If each animal increases in value by $20 to $40, that adds an average of $30 million to the Kansas economy.”
“Dale has addressed by-product utilization (such as distillers grains) and feed additive comparisons on native grass,” stated Porter. “He studies health-related issues that impact the stocker industry as well as feed and health additives designed to improve the health and performance of new calves. And he’s starting research on using whole shelled corn with by-products from the corn industry.
“What makes this research so valuable to Kansas is that the results are shared with the cattle industry, so it can be quickly put to use. In addition to the field days, this information is presented in the press, on websites, and direct communication with producers. Also, students who work with Dale graduate and apply this research.”
K-State’s Beef Stocker Unit is well known throughout the state and attracts hundreds of visitors annually from as far away as Tennessee. Blasi attributes the unit’s popularity to the ways it benefits producers.
“Our practices fit closely to those of producers,” Blasi stated. “Our studies apply to their situations. We query producers and run ideas by them to make sure we are concentrating on what they need. Since we are so close to campus, students and faculty in multiple departments also benefit from our research and facilities.”