November 2014
Farm & Field

Eager for Improvement

A favorite part of Elaine Troxtel’s work as a partner on the Angus cattle farm owned and operated by her and her husband Zane in Geraldine is caring for the baby calves. “It’s easy to transform them into pets with some tender loving care!” she exclaims.  

DeKalb couple personify teamwork on their beef cattle farm.

Release from Sand Mountain-Lake Guntersville Watershed

Zane and Elaine Troxtel of Geraldine are building a beef cattle farm that is on the rise, according to Drew Wright of the DeKalb County Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"This young couple is especially progressive, tremendously hard-working, and high energy," said Wright. "They are very much in touch with what is happening in their production specialty and always eager to make improvements."

The most current improvement the Troxtels have underway is a heavy-use pad for feeding their 40-head herd of top quality Angus cattle.

"Both Elaine and I are excited about the addition of a pad to our feeding operation," Zane reported. "We chose a concrete base for the pad because with it we can keep our cattle out of the mud and utilize water and equipment as needed to promote cleanliness. The pad will also yield a more efficient consumption of the hay we feed, and feeding will now be a pleasure instead of the dread of encountering a muddy mess at feeding time which can contaminate run-off water and can cause foot problems in our cattle."

The Troxtels are receiving technical and financial assistance from the NRCS through a cost-share EQIP program, Wright said.

  Zane and Elaine Troxtel, who are beef cattle producers in Geraldine, have just completed a heavy-use pad for their feeding operation which will promote cleanliness – even in wet weather with muddy conditions – and will result in greater feed efficiency. The pad is a much needed improvement, according to Zane, and was done by the Troxtels with financial and technical assistance through the DeKalb County Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Troxtels personify teamwork. Both hold off-the-farm jobs, yet both share responsibility of running their top-notch farming operation. Both are graduates of Auburn University where they met and later married. Zane jokes that, at the time of their meeting, Elaine was about the furthest thing from a DeKalb County farm girl that you could find. Her background was "big city" and her family had moved around a lot during her lifetime, always in a suburban area. "Green as a gourd" about the farm and farming at the start of their marriage, Elaine has now developed into a full-fledged partner whom Zane trusts completely with handling day-to-day implementation and management decisions on the farm.

Zane works as the Food Safety Division Manager of QSI out of Chattanooga where he oversees quality assurance and handles USDA audits for the company. Not only is he on the road a lot, he works crazy hours.

"While I’m away, I never worry about things back on the farm. I know Elaine is competent and, should she encounter a scenario that she hasn’t faced before, she’ll call me or one of our neighbors who are professionals in the cattle business. I really can’t praise Elaine enough for her quick learning and her keen judgment," the multi-talented Zane noted.

Zane has engaged in beef cattle production since he was 12. In fact, the sale of the 38 head of beef cattle he had personally grown in his early years helped to finance his college expenses at Auburn where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Poultry Science and a master’s in Agricultural Education.

While he taught agriscience for a short while after his college graduation and enjoyed it, Zane could not escape his prime interest in raising beef cattle. Consequently, he launched the start-up of what is now a sizeable herd of Angus cattle, the breed he contends to be the No. 1 breed in the United States.

"In fact," according to Zane, "if you combine the registrations of the next seven leading breeds after Angus, that combination would still not match the numbers of Angus cattle."

Zane credited several big-time Angus breeders such as Richard Dyar, Banks Herndon and Tom Lovell with helping him learn the intricacies of being a successful Angus producer. He also learned a great deal about genetics at Auburn, especially from his hands-on livestock labs. He loved being exposed to the in-depth scientific research. He also learned about fixed-time artificial breeding that he is now putting into practice. Fixed-time artificial insemination uses a series of synchronized drug injections over a five-day protocol and costs about $16 a head plus the cost of the semen. The practice allows farmers to breed on schedule and to get more cattle bred on the first day of the breeding season.

The energetic Zane is also ambitious. When asked about immediate and long-term goals for his cattle business, this young farmer was quick with his responses.

"Currently I’m engaged in preparing for a big registered Angus bull sale at the farm of John and Randa Starnes and Randy Owens in Fort Payne on November 22, 2014. Along with Richard Dyar of Crossville, we plan to have around 55-60 Angus and Hereford bulls to sell. My dream has always been to be the largest cattle producer in DeKalb County," Troxtel exclaimed. "But for now I just want to be an active Angus breeder and become more involved in the county and state cattle organizations!"