CYLINDER - After a lifetime of working with cattle, both with his own herds and in other operations, John Robinson said he has learned, through trials and tribulations, what works best for him in raising a quality animal.
Robinson said his experience with cattle goes back to when he was 10 at his local county fair, and includes time spent on the roundup in South Dakota, on a 36,000-acre ranch in Texas and on a 17,000-acre ranch in Colorado.
While in Colorado, he had the opportunity to take classes at Colorado State University allowing him to further his knowledge on beef production, but his experience didn't end there.
-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
John Robinson feeds his cattle herd on his farm near Cylinder. Robinson said he strives to feed his animals through what he calls a clean program, avoiding the use of steroids and hormones.
"I wanted to know more about the beef industry, so eventually I got into working on the killing line at the USDA facility in Kansas," Robinson said.
Along with his wife, Carla, and daughter Caryn, Robinson owns and operates Robinson Show Cattle, near Cylinder, in Palo Alto County.
Their operation is made up of 18 cows and 11 feeder cattle. Meat from his beef cattle is sold locally and the family sells show calves and helps market those animals through beef shows.
Robinson said when his family had built up to start showing and selling show cattle, it was Caryn who made him realize they would have to make some changes in order to be competitive.
"She said, 'Daddy, we will never afford to buy the good one, so we will have to raise it,'" he said.
It was then Robinson said he started his herd on a clean program - no steroid or hormone use.
Caryn Robinson said the herd isn't exactly "drug free," however, since they still vaccinate, but due to their feeding program, she said they actually use a lesser amount of vaccines than compared to other beef operations.
"We still vaccinate," she said, "but because of our program, the vaccinations do exactly what they are designed to do and we use far less of them.
"We have fewer diseases; our stock is healthier so we vaccinate less."
By never using steroids or hormones, Robinson said they can still achieve a substantially higher rate of gain than his competition that uses, in his terms, unclean products.
"I never strive for perfection, but strive for constant improvement," said Robinson.
Through a lot of tragedy with bad feed, Robinson said he began supplementing his feed with products by VitaFerm and through Advanced Nutrient Technology Health.
Mike Wadle, area sales manager for VitaFerm, said his product helps the animal at the beginning of the digestion process.
"Our products work in the rumen to stimulate the bugs in the rumen to make the feed more efficient," said Wadle. "It makes the nutrients readily available to the animal."
Jim Den Boer, with ANT Health, said the key is to allow complete feed and utilization through building the blood of the animal.
According to ANT Health, their products boost the immune system, raise the red blood cell count and cleans the intestinal track for better feed efficiency. All, they claim are very important with today's high feed costs.
"By balancing the blood system, they utilize the feed properly, it is absorbed properly so there is less feed and hay needed," said Caryn Robinson .
Although John Robinson is enhancing his feed with the additives, he said he is experiencing a costs savings estimated at $1.73 per head per day, with an improved daily gain on a third less feed while continuing to maintain a 4-pound daily gain.
"I have found a cost savings that go along with a clean program," he said.
Another benefit to having healthy cows is they produce healthy calves.
"We have some of the healthiest calves we have ever had," said Caryn Robinson .
Because show cattle endure more stress than beef cattle, Robinson said they require more nutrients.
Through his feeding program, his show cattle are prepared for the high stresses of attending shows and being in that show ring.
"Show cattle require higher amounts of nutrients and tons and tons of vitamins," said Robinson. "A lot is due to the high stress because you have to push them. If you want to show the best, you have to feed the best."
Proper nutrition is also important for all cattle.
"Many animals are nutritionally starved because they are lacking vitamins and minerals, especially in extreme weather conditions," said Robinson. "The grass is lacking the nutrients from being in the extreme dryness and wetness."
The Robinsons said they believe the future of the beef industry will be mandated to go "clean" and they are proud to be producing a clean product.
"Our food system is very dirty in our country," John Robinson said, "and products being used, such as steroids, are not legal to use in other industrialized nations and we feel why should we put something unclean into an already dirty food industry?"
"We want to produce a product we are proud of and we can't be proud of a product that can be potentially harmful," said Caryn Robinson.
VitaFerm can be found at www.vitaferm.com.
ANT Health at www.anthealth.org.
Robison Show Cattle at www.showsteers.com/RobinsonShowCattle.