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NMSU Valencia County Extension introduces new beef heifer production project

LOS LUNAS – During a yearlong beef heifer production project, youth in Valencia County are learning the science behind raising cattle.


Youth standing with their cows
The sale of the beef heifers raised during the Valencia County Select Beef Heifer Replacement Project will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at the Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction in Belen. Eight youth completed the project this year. They are, from left, Jace Martinez, Tyler Martinez, Rhett McCarty, Dannon Powell, Hilton Veit, Ashlyn Ahlgrim, Jolene Wulf and Mateo Olivas. The sale concludes the 12-month project. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

From selecting a heifer in November to raising and breeding it, to organizing and marketing a sale on Oct. 20, eight youth have received college-level instruction from New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences faculty regarding nutrition, genetics and reproduction of cattle.

The beef heifers will be auctioned at 1 p.m. at Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction in Belen on Friday, Oct. 20.

The sale of these heifers is the culmination of the Valencia County Select Beef Heifer Replacement Project. The sale will help to offset the costs associated with the purchase, raising and breeding of the heifers.

“The intent of this project is to use the experience with the heifers as a tool to educate the youth about the beef industry as a whole,” said Newt McCarty, agricultural agent with NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service in Valencia County.

The purpose of the sale is twofold. First, the youth experience what it takes to put on a sale including marketing and developing a catalog. Second, the pricing structure of the heifers is designed so participants selling their heifers recover the animal purchase price and feed expenses so as to not incur a financial burden.

“If in the end, the youth break even but walk away with increased knowledge and interest in pursuing a career in agriculture, this project is a success,” McCarty said.

This project began when a parent, Robert Sinclair, asked if the beef heifer project could be more than just raising the animal for the show ring.

“Other places have done production steer projects, but no one has used the beef heifer, which requires the youth to learn about reproduction and genetics involved in breeding of the animal,” McCarty said.

The youth, ranging in age from 11 to 17, were selected for the project from applications. They are Dannon Powell, Ashlyn Ahlgrim, Rhett McCarty, Hilton Veit, Jolene Wulf, Mateo Olivas, Jace Martinez and Tyler Martinez.

“This has been an amazing program, learning how to raise beef cattle and to see what ranchers go through on a daily basis,” said 13-year-old Ahlgrim.

“I have learned a lot about the cattle industry, from selecting my heifer to all aspects of record keeping,” said 17-year-old Wulf.

Input by cattle producers participating in the Tucumcari Feed Efficiency Test at NMSU’s Agricultural Science Center at Tucumcari helped design the curriculum.

The youth participated in seminars ranging from nutrition for healthy daily weight gain and the anatomy of the digestive and reproductive systems, to sire selection and artificial insemination; from designing a business and marketing plan, to creating a catalog for the final sale. They also completed the Beef Quality Assurance training and earned a certification.

They received instruction from Marcy Ward, Extension livestock specialist; Craig Gifford, Extension beef cattle specialist; John Wenzel, Extension veterinary specialist; and area veterinarians.

“Before this project I always thought that the way a bull looked was important,” said 11-year-old Tyler Martinez. “After our training I learned that Expected Progeny Differences are also very important and, more importantly, the accuracy of EPDs.”

“Through this project I have learned how important body condition score and overall health is for breeding success,” said 13-year-old Jace Martinez, “especially to breed back as a 2-year-old cow.”

Field trips to a local feed mill and the NMSU Tucumcari facility introduced the youth to technology involved in the industry.

NMSU Extension economics specialists Michael Patrick and Paul Gutierrez provided instruction on business and marketing plans that each participant will design for their final presentation.

“We wanted the experience to be as real as possible, beginning with the heifer selection and purchase,” McCarty said. “Purchase contracts were made between the youth and the cattle producers for the animals, with the youth paying 20 percent and the producers carrying the loan until the sale in October.”

Cattle producers contributing cows for the project included Blair Clavel, Claude Gion, Patrick Sanchez, Roy Hartzog and Brian Martinez.

“We’ve had a lot of help from other producers and parents during the project, especially Susie Jones and Robert Sinclair, our adult project leaders,” McCarty said.

“We have designed this program to be as cost efficient as possible,” McCarty said. “To offset the costs and pay for their loan, the minimum bid at the auction will be the purchase price of the heifer and the average food cost for the heifers in the project.”

Points accumulated during the year for their attendance at activities, written financial and activity reports and their business marketing plan presentation will determine the champion and reserve champion.

“We will give scholarships to the top two scorers, $1,000 for the high score and $500 for the reserve high score” McCarty said. “The scholarships are for the youth to attend a higher education institute of their choice and will be held until they graduate from high school.”

McCarty plans for the beef heifer production project to be held annually.

“Not only do we hope the youth will want to continue in the project and broaden their knowledge each year, but other counties might be interested in the project,” he said. “This program is designed for 15 youth ages 10-17, so we will be taking applications for participation each year.”

An informational meeting for interested youth and their parents for the 2017-2018 project year will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, at the Valencia County Extension Office, 404 Courthouse Road, Los Lunas. For more information please call or email Newt McCarty, 505-565-3002, jnewton3@nmsu.edu.