A Symbol of Excellence
You may recognize Aaron Amstutz and his wife, Mindy, of Bloomfield. They were the recipients of the 2013 Commercial Cattle Producer of the Year award. Since then, they’ve added to their family and added to their operation, most recently building a new lot to house the bulls for the Bloomfield and Dunlap sales as part of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s Bull and Heifer Evaluation Program.
With their three little boys in tow, Aaron and Mindy manage a 400 head commercial Angus cow herd, two monoslope barns, hogs and row-crop ground. Located south of Bloomfield, their farm is situated in the rolling hills of southern Iowa.
The cow herd takes advantage of the highly erodible land in the area. Amstutz has put in fence and installed gravity flow waterers to make the most of the land available to him. A recent land purchase led to a pasture renovation, clearing trees and brush to make once-fallow land productive again.
Amstutz calves in the spring and fall, in order to better manage the cowherd and the farm’s cash flow. Calves are weaned early, allowing for a more efficient use of pasture land as cows’ energy and forage needs are reduced. Early weaning has not affected the health or growth of the calves, and it has minimized the pasture needed, which is especially important in a dry year like this one.
In 2010, Amstutz built his first deep bedded monoslope to feed his steer calves, and in 2014 he added a second building. The row-crop operation is heavily integrated with the cattle operation. Corn, corn silage, stalks, sorghum, and rye are all harvested for feed or bedding purposes. On some acres, Amstutz harvested 40 tons of feed or bedding last year. Corn stalk bedding and manure from the monoslopes are returned to the fields as fertilizer, supplying a portion of the nutrients needed for the intensive cropping system.
Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program
As the operation has grown, Amstutz has remained firm in his commitment to excellence. “My goal is always to do the best I can raising cattle,” he says. “That means I try new ideas, do research when needed, and talk to and learn from other producers whenever I can.”
Amstutz was part of the 2014 Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program (YCLP). As a program participant, he was able to meet other producers from around the state, visit the state capitol, and tour other operations. All of these things have factored into his continued success.
Like many cattle producers, Amstutz is more comfortable on the farm than in a meeting room. “Right now, I can’t attend a lot of meetings or make it to Ames or Des Moines often,” he says. “So I make an effort to contribute to the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association in other ways. ICA membership, Fair Share, donations to things like the Carcass Challenge – these investments are so important for cattle producers in Iowa. By going through YCLP, I learned that even when I’m here on the farm, I’ve got a team working for me at ICA. When I’m checking cows, they’re at the state capitol or putting together an educational event or a magazine.”
Growing the Family Business
The operation is a family affair. Oldest son Brandt, a first grader, raised his own bucket bottle calves this year. It was his first time showing at the Davis County fair and his hard work and knowledge paid off during the interview and show when he won his class. Wife Mindy does the bookwork for the operation, and for several other organizations, including the family’s church and township. Now that Brandt and Tucker, age 4, are gone most of the day for school, Mindy and Wesley, age 3, are also able to help check cows when needed.
With a passion for the cattle industry and a willingness to make improvements, Aaron is taking on a new endeavor this year – feeding bulls consigned for the ICA Dunlap and Bloomfield sales.
For 32 years, consignors have entered bulls into ICA’s performance evaluation program, opening another market for their seedstock cattle. The program also allows producers the chance the benchmark their bulls’ genetics and performance with others from across the state.
After completing the test the top 75% of the bulls that come from this program are then offered to commercial cattle producers at three sales across Iowa in the spring. Bulls fed at the Amstutz farm will be available at the Bloomfield sale on March 19 and the Dunlap sale later in the spring. Another bull sale, with bulls fed at Joe Werner’s, will be held in Knoxville.
Amstutz built an open lot with a concrete apron and approximately 18 inches of bunk space per head for the bulls. The lot is positioned on top of a hill, and runoff will be caught in a series of settling basins below. Corn stalk bedding and a windbreak will keep the bulls comfortable, and the lot is also partially protected from the wind because of its location near the monoslope barns.
“The ICA bull test is a new project for me, but it’s exciting. I want to do the best job possible for the consignors and buyers of these bulls,” Amstutz says.
We have no doubt that the attitude and aptitude that have contributed to Aaron and Mindy’s current level of success will serve them – and participants in ICA’s Bull Evaluation Program – well. Together with high quality consignors and bulls, Amstutz Cattle continues to be a symbol of excellence.