Cattleman’s Tour

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cattlemen’s tour will showcase work with ‘bunk broke’ beef

By John Howell Sr.

Cattle producers who attend Saturday’s field day at Clayton Zwerschke’s farm will have an opportunity to see an operation that adds value to calves.

They’re also likely to find their host to be a colorful character, instantly likeable. Zwerschke is a self-described “Polock Aggie” who alternately says that he was blown here from his native west Texas in September, 1979 by whatever hurricane was gusting through the Mississippi that fall, or that his arrival here was “just ahead of the posse.”

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Zwerschke has spent the last four years on the old Bobby Roberson farm southwest of Batesville developing a custom, pre-conditioning yard where he buys what he describes as “high-stressed calves,”— calves that have just been separated from their mothers — and transitions them through weaning, vaccinations, worming and learning to eat from troughs — “bunk broke.”

During the process — usually about 45 days, Zwerschke said, calves are grouped by weight, size and color into “load lots” of about 50,000 pounds. Zwerschke’s finished product brings a higher price.

“They’ll pay a little more if they know they’re not going to fall apart on them,” County Extension Director Judd Gentry said.

“It keeps death rates low, sickness low; it’s the only way to do it, I think,” Panola County Cattleman’s Association President Durwood Gordon said.

Getting cattle producers a high price is the collaborative goal of the Panola County Cattleman’s Association and the Panola County Extension Service office. It was the focus of a field day in April at Gordon’s farm. In the fall the Extension Service and cattleman’s association will sponsor short course on herd health.

Saturday’s program will include a tour of Zwerschke’s operation which handles from 8,000 to 10,000 calves annually. The work involves 40 acres, fenced and cross-fenced by bar and cable fencing unique to this area.

Zwerschke, his wife, Pam and 20-year-old daughter, Amye, do “95 percent of everything” at the pre-conditioning yard, he said.

Zwerschke, 52, and his family have spent the last four years developing the operation there. Prior to that he was in Grenada where those winds had blown him to in 1979.

Walco International and Ft. Dodge Animal Products are co-sponsors of Saturday’s field day. Their representatives, Andy Williamson and Walt McKellar, respectively, will speak about animal and herd health improvements.

Cattle producer Dennis Bryan of Happy, Texas will also speak.

The field day at Zwerschke’s farm on Hughes Road near its intersection with Chapeltown Road will begin at 10 a.m.

Lunch will be served at the site at noon.