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  • Peyton Schmitt, American Angus Association

Opposites Attract

Ben and Darla Eggers are recognized as Angus Heritage Foundation inductees for their shared efforts to better the breed.

A glass window in the wall divides the work areas of Ben and Darla Eggers at the Sydenstricker Genetics barn office in Mexico, Mo. The couple works intently; Ben makes notes in pen as Darla focuses on her computer screen. Two friendly barn cats patrol at their feet. The walls are lined with award plaques, banners and photos of noteworthy SydGen sires — a collection of achievements spanning decades.

Although the couple’s desks may indicate different philosophies when it comes to filing, Ben and Darla work here alongside each other nearly every day. 

“She’s kind of black and white, I’m shades of gray,” Ben says. “Opposites attract.”

Despite the differences, Darla thinks they work well together.

She smiles and says, “Ben and I are a great mix.”

The couple shares a deep-rooted passion for agriculture, and more specifically, the Angus breed. 

Ben grew up on a dairy farm in southeast Missouri, where his family also raised hogs and had a small, predominantly Hereford beef cattle herd. A previous member of 4-H and FFA, it was a film shown by his local beef leader at a club meeting that sparked his interest in Angus cattle. 

Produced by the American Angus Association, “An Angus in Your Future” aimed to encourage youth to become involved in exhibiting cattle. 

Not long after watching, Ben Eggers purchased his first Angus heifer in 1964 at 12 years old. 

As fate would have it, one of the film’s stars was none other than a young Eddie Sydenstricker, who would welcome Ben to Sydenstricker Genetics 18 years later.

“I can’t honestly say that I even remembered who it was,” Ben says. “I remembered it was somebody from north Missouri with a long name. But as time went on, I began to understand who was associated with the Sydenstricker name.”

Darla was raised on a diversified crop and livestock farm in northwest Missouri. Involved in 4-H and junior Angus programs, her first Angus heifer was an orphan named “Susie Surprise.” She graduated with an animal science degree from the University of Missouri, serving the industry in a variety of communications-focused roles. 

Darla joined her husband full-time as the operation’s office manager in 2010 after nine years as executive director of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Foundation. At a time when Ben was short on help managing records and submitting data, Darla offered to lend a hand. What started as a trial soon blossomed into a beautiful partnership.

“We had a three-month probation period that I had to do things exactly like he did,” Darla says. “We had some struggles there early on figuring out what was going to work best. I think I have him convinced to file things now.”

Despite not always seeing eye-to-eye, the Eggers soon found their skills were a unique complement to each other. Ben, a math whiz, carefully analyzes data, selects matings and oversees the cow herd. Darla, who has a way with words and years of marketing experience, assists with everything from sale book production and website management to meticulous recordkeeping.

Consistency for customers

Today, Sydenstricker Genetics runs more than 900 cows and hosts an annual production sale in November. The operation diligently records performance data. They submit about 16,500 pieces of data to the Association each year, prioritize economically important traits and consistently capture Certified Angus Beef (CAB) premiums. 

“You sell them by the pound, and they need to taste good,” Ben puts it simply. “To me that’s the two biggest components of a powerful beef breed, and over the years it’s worked quite well.”

The operation received the CAB Beef Commitment to Excellence Award in 1997 and was recognized as the 2001 Outstanding Seedstock Producer of the Year by the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF). SydGen has had six bulls generate more than a million dollars of retail semen and certificates sales. That milestone demonstrates their commitment to producing genetics that “do as many things well as possible,” as Ben says.

Beyond awards and recognition, the operation is proud to serve their customers well. With a repeat customer rate of about 80%, SydGen considers their customers’ success a top priority. The Eggers liken their role as seedstock producers to being in research and development.

“We have to have the next bull that our commercial customer needs when he’s ready for it — you’ve got to be two to three years ahead,” Darla says. “When you see your customers achieve great successes, it’s a great feeling to know you had a part in that.”

Selfless service

Dedicated to the beef industry and their community, the duo are leaders. 

“If you’re involved in something, you owe it to give it your time, your talent and your passion to make it as good as it can be,” Darla says. 

She currently serves on the Angus Foundation’s Board of Directors and as secretary of the Missouri Angus Association. She previously served the Missouri Angus Auxiliary as treasurer for 18 years. Ben is a past president of both the American Angus Association and BIF, as well as the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association. 

Whether it’s through advancing genetics, supporting youth or connecting with fellow cattlemen, the Eggers say they desire to do their part to improve the beef industry. This is reflected in all they do. 

While it might rarely be easy, they say they believe it’s always worth it.

“The cattle business — and especially the seedstock business — it stretches your limits in lots of different ways at once,” Ben says. “There are days when you think maybe you did bite off a little more than you can chew. But if there’s a will, there’s a way, and we’ll pull through it all.”

This sentiment is shared by Darla as she reflects on the ups and downs of their lifestyle. 

“Agriculture attracts an interesting group, and to be successful at it, you’ve got to have a heart and a passion for it,” she says. “It’s not for the faint of heart.”

That passion for agriculture and the breed has earned the Eggers a seat amongst fellow Angus trailblazers as 2023 Angus Heritage Foundation inductees, in recognition of their years spent embracing each opportunity to make the breed better. 

Editor’s note: Peyton is a freelance writer from Saint Paul, Neb.

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