Crews Family Farms: Raising Quality Cattle is in Their Genes

Management : Cow & Calf

Management : Replacement

Nutrition : Minerals

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Raising Angus cattle runs in the genes of the Crews family.

Harry A. Crews established Stoney Point Farm in Buckingham County, Virginia, in 1929. Now, four generations, a few different breeds and a farm name change later, Crews Family Farms is known for raising high-quality Angus cattle.

A timeless tradition

Reflecting on the journey to where they are now, Jim Crews, third-generation, remembers when the herd was not just black cattle.

While Jim’s grandfather, Harry, started the farm with Angus cattle, he later transitioned to registered Herefords. Then, Jim’s dad, Dabney, took over Stoney Point Farm’s Hereford cattle in the 1980s. “Black baldy feeder calves were in high demand,” Jim shares. “Dad started crossing the herd with an Angus bull and selling the black baldy feeder calves at the Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association Feeder Calf Sale.”

Dabney was also keeping replacement heifers every year. “Eventually, the females in the herd were pretty much all black,” Jim describes.

2013 brought the next major change when Jim and his son, J.D., purchased six registered black Angus heifers. Now, ten years later, their entire herd is registered Angus cattle.

A true family farm

Crews Family Farms has become a genuine family effort, with each family member playing a pivotal role.

J.D., fourth-generation, returned to the farm after graduating from Virginia Tech in 2018 to manage Crews Family Farms full-time. He and his wife, Bailey, manage the farm’s approximately 250 registered Angus females, including health and nutrition, breeding selection and record keeping.

Jim assists with forage production, A.I. breeding and the financial side of the operation, while his wife, Jill, heads up the sales and marketing side of the business.

Proven genetics

An intensive A.I. breeding program supports the farm’s vision of being a leading Angus breeder, developing superior Angus seedstock that will be productive, profitable and sustainable for cow/calf producers. A.I. allows them to select sires based on genetics and performance.

The farm has an average A.I. conception rate of 70% and an overall conception rate of 90%. “We have experimented with a limited amount of flushing and embryo transfer. Our goal is to incorporate more embryo transfers in our breeding program in the future,” says Jim.

Sires chosen are from lines of Angus genetics with pedigrees multiple generations deep with some of the best names in the Angus breed. They look for proven industry leaders for calving ease, performance, end carcass merit and maternal advantage.

Maternal value

Longevity strongly impacts the profitability of a cow/calf operation.

“We have cows in our herd that are over ten years old. They have maintained structural soundness, good body condition, high fertility rates and performance,” says J.D. “They’ve weaned a calf within 365-day intervals since age two.”

The Crews family firmly believes that success and profitability start with the foundation of the cow. Their selection criteria leans strongly on maternal genetics. High on their must-have list are maternal calving ease, high fertility rates, strong maternal instinct, teat and udder quality and superior milking ability.

They strive to produce moderately framed cattle with good fleshing ability, structural soundness, maternal value and the ability to perform well on average-quality fescue-based forage.

Focus on fescue

Fescue is the predominant forage in Virginia pastures. Due to the challenges that fescue containing endophyte can cause in cattle, the Crews had to make some management adjustments.

At first, they had both spring-calving and fall-calving cows. They noticed that the fescue forage was having more of a negative impact on the spring-calving cows, so they switched the entire herd to calve in the fall.
“The spring-calving cows were on fescue during the summer,” says Jim. “They were lactating, getting pulled down by calves, and the fescue just seemed to have a negative impact on that herd.”

“Conception rates weren’t as good with the spring herd,” adds J.D. “The spring calves performed better, but it was just hard on the cows.”

Another challenge that can pop up with fescue pastures is grass tetany. “We feed Purina® Wind and Rain® Hi-Mag mineral year-round to address it,” shares J.D.

Time for a change

They didn’t always feed Purina. Jim will never forget the final year they used another brand of feed. “When it came time for the sale in November 2019, the cattle looked terrible. They didn’t put weight on like they should have and had not shed their winter coat completely.”

A local Purina sales representative had reached out, and in 2020, they transitioned to Purina® products.

J.D. says that the difference was noticeable. “The cattle just look better,” he says. “They’re slicker. They have more muscle. They definitely look better.”

In addition to a better-looking herd, the switch delivered benefits of saved time and labor. Prior to Purina, they were hand-feeding daily. With the Intake Modifying Technology® in Purina® Accuration® supplement, they could swap to self-feeders.

They also noticed Intake Modifying Technology® encouraged snacking in their calves. “They were eating here and there throughout the day and grazing in between,” J.D. says.

Bull development and marketing

The Crews develop bulls equipped to work and thrive on regional forages.

Bulls are raised on fescue-based pastures and are supplemented with Accuration® supplement and Wind and Rain® High-Mag minerals to help express the full genetic potential of each animal.

Bulls travel the pasture from grass to shade to water to feeders. “We like to see them get some exercise and build muscle,” Jim says.

About half of their bull calves every year are developed and marketed at their private treaty bull sale. These bulls are individually selected based on phenotype, structural soundness, feed efficiency and weight gain performance, balanced expected progeny differences (EPDs), genomic profiles and carcass merit. “We perform Angus GS genomic testing to provide our customers with more accurate EPDs,” J.D. adds. Every bull also passes a breeding soundness exam and semen evaluation by a veterinarian before the sale.

The remaining calves that aren’t marketed as bulls or retained as replacement heifers are sold at the Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association Feeder Calf Sale. “We want to demonstrate to our commercial customers that our bulls will produce consistent, high-quality feeder calves that will grade well and receive above-market premiums,” says Jim.

You get what you pay for

Input costs have been hitting producers hard the last several years, and the Crews family is no different.

To help justify feed cost, Ty Davis, Purina beef cattle specialist, did a 30-day Proof Pays trial with the Crews to determine their cost-to-gain.

“It was very helpful,” says Jim. “Now, J.D. can apply that formula to evaluate our feed cost.”
“We used it on our steers this year,” adds J.D. “Even with higher feed costs, we still made money based on the cost-to-gain.”

“Based on performance, overall herd health and conception rates, we’ve been able to quantify the added value we’ve gotten from Purina® products,” Jim says. “We can justify paying a little bit more based on the quality.”

“And not having to go out to feed it every day,” J.D. tosses in.

Does your cattle nutrition program stack up? Find out with a Proof Pays trial.

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