Over 50 cattle producers from across the country and across the industry participated in the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s 2015 Young Cattlemen’s Conference including a young producer from northern Colorado. Representing Colorado Livestock Association was Andrew Mertens from Wickstrom Feedyard.
Andrew Mertens of New Raymer, CO has been involved in the agriculture industry all of his life. He grew up on his family’s progressive dryland farm and stocker cattle operation in northeastern Colorado. The operation consists of raising dryland wheat, corn, and proso millet. In addition to crop production the operation buys light weight calves in the fall, backgrounds them during the winter, turns them out on grass in the late spring and summer, and then markets these cattle as yearlings in the fall. After graduating from high school Andrew, along with his brother Cole, began growing their own farming and stocker cattle operation in addition to the family’s operation.
Along with Andrew’s business, he began working with his wife’s family operation in early 2010. Over the past several years he has become heavily involved in the Wickstrom feedlot and farming operation. The Wickstrom operation is a very progressive dryland farm and cattle feeding operation that is located near Orchard, CO which is in the same area where Andrew grew up. The operation sources most of their cattle through local auction barns, video auctions, and directly from local ranches. The operation sorts these calves by size and quality throughout the feeding period for marketing purposes. It also manages cost of gain through feeding local co-products and grazing forages on ranches near the feedlot. The cattle are all walked to and from these pastures with little to no freight cost. The operation finishes all the cattle and markets them to local packing plants. In addition the feedlot custom feeds cattle that participate in the Meyer Natural Angus Program. Andrew works with his father in law Cary, and his wife’s uncle, Todd, and three other full time employees. Andrews’s role includes general day to day management, feedlot health, cattle procurement, a portion of the marketing, and a plethora of other responsibilities within the farming side of the operation. In their free time Andrew and his wife Leigha enjoy traveling, spending time with family, and spoiling their nieces and nephews.
The aim of the NCBA’s YCC program is to give these young leaders an understanding of all aspects of the beef industry from grass to plate, and showcase issues management, research, education and marketing. Beginning in Colorado, the group got an inside look at many of the issues affecting the beef industry and the work being done on both the state and national level to address these issues on behalf of our membership. While in Denver, CattleFax provided a comprehensive overview of the current cattle market and emerging trends. At Safeway, the participants received a first-hand account of the retail perspective of the beef business and then toured the JBS Five Rivers’ Kuner feedyard, one of the largest in the nation, and the JBS Greeley packing and processing plant.
“The young cattlemen’s conference was designed to develop young leaders and give them the knowledge and tools they need to lead this ever-changing industry. After completing YCC I can say it serves its purpose very well. After spending the day on Capitol Hill I have a renewed faith in Congress, we as cattlemen have a huge amount of support within our government. We must keep working to tell our story to maintain that support,” stated Mertens.
From Denver, the group traveled to Chicago where they were able to visit the Chicago Board of Trade, learning about risk-management and mitigation tools available to the cattle industry. In Chicago, they also visited McDonald’s Campus and OSI, one of the nation’s premiere beef patty producers. After the brief stop in Chicago, the group concluded their trip in Washington D.C. for an issue briefing on current policy priorities; including trade and Country-of-Origin Labeling and ample opportunity to visit with their congressional representatives.
“Ultimately, our goal has been to provide the consumer with an affordable, great tasting, safe, and nutritious product, but it may take way more than that to sell our product in the future. Today the consumer is wanting to know where that steak they bought was raised, and was it raised sustainably. YCC was truly and amazing experience and I want to thank Colorado Livestock Association for making this happen.”
With the beef industry changing rapidly, identifying and educating leaders has never been so important. As a grassroots trade association representing the beef industry the NCBA is proud to play a role in that process and its future success. Over 1,000 cattlemen and women have graduated from the YCC program since its inception in 1980. Many of these alumni have gone to serve in state and national committees, councils and boards. YCC is the cornerstone of leadership training in the cattle industry.