BEEF MONTH-Former 4-H projects now a business
SWEA CITY – They’re a couple of brothers with a herd of cows and a lot of dreams.
The Preston brothers grew are holding the reigns of a new business they hope to get off the ground – Preston Show Cattle.
“We’ve always had cows to take care of,” said Chad Preston, 22. “We’ve always had bottle calves around and there were always cows to take care of.
“It’s just who I am.”
Preston said they started with a bucket calf and three bred heifers when he was in third grade and his brother was in eighth grade.
“This is the 14th year we’ve had cows,” he said. “The first seven years we had bulls that we ran out to produce feeder calves.”
Preston said when he was 15, his brother-in-law taught him how to artificially inseminate, which led the brothers to eventually decide to work toward breeding high-quality stock.
“We thought we’d try some show calves,” Preston said, “and try to make a few show steers and heifers for 4-H kids.”
It was in 2009 that the brothers purchased show-quality breeding stock, but met with mediocre success. Then, in 2011, they started seeing progress in the herd’s genetics.
“Those first couple of years we really learned a lot,” Preston said, “and then we finally started getting some decent ones.
“It’s taking longer than we thought to build the herd.”
Jared Preston, 27, said they were helped during their first two years of business by adding Preston calves to sales by family and friends, giving the brothers much-needed exposure in the show arena.
“You have to be pretty picky on (the stock),” Preston said, “because if there are steer jocks around, you only get one shot at them.”
Preston Show Cattle features a herd of 15 to 20 bred for show calves, with 65-70 cows bred this year for maternal replacements.
Their preference is a cross between Simmental and Maine Anjou.
Preston said they prefer the Simmental breed because of their superior maternal instincts and abilities and their gentle nature, and Maine Anjou for the kind of bone structure and hair that is desired in show stock.
Chad Preston said selling the finer show calves is easy, but the middle-of-the-road calves pose a greater challenge for two main reasons – show jocks don’t find them desirable, and they still come at a higher price than many 4-H families want to pay.
“I feel like we have middle-of-the-road calves right now,” said Preston. “Our show cattle are nice, but aren’t great yet. We need to get people in to look at them.”
Preston said they practice implanting and embryo transfers, which he said is popular among show cattle producers in order to build herds faster and get the desired genetics.
“You only get one chance a year to get a calf out of a cow,” said Jared Preston, adding that by choosing specific genetics and transferring and implanting them, the process becomes more streamlined.
“There’s not a lot of consistency in show steers, but if you have really good cows, that helps.”
Chad Preston said they focus heavily on producing show steers, and their implanting strategies have improved during the last few years.
The Prestons use the internet to market their show cows and calves, watch and contribute videos on You Tube.
They said it’s becoming more popular among show stock and cattle buyers alike, saving them time and money spent on fuel.
To date they have sold show stock as far away as Ohio and Missouri, along with southern Iowa and Minnesota.
The brothers said they would someday like to have raised an animal that wins first place at the Iowa State Fair, but think they still have some work ahead of them before that happens.
For now, they want to raise quality club calves along with continuing to improve their genetics in the show cattle industry.
The brothers father, Paul Preston, has raised fat cattle for the last 20 years. Their maternal grandfather operated a cow/calf operation.
Chad Preston said he frequently tagged along with his father to do chores, and was often looking through sire books as he grew up.
Paul Preston encouraged Jared Preston to invest in cattle so he could keep his college fund going in a time when he wasn’t receiving much interest on it at the bank.
When Jared Preston returned from college at Iowa State University, he and his brother decided they wanted to raise cows as well, and take it a step further.
“It works well for us,” said Jared Preston. “We both like the cows and calves, but I’m more into the crop side of things here, and Chad is more about the cows.
“Doing club calves takes a special kind of eye that I don’t have, but Chad has it.”
The brothers said they have learned patience in the process of growing a business.
“It takes a lot of time, effort and money,” said Preston. “When you’re starting from ground zero, it takes a while to get a cow to pay for itself.
“A lot of people invest in the stock market, but my market is going out my door and looking at the cows.
“My market goes up and down, too.”
Paul Preston said he enjoys watching his sons grow their business.
“I’m glad they’re both home,” he said. “It costs money to have your kids invested in a business, but my dad did the same thing with my brother and me.
“There are things I would never have done (in my own operation) if they hadn’t been around.”
For now, the Preston brothers work hard and focus on the future.
“We’re still building the business, and maybe we’ll make it to the first floor,” Jared Preston said of his hopes to get all the right genetics and the right people together. “It started out as a hobby, but we want to take it farther.”
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