American Beef Tour

Rissington > American Beef Tour March 2023

American Beef Tour March 2023

Get off the farm and get a fresh perspective in the world’s biggest beef producing and consuming market from the grass roots.

Daniel, Jeremy and their eldest sons will be attending the Leachman Cattle of Colorado Spring bull Sale on 25-27 March. We’ll be once again catching up with Lee and his family plus other cattle breeders and our partners at Zoetis. It is not the full tour that we’ve done in the past because given the extended time since our last visit there, it’s more the people we need to see face to face for the first time in a few years. If anyone would like to join us you’ll be most welcome and maybe you could tack on a holiday or other things while you are in the USA.

From our USA trip in 2019

In May 2019 I was lucky enough to be invited on the annual Rissington Cattle Company tour to the USA, travelling with Daniel along with Lindsay and Margaret Dempster. Starting in Denver Colorado and visiting ranches in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at elevations of 7,000 feet was a definite learning experience to see the same cattle genetics we use performing in an environment that sees cattle wintered on poor quality hay outdoors in below freezing conditions that can at times see calves born into conditions that cause the tips of the ears to be lost to frost bite.

As spring arrives these breeding cattle are run under very extensive systems with cows and calves turned out onto the range at elevations up to 10,000 feet. Cattle can and do suffer from a form of altitude sickness and efforts are been made to develop an EBV to identify cattle that perform in this environment. Feed was generally sparse and of poor quality at these altitudes but the cattle are still performing.  The precision of these ranchers in understanding their cattle and where their individual genetic programs were going was commendable with a key component to this the gathering of data throughout the life of the animal, be it breeding or finishing. EBVs and other technology such as AI and Embryo Transfer was widely used even in the extensively managed herds.

Lee Leachman was a fine host and it was a pleasure to meet him and family in Fort Collins Colorado. Lee lives and breaths the US cattle industry and took the time to show us around his breeding operation, sale centre and AI facility. The number of bulls that are produced for commercial use is mind blowing with 2,000 sold annually at the Leachman sale through their own sale complex. The volume of semen sold both in the US and worldwide was also astounding with a million plus straws in storage at any given point. 

Travelling North East into Nebraska we visited the Lincoln county feedlot, 40,000 head on one site. A quote recorded from this visit “Stabilizer cattle do more things well that influence profit than any other breed” this really struck home when seeing pens of composite cattle genetically identical to the program we are following in NZ. The owner of the feedlot also stated that if he could fill the feedlot with Stabiliser cattle he would. The scale and efficiency of the feedlot was a credit to those involved. Feed efficiency is key for these guys and significant investment is in place to identify genetic lines that do convert feed to carcass more efficiently, this feed lot had a 40 bail GrowSafe facility of their own to monitor efficiency and guide their cattle purchasing decisions. 

Heading South into Kansas and at lower altitude the farm systems changed but the key message was the same; use EBV data, know your cattle and where you are heading and utilise technology wherever possible to make rapid improvement in your herd and add to the bottom line. Use of the Leachman index’s Feeder and Ranch was widely adopted and well understood and was accepted that the better the index the more profit you would achieve.

Aside from the cattle the scenery, wildlife and hospitality of the locals was amazing and really added to the trip. As kiwis we are also spoilt when it comes to not having to worry about predation of our livestock, bears coyotes mountain lions to name a few, another added challenge.

Viewing cattle and genetics available from Rissington and Leachman in such a wide range of environments and management systems that by NZ standards would be viewed as challenging has cemented that the choice of Rissington genetics is the right one for our business.

Brent Anstis ~ General Manager Farming
Integrated Foods Ltd, Gisborne

What our previous travellers have to say:

“As part of a past tour group which went to Colorado I can highly recommend this trip for any farmer and their partner’s that are passionate about cattle breeding and the future of genetics in the cattle industry. We witnessed the impressive Leachman cattle sale, visited a 25,000 cattle feedlot and were hosted by some of the Leachman Cooperators on their ranches. Some historical and tourist sites were also visited along the way. The itinerary was very well organised with a great relaxing feel to a fantastic holiday like experience. The highlight being the Rissington team as our tour guides and the wealth of knowledge that Lee Leachman was more than happy to share with us.”

John Petersen ~ Kawautahi Farms, Owhango


“It’s a must do if you can do. Travelling with and meeting like minded people on tour is an experience not to be missed. We have learnt and seen so much – genetics, technology, sale day, visiting top cattle ranches, feedlots big and small, breeding and feeding systems, handling facilities, vast landscapes and best of all the people.”

Margaret & Lindsay Dempster ~ Hummock Run, Waikouaiti


“Cina and I had a great trip to the states in 2018. It certainly gave us an insight into the stud side of the cattle industry. We were impressed by the hardiness of the cattle, they really do face some extreme conditions. Farmers everywhere in the world face similar day to day and political challenges and our hosts were all very like minded and hospitable people. The states certainly is a meat lovers paradise, must of had a personal weight gain of a kg a day. Would love to go back again.”

Dean Moynihan ~ Cross Hills Station, Pongaroa