A three-month study tour of North America has been a “priceless” experience for 2016 SA Junior Heifer Expo senior champion herdsman James Pitchford.
The 23-year-old from Keith has just returned from visiting more than 20 stud and commercial ranches in Canada and the United States, brimming with ideas.
His itinerary included fitting cattle at one of the world’s largest beef shows, Agribition, Regina, where 1500 beef cattle were exhibited, as well as Farm Fair and Denver and Fort Worth Stock Shows.
Mr Pitchford said it was a fantastic opportunity to network with other beef breeders and gain a greater understanding of Australia’s place in the global beef market.
“If you spend too much time in one place with one type of cattle, you can get lost thinking that they are the bee’s knees,” he said.
“By seeing many different breeds and types of cattle, it gives you an idea of the opportunities out there and those you want to take on.”
Of special interest to Mr Pitchford was researching innovative grazing management techniques to consider on a property he has bought at Keith.
“At JD Hudgins in Texas, they were moving cattle every two hours using air-pressured timed gateways and using high stocking densities to regenerate soil health and promote pasture quality,” he said.
“In South Dakota, I saw cover crops in cropping systems with 14 or 15 different species.”
“With strip grazing, they were seeing some awesome soil results.”
A highlight of the trip was spending nearly a fortnight with leading Angus stud Stevensons Ranch in Montana.
In 2011, the stud exported a large portion of its herd to Russia, establishing the Stevensons Sputnik Ranch, which has grown to 7500 head.
Stevensons has built its own processing facilities in Russia and has even opened its own restaurant chain.
With the use of extensive embryo transfer, they have continued to sell more than 500 bulls annually in the US.
Mr Pitchford also enjoyed helping wean 500 calves at Lewis Farms’ Simmental and Angus operation near Edmonton, Canada.
The young Shorthorn breeder said it was great to see Australian genetics in Canadian Shorthorn herds Diamond and Muridale, including a trial reintroducing semen from Mandalong Super Flag – an influential bull from the 1960s.
Mr Pitchford thanked Heifer Expo sponsors Landmark, CGU and the Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of SA.
“Being able to network and make lifelong friendships with leading seedstock producers across North America is a priceless opportunity that will continue to give me an edge in the industry for many years to come,” he said.