There are two sides to the livestock industry – the old and the new. Its foundation is the old fashioned values of hard work and character. At the same token, it combines those values with up-and-coming trends and technology. It is the only trade that incorporates both ends of this spectrum seamlessly. On the cutting edge of this combination of past and future is the Faber Family from Sioux Center, Iowa. Through a recent interview with Dr. David Faber, I learned how his family’s involvement in the livestock, primarily cattle, industry incorporated family time, show ring successes, and a company that has pushed the livestock industry into a whole new dimension.
Dr. Faber was born and raised on a livestock farm in Illinois. While he considered himself only an “entry level showman,” he became interested in cattle as a youth and exhibited them at the local level growing up. When it came time for college, Dr. Faber attended the University of Illinois for both his undergraduate degree and his study of Veterinary Medicine. He was extremely interested in bovine reproductive technology. At that time, traditional Embryo Transfer (ET) was just beginning as a surgical process and required a degree to practice. Towards the end of his schooling, Dr. Faber decided to take one year to practice food animal veterinary medicine. With Sioux Center, Iowa being a region dense with livestock, he moved there from Illinois to practice the trade. During this year, he began doing embryo transfer work in addition to general practice. At the completion of that year, Dr. Faber made the area his permanent residence after developing a love for the area and people.
Sioux Center became the starting block for Trans Ova Genetics. Founded in 1980 by Dr. Faber, Trans Ova Genetics is the leading reproductive and genetic technology company in the United States. There are two facets to the company: Agriculture and Biomedical. In addition to embryo collection and transfer, Trans Ova Genetics offers services in In Vitro embryo production, sexed semen via flow cytometry, ultrasonography, cloning and genetic engineering. While the company’s biomedical toolbox is impressive with cloning and producing genetically engineered animals to serve as medical models; the primary focus of Trans Ova Genetics is to achieve greater genetic gain for both beef and dairy cattle. The reproductive and genetic technology that Dr. Faber has introduced to the livestock industry has allowed cattle producers to strengthen their genetics and zone in on traits that they wish to pass on in their herds with more ease. A recent technology that is becoming mainstream in the current industry is cloning.
ViaGen is a subsidiary company of Trans Ova Genetics that specializes in the cloning of bovine, equine, and other species. Dr. Faber describes the cloning of livestock as an extremely powerful tool to use when a producer needs genetic copies of high quality animals. The genetic gain cloning provides to the livestock industry is uncanny. Not only does it carry on quality traits, the technology gives producers the capability to greatly expand their reproductive potential, keep up with demand for offspring, embryos and semen, produce an animal stud that is genetically identical to their best steer, barrow or gelding, reduce the impact of unexpected injury or death, and quickly improve the quality and consistency within their herd while expanding their marketing opportunities. By flipping through a recent edition of The Showtimes, walking through herd sire ally at Denver, or following the sires of show winners, one will quickly catch on to the increasing use of “Clone” following multiple sire’s pedigrees. The livestock industry is utilizing Dr. Faber’s technology and the results have been impressive. Without Trans Ova Genetics, the livestock industry would be years behind its current state. Dr. Faber’s interest in the livestock industry, however, expands wider than Trans Ova Genetics into his family and personal life as well.
Dr. Faber and his wife Kay raised their three children, Sara, Dan and Tyler, around cattle and in the show ring. They valued showing as a family and consider it a “great family hobby.” When their children began to show, the Faber’s set four goals in relation to competing. The first goal they instilled in their children was to win with grace and lose with dignity. They realized that they would get the opportunity to lose more than they would win and made a conscious effort to set examples to others around them. To understand that hard work and passion overcomes most short comings was their second goal. This statement holds true in the show ring as well as all areas of life. Third, Dr. Faber and Kay wanted their children to be self-validating and not let others set their opinions of themselves. Every time they walked into the show ring, they taught them to listen to what the judge had to say about their project. Then they were to look in the mirror and see if what he said held truth. For example, if the judge told them that their calf was not sound. They, in turn, would validate if he was right. If so, they were to fix it. If not, they were to find out how they had given him that opinion. The ultimate purpose of this goal was for their children to have self confidence in themselves. Finally, they never wanted to come home saying, “We should have.” If you work hard and do everything you can, then there is no reason to not hold your head up high – win or lose. These mindsets enabled the Faber Family to have a strong show ring presence all throughout their show careers. Over a 13 year period, they were Supreme or Reserve Supreme 26 times at the Iowa Beef Expo, the Iowa State Fair and Ak-Sar-Ben. There were 12 of the 13 years when they had a Supreme or Reserve Supreme steer or female at the Iowa State Fair. While Sara, Dan and Tyler have all aged out as junior livestock exhibitors, the Faber’s continue to get together to go to the fair and talk about cattle and showing. The family memories that their involvement in the cattle industry has provided them is irreplaceable.
Dr. Faber and his family are prime examples of how the livestock industry entails both lost values and constantly evolving technologies. From Trans Ova Genetics and its impact on the industry to the Faber’s rewarding involvement in the cattle show ring, they have worked to take from the industry all that it has to offer while giving back to it in any way they can. A very special moment came in 2008 when Tyler Faber exhibited the Grand Champion Market Steer and the Supreme Champion Breeding heifer at the Iowa State Fair. In 2010 they exhibited the Grand Champion Steer with a clone of the 2008 steer. . While they initially cloned the 2008 steer following its win at the 2008 Iowa Beef Expo in hopes of producing a bull calf (which they did), the win itself was something to be proud of as it allowed the Faber’s to showcase cloning technology. As the steer industry is constantly progressing, however, cloning is still best used with breeding females and bulls to improve genetics and produce rare carbon copies. Tomorrow, the present will be the past. Given all that Dr. Faber has accomplished as a professional and father, it will be exciting to see what the future holds.