“You hear people talk about how busy they are,” he said. “Everyone’s busy; Get over it. That’s just the world we live in.”
It’s not just talk from this 30-year-old, third-generation beef and crop farmer. He walks the walk as the president of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association.
“There’s a need for the next generation to step up and take more of a leadership role,” he surmised.
Arndt took that step after being asked to join the board of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, an organization of about 200 members made up of breed associations and individual cattle owners.
He had been looking to get involved in something following his 2006 graduation from Iowa State University, where he played nose tackle on the football team, worked at the Iowa State Teaching Farm and belonged to the Block and Bridle Club.
Armed with a degree in animal science and economics, Arndt returned to farm with his family. The 30-year-old admits farming is the only thing he’s ever wanted to do.
His grandfather, Willard Arndt, began farming southeast of Janesville in Rock County’s Town of LaPrairie. Today, Arndt Farms Inc. consists of his father Bob, uncles David and Allen, and brother Abraham. Together, they grow a variety of crops across 3,000 acres and market 1,850 beef cattle annually.
Austin and Abraham own their own cattle business, Arndt Angus LLC, which consists of 50 commercial Angus cows, and another herd of 50 high-end, registered Angus cows. They sell genetics to others via the use of embryo transfer technology.
The Arndts’ diverse crop production includes staples like field corn, soybeans and alfalfa, specialty crops like peppermint, and canning crops like sweet corn, green beans and peas that are sold to the nearby Seneca Foods processing plant.
Blessed with flat topography, two-thirds of their rich, sandy cropland is under pivoted irrigation systems. It’s ability to warm up quickly (due partly to cover crop residue) gives the Arndts the ability to double crop. Cover crops like turnips and winter rye are eventually consumed by the cattle herd.
The marketed cattle are often bought at 800 pounds from farms in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky. The Arndts have found success buying cattle via the Internet.
Online sales of cattle (by the lot) lists their origin, current location, pedigrees, weights, vaccinations, implants, delivery date and what they are eating. The buyer can sort by region, type and weight.
“It lets you find exactly what you want,” Arndt said. “It works pretty good.”
Not only does the buyer avoid driving long distances to auctions, but the cattle avoid the stress of making a stop at a sale barn between farms.
It’s not how things were done in the past, and that’s a trend with Arndt. He and his brother foresee changes in their family farm’s future. Arndt is also helping navigate the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association’s path forward.
As Beef Grows in Wisconsin, Arndt Looks to Grow the Cattlemen’s Association
Extreme drought in the South and West, coupled with an extended period of high feed prices took a toll on the size of the U.S. cattle herd. At a time of strong international demand and historically high prices for beef, the U.S. cattle herd was reduced to numbers not seen since the 1950s.
However, Wisconsin has bucked that trend. Arndt says it’s one of three states where beef cattle numbers have grown over the past five years.
“There’s great potential in Wisconsin,” he said. “We have green grass, plentiful moisture and sunshine. Much of the West is not as fortunate.”
Ranking second for the number of slaughter facilities, Arndt says “Wisconsin is set up really well.”
The average size of a Wisconsin beef herd is about 18 head of cattle. For some it’s a hobby, for others their farm’s main source of income is something other than beef.
“Those producers (with 18 head of cattle) are just as important to the Wisconsin beef industry as a producer with 500 head,” he said.
While there are about 15,000 farms with beef cattle on them, Arndt admits the WCA’s membership has been stagnant at about 200 members.
This is part of his challenge as the president of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association.
“We need to better communicate the value of membership in the organization,” he said. “There’s quite a few that don’t know what we do to represent them in Madison.”
The WCA’s Board of Directors is working on a strategic plan with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to align their common goals, revamp their dues structure, strengthen state affiliations and coordinate member benefit offerings. WCA also seeks to be the unifed voice of the Wisconsin beef industry in the legislative arena, and increase the frequency and type of communication with members and non-members.
For more information about WCA visit wisconsincattlemen.com.
Story by Casey Langan. Original version appeared in the December/January 2014-15 issue of Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Rural Route.
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