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Completing the circle

WHOLE FARM PERSPECTIVE, WHOLE FARM VALUE. For Danny Mairs, it’s more than just MFA’s motto. It’s a comprehensive approach to helping him and his wife, Gwen, fulfill a dream on their cattle ranch in the scenic Arcadia Valley just outside of Ironton, Mo.

From Health Track to Nutri-Track, livestock risk insurance to pasture management, fence posts to cattle-handling equipment, MFA has High Valley Ranch covered, with products, services and ideas to help the Mairs family maximize production and resolve daily challenges.

“MFA has been very good for us,” Danny said. “I mean, we have the whole team on our side.”

When the former Californians decided to sell their petroleum truck­ing business three years ago, the couple knew they wanted to live on a ranch and get back into the cattle business.

“I had two dreams when Gwen and I got married 50 years ago. One was to own a cattle ranch and the other was to own a trucking compa­ny,” Danny said. “I wanted to own up to 100 trucks, and we did that. In 2019, when I sold the company to my son, Jeremy, we had 175 trucks and about 450 employees.”

With the trucking dream realized, he and Gwen searched the country for the right place to raise beef cattle.

“This was my other dream—to own a cattle ranch,” Danny said. “We are not finished with dream building yet, so we are not retired. I say ‘we’ because we both worked on these dreams together.”

Married at the age of 18, Danny and Gwen moved from their home­town of Independence, Calif., to Bakersfield, Calif., so she could attend college. “He is good at that,” Gwen said. “If he has a vision and a direction, he finds a way of making it work.”

In the works now is their 711-acre ranch, which the couple is building into a top-of-the-line operation with infrastructure and equipment to care for 150 crossbred Angus cows, 150 calves plus 70 yearlings. Their oldest son, Matt, is helping his parents work to perfect that dream at record speed.

“What Danny and his family have done in two years usually takes a generation to achieve,” said Stephen Daume, MFA live­stock specialist, commenting that the ranch is one of the most beautiful spots in Missouri.

Prior to their Midwest move, Danny had some background in the livestock business. His experience was raising a few head of cattle while in high school, driving livestock trucks and then owning a herd on a small ranch in California.

“After we were married, I started hauling livestock for a com­pany,” Danny said. “I was on the road a lot and Gwen didn’t like staying home alone, so she got her license and drove with me. We ran cattle all over the western U.S.”

In 1985, Danny got into the petroleum trucking business and four years later purchased the company and its fleet of 35 trucks. The company continues to serve customers like Shell Oil, Chevron and ExxonMobil today.

As they were transitioning from trucking to ranching, Gwen found their Missouri farm on the internet. She said listening to her heart, her soul and the Lord led the couple to the Arcadia Valley. Gwen’s other passion is her custom greenhouse, which is still a work in progress.

When they purchased the ranch in 2019, Danny said he didn’t know how many challenges awaited them. The first problem to solve was pastures full of out-of-control weeds. Not really knowing where to turn, he called Lucas Brewen, the MFA bulk plant supervisor in Farmington.

“Lucas came out, and then next thing I know, Stephen (Daume), David Moore (MFA range and pasture specialist), Rob Rickenberg (MFA precision agronomy specialist), Landry Jones (MFA conservation grazing specialist) and Chris Klein (MFA agronomy key account manager) came out here to help,” Danny said. “We had a whole parcel of people trying to figure out what was going on and what were the best solutions for our cattle operation.”

As a result, High Valley Ranch was enrolled in MFA’s preci­sion Nutri-Track system for all the pastures, starting with grid sampling to get a baseline for the soil properties and nutrient levels. From there, MFA provided recommendations tailored to each acre and applied variable rates of fertilizer and lime. The third stage in the program is to monitor the fertility and replace only what is needed.

“The first year, we had to put down quite a bit of lime because these fields had not been fertilized in years,” Danny said. “With the maps, we know what each field needs and exactly where the product needs to go, which in the long run saves time and money.”

“And if you want to see the results, just drive down the road,” Stephen added. “You can see where the Mairs’ property line ends. There is a huge difference.”

To help feed the cattle throughout the hot, dry summers, Landry Jones worked with Danny to establish native warm-season grasses in the pastures.

“We cleared trees off about 100 acres and put in the native grasses,” Danny said. “We decided not to grow our own hay and are buying it from a local farmer.”

Another challenge they faced in that first year was calving. Gwen said she and Matt had their hands full with weak calves that suffered from scours and pneumonia.

“They were constantly giving the calves medication and trying to keep them healthy,” Danny added. “Stephen offered some ideas, and we decided to follow his advice with our calves and then our cows. Once weaned, we put the calves in the MFA Health Track program.”

Danny said having the advice from an experienced Midwest livestock specialist has been priceless.

“Running cattle in California is nothing like running cattle here,” Danny said. “You’ve got fescue toxicity, bugs, mud, severe weather, water freezing up, pasture rotation, fertilization and the need for shade. In California, we just had hillsides. We put the cows out and never fertilized anything. It was so different. The questions Stephen asked helped us change our whole operation.”

One suggestion was to think about crossbreeding the Mairs family’s cattle with a more durable breed that has the ability to fight heat stress and fescue toxicity.

“With the goals of our operation—retaining ownership, selling our cattle on the grid, working with a reputable feedlot and packer, and wanting more pounds per acre—crossbreeding was a great plan,” Danny said. “Stephen said a Bos indicus-influenced breed would help us achieve those goals while potentially adding another revenue stream by selling crossbred replacement heifers adapted for southern Missouri.”

After detailed research, Danny decided to crossbreed his black and red Angus with Beefmaster bulls. “Our search for a good provider of quality genetics lead us to NextGen Cattle Company in Kansas,” he explained. “They are a great fit for us because it is a one-stop shop. From the bulls to the feedlot to the packer, NextGen does an excellent job. We are very happy with our decision to move in this direction.”

The Beefmaster breed has excellent maternal traits with good growth and carcass abilities. The cattle are heat, drought and insect resistant, qualities that are needed in southern Missouri.

“From a genetic perspective, crossbreeding allows us to impact reproductive efficiency the quickest.”

With Stephen’s guidance, the feeding protocol at High Valley Ranch has also changed.

“We add Shield to our grain and use MFA Ricochet minerals and tubs—also with Shield—to improve colostrum quality,” Danny said. “We will start using a colostrum supplement with the fall calves this year.”

To complete the MFA whole-farm perspective, Danny and Gwen purchase cattle equipment, feeders, and posts and wire for fencing, and they work with MFA Area Crop Insurance Agent Taylor Gilmore for their livestock risk protection.

The learning curve has been tremendous, but Danny said he is constantly reading and asking questions to improve his knowledge and the operation.

“The MFA team is also responsible for the DNA testing we are doing with International Genetic Solutions,” he said. “We run DNA tests on all our cows, our calves in the feedlot and the heifers we breed. Plus, all our bulls are registered and have genomic information. We are using that data to generate expected progeny differences (EPDs) on our crossbred cows through American Simmental and IGS (International Genetic Solutions).”

Stephen added that this genomic information will also be used to develop strategic mating solutions through a new pro­gram with Allied Genetic Resources. The service aligns males and females to impact profitability traits, including marbling, growth and reproductive longevity.

“I want to do something that’s unique and provide excellent quality beef to consumers while at the same time raising cross­bred heifers adapted to south Missouri,” Danny said. “Raising heifers with this amount of genetic merit and profitability built in is extremely exciting. I’m not sure where we would have ended up without the MFA team in our corner.”

For more information on MFA’s whole farm solutions, visit with the experts at your local MFA or AGChoice center.


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