Producers trust in Health Track
Mike John, MFA’s director of Health Track operations, has watched the program evolve over the last 20 years into one of the largest and most reputable preconditioning systems in the industry.
One of Sudbrock’s farm employees, Dyke Dick, unloads the last group of weaned calves after they received a second round of vaccinations and Health Track tags.
MFA Livestock Key Account Manager Wendy Flatt Beard, right, helps cattleman David Sudbrock prepare tags while working cattle on his farm outside Centralia, Mo. MFA employees such as Beard take a hands-on approach in assisting cow/calf producers with all stages of the Health Track program.
Ag Experience intern Chloe Momphard records information on Sudbrock’s calves as they run through the chute. The data—including the calf’s tag number, sex, color and more—will be uploaded and stored in MFA’s Health Track database.
Calves enrolled in Health Track receive radiofrequency identification (RFID) ear tags. The RFID technology captures records specific to each animal and can be updated as the tag passes through various stages of production.
Just before he retired in June, Tony Koger, right, MFA livestock specialist, tagged his last Health Track calf on the farm of MFA board member Gerald Eggerman, center. Mike John was also on hand for the occasion. “Gerald managed one of my (MFA) stores, and I was a salesman for him,” Koger said. “I’d help just about every time he worked cattle. We worked together for almost 30 years, since I first started with MFA.”
The ability to capture critical data on each animal in a beef operation is more important than ever as livestock traceability increasingly becomes a focus of producers and consumers in every corner of the globe.
Radiofrequency identification (RFID) ear tags, such as those used by MFA’s Health Track program, assures that the data is accurate. Each tag is guaranteed to have a unique number and is permanent and non-removable. Information such as weaning weights, vaccination dates and more can be tied to that RFID number in a digital database for quick, accessible reference.
“When your cattle receive Health Track ear tags, you are qualified for every single program that wants to trace product all the way back to the original people who produced that animal,” said Mike John, MFA’s director of Health Track operations. “I think that’s a huge benefit not only from a production standpoint, but also for future market access.”
This technology is just one example of the benefits Health Track has been bringing producers since its beginning 21 years ago. It’s one of the oldest, largest and most unique preconditioning programs in the nation with nearly 800,000 head of cattle tagged—and counting. Health Track participants give enrolled calves two rounds of vaccinations, provide MFA-recommended feed and follow a 45-day weaning period.
In addition to helping ensure animal health before and after weaning, Health Track can help producers earn a premium price at the sale barn.
One such producer is David Sudbrock, who raises Hereford and red Angus cattle near Centralia, Mo. Prior to using Health Track, Sudbrock would take his feeder calves straight to the sale barn after weaning. He also tried weaning for 30 days, but the calves usually ended up getting sick before they were ready to be sold.
Since making the switch to Health Track in 2001, Sudbrock says he has seen a significant difference in the overall health and quality of his calves. Nearly 20 years later, the program has become a tried-and-true method on his farm.
“You keep better track of your cattle. You get your weights and proper vaccinations, then you wean them longer,” Sudbrock said. “I also believe they sell better. It’s worked out well for us.”
He says a contributing factor in the decision to stay involved in the program has been his positive experiences with MFA, particularly with Key Account Manager (KAM) Wendy Flatt Beard. She and other MFA livestock KAMs work closely with producers throughout all stages of the program. This includes tagging calves, setting up the vaccination protocols, collecting and inputting data and following up after the calves are sold.
“We not only interact with the producers, but we become part of their operation and they trust us with the information we’re giving them,” Beard said. “If we don’t have that trust built up—proving that we know what we’re talking about—then they’re not going to utilize our services. That’s just what it comes down to.”
In the future, the information captured and stored by Health Track could also influence consumers’ relationship with agriculture by promoting greater trust, traceability and transparency in the beef industry, John said.
It’s not necessarily a matter of if, but when, this will become a reality, he adds. “It’s not going to be anonymous anymore,” John said. “People are going to know where their food came from.”
Putting people first
It’s no surprise that Tony Koger, recently retired MFA livestock specialist, has been called a Health Track legend. Out of the 800,000 calves enrolled in the program, Koger has tagged 104,697 of them, approximately 13% of the total.
Koger retired in June 2021, after almost 29 years with the company. His contributions to the Health Track program and its participants exemplify the program’s focus on customer partnering.
“Building relationships with the producers and people I work with has been one of the most rewarding parts,” Koger said. “As far as the value of these relationships, I’m not sure you can put a number on it.”
During his career, Koger said he truly became part of his producers’ operations. He’s not the only one. Health Track is founded on the partnerships formed between customers and employees, said Mike John, MFA’s director of Health Track operations. He believes this relationship-driven mindset is the main reason for the program’s continued success.
“When we step on somebody’s farm who’s in Health Track, we know that they’re committed to doing something better, and that’s been incredibly valuable for both parties—both for MFA and for our customer base,” John said. “When you start developing that relationship, it gets to be about not only customer service but also results.”
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