By Brittni Drennan, IBBA Communications Coordinator
Sit down for a minute and have a talk with an enthusiastic Dustin Valusek, and you will get excited about the future of the Brangus breed. Valusek has an energy that exudes from his undeniable passion for Brangus, and it is extremely contagious. Having worked in Brazil for several years, Valusek is seeing tremendous potential and is noticing an increase in the demand for Brangus genetics among Brazilian cattle operations.
“There is no other breed that has more opportunity than Brangus,” Valusek said. “Angus cannot thrive in most of the other places in the world, and there is only one breed that combines environmental adaptability and carcass quality, and that’s Brangus. Brangus can go out, walk, cover ground and breed cows in that kind of environment. Brangus is more versatile in that way.”
Valusek’s experience with Brangus stems from an early start growing up on the family farm in Rosharon near the Gulf Coast of Texas outside of Houston. He showed Brangus and Red Brangus cattle, sheep and pigs and competed in livestock judging through 4-H. He gained more hands on experience fitting cattle for Brangus breeders and travelling to stockshows evaluating and preparing cattle for showing. After graduating from high school, Valusek was recruited to judge livestock at Blinn Junior College in Bryan, Texas, where he won several honors including the All-American Junior Livestock Judging Team award. Brant Poe, Lecturer and Livestock Judging Team Coordinator at Texas A&M University, was Valusek’s judging coach at Blinn College and can attest to Valusek’s vivacious personality and determination.
“He has always been a go-getter, and he has never met a stranger. He is a very resilient person with one of the best attitudes of anyone I’ve ever been around,” Poe said. “I tell him I wish I was half as fearless as he is. He’s never had any boundaries for what he could do.”
Valusek then attended Texas A&M University to judge livestock, and after an exciting, successful judging career there, Valusek graduated in December 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Just before graduating, Valusek took six months to study abroad at the University of São Paulo in Brazil where he worked on a nutritional research project at a feedlot. While studying in Brazil, he was forced to learn Portuguese while taking classes related to beef cattle, dairy cattle and the industry in Brazil where the professors only spoke Portuguese. With the help of friends and classmates, Valusek quickly caught on and was able to succeed and do well in his classes. Little did he know at the time, this chance is what would eventually lead Valusek to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Valusek said he knew the National Brangus Show was going on in Camp Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, and he wanted to attend. He stopped to ask someone directions to find the show, and as fate would have it, the man he asked for directions was Marcos Meirelles, owner of Meirelles Brangus. Now three years later, Valusek just completed his tenure at the ranch where he was in charge of overseeing the genetic selection and breeding decisions for the commercial and registered operation in Presidente Prudente, São Paulo. In some of the roughest cattle country in the world, Valusek can attest to the durability, endurance and quality of the cattle.
“That area is very wet during the rainy season, and the terrain is very rugged and rough. We have mosquitos, ticks, and insects are a major problem,” Valusek said. “The water is very salty, so the cattle have to drink from water pumped from the ground into a trough instead of from the natural water sources.”
In a hot, humid, tropical climate, Valusek said Brangus bulls are useful as clean up bulls after AI procedures due to the breed’s ability to adapt to the heat and humidity, resist parasites and diseases and travel well across the country. When making selections, cattlemen select for prepuce and sheath because of the rough terrain, and they select slick haired cattle to accommodate for the heat. Good skeleton and structural correctness is also critical when selecting cattle for Brazilian operations.
“We produced what Brazilians call ‘Brangus Tropical’, which is a 5/8 Brahman and 3/8 Angus cross,” Valusek said. “Environment dictates the percentage used in these areas.”
AI and In Vitro techniques are widely used amongst operations in South America. Valusek reported a 50 percent pregnancy rate last year on all fresh (not frozen) implanted, fertilized embryos after implanting 600 cows in which all implants were Brangus genetics. At Meirelles Brangus, approximately 15,000 straws of semen are collected per year and sent to the commercial operation to incorporate Brangus genetics on Nelor cattle. All the genetics at the operation trace back to the early 2000s when Meirelles was in partnership with Camp Cooley, so all the genetics produced at Meirelles Brangus originated from U.S. lines.
Brazilian operations market their cattle primarily through video, TV and digital sales. Without the availability of auctions or sale barns, producers have to market cattle themselves using different techniques. Cattlemen frequently make purchases by private treaty and buy in bulk. South Americans heavily rely on strong relationships with their suppliers, which is why Valusek encourages U.S. producers to get acquainted with the owners and their operations when marketing their product internationally.
“U.S. Brangus breeders need to take an interest and go visit operations in Brazil. How do you know what their needs are if you have not seen it?” You have to take a genuine interest in their operations and goals,” Valusek said. “The International Show in Houston and the Brangus Global Roundup are two opportunities in which U.S. breeders can take advantage to meet international producers, build relationships and get to know the breeders.
With the demand for Brangus genetics growing outside domestic borders, Valusek sees a tremendous opportunity for the Brangus breed and challenges U.S. breeders to step up to the plate.
“Brangus, we all know, combines environmental adaptability without sacrificing carcass quality,” Valusek said. “In Brazil, with the cowherd almost all Nelor cattle, they widely use Brangus as clean up bulls because they can thrive in that environment. The cross between Bos taurus and Bos indicus cattle brings out added benefits like heterosis and hybrid vigor.”
Valusek realizes the potential that lies before Brangus producers, and said it is just waiting for us to take hold and jump on this opportunity to expand the market and provide producers with what they need – functional cattle that thrive in the roughest environments to produce a quality product profiting commercial cattlemen in order to feed the world.
The Past President Spotlight is a column featured in the bi-monthly publication, the Brangus Journal. We hope you learn from these great leaders who have extensive experience and expertise in their respective fields.
Stacy Sproul Hayes
IJBBA President 2000-2001
Like many juniors who grow up in the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association (IJBBA), Stacy Sproul Hayes has extensive experience in the Brangus breed having been involved in her family’s registered Brangus operation in Isabella, Okla. Hayes was initially involved in the Oklahoma Junior Brangus Association, which led to her involvement at the national level, and she served as the IJBBA President on the Board of Directors in 2000-2001.
Sproul Brangus was a partnership between Hayes’ dad, Ron, and his brother, Wally. She traveled, hauled, showed with and competed against her brothers, Scott and Clint, and her cousins, Andy and Emily. The operation truly was a family affair, and they shared in each other’s accomplishments and big wins.
“Between five kids and one herd, I was just as excited when my cousins or brothers won as when I won,” Hayes said. “I was very fortunate that we didn’t have to go out and buy a lot of show cattle. We bred and raised them on our own operation, and that was a true blessing, I feel, for a ranch to support five kids showing very competitively where so many lessons were learned.”
In 1996, Hayes won Supreme Champion at the National Junior Brangus Show (NJBS) in Kansas City after winning her division and the Grand Champion Owned Female. The female was one that she and her family bred and raised. She also won Reserve Champion Senior Calf in the Owned Show in Lake Charles in 2000. But, the family was involved in more than just the show ring.
“I was as involved as one possibly could be,” Hayes recalled. “I was on the board for a long time, and I really enjoyed every minute of it. My first National Junior Brangus Show was in 1990 in Wichita, Kan., and I didn’t miss a national show until after my last one in 2002.”
Hayes was crowned the IBBA Queen in 1998-1999 and served on the Board of Directors in numerous capacities from 1997 to 2002. She participated in almost every contest she could including the poster contest, quiz bowl and salesmanship in which she was most competitive. Hayes said she gained so many opportunities and learned many life lessons while serving on the junior board.
“I feel like it helped me be a more outgoing person, and now I can walk into a situation and meet people,” Hayes said. “I moved from Oklahoma to Louisiana, and being involved in the IJBBA has helped me feel more comfortable being exposed to new and different situations. I even learned about the small things; the board taught me how to host meetings, travel as a group, navigate yourself around new places and how to be independent.”
Hayes obtained a degree in Elementary Education from Oklahoma State University in 2005. She now lives in Kinder, La., with her husband, Cody, and two young boys, Guy (six) and Gage (three), where she teaches fifth grade reading. The Hayes family lives on Cody’s family’s rice farm and is involved in showing pigs at the national level. Guy also has a steer he will show at Southern University in the spring after he turns seven.
“My goal was to be a positive role model for the kids I was setting an example for,” Hayes said. “Get involved and meet people both inside and outside your state because those people will remain contacts, and you just don’t know who you might need one day. Step out of your comfort zones and try new things because you never know what great experiences you might have.”
For more information about IBBA’s past presidents, visit www.GoBrangus.com/member.
Kodi the Cowdog stories are a monthly series based on a book titled, “Letters from Kodi, The Little Cowdog With The Wiggly Butt”. The book is written by Brangus producer and IBBA member Phyllis Clem, through the eyes of Kodi, a miniature Australian Shepherd.
Whew, but it’s been hot lately. I know after four years that this is the way Texas summers are, but I for one am glad that it’s the middle of August. That means fall is on the horizon. These hot days make me want to stay indoors and stretch my little belly out on the cool tile floor, but since I’m a cowdog I have to work out in the heat some. Thankfully at this time of the year there’s not much to do cattle wise. My girls are smart enough to stay in the cool shade during the heat of the day, so we check them early and late. It won’t be long before the fall calvers will start having babies though and I hope the weather will cool some by then.
And this time of summer usually means brown grass since we usually don’t get much rain in July, but this year is different. A few weeks back we had over seven inches of rain in just a few days and boy did the grass respond. It’s green everywhere you look and ‘my girls’ are sure enjoying it. Since I speak their language I overheard some of them commenting how good the fresh green grass tastes, especially now that it’s not covered with dust. It’s sure nice to ride along in the mule too and not see a dust trail behind us everywhere we go. My folks have a stone plaque that has some words on it that says, “A good rain and a new calf are always welcome at this ranch”. I think everyone in the cattle business can agree with that.
I got to noticing something the other day and that’s how many different kinds of ears there are. Have you noticed that? When I was a little pup one of mine would pop up when I got excited and my folks jokingly called me ‘Radar’. But now both of them lay down correctly. Mr. P’s ears stay up all the time even when he’s sleeping. He says that’s so he’ll always know when I’m going to pounce on him. Sug’s ears are always upright too. I guess that’s cause horses are flight animals and always have to be aware of approaching danger so they can run away. Hers do seem to stand up straighter though when Mama whistles and she knows it’s time for her apple treat. ‘My girls’ ears are pretty big and floppy, but that’s because of the breed of cattle they are, Brangus. You may remember a while back I mentioned a twin calf we named Itsy cause she and her twin sister were so little. Her ears were so big compared to the rest of her body that I thought she could have flown if she’d gotten those things flopping just right. Of course her body finally caught up to the size of her ears. Mr. Donkeyinthenextfield has huge ears that I thought might be useful in early alien detection, but so far that hasn’t been the case. Now on the human side of things most ears look about the same to me. Some have things dangling from them called jewelry, but not all. And some even have phones attached to them. Those look kind of goofy if you ask me. Surely they take those things off now and then. Anyway I just wondered if you had noticed ears lately?