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In the Showring: Meet Alicia, Young Beef Ambassador

16 February 2015

Showing cattle, beef fertility and cow nutrition are up for discussion as we meet a National Beef Ambassador in the first in a series of articles from the 2015 team.

Operating a small herd of show cattle is allowing one young beef ambassador a glimpse into modern animal husbandry techniques.

Arizona student, Alicia Smith, is able to apply intensive management techniques for the breeding and nutrition of her cattle, providing her with practical experience as she embarks on her role as a National Beef Ambassador.

Although originally from Sonoita, Arizona, close to the Mexican border, Alicia studies in Texas. This year, Alicia, along with her four senior ambassador colleagues, has the task of educating consumers about beef as a product and how its gets to the plate.

“Due to the size of my operation, my cattle are intensively managed, which allows me to integrate some of the latest technology into both their nutrition and reproduction aspects,” says Alicia.

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Familiar to the Arizona show circuit, Alicia is now looking to make a difference nationally as a beef ambassador

Alicia, who has had great success both for her breeding stock and her own showmanship, uses a timed breeding system on her Chianina and Maintainer cattle.

“This allows me to synchronize their heat cycles and give me the best possible chance of catching them with artificial insemination,” explains Alicia. “Long before breeding season begins, I spend time going through bull catalogues and watching for offspring from these bulls.”

This gives Alicia an idea of progeny to be expected. Genetics are then selected to match individual dam phenotypes with different sires used to stay abreast of market trends.

Nutrition is tailored to individual cows and distinctive purposes, explains Alicia.

“My cattle are fed what is considered a conventional diet, consisting of various grains. I use a pre-mixed ration, of which I then supplement with other grains or products to achieve the correct balance of fat, protein, minerals and vitamins.”

It's Showtime

While studying at Texas A&M University, Alicia has her parents to thank for keeping an eye on the cows. However, current commitments mean Alicia struggles to attend as much of the state’s show calendar as she one did.

“I used to show year round when I lived in Arizona, but now that I'm so far away, I only go to Arizona National Livestock Show.”

Keeping her mum and dad busy are two registered Chianinas – Bella and Minnie – and a registered Maintainer – Juliana, who is 25 per cent Maine Anjou.

“Several years ago, before Bella was too old to show, I ran the Arizona show circuit with her, and she won many Supreme Champion Heifer titles at various jackpot shows.

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November addition - mother and calf

“I have also been very fortunate to have done well in beef showmanship”, adds Alicia.

A new addition, Elsie, born in November, will be registered as a Chianina and is Juliana’s daughter. After a showing career, Alicia plans on Elsie being a breeding female.

“We have plans to show her at Arizona Nationals this coming December and then National Western Stock Show in January of 2016,” says Alicia. “This past December, Julianna and Elsie were the 2014 Open and Junior Show Supreme Champion Cow/Calf Pair at Arizona Nationals.”

Getting into Cattle

Although not from a ranching family, a national youth programme introduced Alicia to cows and now she cannot see herself doing anything else.

“Surprising as it may be, I did not grow up in a ranching family, but was introduced to raising cattle through 4-H.

“What began as a market steer project has since grown into a three-cow operation, where I sell most offspring to youth for show purposes.”

Boasting over 6.5 million members from ages five to 21, 4-H is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the US Department of Agriculture. In Alicia's case it played a part in making her fall in love with the cattle industry.

“I can’t imagine going a day without being involved in it,” she adds. “I am proud of my operation, though it may be small, and I am working to grow it. Like others have said before me, ‘I didn’t grow up in a barn, but I got there as soon as I could.’”

Breed Information

Read more about the Chianina here and the Maine Anjou here

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