BIF President Joe Mushrush encourages producers to focus on producing efficient, sustainable beef.
“Right or wrong, there is going to be more emphasis on the sustainability of beef production,” explains Kansas Cattleman Joe Mushrush. “We need to tell our story and explain how we produce beef in an efficient and sustainable manner.”
Joe is currently serving as president of the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF), an organization dedicated to coordinating all segments of the beef industry — from researchers and producers to retailers — in an effort to improve the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of beef production.
“Joe has been BIF president during one of the most trying times our society has experienced in the past few decades,” says Bob Weaber, BIF executive director. “He took it all in stride and fulfilled the adage of ‘When in doubt, lead.’ BIF’s impact and visibility in the industry has grown under Joe’s leadership.”
Joe and his wife of 41 years, Connie, have six adult children and enjoy spoiling their seven grandchildren. “One of the greatest rewards in life is when you raise kids and they want to do what you are doing with you,” Joe says. Today back on the ranch working with Joe and Connie are their sons, Daniel and Chris.
Mushrush Ranches LLC is located in the picturesque Kansas Flint Hills near Strong City. The ranch is home to 800 registered Red Angus cows split into a fall- and spring-calving herd.
“Our focus is on the cows,” Joe explains. “Our program has a strong maternal focus. We believe without the cow you don’t have anything. Maternal traits will make you three times the money than growth and carcass traits.”
The Mushrush breeding program includes an extensive artificial insemination (AI) program and the use of embryo transfer. The Mushrush family works with a cooperator herd to place about 120 to 150 embryos per year.
“We run our cows like they are commercial,” Joe explains. “Our primary customer is the commercial cattleman, so we make sure we handle our cows in the same manner as our customers. Our breeding philosophy is based on a program, not individuals. Phenotypically, we select for moderate framed, easy fleshing individuals with a lot of natural thickness.”
The family has high expectations of its cows and asks a lot of them. “Our cows calve unassisted in large pastures, raise a calf and maintain their breeding status in the herd all with minimal inputs,” Joe adds. “Because of this, we put extra focus on calving ease, maintenance energy and stayability EPDs without sacrificing the carcass qualities that so many cattlemen need in today’s grid-based markets.”
The family hosts an annual bull sale in March offering 250 bulls. Joe says they also sell private-treaty bulls and groups of bred heifers. Each year the Mushrushes synchronize and AI about 600 commercial heifers. Many of these are sourced from bull buyers. Cull steers and heifers are fed out to obtain carcass data. The family also purchases some steers from customers to feed out.
Committed to total herd reporting, the Mushrush family collects and submits birth, weaning and yearling data, carcass, and ultrasound data to the Red Angus Association of America, in addition to mature cow weights, body condition scores, udder scores, foot scores and chute scores.
“Joe and his family are great role models and mentors of others in the performance cattle business,” Weaber says. “They take their motto of ‘All the data, all the time’ seriously. Often, I would call Joe and catch them in the process of weighing or ultrasounding cattle. Mushrush Ranches has readily adopted new technologies utilized in genetic improvement and use that information to make sound breeding decisions.”
They also DNA test all their calves. “Every cow on the place has been parent verified,” Joe shares.
“We strive to provide our customers with as much data as possible because this produces the most accurately described genetics possible,” Joe says. “None of this is easy, but it is all done to give our customers confidence. We want to make sure that when you invest in Mushrush Ranches’ genetics, you know exactly what you are going to get.”
Along with focusing on producing the best genetics possible, the family is always looking for ways to improve its resources. They have implemented rotational grazing systems and other grass management strategies.
Joe says the ranch continues to be in an expansion mode as future generations consider making their home and livelihood part of Mushrush Ranches. They have leased land near Wakefield and are starting a red Sim-Angus herd at that location. He says the goal is to build that division to about 150 to 200 cows.
Mushrush Red Angus was named BIF Seedstock Producer of the Year in 2011. “That really propelled my involvement in BIF,” Joe explains. “I am very interested in cattle performance testing. One thing that drew me to the BIF organization, is the lack of politics. When the Board meets, we work to do what is best for the beef industry as a whole.”
Joe was elected to the BIF Board in 2014 and served two terms before his presidency. “He’s cool, quiet, efficient and effective,” says Matt Perrier, 2020-21 BIF vice president. “Joe offered a level of steadiness to our Board during a year of uncertainty. I don’t believe that he got to lead a single in-person meeting prior to the 2021 Symposium, yet he did a great job using technology to preside over our meetings via Zoom or phone.”
Reflecting on his BIF Board tenure, Joe says he is proud of the efforts the organization made to remain effective during the pandemic including the shift to a virtual meeting in 2020. “We learned a lot from our shift to a virtual meeting,” he says. “The virtual format allowed us more reach including international. It was exciting to see the amount of respect BIF has in the industry worldwide. The success of the 2020 Symposium has encouraged the Board to look at how we host the event in future years so we can continue to encourage international participation.”
He is also excited about the move to the web-based Wiki format for the BIF guidelines. “The new format allows the guidelines to be continually updated to keep pace with the rapidly evolving field of objectively evaluating beef cattle,” Joe explains.
“With all the ‘pivots’ and changes over the past year or two, Joe never seemed to waiver,” Matt adds. “He knew our duties; he knew what our members expected, and he calmly led the organization forward to accomplish its mission.”
Join us in Des Moines
Joe will pass the BIF reins to the next president on Thursday, June 24, but there’s no doubt his passion and commitment to BIF’s principles and goals will continue for years to come.
A complete schedule for this year’s BIF Research Symposium and Convention is available online at BIFSymposium.com. This year’s symposium features two-and-a-half days of educational programming and a full day of tours. The morning sessions will focus on “Beef Industry: Where is it Going?” and “Precision Livestock Technology.” The afternoon breakout sessions both days will focus on a range of beef production and genetic improvement topics.
The conference also features a Young Producer Symposium on Tuesday afternoon, designed for networking and to equip young cattle producers with essential knowledge as they grow their role in the business. Tuesday evening attendees will also enjoy an opening reception followed by the National Association of Animal Breeders Symposium at 7 p.m.
“The entire BIF team is excited to return to a ‘face-to-face’ format to better provide networking and educational opportunities for our members,” Joe summarizes. “At the same time, we are equally excited to expand the opportunity for ‘virtual participation’ for those who are unable to make the journey to Iowa. As the beef industry continues to see new dynamics, I have no doubt that those who stay on the cutting edge by involvement with the BIF Symposium will be better poised for success.”