While Bruce Copenhaver and his 3-year-old grandson, Rhett Thompson, were feeding cattle one recent Sunday morning on the family’s Lexington, Mo., farm, the restless youngster asked, “Pops, can we go eat breakfast now?”
“Buddy, we’ve got to take care of the cows first,” Copenhaver patiently replied. “We take care of them because they’re taking care of us.”
In agriculture, such life lessons often spring from simple chores, but Copenhaver’s commitment to his cattle is much more than words of wisdom for an impressionable young mind. He lives that principled philosophy every day in the way he cares for his animals, his crops and his farm.
“We treat our animals well and try to keep things growing and healthy,” Copenhaver said. “We might not be perfect, but we try to do the right thing.”
For Copenhaver, doing the “right thing” includes feeding MFA Shield Technology to help prevent sickness and promote performance without antibiotics in his Angus-based cow/calf operation. He’d been successfully using MFA Cattle Charge feeds for years, but the formulation contained chlortetracycline and sulfa medications—now regulated under the Veterinary Feed Directive. That means a veterinarian-issued VFD form is required before producers can purchase and administer livestock feeds with these and other antibiotic additives previously available “over the counter.”
When the VFD law went into effect in January 2017, Copenhaver turned to Chad James, MFA regional feed specialist, and Doug Timmerberg at MFA Agri Services in Odessa for advice on a more convenient yet effective alternative. They suggested he try Cattle Charge with Shield.
“We met all the qualifications and got our VFD in place, just in case, but when we realized there was another option, we wanted to try something different,” Copenhaver said. “We knew Cattle Charge was a good product, so we decided to switch to the version with Shield. We’ve been very pleased. We didn’t have to treat any calves last fall, and normally we’d have several that would get sick.”
Most of the farm’s calves are born in the spring, and Copenhaver typically starts them on Cattle Charge pellets at weaning for about six to eight weeks before switching to his own grind-and-mix ration. Last year’s calf crop was the first to consume the Shield-enhanced feed, but Copenhaver said they won’t be the last.
“I think the Shield paid for itself,” he said. “I don’t like to cut corners when it comes to my cattle. My thought process is that if a product does its job, I’m willing to make the investment if it will save labor for me and stress on the animal.”
Stress is the No. 1 issue impacting calf performance at weaning, said James. Avoiding unnecessary stress can help reduce sickness and increase overall performance. Shield gives cattle an advantage by improving immune function through an all-natural blend of essential oils and probiotics along with specific carbohydrates that benefit gut health. None of these ingredients require a VFD.
“Any time you have to run an animal through the chute, you’re stressing him to a certain extent,” James said. “By feeding Shield, you’re doing preventative maintenance to help keep that animal from getting sick and needing treatment, and you’re helping to reduce overall stress that can slow down their growth at weaning.”
Copenhaver, who’s been in the cattle business full time since he graduated from high school in 1975, said he believes a non-antibiotic approach to farming with products such as Shield can help improve public perception of today’s animal agriculture.
“I can’t blame people for wanting to know what’s going into their food source, and if you can produce that food in a more natural situation, that’s fantastic,” he said. “It seems like the bad things take front and center, and you hear very little about the good things. But we’re doing a lot of good things in agriculture today.”
The Copenhaver farm is a prime example of “good” farming, James said, and it’s a true family affair. Although they maintain separate operations, Bruce and his older brother, Gary, work together on the farm, and their father, Delbert, who’s nearly 90 years old, still has his own herd of cattle that he feeds every day. Bruce’s wife, Gayle, keeps the farm records and their daughter and son-in-law, Amanda and Justin Thompson, are also involved in the operation.
“He won’t brag on himself, but Bruce is a good cow man, and the whole family is the same way,” James said. “They know their calves are sick before the calves know. So when they say they get along good with the Shield Technology, it means something.”
The family typically markets their calves at 600 to 800 pounds, in addition to raising six to eight steers each year to process and sell as freezer beef. Over the past 10 years, they’ve built a small yet loyal customer base for their farm-fresh beef simply by word-of-mouth.
“We don’t push that side of the business, but I enjoy it as an extra option to market our cattle,” Copenhaver said. “I’d like to think that people are getting a decent product from us, and I think they are. We only get compliments, not complaints.”
That kind of solid reputation is important to Copenhaver, who emphasizes stewardship both in his own practices and for future generations.
“We want to treat our customers, our land and our animals right because we intend on farming here as long as we can,” he said. “My son-in-law is working for us now, and I hope my grandson wants to farm. At some point, I’d like them to carry it on and take care of what needs to be done. I might see it; I might not. But I want them to have the opportunity.”
For more information on livestock feeds with Shield Technology, visit with your MFA Agri Services or AGChoice location or online at https://www.mfa-inc.com/Products/Feed/Shield.
Baby goat gains new lease on life with Shield Plus.
On a cold night in late February, 12-year-old Lane Broyles went out to check waterers on his family’s Alma, Ark., farm and found a newborn goat close to death.
“He was cold and listless,” said Lane’s mother, Elizabeth Biery. “We brought the kid inside and warmed him up, but he was still struggling. I didn’t think he would make it.”
Biery Hill Farms’ herd of Nigerian dwarf goats was in the middle of kidding season, but the family was still working on their facilities after Elizabeth, her husband, Dustin, and their three children moved to the property about a year ago.
“We had been rebuilding everything from the bottom up since we moved from our previous location,” Elizabeth said. “We just didn’t quite have our kidding stalls ready yet.”
As the family scrambled to save the frail kid, 3-year-old Maebre grabbed a bottle of MFA Shield Plus off the fireplace mantel and said, “What about this?”
“I had honestly forgot we even had the Shield Plus,” Elizabeth said. “Maebre didn’t have a clue what it was, but I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, let’s try it.’”
She administered a dose and within about an hour, the kid was up running, bouncing and eating.
An employee of Farmers Co-op in Van Buren, Ark., Elizabeth said customers and colleagues have had similar experiences with Shield Plus. She was convinced to take home a bottle when a fellow Co-op employee, Greg Davis, told her how well it worked for his own show hogs.
“He found a little hog that was pretty much on the brink of death and thought he’d give the Shield Plus a shot,” Elizabeth said. “He said the next morning he couldn’t even tell which one had been down. He called it a wonder drug.”
But Shield Plus Technology isn’t a drug, and that’s appealing to producers, Elizabeth said. It’s a nutritional supplement designed to support immune system development, improve feeding behavior and provide quick energy. It’s administered orally in a pump bottle and contains an all-natural blend of essential oils, probiotics, egg antibodies, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and vitamins A, D and E. It also has concentrated colostrum extract to help ensure newborns get optimum levels of essential nutrients.
In the 10 days after Elizabeth used the product, she sold several large bottles to cattle producers in her area who were having trouble with calves.
“When Greg told me about his experience, I got a case of each size in at the store,” she said. “I bought one of the small bottles to demo, and I’m glad we had it, because we would have never have gotten that little goat back without it. He’s with the mom now and gained almost a pound in 10 days.”
By the time kidding season is over this year, the Bierys anticipated adding 10 more goats to their herd, increasing their total numbers to around 20 goats, in addition to their five show cattle and 600 to 800 chickens.
“Everyone with babies of being born of any species needs to have some Shield Plus on hand,” Elizabeth said. “I can personally tell you it works.”