On The Trail with Cooper Nastri
With the flick of a wrist and the twirl of an arm, Cooper Nastri has entertained scores of rodeo audiences up and down the East […]
Sammy Castaneda loves a challenge. For the Cargill Animal Nutrition Consultant from San Antonio, Texas, improving everything from the size of deer antlers to the stamina of a rodeo horse is what makes him tick. “It is very satisfying finding solutions for new and current customers and building long lasting relationships along the way,” says Sammy, who started working for Cargill in their cattle feed division 10 years ago. “Helping people reach their goals and implement a sound nutritional program long-term is success to me. Some days I am working to figure out how to help a cow/calf operation increase conception rates and increase weaning weights, or feedlots looking to improve costs and increase average daily gain (ADG). The next day I’m on a deer ranch discussing body condition and growing big healthy deer with antlers that stop you in your tracks.” Sammy also works with rodeo and performance horse owners to maintain healthy toplines and energy. “In the nutrition business the needs of customers are always changing. It is important to stay informed and understand markets and trends, as well as environmental changes that affect feed consumption, gain, and performance.”
Sammy has always been interested in the field of animal science. Many generations of his family have lived and worked on ranches throughout South Texas including the King Ranch, home of the “Running W” brand. “They were the true cowboys called vaqueros and roped wild cows in the brush, trained horses, and worked cattle with the best of them. It was their life and they were good at it. This is where some of my roots come from and I can certainly appreciate their hard work, dedication, and love for the cowboy way,” says Sammy. Growing up, Sammy worked on feedlots and ranches and took every chance he could to work cattle, rope, and be around that lifestyle. Sammy’s interest in animal nutrition led him to achieve an associate’s degree in agriculture and a welding certificate, while he finished with a bachelors in animal science from Texas A&M Kingsville.
“My dad always said that hard work and smart work will lead you there and it is up to you to figure out what “there” is. I graduated and then started working for Cargill in 2007. I worked at a few feedlots in the Panhandle as a feed and cattle manager, and my wife worked with me as the office manager. Taking care of over eighty-five thousand head of cattle, I gained large scale production knowledge and eventually ventured into the position I am in now. I’ve always loved the nutrition side of things. Most days I am visiting ranches, feed dealers and different breeders including cattle deer and equine. South Texas is home to millions of acres of brush country and prairie, providing habitat for lots of wildlife – white tailed deer in particular – which is a big part of my business today,” says Sammy. Nutrena and Record Rack are two of the major brands that he represents. They have a team of research scientists, specialists and consultants who work together and strive to be the leaders in providing innovative solutions to their animal feed customers worldwide. “Our customers rely on us to help them, so we have to be very effective in what we recommend, and we take it very seriously. Sometimes we’ll formulate a specific feed depending on that customer’s needs.”
Sammy is also involved with organizations like the Texas Deer Association and is part of the committee that recently put on the Texas Deer Association’s first annual Ropin’ & Smokin’, sponsored in part by Record Rack and Nutrena. “Deer breeders are such a big part of our business, and I want to bring some of my knowledge to the table,” he says. In the last year, Sammy partnered with BXB Productions, a rodeo production company, in putting on ranch rodeos and team ropings. “We do one to two ropings a week around San Antonio and take the ropings on the road every other month or so throughout South and Central Texas. It’s helped me grow and meet new people, and it’s really cool to put something like that on. We also do some charity events to help local causes. At our first annual Nutrena Roping, we had over eight hundred teams and we gave lots of custom prizes and cash. We have also partnered with Sosa Buckers, owners Shiloh and Shane Sosa, and do different segments with bulls. There’s a huge link between rodeo and hunting. A lot of the contestants are ranch managers or avid hunters and they rodeo for fun, and these ropings are a very good way to interact and meet new people.”
Every chance he gets, Sammy takes part in the hunting and team roping lifestyle he promotes. He’s also an avid fisherman and enjoys team roping locally, while his two children, Delina, 8, and Samuel, 5, ride and work cattle with him and have started rodeoing. His wife, Fela, works for Animal Health International Inc., and even shares some of the same clients with Sammy. “We have cows, and it’s not a big operation, but enough for the family to get together and work. I do things so I’m a role model for my kids and youth in general,” says Sammy. “I try and lead them in the right direction and strongly support them in activities such as sports, rodeo and FFA. I believe teaching those hands-on skills, discipline, hard work, and dedication will help them achieve what they set out to accomplish. I want to help my kids grow and rodeo and hopefully they can lead successful lives.
“I’d like to continue doing these rodeo events and making them better, and get Nutrena’s name out there,” he finishes. “I also want to keep growing my business and helping these ranchers meet their goals, which is something I take a lot of pride in.”
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