South Dakota Farmers Union has served South Dakota farm and ranch families for more than a century. Throughout the year, we share their stories in order to highlight the families who make up our state’s number one industry and help feed the world. This month, we’re highlighting the Wienk and Eschenbaum farm family who operate Wienk Charolais near Lake Preston.
Thumbing through a recent Wienk Charolais sale catalogue, Arnold Wienk, 78, recalls what it was like in the early years, “When I first sold bulls, the only number we gave buyers was the birthdate.” The glossy flyer is filled with photos of breeding stock and several columns of numbers representing EPD data - genetic information which today’s cattle producers count on to make breeding decisions. EPD data is standard issue with the sale of all purebred cattle thanks to the efforts of breeders like Arnold and Carol Wienk who, a generation ago, understood the value of genetic data.
The Wienks are among the breed association pioneers who encouraged purebred breeders across the country to collect and catalogue genetic data because they understood the role it would play in improving commercial cattle herd genetics - and ultimately enable the cattle industry to quickly respond to consumer demands.
“We do what we can to promote the industry and the product,” says Arnold, a third generation Kingsbury County farmer. “This herd has more records on file with the association than any herd in the U.S. - or is one of the herds with the most records - because we were keeping records with the S.D. Beef Improvement Association before the Charolais Association kept members’ performance records.” The Wienks transferred their performance records to the Charolais Association once the association began processing and maintaining members’ performance records.
When you're 15 politics can be confusing. South Dakota's Legislature is now more understandable for the South Dakota teens who attended the South Dakota Farmers Union Legislative Day today. They joined family farmers, ranchers and rural business owners who also participated in the annual event.
"It's cool to see the process first hand and really understand what happens behind the scenes," says Hannah Sumption, 15 and a student at Frederick Area High School. "I have heard about it on the news, but until I got to sit in on committee meetings and Session today, I didn't really understand how everything worked."
Initials and brands cover the inside wall of a barn on the Sturgis ranch Mary Ellen Cammack operates with her husband, Randy.
"It started back when my dad was doing daily chores. If you helped him milk and feed bucket calves, he would carve your name or initials into the barn wall," she explains.
The family continues the tradition of raising quality Hereford cattle on the ranch. When family and friends visit, they ask to contribute to the wall - it's become a tradition of sorts. After attending the National Farmers Union Women's Conference recently, Cammack says the barn will be getting some new text - her family ranch's mission statement.
Six Wolsey/Wesssington High School students learned how to protect their credit score and earned a cash prize from South Dakota Farmers Union as winners of the Making $ense of Credit and Finance PSA Competition.
The winning team includes the following students: Devon Metter, Jamie Cutshaw, Zach Reilly, Matt Larsen, Justin Clark and Judd King.