The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association named Jason and Lisa Kurt of Cascade in northeast Iowa as Commercial Cattle Producers of the Year for 2019 at ICA’s annual meeting in December.
The Kurts have built up their cattle business while also working off the farm. Today, they have approximately 230 beef cows and finish 1,000 head of fed cattle annually.
The couple is also raising four children. Raymond, the oldest, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville in December and is working full time on the family farm.
Lisa grew up on a dairy farm and says, “Anything is easy after milking cows.” Jason did not grow up on a farm, but began working with cattle in FFA and 4H. He graduated from high school with six cows to his name, went to work for a local farmer, and continued to grow his own herd. Without the luxury of family farm ground, Jason and Lisa have built their cattle operation mostly from scratch.
Always striving to improve
The couple, who have been married since 1997, expanded their operation in the past few years, adding new monoslope barns adjacent to their open feedlots. In addition to their own feedlot, they own about 200 head that are custom-fed elsewhere.
The cow herd is largely Angus-Gelbvieh crossbreds. This combination improves docility, carcass data and maternal traits, Jason says. Each year, about 70 heifers are bred, with half of those retained and half sold as bred heifers. The Kurts use artificial insemination on their heifers, selecting for high calving ease, good marbling, good weaning weights and favorable carcass traits.
The focus on carcass traits has paid off. The Kurts have raised award-winning calves for the ICA Carcass Challenge several years in a row, placing eighth in the category of Retail Value Per Day on Feed in 2019, seventh in 2017 and sixth in 2016.
The family has also made improvements to their cattle farming operation, with soil and water conservation in mind. USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program cost-share funding has helped the family develop paddocks and a rotational grazing system. Cover crops are grazed on some of the crop acres.
Lisa serves on the Jones County Ag Extension Council and works off the farm as a feed and fertilizer inspector for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. And according to Jason, “There’s nothing on the farm she cannot do.”
Jason has served as the president of the Jones County Cattlemen, and currently is on the ICA board of directors. Jason also works off the farm as a fertilizer salesman.
The Kurts have made a lasting impact on the cattle industry, and their children are following in their footsteps. “We are proud to honor Jason and Lisa Kurt as the 2019 Commercial Producers,” says Matt Deppe, CEO of ICA.