The state of Agriculture in North America today at times makes it difficult to be enthusiastic about farming and its future. Tough milk price and increasing feed costs certainly add to the stress of being a farmer. Will and Mark Iager of Entourage-LLR in Maryland have thrown caution to the wind and with their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm, are forging full steam ahead with great success in both the beef and dairy sectors.
Both the fifth generation of Iagers to dairy and crop farm at Maple-Lawn Farms in Fulton, Maryland, cousins Will and Mark spent a great deal of time together showing, farming and learning about the dairy business. Will’s interest in working with beef was triggered by a good friend buying him a steer as a teenager.
“I loved showing and working with cows and this was something different that I was doing on my own,” said Will. Will smiles as he remembers fondly, “I remember the first Angus heifer I bought I literally got my “ass” handed to me in the ring but that was probably the best thing that could have happened because it made me want to try harder.”
In 2005 Jimmy Linthicum offered Will a job during the Denver Stock Show and in 2006 Will moved his 75 head beef herd to Oklahoma to work for him. During this time Will grew his herd of Angus, Hereford, Charolais and Maine Anjou, along with some club calves.
“Jimmy taught me more then I ever could have imagined, and I was fortunate to be able to focus on and really advance my beef herd. One key thing I learned was if you work hard, continue to ask questions and never believe you are smarter than anyone else you will have many opportunities to learn,” said Will.
After working for Jimmy for 5 years Will purchased his own place in Miami, Oklahoma, and grew his herd to 600 head. Today the 240-acre ranch, with an additional 800-1000 leased hay and pasture land, is managed by Mike and Lindsey Thomasson. A more manageable herd of 300 head of commercial cows that are used for recipients, and 100 head of Elite purebred Hereford and Angus cattle for their breeding program, call Entourage Land & Cattle home. During this time another important partnership was formed with Andrew Foster of Seldom Rest Angus Farms in Michigan. This partnership included Will helping them out at shows as well as the implanting of embryos and raising resultant offspring in Oklahoma.
Around the same time Will left Maryland, Mark continued to run the farm at Maple Lawn and he and his wife Elisha purchased their 55-acre farm in Woodbine, Maryland. Urban encroachment and value of the property made it logical for the Iager family to sell the Maple-Lawn milking herd in 2017 and now only a small amount of land remains in Fulton. The addition of three kids, Madison, Miranda and Harrison, provided many opportunities to dabble in various disciplines including goats, beef, dairy and horses. All three kids have been successful in both the Junior and Open dairy and beef rings.
Elisha’s knowledge of horses, through showing quarter horses, proved valuable for all the kids when they chose to focus primarily on Rodeo. In 2011 an indoor arena (100’ x 200’) was added to the property and in 2016 the outdoor arena (150’ x 250’) was added. Today Lady Longears Ranch hosts the Junior National Finals Rodeo (Jr NFR) Qualifier for the North East region and the Women’s Pro Rodeo Association Co-approved barrel races, along with open barrel races. Holding more events including full rodeos are also in their future plans. Madison (19) is taking Cosmetology at The Temple by Paul Mitchell, teaches riding lessons to both adults and kids at their arena and is currently at the top of the 2018 SEBRA (South East Barrel Racing Association) circuit standings. Miranda (18) has recently moved to the farm in Miami, Oklahoma, and is on a Rodeo scholarship while taking Agriculture Business at North Eastern Oklahoma (NEO) A&M College. Harrison (16) continues to do well in high school rodeo in Calf-Roping and Team Roping. His other interests lie with his HKL Custom leatherwork business and loves hunting with his dad at their 130-acre farm in Liberty, Illinois. Mark’s interest has continued in the dairy industry, buying and breeding animals with his brothers Matt (MD-Westview Genetics) and Mike (Bulldog Holsteins) using the Maple-Lawn prefix, as well as with Will under the Entourage name.
In 2017, with a growing list of partnership cattle between them, Mark and Will decided to purchase a 105-acre farm in Jefferson, Maryland, to bring most of their dairy herd and beef donors to one place. “It just made sense to consolidate our board costs and bring our 150 head of partnership animals together,” said Will. Hiring long time friend Joe Brinton and his girlfriend Renee Pierick has provided the Maryland farm with a good team to oversee things with Will travelling back and forth between the farm in Oklahoma and his new home in Maryland.
“The ability to have farms in the best locations for what we are trying to achieve will be key. Oklahoma is far more efficient when it comes to raising beef cattle and it is also #1 for the beef cattle market in the country. Maryland is in the hub of the dairy industry and gives us the ability to use both Matt Iager and Tom Mercuro for our IVF and flush requirements while continuing to keep some of our milking cows at our good friend Chip Savage’s,” said Will.
Housing half beef and half dairy cattle at the Maryland farm with a goal to do extensive reproductive work will allow them to achieve their goals quickly.
“Our goal is to create superior genetics in the four most prolific breeds (Holstein, Jersey, Angus and Hereford),” said Will.
Working with top notch genetics from a variety of famous families will allow them to advance quickly in their dairy genetics. Holsteins that are currently being worked with include MS Advant-Garde D Chelsea (Defiant x Trefle Chassep Doorman EX-92) owned with Matt Iager. Two branches from the Licorice family include: Savage-Leigh Lavish EX-94 95 MS, Nominated All-American Senior 2yr Old 2007, and Savage-Leigh Alex Lacey VG-87, the All-American Winter Yearling from 2014, and her sister Drman Lucky, the 1st Fall calf from NY Spring Show 2016. Also, Tri-Vision Amelia EX-90, the dam of Greenlea Addiction Annie, the Junior Champion from the 2017 World Dairy Expo Red and White Holstein show, from the Shoremar Alicia family has great promise.
On the Jersey side Steeshanie Iatola Tinkerbell, the Junior Champion from World Dairy Expo 2014 and dam of LLR Premier Too Legit, the Junior Champion of the WDE Jersey Junior Show in 2017, Elliotts Voltage Sienna EX-90, a daughter of 2X All-American Milo Vindication Season, and Elliotts Regency Corrina VG-89 Max are the key players. Corrina, the 2nd placed Senior 3yr Old from New York Spring Show 2018 is a full sister to “Casino” and has pregnancies by Nuance and implants by Kingston and Chrome. She combines type and numbers and is from famous Circus cow family. Other exciting purchases that will have an impact on their breeding program include; an Applejack from World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair Supreme Champion, Musquie Iatola Martha EX-97, a Fizz daughter from Veronica’s Comet and Beledene Mons Selina EX-97. Selina, a show winner in her own right is housed in New Zealand by part owner Tony Barton and is also owned with Michael Heath. “After being runner up on the Bushlea cow, Mark and Will were the driving force behind buying the cow in New Zealand. These boys thrive on being on the cutting-edge! They are gunslingers, they like to try new things and are not afraid to dive into a new cool venture,” says Michael Heath. Other great families they have pregnancies or daughters from include Meadow Green Abso Fanny EX-95, Redtag Destry Sneezy EX-94, MS D Apple Danielle EX-94 and MS Goldwyn Shazam VG-88.
Making the breeding decisions for Entourage-LLR’s dairy enterprise is a team effort between Will, Mark and good friend Michael Heath. Mentors such as Mark’s dad Charles and judging coach Lee Majeskie, along with Ronnie Heffner, Nathan Thomas, Micheal Heath have been key in providing them with the tools to make better breeding decisions and become better cowmen. Will also mentions his mom, Kathy Stiles, as being a big supporter of all his endeavours. Even though Will makes the breeding decisions on the beef side of the operation he says their breeding concepts are basically the same in both.
“We breed to compliment the animal with whatever traits they require but our focus remains on type. We believe in using top families with track records and watch the numbers when breeding individual females.”
On the Hereford side NJW Ladysport 123X was purchased and went on to be extremely successful in the show ring. She was 4th overall at the Indiana Hoosier Beef Congress and division Champion at the Junior National show. Ladysport was bred by NJW Herefords out of Sheridan, Wyoming, one of the most prestigious cattle ranches in the world, known for some of the best Hereford cow families in the breed. “The Ladysport cow family is known for easy-doing females that are very functional with loads of capacity and volume yet exhibit extremely feminine qualities. Most of all their udder quality and milk flow is like none other. We have been flushing these cows to a variety of bulls and look forward to seeing their progeny this fall,” says Will. Will’s most memorable moment so far was when their home bred calf, Entourage-LLR MPH Ruckus claimed Polled Hereford Calf Champion at this spring’s National Western Stock show in Denver for Entourage-LLR and Michael Heath. On the Angus side Entourage-LLR is flushing Seldom Rest Sandy 6064. She is a full sister to this past summer’s Junior National Champion female. Sandy’s full brother Seldom Rest Sandman is also has being used as a mating sire.
Will admits that while most aspects of showing are similar, there is a lot of work with the beef and keeping them in show shape both hair and condition wise can be very tedious. Mark and Will both agree the enthusiasm and lively competition that is seen in beef right now is exciting.
“Beef is at an all-time high right now and the competition and motivation are so inspiring. The importance of the Junior shows in the beef and the high dollars that people will pay for their kids to win has certainly made the industry more stable. I do think that egos help to continue the momentum,” said Will.
Some of the animals the Iager’s are excited about for the fall dairy shows include Red heifers: Maiz-N-Blu Lucy Red, the 1st Red and White Winter Calf from New York Spring show, and the Summer Yearling Miss Hot Mess-Red, a Defiant from Starmark Ad Hotstuff Red. LLR Premier Too Legit, mentioned earlier, is now VG-88 and is, the World Dairy Expo Junior Champion from last year’s World Dairy Expo Junior Jersey show and the Reserve Champion at Maryland Jersey Field looking also impressive. Two Jersey Spring Yearlings, Big Guns Andreas Virtue, the All-American Spring Calf from 2017 and daughter of Big Guns Jamaica Vanilla, and Intense Gentry Geese, the All-Canadian Spring Calf from 2017, from Arethusa Hired Gun Dixie’s full sister. A Holstein Senior 3-Year-Old, owned with Triple T Holsteins and Jerseys, is T-Triple-T Perfect Storm EX-92, nominated All-American Winter Yearling in 2016 and 3rd at New York Spring Show as a Senior 2-Year-Old in 2017, she is one to watch for this fall.
When it comes to marketing genetics Will and Mark both believe that photos, shows, social media and creating a brand for Entourage-LLR plays an integral role in their success. Labelled the “Kings of Cool” by Chris Hill, they have established their signature with their interesting choice of shirts.
“I believe that building a brand and promotion is important but realistically good cattle are good cattle and you can market them anywhere if you have good quality regardless of the breed or beef or dairy. The majority of beef cattle are marketed through private or on-line sales and it is a bit easier to project sales revenue in the beef then in the dairy. In my mind winning at the show is still one of the easiest ways to market an animal,” said Will.
Knowing good cattle is key in any business and as a result Entourage-LLR has partnered with some of the best cowmen out there on both their beef and dairy animals. “We are pretty selective on partners. We always consider what aspects they bring to the table whether it is marketing, recipients, boarding or showing. They must also have the same vision or mindset when it comes to resale or breeding a great one. Some of their key dairy partners include Michael Heath, Triple T, Matt Iager and Ernie Kueffner. A keen eye for good cattle has also brought Ernie, Michael and Pat Conroy into some partnerships on the beef cattle.
“I think Will and Mark are successful because they have never been ones to sit on their hands. They are never complacent and are always looking for ways to make things happen,” said Michael Heath.
Working towards solid futures in both industries, Will and Mark hope to build a small parlour at their new Jefferson location, allowing them to milk cows, with an aim to continue marketing heifers through private and public sales while selling 25-30 breeding beef bulls per year. Continuing down the road of superior genetics in the top breeds will allow the Iagers to aim high and build towards female production sales for both sectors with hopes of opening minds and giving them the opportunity to invest in both sides of the barn!
Written by Lexi Wright