Cattle producers from around the Midwest will embark to Atkinson next week in hopes of purchasing some of the top Black Angus bulls and cows that the state has to offer.
For Dennis Garwood of Green Valley Cattle, the March 5 sale of 120 bulls and 60 cows is more than just a production sale. To the family, this is about their role in providing top genetics for high-quality beef, not only for today's market but for the future as well.
“This year marks the 26th year Green Valley Cattle has hosted a production sale. Our first sale only had seven bulls," Garwood said. "This year, we are offering 120. It’s been a long progression."
Located 17 miles southwest of Atkinson, Garwood operates on land that has been in family for three generations. He lives adjacent to his brother, who is also in production agriculture.
Throughout the past several years, Garwood has transitioned from a cow-calf operation into a seedstock operation, where he focuses on breeding high-quality genetics. He said many factors go into selection of breeding stock in a herd, and Garwood pays special attention to details and data.
“I’m excited about the opportunity, tools and technology that are available to us to continue to improve our cattle, go to the next level, and make cattle that are high-quality and profit-driven as we build for the future and for our customers,” Garwood said.
Phil Sandelin, who works alongside Garwood, said they keep in mind the preferences of both producers and consumers.
“We have to be well in tune with the needs and wants of seedstock producers, where the trend is taking us, and what the public consumers want today,” Sandelin said. “The markets have tremendous impact. We still have to produce the type of meat and the type of genotypic and phenotypic animals that will provide seedstock and marketable animals to our customers.”
Garwood said a seedstock operation concentrates on raising bulls that can be used by commercial cattlemen to provide consumers with a safe, high-quality food source.
“Seedstock means that we are attempting to be a source for other people to purchase genetics to further their development and profitability,” Garwood said. “We have made a big commitment to using all of the tools possible to make better breeding and mating decisions.”
In order to provide the highest-quality genetics to commercial cattle producers, Garwood said Green Valley Cattle utilizes different tools, such as pedigree tracking and modern breeding practices.
“We artificially breed most of the cattle herd. It’s the most important thing I do in terms of creating advancement,” Garwood said. “It allows us to use elite superior genetics. And we can build that generation by generation. We also pick out elite individuals to do embryo transplant work. Some cows in their lifetime can produce 40-60 calves for us through embryo transplants.”
Sandelin explained that their work with seedstock at Green Valley Cattle is a balancing act between meeting the needs of producers today while keeping an eye on future consumer needs and market trends.
“Basically, we have to think outside the box in making our mating decisions. The cattle we mate this spring will not hit the dinner plate for two years,” he said. "The correlation between seedstock and our food chain is very important. We need to be producing cattle that will dress out at a high percentage of high-quality meat to be putting in the marketplace.”
Sandelin added that one of the aspects of their genetics markers is to have the capabilities to look at tenderness and marbling in beef.
“To put it in a nutshell, we know what we’ve got before we’ve got it,” Sandelin said.
The challenge of continuing to improve the quality of beef for the future motivates those involved. Garwood said he hopes to continue improving production for generations.
“Ultimately, I love it. I am motivated to strive for the next level. It’s the drive and motivation to make the next generation better than the last with our understanding of what excellence is,” Garwood said.
Sandelin agreed and said technology has been key to the success of not only Green Valley Cattle, but to the entire industry.
“The cattle industry today is passion-driven and technology-focused. To be involved in it and to be successful, you have to have the internal want and desire to succeed as you do in any entity,” Sandelin said. “We are dealing so much with Mother Nature, and we also have a public image to build up and uphold. We always have our focus on the future and have that very ethical passion.”