By: Carmen Fenton, Director of Communications
No two days are ever the same for Armondo De La Cruz. He has learned to expect the unexpected.
“If a truck breaks down, everything stops,” he says.
The feedyard depends on De La Cruz to keep machinery and vehicles operating. He has worked at the feedyard for 35 years doing a number of jobs from throwing hay, batching and loading, to calling feed. But he thrives in work that requires meticulous and steady hands.
“We run the shop department,” he says. “We do the maintenance on the trucks, brakes, water pumps, anything that we need to do. The feed trucks, the corn haulers and the vehicles here in the yard.”
His dad, a mechanic by trade, moved his family from Laredo to Hereford when De La Cruz was a young boy. It was his dad who gave De La Cruz his first lesson in mechanics. That is something he has passed on to both of his sons.
“My dad was a mechanic, and that’s where I learned,” Cruz says. “And I got my younger son here now, and he’s learning. And my older son, he also worked here with me.”
Hereford is home for De La Cruz and his family. He and his wife raised three children (two sons and a daughter) in the area. Now, they have grandkids, which De La Cruz says is “awesome” since you can sugar them up and send them back to their parents.
When asked what advice he would give to a young man or woman wanting to get into the mechanical field, he smiles and says, “Just love what you do, and the rest will take care of itself.”
It is clear that advice helped Cruz along the way.
“I mean it sounds corny,” he says. “But if you like it, that’s good. And then if you can crack a smile on your face every day, it’s probably better stuff.”
Students from across the state made their way to the campus of West Texas A&M University on Friday, July 24, to showcase their skills and knowledge at the 2020 TCFA Junior Fed Beef Challenge.
This annual contest gives third-12th grade students the opportunity to gain industry knowledge and practical experience in commercial cattle feeding. Students feed a pen of three steers, take a written test and compete in interviews and oral presentations. Cattle performance points are also figured into the score to determine the winners.
Students compete for a combined $20,000 in college scholarships along with trophy buckles and plaques.
The Senior Overall Champion of the contest and winner of a $5,000 scholarship was Luke Bludau of Hallettsville. Senior Reserve Champion and winner of a $3,000 scholarship was Macy Lawrence of Canyon. The First Runner-Up and winner of a $2,000 scholarship was Grant Kubala of Schulenburg.
In the Junior Division, Emma Stevenson of Earth was named the Overall Champion and received a $350 scholarship.
Senior Division: Best Written Exam
3rd Place Written Exam – Macy Lawrence, Canyon
2nd Place Written Exam – Gavin Kubala, Schulenburg; Grant Kubala, Schulenburg
1st Place Exam and winner of a $500 prize – Luke Bludau, Hallettsville
Senior Division: Best Interview
3rd Place Interview – Hayden Holwick, McLean ; Kade Lawrence, Canyon
2nd Place Interview – AnneMarie Metzler, Cotton Center
Best Interview and winner of a $500 prize – Macy Lawrence, Canyon
Senior Division: Best Individual Carcass
3rd Place Individual Carcass – AnneMarie Metzler, Cotton Center; Clayton Stevenson, Earth
2nd Place Individual Carcass – Shelby Berckenhoff, Hallettsville; Brayden Smith, Blair
Top Individual Carcass and winner of a $500 prize – Clayton Stevenson, Earth
Senior Division: Best Pen Steer Points
3rd Place Carcass Pen – James Golla, College Station; Lane Golla, New Braunfels
2nd Place Carcass Pen – Clayton Stevenson, Earth
Top Carcass Pen and winner of a $500 prize – Brayden Smith, Blair
Senior Division: Top Rookie Award
3rd Place Rookie – Jett Long, Yoakum
2nd Place Rookie – Hayden Holwick, McLean
Top Rookie and winner of a $500 prize – Brayden Smith, Blair
Junior Division: Best Written Exam
3rd Place Written Exam – Alexandra Kelley, New Braunfels
2nd Place Written Exam – Kaydence Hood, Stratford
1st Place Exam and winner of a $250 prize – Jake Ressler, Hallettsville; Emma Stevenson, Earth
Junior Division: Best Presentation
3rd Place Presentation – Jenna Stevenson, Earth
2nd Place Presentation – Levi Golla, New Braunfels; Kaydence Hood, Stratford;
Alexandra Kelley, New Braunfels
Best Presentation and winner of a $250 prize – Emma Stevenson, Earth
Junior Division: Best Individual Carcass
3rd Place Individual Carcass – Jenna Stevenson, Earth
2nd Place Individual Carcass – Landon Koehne, Hallettsville; Abby Ressler, Hallettsville;
Walton Marshall, Midland; Virginia Stevenson, Bushland
Top Individual Carcass and winner of a $250 prize – Levi Golla, New Braunfels;
Lexi Golla, New Braufels; Luke Golla, New Braunfels; Jenna Stevenson, Earth
Junior Division: Best Pen Steer Points
3rd Place Carcass Pen – Alexandra Kelley, New Braunfels
2nd Place Carcass Pen – Jenna Stevenson, Earth
Top Carcass Pen and winner of a $250 prize – Levi Golla, New Braunfels; Lexi Golla, New Braunfels; Luke Golla, New Braunfels
Junior Division: Top Rookie Award
2nd Place Rookie – Landon Koehne, Hallettsville
Top Rookie and winner of a $250 prize – Kaydence Hood, Stratford
Suzy Hicks and Cindy Shipp can be best described as a dynamic duo. The pair has worked together for almost 20 years at Dawn Custom Cattle Feeders.
Hicks, office manager, began working at the feedyard when it opened its doors. She’s often the first person to greet customers when they walk through the front door. She also keeps track of every transaction made at the feedyard.
“Whatever they do today, I'll put in my computer tomorrow,” Hicks says. “Medicine, feed, anything pertaining to the cattle, I keep track of it.”
In an office three feet from Hick’s front desk, Shipp, controller, manages the feedyard’s financials. Everything from payroll to receivables. “No day is the same in a feedyard,” Shipp says. “It's all different. It’s a new world every day.”
Suzy and Cindy attribute their loyalty to the people they work with. “We've got a great crew who gets along really well,” Hicks says, “which makes it easy to come to work every day.”
Shipp says there is an understanding amongst the employees that everyone gets to work and does their job. “We all know our jobs here,” Shipp says. “You work hard, get it done, and people show you respect.”
When asked what they like most about their jobs, both are quick to acknowledge one another and their ability to work well together. “You know, I can tell when Cindy's got a lot on her plate,” Hicks says. “We both know when to let each other work, but we also know when to chat and have a cup of coffee.”
Both women exhibit gracious cooperation and hard work, two characteristics necessary for success at a feedyard.
For cattle on a feedyard, perhaps few things are as important as a steady mill operation.
It’s 5:30 a.m. when Manuel Joven arrives at the feedyard and makes his way to the feed mill. His crew is running rolls, prepping boilers and flaking corn for the day’s feed. For the more than 50,000 head of cattle that call the feedyard home, perhaps few things are as important as a steady mill operation.
A calm, laid-back morning is a sign the day is off to a good start, and as Joven puts it, “The mill should be very consistent. You want to predict what time you will make your first round of feed, second round, third round and special rations. You want to predict what time you will be done at the end of the day.”
For Joven, managing the feed mill is the culmination of years of learning. Born in Mexico, he moved to Texas when he was nine years old and worked summers in the feedyard while in high school. His dad, brother, uncle and cousin all work alongside him, and Joven credits each of them for teaching him the ropes.
“My dad operates the loader, so that’s how I got my background with the loader,” he says. “I’ve got an uncle that works in the mill with me, so I picked up a bunch on gear boxes, motors, belts, drags, chains — everything that goes on in the mill, I learned from him.”
Similarly, his brother drives a feed truck and his cousin is the head doctor.
“They know how to do the work,” Joven says. “I learned that from them. Now I know how to do the work as well.”
Every morning, Joven climbs to the top of the mill and observes the yard. From there he can see if everything is running smoothly, take note of where the feed trucks are and where cattle are moving. It’s up top where Joven listens to the mill.
“A bearing could start making a different noise. An auger may be rubbing against a trough,” he says. “You may just go up there, enjoy the breeze and come back down and all is good. But you stop doing that, there’s going to be one day that you could’ve prevented something.”
Joven loves what he does and the industry he works in. He says the more time you spend paying attention to details, the quicker you respond to challenges before they become problems.
“Little things you start looking at, like inspection doors, the bearings, the motors, the gear boxes,” he says. “Just touch them. If they’re getting hot, it is probably because they’re not lubed correctly.”
Joven has had a steady mill crew for five years, a milestone he is proud of considering that long hours and manual labor can lead to high turnover. Keeping his crew around for the long haul keeps for calmer, more consistent days.
“It’s tough. It’s not easy. You just got to have a passion for it,” Joven says. “But keep the guys safe, keep the guys motivated and it turns out to be pretty good.”
Carmen Fenton is the communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. She's also mom to Ella Jane (9), Hays (8) and Lane (2).
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will aid agricultural producers impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. On May 19, 2020, USDA published a rule that specifies the eligibility requirements, payment calculations and application procedures for CFAP.
The program will be administered by the USDA-Farm Service Agency (FSA).
To help inform you of the program requirements and application process, we created a short webinar outlining the three-step process. We've also outlined the steps below, and a printable version can be downloaded here.
STEP #1 – Locate your local FSA service center
USDA service centers are open for business by phone appointment only. FSA is also working with producers by phone, email, mail and fax.
STEP #2 – Submit completed forms to FSA
Complete the forms below and submit them to your local service center. If you are already established with FSA, it is likely many of these forms are already on file at your local FSA service center. However, if your average AGI for the previous three years is more than $900,000, Form CCC-942 must be signed by your CPA or attorney to verify that 75% of your income is from agriculture.
The following is a status update on TCFA events in light of concerns surrounding COVID-19. Please know that the health and safety of participants is our number one priority.
This list is subject to change as we learn more.
TCFA Fed Beef Challenge - Originally scheduled for April 8
TCFA Feedyard Tech, Spring Semester - Originally scheduled for April 14-16 and 21-23
TCFA Spring Safety Seminar
TCFA Feedyard Camp - Originally scheduled for June 23-26
TCFA Junior Fed Beef Challenge - Contest day July 24
TCFA Convention - October 4-10, Grapevine, Texas
Ongoing efforts to keep you informed on news surrounding the beef industry and COVID-19.
May 13, 2020
10,000 pounds of ground beef. 10,000 pounds of potatoes. 4,700 gallons of milk. 2,000 dozen eggs. 2,000 pounds of cheese. The City of Amarillo, High Plains Food Bank and Hillside Christian Church joined forces with local agriculture producers last week to provide these commodities to families in need.
Amidst the economic and social challenges our communities face due to COVID-19, those in agriculture remain committed to giving back. Why? They care about feeding people. And when there is a need, they find a way to help. This commitment along with community volunteers and local hunger initiatives; the High Plains Food Bank Pop-Up Pantry was able to serve 2,000 families in the Amarillo area.
“When the agriculture community recognizes a need, they find a way to respond,” said Wayne Craig, executive director of Cactus Cares. “Each of our industries has a commitment to serve our community, and this is just one way we can reach out and help our neighbors.”
According to the HPFB, requests for food assistance increased nearly 20-fold throughout the Panhandle network since mid-March. In addition, HPFB’s distribution has increased 34% since March, and in April distributed over 845,000 pounds of food, the highest amount for that month in the organization’s history.
“The High Plains is rich with agriculture production,” said Zack Wilson, executive director of the High Plains Food Bank. “We’re thankful to team up with our local farmers and ranchers as well as Hillside Christian Church to facilitate a drive-thru food pantry that will help fill the gap for families who may need a little extra to get them through this tough time.”
McKenzie Hettinga, a dairy farmer from Farwell, Texas said those involved with the event were grateful to provide some stability as the community works through this time together.
Supporters of the event include Affiliated Foods, Baptist Community Services, Cactus Cares, Cal-Maine Foods, Caviness Beef Packers, City of Amarillo, High Plains Food Bank, Hillside Christian Church, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc., Jax Transport, Larsen Farms, Nutra Blend, Sarah Farms, Snack Pak 4 Kids, Southwest Dairy Farmers and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL). Let’s set the record straight on a few things.
First, TCFA supports voluntary COOL. We know that U.S. beef is the best in the world in terms of quality, consistency and sustainability and we support a label that highlights those high standards.
However, that label should be market-driven, not mandated by the federal government.
Market-driven programs have proven to be effective, not only for the ranching and feeder families that are the very foundation of our nation’s beef supply, but also for consumers who enjoy high-quality, affordable, nutritious beef. One of the best examples in the history of beef production and marketing is Certified Angus Beef....a voluntary marketing label that has added millions and millions of dollars to the value of beef through increased demand for quality beef.
Mandatory COOL was federal law for 6.5 years, but that law ended up costing all U.S. cattle producers significantly with no measurable benefit to consumers. Let’s visit a few of the reasons mandatory COOL failed the first time.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Former Chair of the House Ag Committee, in June 2015 laying out how retaliatory tariffs in response to mandatory COOL would hurt U.S. agriculture. Congress ultimately repealed the law.
Congress subsequently repealed mandatory COOL in 2015 three days before the tariffs were scheduled to go into effect because of the undue harm the law itself and potential retaliatory tariffs would cause U.S. producers and consumers. Even though Congress prevented WTO from placing tariffs on U.S. beef in 2015, the WTO case remains active. If, at any time, the U.S. implements a new mandatory COOL program, Canada and Mexico can immediately retaliate. They don’t need any additional approval from the WTO.
As we’ve learned time and time again, increasing the government’s involvement in our day-to-day operations with a mandatory label would prove disastrous and ineffective, even more so, during a time when the entire country, especially the cattle industry, is facing unprecedented and extraordinarily difficult times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raising beef responsibly is a top priority for cattle feeders which is why they utilize practices that are good for the environment. Improved efficiency means a lower carbon footprint and fewer natural resources used for every pound of beef.
Agriculture, land use, land use change and forestry combined in the U.S. are a net sink of CO2 equivalent emissions, meaning they remove more metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.
Other Cattle & Climate Facts