John Ligo wins quality assurance award

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MERCER, Pa. — Two farmers recently received the annual national Beef Quality Assurance award, created to recognize outstanding beef and dairy producers who incorporate Beef Quality Assurance principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their operations.

The winners

The 2011 winners were John Ligo, LiTerra Farms of Mercer, Pa. (dairy), and Mike Milicevic, Lykes Bros. Inc. of Okeechobee, Fla. (beef).

LiTerra Farms. LiTerra was founded by John and Judy Ligo in 1988. In order to “close the loop” on nutrients and be more sustainable economically, a 200-cow dairy was built from scratch in 1990. Four herds were purchased and the dairy herd has been closed since 1991. LiTerra Livestock operations include 230 dairy cows producing nearly 5 million pounds of milk annually.

Additionally, LiTerra Farms owes 180 homebred dairy replacements.

There is also a beef cow-calf enterprise plus replacements and cattle on feed. One other enterprise is a registered Scottish Highland seedstock operation comprising of 50 head that includes national grand champions. Cattle numbers peak in mid-summer at approximately 850 head.

LiTerra grows feed for the cattle on 1,100 acres that are owned and 400 acres that are rented.

Innovative practices

LiTerra Livestock has been certified in Dairy Beef Quality Assurance (DBQA) for 10 years. The award also recognizes the farm’s other top practices: the transportation of cattle quietly and carefully, focusing on low-stress handling; all treatment protocols require injections in the ear or in the triangle of the neck; antibiotics are used sparingly; bull calves sold into the veal market are well-started, clean and healthy prior to leaving the farm; dairy cattle are sold on a planned basis, not a “she needs to go” basis; some of the best farm land has been converted to permanent pasture between the milking facility and the highway; and beef is sold to restaurants that market the beef as BQA-certified on the menu.

Lykes Bros

The Lykes Brothers story began more than 100 years ago with Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes. Today, Lykes Bros. Inc. is still family owned and encompasses 337,000 acres in Glades and Highlands counties, Fla., and is one of the largest contiguous pieces of land in the state.

With more than 17,500 head of cattle, the Lykes Ranch currently is the fourth largest cow/calf operation in the United States.

Lykes Bros. Inc. stresses environmental, social and economic sustainability in all of their operations, realizing that all three have become necessary for long-term success. Lykes Bros employs Best Management Practices for Water Quality throughout its entire operations as well as recently completing a greenhouse gas inventory of all its operations to determine its carbon footprint.

Lykes management saw a need for a universal Beef Quality Assurance training program encompassing proper cattle handling techniques to reduce stress and health problems with the intent to produce a consistent product from all units on the ranch.

The National Beef Quality Assurance award winners are selected annually by a committee of representatives from universities, state beef councils and cattle industry groups.

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