There are several words that I could use to describe this year’s Commercial Brangus producer of the year award recipient. He is without doubt a forward thinker, who has been innovative in the use of new technology and ideas to further enhance and benefit his cattle enterprise. Without question he possess a passion for his country, his family, the cattle that provide his lively hood, and the Brangus breed. I am proud to present to you Zac and Courtney Obrien, Rock Creek Ranch, South Coffeyville, OK as this year’s recipient of the Commercial Brangus Breeder of the year award. I do not remember for certain when I first met Zac but it would have been I believe through a mutual friend and highly respected commercial Brangus breeder Albert Wiggins at one of the earlier Brinks Brangus sales in Kansas. I remember Glenn Brinkman asking me what I knew about this young kid that had all the questions about pedigrees and the cattle we were breeding at that time. Zac went on to graduate from Kansa State in 1995 with a degree in Animal Science, during which time he had his own commercial cows and progressed into the registered business in which he still maintains a few females. After graduation from college he purchased a place of his own south of Edna, KS just a crossed the state line into Oklahoma. Prior to my bull sale in 1999 I was visiting with Zac about a young prospect in that sale. He demonstrated to me at that time that if he found the genetics he wanted he was going to find a way to utilize it We ended up partnering on and purchasing the bull who later became known in the breed as BT – Burtin’s Transformer 803G3.
Zac and Courtney were married in Oct. of 2001 and today have 4 children Hadleigh, age 12, Kayton, age 10, Landry Jo, age 8 and Owen, age 6. They operate a 400 head commercial cow calf and 300 head stocker operation, as well as a small registered herd in northeastern OK. Zac’s motto could very well be “GENETICS, THE ROAD TO PROFIT”. He relies heavily on a strong AI program, utilizing some of the top sires from both the Brangus and Angus breeds. Current calf prices have found him not feeding as many of his own calves, but he has in the past utilized feedlot data from his ranch raised calves to evaluate his progress. Several years ago he relied heavily on the Oklahoma Steer feed out, which he employed to evaluate the Brangus AI sired progeny (sires that were not high growth and carcass EPD sires) against Angus sires that were at the top of the breed for growth and carcass. The Brangus sired progeny’s ability to compete with and in most cases hang more dollars on the rail through more weight and higher dressing percent has been a factor in convincing him of the value of Brangus genetics. Along with the use of AI he relies heavily on the use of his herd bull battery which in itself would not take a back seat to anyone in the industry. Whenever he is in the market for bulls he is shopping at the front of the sale offering looking for bulls that meet his requirements for frame size, structural soundness, performance and EPD’s.
At Zac’s cows are raised in a low input no frills environment. He was one of the first commercial operations in my area to move his calving to later in the spring and wean earlier in the fall to let his cows regain weight going into winter. He stockpiles forage and utilizes very little hay and expects every cow to earn her keep. In his operation there are not any welfare or entitlement programs, you either earn your keep or you are replaced with an animal who can. I have been accused at times of being pretty ruthless when it comes to culling animals but believe me I have no desire to be a cow and have to live up to Zac’s standards. A couple of years ago when most of us in the purebred business were asking questions and contemplating the use of DNA technology. Zac was already questioning it’s use in evaluating his commercial replacement heifers and what benefit he could gain from it.
What I find most refreshing about this young family that we are honoring here today is the fact that they have succeeded by incorporating a strong work ethic, integrity, knowledge of their business, the foresight and courage to utilize innovative ideas, and the backbone to take a risk in a business that has swallowed up individuals with a lot more financial backing. Zac and Courtney have not only succeeded in this business but are also in the process of raising a great family who I am sure will also be a great asset to this country’s future.