As National FFA week comes to a close, Friday Feeders highlights two brothers who are learning about feeding cattle and lambs on the family ranch near Overton, Nebraska.
Spencer Walahaski, an S-E-M FFA member, has already started an impressive FFA resume. He is currently working on his sheep production SAE where he has partnered with a local producer.
Spencer said it’s best to partner with an established breeder when starting your own flock. He takes in bred ewes and lambs them out. Then at sale time, he splits the profits with his partner.
Spencer said that even though he is just getting started in the business, his partner is wanting to reduce his numbers which creates a prime opportunity to secure top genetics.
When it comes to feeding lambs, Spencer said he appreciates the benefits produced by creep feeding . However, he also explained that getting lambs to the creep feeder is the toughest part of feeding lambs and is likely the time with the highest mortality rate. Spencer though, with a few years of experience and plenty of resources to help, has kept the mortality number very low. The next challenge is keeping the creep ration palatable to lambs because they like to pick through feed.
When it comes to cattle feeding, Spencer has recently participated in the Nebraska State Fair’s fed steer challenge. Working with a central Nebraska feed yard, Spencer and his fellow competitors picked steers from a pen of feeder cattle. Then they fed them out and exhibited them at the state fair where the judge evaluated the cattle on their production capabilities.
Spencer said there is quite the difference in feeding commercial cattle and show cattle. With commercial cattle, the focus is on gains and keeping the calf gaining each day. He said show steers are more of a challenge because in addition to keeping the animal gaining, it needs to keep a balanced muscular design to be a physically sound, finished calf.
Spencer’s brother Parker will soon start his official FFA career in the Overton FFA chapter next year as he makes the transition from middle school to high school. Parker has fed and exhibited both steers and lambs through 4-H. Currently, Parker has a steer still in the feeder stage that he has been showing at early year shows like the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic. With lambing currently under way at the Walahaski place, Parker isn’t sure which ones will make the show string.
As for feeding steers and lambs, Parker said keeping rations balanced and livestock on feed is the biggest challenge. There are hard deadlines the livestock have to make, and days with poor gains equal lighter carcasses. Fewer pounds to sell equals fewer dollars at the end of the day.
Now that Parker has exhibited livestock at shows locally and statewide, he has had plenty of experience with a general public that doesn’t always know a lot about agriculture or livestock. Parker said he always keeps in mind that he wants to promote a positive livestock industry with the general public, knowing that livestock producers are working hard to ensure a quality and healthy product for their plate.
Both brothers agree and give thanks for youth programs like 4-H and FFA that have helped them get started in livestock feeding. The programs have also given them vast experience in public speaking, time and financial management.
Catch the full interview here: