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Braunvieh blood improves bottom line for Mitchell Farms

Contributed by Macey Mueller Published on 23 January 2019
Mitchell Farms cattle

With a solid reputation for raising quality Braunvieh-influenced cattle that grow fast and garner carcass premiums, Mitchell Farms was named the 2017 Commercial Producer of the Year during the BAA Annual Meeting in Kansas City in October 2018. Located just north of Frederick, Oklahoma, the Mitchell family runs about 650 cows and proudly uses Braunvieh bulls to sire feed-efficient, high-performance cattle.

Brian Mitchell along with his wife, Kayla, dad, Jerry, and brother, Chad, run the southwest Oklahoma farming and ranching operation, and have been in business since the early 1960s when Jerry rented his first piece of land from his uncle.

While cattle have always been part of Mitchell Farms, the cow herd has actually tripled in size over the last 20 years. The majority of the family's dams are Red Angus, which Mitchell says he prefers because they are well suited to withstand the heat. The rest of the herd is made up of Black Angus and black baldy cows. They began using Braunvieh genetics nearly 10 years ago and have since made tremendous strides in quality and profitability.

“It really doesn’t matter what we put the Braunvieh on; we are always happy with the calves,” he says.

The Mitchells began with 10 Golden Link bulls and were immediately impressed with the results.

“We noticed from the beginning that we were really onto something,” Mitchell says. “Our weaning weights went up and so did our check weights before pulling the yearlings off of wheat pasture. We realized we were going to be able to sell our cattle weighing the same as we usually do, but three to four weeks earlier. That makes a big difference when you’re looking at the opportunity to bring in additional stocker cattle.”

Recently, the family has been purchasing their sires from Todd Hill at the Diamond H Ranch in Childress, Texas. They use a combination of bloodlines in their current bull battery, and Mitchell says his family really appreciates the docile nature of their Braunvieh bulls and the fact that they pass that temperament on to their progeny.

“Whether it’s time to pull the bulls or work the calves, we have not seen the aggressiveness from our Braunvieh cattle that you might see in other breeds,” he says.

Spring calving season at Mitchell Farms usually begins mid-February, while fall calves typically start hitting the ground in September.

“We like to keep our calving seasons to about 60 to 70 days so our calves are close enough in age to fit together,” Mitchell says. “Come branding time, it’s much easier to have a uniform group rather than a mix of newborns and 300-pound calves.”

Mitchell Farms branding

The Mitchells hire local cowboys to help during branding season and routinely hear comments about their calves’ stout structure.

“These calves don’t look big, but the cowboys find out really quick that they have to get a good hold on them,” Mitchell says. “They like it when we are one of the first ranches to start branding because they know our calves are going to be strong. We tell them that’s the ‘Braunvieh blood’ we like to use.”

Mitchell says they often background their weaned calves in feeding pens until the wheat pasture is ready and always notice how well the cattle perform on a forage-based ration and then again on the wheat.

When weather conditions are favorable, Mitchell says they will sell their feeder heifers at 750 to 800 pounds and the steers at 825 to 900 pounds. The family markets nearly all of their cattle through Superior Livestock Auction, and likewise, they primarily use the video auction to purchase their replacement heifers and stocker cattle.

“Superior not only gives us access to a large group of buyers, but we also really appreciate being able to sell off the farm,” Mitchell says. “We used to figure a 7 to 10 percent shrink on cattle sold at the sale barn, but with Superior, we can set the shrink in the contract, weigh them on the ground at the ranch and feel like we’re getting a much better deal.”

Dr. Bud Willis from Sulphur, Oklahoma, has been the family’s Superior representative for more than 15 years and was actually the one to recommend introducing the Braunvieh genetics into their breeding program. He located the original 10 bulls in Nebraska and encouraged the family to try something new.

“We sure are glad we listened to Doc,” Mitchell says. “Using Braunvieh bulls has really improved the performance of our cattle.”

The family’s reputation for using quality Braunvieh genetics has been featured on two different episodes of RFD-TV’s The American Rancher, and Mitchell says over the past several years a few feedlots have repeatedly purchased his cattle for a premium because they know the cattle will perform.

“With better feed efficiency, these cattle typically require fewer days on feed, which means a faster return on investment,” he says. “We’ve also had great feedback on the carcass data.”

The Mitchell family farms about 9,000 acres in Tillman County and is self-sufficient in growing most of the feed needed for their cattle operation. They typically graze or hay alfalfa, wheat, oats, triticale and sudangrass, chop sorghum silage and buy back some of their cottonseed from the local gin.

“We’ve always farmed, but we’ve grown our cattle operation quite a bit over the last several years,” he says. “We realized for our family farm to survive in today’s commodity market, cattle are going to have to keep us going from year to year.”

The current drought conditions throughout the Southern Plains will require the Mitchells to make some important management decisions over the next several months. Their first cut of alfalfa was nearly “nonexistent,” and Mitchell says the second cutting is only about half of what it should be. They currently have a stand on about 600 acres of sudan and sorghum but fear a hot, dry summer will mean little to no hay and silage to feed this winter.

“We are very concerned about the weather right now,” he says. “We are starting to look at different options for feed, including cotton burrs from an abundant cotton harvest this year. We will still need good quality hay to feed along with them, and that may be very difficult to find locally.”

Mitchell says they are already planning to winter their 180 replacement heifers on grass they rent 100 miles to the east near Davis, Oklahoma, and will have to be innovative in using their limited resources to sustain their growing herd.

Regardless of the rough conditions, Mitchell Farms is committed to raising quality cattle as a family operation, and they are honored to be recognized for their efforts in remaining competitive in the beef industry.

“The Braunvieh breed has had a tremendous impact on the overall value of our calves, which has, in turn, helped keep our family farm sustainable,” Mitchell says.  end mark

Macey Mueller is a freelance writer based in Halstead, Kansas.

This article was originally distributed on behalf of the Braunvieh Association of America.

PHOTO 1: Chad Mitchell rides through his family’s Black Angus cows and fall-born, Braunvieh-sired calves. Mitchell Farms has been using Braunvieh genetics for nearly 10 years to improve feed efficiency and carcass data in their cattle.

PHOTO 2: Local cowboys help vaccinate calves during spring branding at Mitchell Farms. Photos courtesy of Mitchell Farms.