A Focus on Cattle Feeding and Family
Helping cattle grow and thrive never loses its appeal for South Dakota native Steve Van Heerde. He has experienced the joy of raising cattle firsthand since he was a young boy working alongside his father. Today, Steve is passing that passion on to his kids.
“To be able to work with Riley just brings me a lot of joy and pride,” Steve says of his 13-year-old son.
The Van Heerdes began a transition from their longtime cow-calf business to custom feeding in 2012. Today they feed out 800 head in their feedlot near Estelline, South Dakota.
Switching to custom feeding meant more hours behind a desk tracking animal performance and profitability. Steve remembers long days inputting data for billing in addition to daily feed sheets.
“With Performance Beef, I can do that all in about five minutes at the end of the month and email a statement to my customer,” he describes. “The time savings of that is just incredible.”
Time well spent
Steve discovered Performance Beef by way of a customer. He wanted Steve to feed his cattle with it so he could easily track their performance. As someone always looking to improve, Steve obliged.
Performance Beef was easy to implement. So easy, in fact, Riley has been feeding cattle with the software on his own since he was 11 years old. He is a pro at using the iPad to accurately measure feed going into the feed wagon and coming out into the feed bunks.
“Having Riley feed cattle has been valuable to me because it allows me to do other things in the operation knowing that the cattle are fed correctly,” Steve says.
Steve and his wife have their hands full with the farm and raising their four kids. The Van Heerdes are also involved in their church and community.
“To have Performance Beef help save some of that time where we can be together as a family and do things we enjoy is one of the most important things to us,” he adds.
From Riley’s perspective, Performance Beef will continue to be a mainstay in their business as he aspires to fill his father’s shoes one day.
“I like the idea of carrying on this farm,” Riley says. “I know when Dad started out, he put a lot of hard work into it, so I’d like to keep improving it and progressing it.”
The father-son duo soon found Performance Beef was capable of tracking individual animal health and performance — previously a challenging task, even in a small operation.
The days of handwritten notes chute-side are in the rearview mirror for the Van Heerdes. Now they use EID tags to sync with Performance Beef and automatically track health treatments and weights.
Every time a calf comes through the chute, Steve can see its weight and average daily gain.
“If I have one that comes through that is just not performing well, I need to know why. Is there a sickness? Do we have a digestive issue?” he explains. “That information allows me to make decisions right there at the chute on what I want to do with that calf.”
Streamlining data capture at the chute also reduces numerical errors from double data entry.
The Van Heerdes can now charge vaccines, implants and more to the appropriate pen and group in real-time, making invoices a much simpler process.
“I can remember sitting in the office at night when I was supposed to say goodnight to the kids, but I was trying to finish up this last calculation,” Steve recalls. “Now, it takes five minutes and I can go spend time with the family.”
Information is power, and Steve says the accurate reports that Performance Beef generates are an important part of their financial decisions.
“To have that data to make better decisions just makes our operation that much more profitable.”