Cook wins 2014 Commercial Cattle Producer of the Year award

Russell Cook of Mechanicsville was selected as the 2014 Iowa Outstanding Commercial Cattle Producer by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Iowa Beef Breeds Council.

Cook, who has raised cattle for more than 38 years, now has 225 cows in his commercial breeding herd on the family-owned cow-calf and grain farm southwest of Mechanicsville in Cedar County

Like many young people today, Cook began his herd while in 4-H. His father had a cow herd, and encouraged Russell to show heifers as a 4-H project and then begin his own herd with those heifers. While his father worked with him to select Angus heifers for his projects, he learned to use performance records from his cows to make further heifer selections through the years.

“After I got out of high school and started farming, we continued to keep our own replacement heifers (from the calves born to our cows). I am most proud of the fact that of the 225 cows we have now, they’ve all been born and raised on our farm,” Cook said.

From each year’s calf crop, “we select our replacement heifers first, and sell the remaining ones as bred heifers,” he said.

While the cows in the Cook herd all came from his farm, he’s selective in the herd bulls he uses. He studies the EPDs (expected progeny differences) of bulls using data from the American Angus Association, and then sources his bulls from the Iowa Beef Expo, production sales and private treaty sales.

“Understanding and using EPDs whether in our AI program and with our herd bulls has been one of the most profitable management improvements I’ve made,” he said.

The other management improvement he credits is tub grinding hay and using TMR rations for both cows and calves. That process helps reduce feed waste and increases the ability to mix high quality forages with lower quality ones.

Cook has added rented pasture to his farm operation, and currently has cows in four counties.

Cook has served many years on the Cedar County Cattlemen’s Association board of directors, and is currently president of the group. He’s also been active as a board member of Beef Promotions of Iowa, which manages the Beef Quarters at the Iowa State Fair, and he has served on the Cedar County Extension Council.

Colby and Tricia Holmes of Benton nominated Cook for the award. Cook was recognized for the honor at the Iowa Cattle Industry Convention in December, and will also be honored during the Iowa Beef Expo in February.