Hall of Fame
The Showtimes introduced our Hall of Fame in January 2009 and have included new inductees with each issue.
To be inducted, individuals must achieve something great in the livestock industry. They may be an exhibitor, judge, animal, show official or someone who makes a great impression.
Submit your Hall of Fame Nomination!
The agriculture industry is based on pivotal business relationships, that in turn create life-long friendships that many in the industry can attest to. Growing up in a small rural community in the foothills of California on his family’s Hereford ranch, Graham Blagg always had a passion for the livestock industry and the people that came along with it. Following graduation from Nevada Union in 2008, Graham served as Vice-President for the California State FFA. He traveled around the state for a year meeting with chapters and representing agriculture at various functions. In 2009, Graham moved to El Reno, Oklahoma to judge livestock at Redlands Community College under the instruction of Dr. Clay Elliott. Graham credits much of his success today to the knowledge and practical experience gained from Dr. Elliot. “Clay is one of the best marketing minds in the livestock industry. There is no price tag or tuition that can applied to the practical knowledge and real-world experience he taught us,” says Blagg. Graham’s team was highly competitive, and they saw numerous successes both years at Redlands. Graham remains close to several of his teammates, who are also still involved in the livestock industry today.
Blagg continued his judging career at Texas A&M University and was a member of the competitive 2012 livestock judging team. Graham finished his senior college livestock judging career by being named the 2012 NAILE High Individual. While at TAMU, Graham became involved in the Simmental breed through his job at the Texas A&M Beef Center. He traveled to the Texas major shows and Simmental Junior Nationals and got to meet quite a few of the people he does business with today, including his friend and mentor Jered Shipman. Graham graduated from Texas A&M in December 2013 with an Animal Science degree, and moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma to start marketing cattle with his good friend, Austin Perry. Graham started consulting for a few purebred operations across the country, acted as a sale day consultant for a few purebred Seedstock sales, and instantly became hooked. Fast forward to 2017, Graham and his wife Kasey, along with Jered and his wife, Haley, had the vision to create what is now known across the industry as Innovation AgMarketing, LLC. Graham and Kasey currently reside in Olathe, KS, where Kasey is the Associate Director of Channel Business Capabilities at Merck Animal Health. Living in Kansas has been pivotal for Innovation’s success, as Graham is located within driving distance to several of his customer’s operations and can make several herd visits a year prior to sale day. Graham’s parents, Karl and Gail, have relocated to Kansas recently, and have been able to assist in the day-to-day tasks to keep things running smoothly. It takes a village to keep the business successful, and Graham is very thankful to have the support of Jered’s family, his own family, and several friends who work to make sure that there are no issues on sale day.
INNOVATION AGMARKETING- THE STAGES OF DEVELOPMENTIn the infant stages of development, Innovation AgMarketing, LLC was formed with the visualization of creating a full-service sale management firm that specializes in a broad scope of services that directly benefits a program’s profitability. As a progressive seedstock consultation and marketing firm, unwavering customer service, and a commitment to succeed are the core principles.
Blagg states, “Every program is unique; therefore, every marketing plan should be designed to fit the individual program’s needs in order to elevate their level of success.”
“Our services continue to evolve to best serve our client base. Every relationship is value based and we still believe in the meaning of a handshake and one’s word,” says Blagg.
Innovation AgMarketing has grown over the past three years and now manages 35 live auction sales per year. During the fall sale season, Innovation AgMarketing manages predominately female production sales for some of the Nation’s most respected Simmental, Angus, Red Angus, and multi-breed show heifer operations. “The auction business is the most effective way to market your livestock, true price discovery is the auction way,” states Blagg.
The fall sale season stretches from labor day weekend through the third weekend in December, with sales nearly every weekend in between for Innovation AgMarketing and their talented team. The spring sale season is heavily weighted with bull sales that begin in February and continue through May.
“Bull sale season is based on relationships that are passed down from one generation to the next, it is satisfying to assist our customers in achieving their goals and helping them benefit from their year of hard work and devotion.”
Graham continued by stating, “You work 364 days a year, as a producer you have to make sale day count.”
During the Spring of 2020, Innovation AgMarketing assisted in the marketing of over 1400 bulls from January through May. The bull sales managed by Innovation AgMarketing, LLC include some of the premier seedstock operations in North America. Angus, Simmental, Red Angus, and Charolais are the primary breeds of bulls that sell in bull sales managed by Innovation AgMarketing.
In the Spring of 2021, Innovation AgMarketing will manage over 15 sales and assist in marketing more than 1400 bulls.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in an industry that I grew up in with so many people that share the same passion for the business,” says Blagg.
THE ADDED VALUE THAT INNOVATION AGRMARKETING OFFERS
“Professional sale management is a convenience-based service that can aid in the success of an operation’s sale event by covering the bases and making sure the minute details are addressed,” says Blagg.
Graham also commented, “I take great pride in the service that the company I represent and those that work alongside me are able to provide to our customers.”
In reality the sale preparation process begins 2 to 3 years before the event is scheduled to take place with breeding decisions and genetic selections. Blagg stresses that “It is important to have a product that is sought after by your customer base, meaning incorporating fresh genetics annually is imperative.”
BID TO BUY...
“There is no better option than the live auction method of merchandizing livestock in my opinion,” stated Blagg. “Selling at auction allows for true price discovery. It is more than just an auction, it is a chance for producers to gather, offer one another hospitality, and learn from others to help one’s own program evolve. A live auction provides excitement and a competitive atmosphere. There is nothing like a fast paced, high energy auction sale!”
Blagg stated “I am a firm believer that the agriculture industry is one of the few communities in this day and age where a handshake and one’s word is all you need to conduct business.” He continued by saying
“Stand behind your product, believe in your product, and if something goes awry for your customer, work with them to make it right, it will pay off in the end. Always do the right thing, you can never buy back your integrity.”
Innovation AgMarketing will begin 2021 with the pinnacle of their sale schedule. “In July of 2019, Christy Collins and I met in Kansas City for lunch. Little did I know that she would be offering the duties of managing the industry’s most exclusive genetic sale, Embryos on Snow.”
In 2020, Innovation AgMarketing, LLC managed the 14th Annual Embryos on Snow™ sale in Denver, Colorado. Blagg states, “It is an honor to continue the tradition that Christy and Jason built from the ground up over the past 13 years. Embryos on Snow™ is looked at as one of the most respected and premier marketing events in the livestock industry.”
With the cancelation of the National Western Stock Show and the formation of the Inaugural Cattlemen’s Congress, the 15th Annual Embryos on Snow sale will be hosted in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on January 8, 2021 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
The name Vickland is known nationwide. We had the opportunity to show against them growing up at the Colorado State Fair, National Western Stock Show and jackpots like the Mountain States Beef Expo! Today, you read about their acomplishments such as winning Grand Champion Hereford Female at the Junior National Hereford Expo, National Western, American Royal and NAILE, but they’ve been competing sucessfully long before Vada was even old enough to show! Some of their major acomplishments include winning Grand Champion Steer at the Colorado State Fair in 2006, 2009 and 2014. In fact, their 2014 Champion in Pueblo was one they raised! They’ve also won shows like Ak-Sar-Ben in 2004, 2006, 2014, and the NAILE Steer Show in 2009! The Vickland Family has also found success at jackpot shows like the Badger Kick-Off Classic, Jackrabbit Classic, Kansas Beef Expo and numerous others over the years. They’ve won national shows across many breeds with both heifers and steers. Mark, Sarah, Emma, Hannah, Grant, Vada and Hans along with their parents Patty and their father, the late Jim Vickland were always competitive; from the Weld County Fair all the way to the biggest shows in the country! They are more than just a cattle family. They’ve won Judging Contests, Hog Shows, Goat Shows and even Turkey and Rabbit Shows! They’re a family that has not only found a way to be successful, but be competitive for over a decade and a half! They also own and operate Vickland Show Cattle where they raise and sell competitve cattle. The Showtimes is excited to induct the Vickland Family into our Hall of Fame!
Conley Cattle is owned and operated by Kyle and Amanda Conley along with their two sons, Case and Jack. Our herd managers are Alex Bauer and Cole Atkinson. We have an Annual Bull Sale, Annual Fall Production Sale, and a Spring and Fall online show heifer sale.
Conley Cattle was founded in 2006 by Kyle and Amanda Conley with Angus cattle raised by their families. Kyle is a 3rd generation Angus breeder from Clarksdale, Mo. Amanda is a 5th generation Angus breeder from Sulphur, OK. We purchased a farm in Amanda’s hometown with hope to support a family of our own doing what we both love, raising quality cattle. Amanda also works as a pharmacist, and she prides herself in improving the health in our community.
From the beginning, our focus has been the foundation female. The more Kyle traveled to visit Angus herds around the United States, the more he began to figure out what cow families could influence our future as cattle breeders. Some notable cows were instrumental in our start: Double R Bar Pure Pride, Sandy 2355, Sandy 5104, PR Lady 909, Penners Ernestine 3496, Limestone Arkdale Pride U1847, BC Mignonne’s Libby, and Sheza Star W3. We have built our herd around these donors, and they have produced numerous high sellers.
It is difficult to write about our present without understanding our past. We have many people that have helped us along way. Kyle’s dad, Bill Conley, and Amanda’s dad, Harris Penner, have been fundamental in our progress. They offer us the knowledge and understanding of the cattle business as well as the daily perspective of how to continue our progress. The late Bill Conley, Sr , past president of the American Angus Association motivated Kyle to be involved in the AAA and National Junior Angus Association. Mark Johnson and Chris Mullinix presented the collegiate livestock judging experience that allowed Kyle to not only obtain his college degree, but also to connect with teammates that have similar backgrounds and goals. Chris McCutchen and Mike Marlow hired Kyle right out of college and trusted his influence on the Angus breed. They educated him on the importance of customer service and showed him the importance of being well-rounded in this business. This training soon came in handy when it was time to move to Sulphur to start our own business venture. Not long after starting Conley Cattle, Mike and Dalton Hartman introduced us to raising and marketing other breeds of cattle. This has developed into raising some of the best Simmental and Charolais available. Kyle found M&M Outsider and partnered Troy Thomas and Mike Hartman in 2014. Outsider has gone on to be the top bull in the show cattle world. Along with Outsider, WS Pilgrim and SS High Voltage, these bulls have made us a household name in the herd sire directory. We purchased EXAR Blue Chip 1877B in 2013 from Express Ranches, and he went on to be the 2013-2014 Roll of Victory Show Bull of the Year. He sired some of best show cattle in the country, and his daughters have produced numerous high sellers along with his son, Conley NO Limit 8188. We remember feeling like we were headed in the right direction and gaining attention from respected breeders around the country.
2015-2016 were incredibly progressive years for us. We won Grand Champion Angus Bull at the NWSS with SMA Watchout 482. We partnered with Tyler Cates to purchase Watchout after he placed 4th in class at the 2015 NAILE. Kyle saw something special in this bull, and he was crowned champion bull just 2 months later. During this same time, we purchased 5T Power Chip at the 2015 State Fair of Texas, and he has gone on to be a breed leader for calving ease and phenotype. He highlighted our 2016 Annual Bull Sale, selling 1/3 interest to a syndicate. We purchased Stevenson Turning Point with a breeding group in the fall of 2016, and he went on to sire calving ease, performance cattle. His first sons highlighted our 2019 bull sale and were sold to customers all over the United States and Canada. Conley South Point 8362, Conley Extra Point, and Conley High Line 8045 were also sold in this sale. South Point was purchased by Wilbar Cattle and Poplar Meadows and went on to be the Champion Angus Bull at the 2019 Canadian Western Agribition and 2020 NWSS. We were awarded with the 2016-2017 Roll of Victory Show Heifer of the Year with Conley Sandy 5104, a daughter of Blue Chip, and her second natural calf was Reserve Grand Champion at the 2016 NWSS Junior Show for Kynlee Daily. She has consistently produced high demand progeny. Conley Express 7211 was sold in 2018 to a group of progressive breeders led by Express Ranches. He is off to an exciting start by producing promising heifers and bulls gaining interest and topping sales all over the country. Our 2020 bull sale was highlighted by the popular bull, Conley Expression (purchased by Semex and Predestined Cattle), Conley Prowess (ST Genetics), Conley Express 9174 (purchased by C-4), and Conley Express 9419 was the top seller bought by J6 Farm.
We hosted our 10th Annual Fall Production Sale this fall during unsettling times, and we were honored at the success. We measure our success by our customers’ interest in our product, and this year was astounding. The cow families and sires discussed previously were ever present in our catalog.
Tom Burke and Jeremy Haag with the Angus Hall of Fame have managed our sales from the beginning. (Jeremy Haag):
“Conley Cattle is a program that is constantly in motion. From the very first time working with both the Conley and Penner families, I could see the passion and drive to build upon their strong Angus foundations and merge these experiences into a formidable Angus program. Both Kyle and Amanda have dedicated their entire lives to the business and have committed to raising their two boys in this great industry.
Their program’s success is actually very simple, and it isn’t due to the efforts of just one person or two, it is because they have the ability to find the right fit in those that work alongside them. Kyle and Amanda are aware of each individual’s personal talents and gel them into where their talents are the most beneficial and with that comes success! This is why people like being a part of Conley Cattle, and the result is an efficient work team.
Kyle and Amanda have also been successful because of the breeding philosophy at Conley Cattle that is not like others around the country, they have bred cattle with one main thing in mind, the “Angus Cow”. They understand that this is the single most important factor in the business, and they learned this from their fathers and grandfathers.
Conley Cattle has made tremendous strides in the last 10 years. I remember the first sale in Sulphur, Oklahoma with about 35 people there in the tent getting ready to sell about 50 lots of cattle. It wasn’t easy as a sale manager but the best thing that they have done to build on this is to keep their sales on the same day each year, at the same time, and have stuck with it. Sounds simple but it isn’t, most programs bounce around to new sale dates each year, a different time of the year, or just give up when they have a tough sale. You don’t win the World Series every year, some years are better than other. I can tell you, they have stayed consistent on the third Saturday in September at 6:00 pm and it has become their day, simple concept, but it works.” Jeremy Haag
The next generation holds the key to our success. Our herd managers and summer interns offer a new outlook and perspective on this industry, and their input is greatly valued. Our two herd managers, Alex Bauer and Cole Atkinson are instrumental in the success at Conley Cattle. Alex joined us in 2017, and Cole joined us in 2019. Employee is not a term we use here; we are a team. We feel that outlook makes us unique. We each allow the other to do what we are best at, whether that is taking care of herd health, livestock show preparation, farm improvements, sales and marketing, or customer service. Cole and Alex work diligently to ensure the cattle are presented to their full potential and that customers are pleased. We are passionate about the cattle industry, and we enjoy taking time to visit other operations. We are always happy to see what genetics are working for other programs and consider implementing those genetics in our program. We are constantly striving for progress.
We enjoy watching our customers exhibiting their cattle, and we were excited to watch our oldest son, Case exhibit his first heifer this past year. It was a learning experience for all of us! Our boys grow more interest in the cattle industry every season, and we are thrilled for them to exhibit the Simmental and Charolais cattle we have raised. They will also exhibit their Angus Bred & Owned cattle.
Our goals for the next ten years are beyond the showring. We want to continue raising sought after bulls and donors and investing in other breed leaders’ genetics. We want to be even more present in the Bred and Owned portion of cattle shows, seeing junior customers have a return on their investment is important to us.
We pride ourselves in being approachable, accessible, and ambitious. We strive to make a positive influence on junior cattle members. Amanda and I grew up in this very same business, and we are thankful beyond words for our experiences. The associations and groups we are involved in have shaped our business and personal lives. I use the public speaking experience I gained through NJAA and collegiate livestock judging in our business daily. My advisors and mentors gave me the confidence to pursue this as my passion and career. We want those same experiences for our children and junior exhibitors. We are thankful for our past and pleased with our present. We strive to produce cattle that compete in the showring but still focus on raising cattle that work in the pasture. We want to be your source for bulls, donors, and show heifers.
Parke & Hatmaker Family
Within the rolling hills of central Kentucky, the love of Agriculture and the beef industry has been bred into multiple generations of the Parke family. Today, a tarnished trophy sits above the entertainment center of the Parke family’s home. A quick thought would believe this trophy was won at one of the major shows, but at closer inspection this 1951 trophy was claimed by Billye Rae Turpin, Doug’s mother at the county fair. Doug was exposed to Agriculture through his family’s farm where they raised tobacco and beef cattle in Richmond, Kentucky, and exhibited steers and heifers at the local county fair.
Doug was active in the Madison County FFA Chapter throughout high school, where his cousin Billy Glen Turpin served as the Agriculture Teacher and FFA Advisor. In 1975 Doug and his fellow team members were named the Reserve Champion National Land Judging Team, and Parke was the High Individual of the contest. Billy Glen introduced him to Simmental cattle when a relative Joe Turpin of Allied Simmental Enterprises dispersed in 1974 at the Louisville Stockyards.
While working on his Animal Science Degree at Eastern Kentucky University, Doug began working for a local Simmental operation Kieckefer Simmentals of Kentucky, followed by Benedict Incorporated, and lastly Breck Ellison Farms in Tennessee. Breck Ellison Farms was a leader in the Simmental industry, Breck himself serving as Chairman of the ASA Board, and worked to build an exceptional herd of Simmental genetics. When they dispersed in 1992, the dispersal was held at the local stockyards, but televised outside in a tent due to the size of the crowd which was unheard of at the time due to technology.
Following the dispersal of Breck Ellison Farms, Doug and Debbie, his wife of 38 years, moved back home to Kentucky where Doug began his own consulting business at Simmental sales across the country and Canada. His friend and mentor Doug Paul was managing sales and Parke traveled with him and assisted him at many of the sales. This was a time of transition for the Simmental breed as the cattle were transitioning from traditional cattle to solid reds or blacks. Doug and Doug were the dynamic duo Parke on the block talking the cattle, and Paul taking care of the clerking. Not only was Doug Paul fun to travel with, he taught Parke a lot about developing skills in marketing, promotion, and dealing with people. When Doug Paul decided to retire from sale managing, it seemed like a natural fit for Parke to continue on with the business, evolving his business from consulting to managing Simmental sales. Debbie took over manning the office, and the family business was born.
Doug and Debbie have one child, Holli. Growing up surrounded by the livestock industry and Agriculture, Holli quickly grew into the family’s love for Agriculture. She was an active member of 4-H and FFA; competing and serving at the local, regional, state, and national level. Holli served as the Kentucky FFA State Secretary, and spent two years working for the National FFA Organization as a Conference Presenter.
The Parke family traveled each summer to the American Junior Simmental Association (AJSA) regional and national shows supporting junior members. In 1998, the Parke family loaded their own cattle and attended the AJSA National Classic in Columbus, Ohio as exhibitors. That first year, Holli asked to show a traditional red and white Simmental instead of the black Simmentals which were gaining popularity. Many people asked Doug why he traveled all over the country looking at and buying cattle, but his daughter was showing a red and white one. At the 1998 Junior Nationals that red and white female named “Holli’s Best” was selected the Third Overall Female.
“One of the things I admire most about dad is that people gave him a lot of grief over what I showed. Due to his exceptional eye for cattle, many times he found a bargain, but knew the potential for greatness was there. My first Denver Champion was a $1,200 purchase,” Holli states.
Holli’s involvement with the AJSA continued as she got older serving on the AJSA Junior Board of Trustees. During the summer of 2008, Holli interned for the American Hereford Association (AHA) in the Junior Activities Department. Currently, Holli serves on the American Simmental-Simbrah Foundation Board. “I have been so blessed to grow up showing through the AJSA program. Some of my very best friends I have met through this program, and it has brought me some great opportunities. At this point in my life, it is all about giving back to the great organization that gave me so much, and raising my children in it.”
In 2010, Holli married Drew Hatmaker of Tennessee. Drew quickly fit in and took an active role in the family business DP Sales Management. “Growing up, I knew of Doug. Sometimes its surreal to be able to work with someone who is so well known and respected, but I am blessed that Holli and I get to work with our family and learn from him,” Drew says. The have two children Knox (6) and Breck (3). The boys understand the family business, and at a young age were traveling to cattle sales and AJSA events. Both boys logged over 20 states before their first birthdays. Breck Hatmaker, the cow enthusiast was actually born on sale day of the NAILE Select Sale in 2016. Drew and Holli own their own herd of Simmental cattle which base can be traced back to females Holli showed through the AJSA program. They also operate Hatmaker Homestead, producing locally raised vegetables and poultry that are marketed at their local Farmer’s Market.
Today, DP Sales Management is a true family business. Drew and Holli have an active role in the business along with Doug and Debbie. DP Sales Management manages over 30 sales each year, and working with their clients to market their cattle not just on sale day but throughout the entire year. Our philosophy is that no matter how big or small the operation, there are marketing opportunities for everyone no matter what the price range. We take great pride in consignment sales; which allow some of the newest and smallest breeders to showcase their Simmental genetics. In 2014, seeing the rise of online sales they launched DP Online Sales, and host around 30 sales on their platform each year.
While assisting their clients and customers market their Simmental cattle through sales is the upmost importance; supporting and championing the Simmental breed is a part of their everyday life. Due to Doug’s involvement in the breed for over 40 years, his knowledge of pedigrees, phenotype, and breeders is unmatched. He strongly believes that every breeder, no matter how big or small, matters in the very existence of the breed. Visit their home and you will get an education on the progression of the Simmental breed, just from the walls of their office. Totes of old Simmental magazines, “The Shield” can be found along with photos of notable bulls and females over the year along with reproductive parts of CNS Dream On, one of the most notable and breed changing bulls.
The entire family is especially supportive of the next generation of the breeders, serving as judges for AJSA Regional and National Classic contests and supporting scholarship opportunities like the Peter Courtney Memorial Scholarship. In 2019, the family was instrumental along with the Simmental Breeders Sweepstakes in organizing and hosting the AJSA National Classic in Louisville, Kentucky. Both Doug and Holli were members of the Simmental Breeders Sweepstakes Board who hosted the event, and Drew and Holli were coordinators of the show.
“Growing up in the AJSA program, I really felt like my AJSA career had come full circle assisting with the coordination of the 2019 Classic. Attending so many of the junior nationals over the years and interning with the Junior Hereford Association, I always kind of dreamed what I would want it to look like, and to have that opportunity was really special. I told Drew he might as well be the co-coordinator with me since he was going to have to listen to me all the time anyways!” Holli commented.
She continued on to say, “The AJSA National Classic is such a special event for so many families and so important for our breed. So many families are buying Simmentals right now, and it was important for me to show them what the AJSA can do for their children just like it did for me.”
Doug Parke closes, “Our family loves being a part of the Simmental breed. I’m so proud that we all work together on a daily basis in our business, and it’s a privilege to serve our customers, breeders, and the future of the breed.”
Ashley & Jessie Judge
“Work harder, push further, and care more than everyone else and God will do the rest.”
When the Reid family asked us to put together an article telling our story, we couldn’t feel more honored. To say that we have been attached at the hip since Jessie was born would be an understatement. We have been best friends since birth. Throughout life, we have constantly done things together and relied on one another through it all.
Our story and passion for the beef industry began in California. Our parents were working for a family by the name of Andrews in Dos Palos, California. At the time, they were very heavily involved in Angus and Red Angus cattle, and our parents were managing their show barn, cow herd and hay farm. By the time we were both a year old, we had been to every major stock show in the country, instilling a love for show cattle from the start. This passion for show cattle was countered with early experiences with performance based Angus cattle, acquired when our dad took a job at Vintage Angus Ranch when we were around 5 and 2, right before our younger brother Wyatt was born. Our dad was managing the Vintage cow herd, in what was at the time, a very tiny town in the foothills of California. It is hard to fathom but the town of La Grange had a biker bar and gas station and that was about it. The small town feel provided us some of the best learning experiences. Our parents never shorted us of an opportunity to drive the feed truck, help move cows or jump in to get some hands on experience with calving cows and processing groups of calves.
It was when our dad took a teaching position at Cal Poly that our family moved to San Luis Obispo and showing cattle really became a focal point in our lives. We joke that our parents most likely completely regret buying Ashley a Shorthorn for her first show heifer. After being heavily involved in Angus cattle for many years, we don’t think our parents could have ever guessed that a Shorthorn female would lead to A LOT more Shorthorns over the years. Our first shorthorn heifer was named Strawberry, and she only cost $600. Strawberry was joined by an Angus named Lucy and a Charolais named Nikki. At the time, you couldn’t show in California until the age of nine, and even though Jessie couldn’t show, she worked in the barn just as hard. Those three years waiting and watching Ashley show when she couldn’t were definitely some of the hardest for Jessie, but it just helped further develop her love for the work behind the scenes and her competitive drive to get in the ring. For us, we had to learn to work hard early, as our facilities didn’t always make being competitive at a high level easy. Our very first “show barn” was just a lean to on the side of a hay barn. We felt pretty special when we moved and upgraded to an old dairy milking barn. The only concrete on the whole place was in the working facility lead up so we turned that into an outdoor wash rack, and the water pressure was so bad that we had to hook up a power washer just to get cattle rinsed. Even still, this was where our success in the ring really took off.
In 2004, we were lucky enough to win the California State Fair for the first time with a Shorthorn female by the name of Darla. We bought Darla from Dave Dillabo for next to nothing because she was part blind in her left eye and nobody else wanted to take a chance on trying to get her broke. At that time, we didn’t have anyone working for us, it was just our family. Between us, Wyatt and our parents we still managed to get everything ready, which looking back is something we are so thankful for. Growing up, we were handed a can of glue, a comb and a set of clippers and told “Get after it. You can’t learn just watching everybody else”. Sure, we made a lot of mistakes, put plenty of gouges in leg hair and sprayed entirely too much glue at times, but we learned. We learned that we were just as capable as the next person and could fit and get one ready just like “all the boys”.
Over the next couple of years, our family continued to build in success and numbers, which included Supreme AND Reserve Supreme females at the California State fair in 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011, Reserve Supreme Female in 2008, and Supreme Female in 2014, just to name some of the more major successes. We had so many special and amazing heifers over the years, with a few steers sprinkled in, but there were a few that were especially special. In 2006 Ashley won with a female we called Erica, purchased from Silveira Bros. and the one who brought Craig and JJ Reinhardt into our lives. The livestock industry is incredible at placing pivotal people in your life, and to this day the Reinhardts treat us like their own kids and they are nothing short of family. In 2009, Jessie won with what would be the most influential Angus female we ever had, Chica. She is still producing to this day at 13 years old. 2010 was the year of Gus. You can talk to many who still remember the red neck roan female from WHR that Ashley showed that year. She ranks as one of the best Shorthorn females we ever had the chance to walk into the ring. Last but not least, 2011 brought about Kim, another special Shorthorn that we owned with Craig and Stephanie Steck. She went on to produce numerous champions and influence a lot of the genetics the Steck family still has.
No doubt the successes shared were true blessings, but it was the memories, lessons learned in the barn and the people we met that truly made this industry our forever passion and home. From the time Ashley was a freshman in high school, Jessie was in 6th grade, and Wyatt was just getting started, we took managing the show barn into our own hands. As hard as it may have been, our parents instilled in us a work ethic that cultivated a strong sense of pride in what we did and gave us the confidence to believe in our eyes and ability. Sure, our mom and dad would stop in every once in awhile to check and make sure things were getting fed right and help with any problems, but the show cattle were our responsibility to care for and learn how to get ready. If they were going to get fed, rinsed, worked on, whatever it may be, we were going to have to be the ones to do it. We can still remember the year we took over 20 head to state fair, including three cow calf pairs and two bulls. Looking back, we can’t even believe the insanity that we had going through our heads thinking that was a good idea, but that was the beauty of it. Our parents were willing to do anything to make our dreams and desires come true, as long as we were putting the time and effort in to follow through and make it go.
Our parents let us fail often so we could learn. We still remember the first time they let us shave heads and tails on heifers and we didn’t check the blades before starting. Halfway through shaving a red heifers head and after having already done her tail, we quickly realized that we were shearing with blocking blades… our fitting and clipping ability has come a long way since then! Through these experiences, we quickly learned that you don’t have to have the most and the fanciest to make it work. The most we ever spent on a heifer was $7,500. Granted times were different then than they are now, but the reality was we had to learn to be successful without an abundance of money or the nicest barn in the world. We were told from the very beginning that in order to be successful we had to out-work, out-feed and out-show others. We took pride in taking care of our cattle day in and day out, even if that meant not going to the lake with friends. Showmanship was always at the top of our priority list, and our competitiveness between each other only fueled our desire to do better. Our parents encouraged us, but their expectations were always set high. The goals were always changing, the bar was always being set higher.
Despite all the success we gained in California, we never managed to win it big on a national scale. The best we ever did at a major national show was winning a division growing up. Looking back, we so greatly wish we could have brought home a few more banners at that level, but at the same time, it really made us into the people we are now. To this day, we feel this is a huge driving force behind our continued passion and drive to do better and be better.
As we got older, and our time in the show ring started to wane, we invested our time in developing our personal skills that would allow us to give back to the industry in our future careers. One of those avenues was livestock judging, which all started with the help of our mom, Becky. At the time when Ashley entered high school, our mom was teaching at another high school. Knowing how competitive the we were and our desire to potentially judge in college, our mom quit her job, choosing to run cows full time and fill in as our judging coach. While we had two amazing high school Ag teachers, who helped us achieve so much in the way of public speaking and leadership roles, our Ag teachers didn’t have the livestock background our mom did. She taught us collegiate reasons format from the beginning and accuracy was always the priority, long past fancy terms and flamboyant presentation. There was no one more critical of us than her. To some it may seem harsh, but at the end of the day, it made us who we are today. It gave us the competitive edge and mental toughness needed to compete on the college level.
Our time in Junior College brought us some amazing teachers, the likes of Clay Elliot, Marcus Arnold and Taylor Frank. We both quickly found that you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and all of these gentlemen gave us the stepping stones to go on and achieve even more success in senior college at Oklahoma State University. Oklahoma State and Dr. Blake Bloomberg were always the end point for both the girls. Ashley was a member of the 2014 Reserve National Champion team in Louisville, being named High Individual and High Point in Reasons. Shortly thereafter, Blake asked Ashley to stay on and help coach, and to help coach the team Jessie would be on. In 2017, Jessie, alongside her team members, were named the National Champion team; the first win for both Blake and Ashley. On the same day, November 13th, Jessie was named High Individual and High Point in reasons, making us the first siblings in history to both win high individual at NAILE. A lifetime of hard work, dedication and effort managed to pay off in one moment. To share a piece of livestock judging history with each other is something we cherish and it frames the epitome of our relationship with each other. It encompasses exactly who we are and just how close we are to one another. On both winning days, two of the most important influences in our life were there; our mom and Blake. The woman who started us on the livestock judging path and the mentor who believed in our talent and ability more than anyone else.
Today, Jessie works as a marketing brand coordinator for BioZyme Incorporated, the makers of Sure Champ and VitaFerm, and large supporters of youth livestock events and opportunities, while spending as much time working at Tree Lane Farms in Illinois as possible. Ashley has built her own free-lance marketing business, 805 Media Management, while also helping to manage Baty Livestock, a Simmental and Angus based operation out of Colorado. While we currently live over 960 miles away from one another and only seem to meet up at livestock shows, nothing has changed our relationship. We support each other, cheer each other on and push each other more now than ever. We still set goals together and set the bar high. We still both enjoy spending all our time in the barn working on cattle, talking about breeding decisions and management choices. Getting the opportunity to judge shows together is something that we never take for granted. Standing in a ring as siblings and sisters, getting to sort through stock in the industry we love the most is a dream come true for us. Getting to this point was not something that happened over night for the us though. It is an accumulation of years upon years of hard work, struggle, defeat, persistence, heart break, success and failure. The list of people we need to thank is insurmountable, but please know that if you have ever played a part in our lives, cheered us on and been there through good and bad, we appreciate you, more than you know!
We hope that our story, experiences and upbringing can inspire other young people in similar situations to have big aspirations and work hard to achieve your dreams. While we have different careers and different ways of operating, we both have big ambitions to help guide young people, and young women particularly, to achieve the highest level of growth and achievement. Even though we haven’t been on this earth that long, here is a couple of things we’ve learned and hope will be helpful to some!
1. Never stop learning. Be open to listening to anyone and everyone. Go and work for other people, as it will teach you more than you know. It will give you appreciation for the way you grew up, and it will teach you tips and tricks that will make you better.
2. Don’t put a limit on yourself. Don’t let anyone else put a limit on you. There will be plenty of people who attempt to tear you down and tell you it can’t be done. Don’t listen to them. Choose the people who believe in you. The ones who don’t accept mediocrity and expect excellence.
3. Be yourself, unapologetically. Never apologize for being competitive and driven and going after what you want.
4. Learn to be okay with failing. It makes you stronger and tougher for the real world. Failing teaches you more than success ever will, and makes achieving success that much sweeter when it does happen.
Lazy JB Angus
A true American Dream story, a brand purchased by an Italian immigrant and his wife in 1926 and a teenager’s Christmas wish to own an Angus heifer represent the start of an operation that has truly withstood the test of time. Lazy JB Angus run 300 Registered Angus females amidst the San Juan Mountains in Montrose, CO. Originally located in Louisville, CO, just outside of Denver, Lazy JB was founded by John and Rose Biella and their son, Frank and his wife Elizabeth. Hard work and determination kept the ranch going through the depression; Frank worked in the coal mines and Liz (Elizabeth) milked cows, tended to chickens, sold milk, cream, butter and eggs in town and raised three children, one of which would later be the reason behind the “Angus” in Lazy JB.
While Lazy JB had an array of breeds to begin with (mainly Herefords to be honest!), it was a 16 year old’s Christmas wish that would be the start of a multigenerational Angus operation. Richard, the only son of Frank and Liz, received his first Angus heifer as a Christmas present. He named her “Black Diamond” after the coal mine his father Frank worked in. This female would become the foundation of the operation and be the first Angus female to wear the Lazy JB Brand. Richard was extremely active in 4-H and FFA programs growing up, participated in the 9th Annual National Western Stock Show Catch-It-Calf program and would later encourage young people across the state of Colorado to be a part of agriculture no matter the facet of the industry. Richard’s passion for Angus cattle was passed on to his daughter Kathi (Creamer), who also grew up showing Angus– winning state and local titles. She served as a Colorado Angus Queen, held many offices within the CJAA and represented the state in the National Junior Angus Showmanship contest in 1975 where she was named among the top 15 finalist. She could often be found chute side, fitting cattle with some of the industry’s top-hands, a passion she would later pass on to her children, Brandon and Britney.
Fast forward to 1999, when urban development began encroaching on Lazy JB, the dream of expanding the operation would become a reality as Richard, his wife Elaine, his daughter Kathi and her husband Jeff Creamer and family would close up shop in Louisville as the last working ranch/farm on US-36 between Denver and Boulder, CO. The ranch was relocated to Montrose where it was able to expand in numbers and allow Jeff and Kathi to live out their lifelong dream of a full-time ranching career.
Family owned and operated couldn’t be truer than with Lazy JB Angus as the Creamer family run the day-to day operations without outside help and handle every aspect of the herd and land management. Brandon is a local county 4-H extension agent, and Britney is an area sales manager for BioZyme Inc. Both grew up in the Angus breed serving as Vice Chairman and Chairman of the NJAA board of directors, showing numerous bred & owned animals with the coveted Lazy JB brand and experienced successes that ranged from Angus Champion Bulls, females and steers, an ROV Show Heifer of the Year and a NJAS Showmanship Championship. Both play an active role in all aspects of Lazy JB. Brandon and Britney say they are extremely grateful to have parents that allow them to be directly involved in the day to day decisions and investments the operation make; from selecting herd bulls to purchase, to mating decisions, sale cattle selection, marketing and operational design and function, Jeff and Kathi are always open and encouraging to their input.
As within any operation, the hurdles that must be crossed to stay afloat in today’s agriculture industry are inevitably always evolving. For Lazy JB raising cattle at high altitudes come with more obstacles than the average cattlemen deal with. The Creamers work diligently to conquer the obstacles of high desert cattle country and rise to the challenge by utilizing multiple tools and technology within their herd. All bulls and females are Pulmonary Arterial Pressure (PAP) tested and bloodlines are watched carefully to ensure that cattle can handle the stresses presented at high altitudes. “In many instances we cannot use the same sires as many of our fellow cattlemen because they just point blank cannot live at high elevation and don’t work for our commercial cattlemen” says Brandon. “Our cattle forage on ground that is not suitable for any use other than grazing, in the summers we graze cattle; including donors and former show heifers up to 9,500 feet and winter cattle at 6,500 feet. These cattle have to be sound, fertile, self-sufficient and able to work in all segments of the industry from the showring to the pasture to the feedlot.”
Cattlemen and those that raise livestock all have their own criteria and at Lazy JB they “don’t follow trends; we know our cows and our environment, we study bloodlines and look at genetics to try to make the next generation better. The bulls we purchase are done so with a purpose and we know that longevity within your herd will result in the sustainability of the cattlemen” says Jeff. After a number of years marketing bulls private treaty and at consignment sales, they gradually built their numbers and held their first annual bull sale in 2001. The selection of these sale lots is not taken lightly and only 65 bulls are marketed through the annual bull sale. In the fall of 2010 an online show heifer sale was added where only the top 10-15 tier of world class show heifers and future donor cows are offered. “We believe in the power of the female, and that behind every great herd sire and future donor is the dam that raised them to be what they’ve become. The mother cow is the true factory in every operation; she will be the one that ultimately decides your future in the cattle business and this is a major focus for us when selecting the show heifers we offer each fall, we want them to not only be successful in the ring but when set into production” says Kathi. Replacement females and steers are marketed privately through the ranch or with Superior Livestock. While many reading this may most recognize the Lazy JB Brand from within the showring, they are a major source for commercial and registered producers to find the genetic needs for their cowherd to optimize their investment.
While they are grateful to be involved in many aspects of this industry they are quick to credit the showring for the life skill development, friendships and foundation it has built for their family. “We are involved in this industry because we love the challenge of producing superior cattle and seeing those cattle work for our customers. We all want to be successful,” says Britney “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. But we all measure success differently. For our operation, there’s nothing more exciting than watching our bull customers command top premiums for Lazy JB sired calves, watching a kid achieve their goals within the showring or when you can say that a female from your herd has helped a family send their child to college, ensure that they could continue ranching another year or became the foundation of an operation that has grown ten fold, there’s simply no better feeling,” she adds.
We are extremely humbled and grateful of all the good in our lives that God has blessed us with and look forward to continuing our family’s ranching legacy for generations to come. The Lazy JB brand is something very near and dear to our hearts and something we try every day to live up to while embracing industry advancements and honoring lifelong tradition. •
Linde Sutherly grew up in Leavittsburg, Ohio, on a small beef cattle farm. She loved showing cattle, playing volleyball and being involved in clubs and organizations as she was growing up. In 2001 she received a BS in Agriculture with a major in Animal Science and a minor in Ag Business from The Ohio State University. After graduation she worked for Producers Credit, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio as a credit analyst for 3 years. She soon found her passion for photography and pursued her livestock photography business full-time. A tiny show in Moundsville, WV was one her first shows she photographed and she will never forget the first large show she covered, the Eastern National Livestock Show. She says she will never forget those folks who gave her the opportunity to pursue her dreams, as none of her success would be had it not been for those peoplegiving her a chance. “I thank Jesus that He opened doors to guide me in His will for my life.” Her parents were very helpful early in her career – after her mom retired, she traveled around to many shows, assisting Linde with printing and showing pics to customers in the small trailer they pulled around. “That seems like so many years ago!” Technology has changed so much in the past 20 years, and really changed the way they do business, using an app and website instead of driving the trailer around for an office for exhibitors to view photos is just one example. Ring shot photographers are another wonderful addition to the business over the years, providing great photos for exhibitors and jobs for photographers. Linde feels so very blessed that her small business has grown to serve so many and allows her to have fabulous photographers to work with around the country. She has mentored many aspiring photographers over the years and enjoys that opportunity.
Linde, her husband Dave, and their 9 year old son, Austin, reside in New Carlisle, Ohio. The have a small herd of cows that they enjoy, raising club calves to sell in the fall. They have achieved some success in the show ring over the years, and enjoy raising Austin in the livestock industry. Great friends, the value of hard work and responsibility, teamwork and spending time together as a family are a few of the things that come to mind quickly when they think of why they like being a part of this great industry. She and Dave also enjoy watching Austin play baseball and guitar, as well as they like seeing him snag a cow in the chute, helping to make breeding choices and then seeing the joy in his eyes when his favorite cow calves and having the opportunity to see all of that work throughout the year come full circle.
Linde’s passion lies in her photo business. She truly enjoys having the opportunity to work with such great people at shows, with the same love for the industry. “Capturing those moments that people have worked for years to achieve is not something I take lightly. It’s not just about getting a fabulous backdrop photo for every exhibitor. Our team is committed to providing outstanding service with a great attitude and having that show through every photo. I am so blessed to have a wonderful team of ladies with the same passion.”
She enjoys volunteering her time and efforts for the youth in the livestock industry. When the Ohio State Fair was cancelled, her heart ached for the many kids that work so hard throughout the year, and wanted to provide a show for them to finish their projects. She has been involved in planning the Ohio Youth Livestock Expo, and is so excited that it is coming together because of an awesome team of people and generous sponsors, with the same goal in mind, “to get these kids in the ring!”
Linde serves in several areas of the beef industry as well. She is on the executive board of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and is the president of the Clark County Cattle Producers. She is a co-chairman of the Cattle Battle, an Ohio BEST Show, which is known for it’s community service efforts while providing a fun, costume class to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. Teaching kids to help others is so very important, and any opportunity we can give them to do that, we need to do that. Since the charity show began 8 years ago, it has raised over $100,000 for charities.
For 22 years Cory and Melissa Schrag along with their 2 children, Sammi (21) and Jaxon (17), have carefully cultivated their century farm. For 100 years Shorthorns have roamed the pastures in Marion, SD, making Schrag Shorthorns one of the oldest herds in the nation. This year will be their 50th Anniversary of marketing those genetics at public auction at “The Family Event Sale” in October. Pride of the legacy and tradition of this family farm is evident, but it is a spirit of entrepreneurship that drives this operation.
Upon graduating from South Dakota State University, Cory furthered his education and attended the National Embryo Transfer School and studied under Dr. Peter Elsdon, where he learned how to conventionally flush donors and transfer embryos. Cory and Melissa then started Dakota Transfers, a full-service ET center, in 1999. This was an intense time of growing their business and their family. “I look back on those Dakota Transfer days as laying a great network and foundation for building a business,” said Melissa. Cory’s father, Doug, passed unexpectedly in 2008 so they made the choice to scale back Dakota Transfers and move to the home place to further the exceptional Shorthorn reputation that Doug had built.
Doug believed in the power of great cow families and that hasn’t changed. “We are proud that the Augusta Prides and Revivals started here,” Cory said. They have since added the Dream Ladies, Max Rosa, Missing Mirage and Myrtle Bo families. Most were purchased as show heifers for Sammi and Jaxon and now are headline donors. “Sammi and Jaxon have been lucky in the showring, but what I’m most proud of is the relationship they have with each other. They are each other’s biggest fans,” Melissa said. While focusing on building an elite Shorthorn donor offering, Cory and Melissa were bit by the entrepreneurial bug once again.
In 2007, ShorthornShop was born out of the idea to make it easier to register and breed Shorthorn cattle. “At the time, acquiring AI certificates was a real pain, so we thought if there was an online shopping cart to get certificates and purchase semen in any quantity needed, that this would only help the Shorthorn breed,” said Cory. This online website was widely accepted and kept the whole family busy. Cory and Jaxon would pack semen and Melissa and Sammi would do data entry and invoices. ShorthornShop soon grew out of the lab they built and the Schrags made the hard decision to sell the business to Cattle Visions. “I will forever be grateful to ShorthornShop for showing my kids at a young age that with hard work and determination you can turn a little idea into a big opportunity,” Melissa said.
The biggest idea was just on the horizon for the Schrag family. While Cory was in college, Lloyd Jungmann, founder of Hawkeye Breeders, had asked Cory if he wanted to operate a bull stud near his home. “Lloyd flew up to collect our bulls a lot and I was honored he thought of me, but I was young and wanted to focus on the farm,” Cory said. The idea never left his mind and finally in the spring of 2016 the Schrags started the adventure that would be called 605 Sires + Donors. “Cory’s first phone call was to John Weston, the most respected man in the business, and John agreed to mentor us,” Melissa said, “From that phone call on it has been a fast and furious ride.” Over twenty years of selling, buying, collecting bulls and shipping semen gave Cory and Melissa a blueprint of what they wanted in their own bull stud and ET center.
In four short years, 605 Sires + Donors has turned into one of the fastest growing reproductive centers in the nation. They can house over 100 bulls in peak season, have CSS and export capabilities and also do sexed semen collections. In 2018 they partnered with Trans Ova Genetics and created an embryo transfer/donor facility. Every two weeks, Trans Ova comes to perform IVF collections and conventional ET flushes. 605 also has the ability to transfer embryos on a daily basis and has purchased a recip program as well. “We understand how important these genetics are to advance your program and we will exhaust all avenues to help you reach your goals,” said Cory.
605 is based on some simple principles: have a friendly and knowledgeable staff, utilize the most advanced technologies and practice safe handling procedures. 605 uses the CASA computer system. This system gives a complete computer read for semen concentration, breaks down motility into motile and progressive and gives a percentage for bent tails, proximal droplets, distal droplets, and dead cells. Each sample then has a video clip saved and also has a printed analysis stored in the bull’s file. “It has been invaluable to have exact computer data to track the bulls and see their progression and how to best manage their care,” said Melissa.
Communication is key. In order to have a transparent operation where the owners could track their bulls’ and donors’ progress, 605 had a computer program built just for them. This program allows the customer to log in and view jump schedules, units froze, semen shipped, current inventory and invoices. This has been such a successful program that they have even sold it to other bull studs. This year they also added online semen sales to further promote the genetics of their customers. Along with the advanced computer options, having a safe and accessible facility was of the utmost importance. “One of our favorite features is the drive thru drop off and load out for both bulls and donors, people just love that,” said Melissa. They also are Umbarger, Vitaferm and Sullivan Supply dealers to be a complete stop for their customers.
While building 605 Sires + Donors, the Schrags decided to diversify their cattle operation and expand into the Maine-Anjou breed. “We have fallen in love with this breed, its organization and the breeders. Thank you to all that have made us feel at home in the Maine aisle,” Melissa said. With this addition they renamed the cattle operation to Schrag 605. “Cory and I hope the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Sammi and Jaxon and look forward to see what they can do with the 605 brand.”
“It takes a village.” This seems like the best way to describe our operation. CK Cattle was established on July 18, 1997 when a “show jock” married a “sheep girl.” Much has changed since then, but one thing that hasn’t, is our passion for good livestock and the desire to surround ourselves with great people.
When we started this journey, it was predominantly a club calf and club lamb operation. As time evolved, we decided the purebred cattle better suited our goals. We started breeding Simmentals for the maternal side of our club calf project but liked them so well that they have remained the foundation of our operation.
As we added to our family, we also added breeds to our operation. Each girl has their breed of choice. It started as a way for them to not have to compete against one another but has grown into something much more for them….
I hold the Charolais breed very near and dear to my heart. It may sound ridiculous, but white cows would surely make the short list of things I could not dream of living without. My family’s experience with the breed dates back to before I was even born. My dad worked at the notorious Thomas Ranch in the early years of his relationship with mom, and well, the rest is history.
It was after Cally finished her 4-H career that I got to be on the end of a halter of a Charolais, but I can assure you it was worth the wait. The year was 2010 and Charolais Junior Nationals were in South Dakota. I will always remember the string of heifers that year, females that have went on to be cornerstones for operations across the country. Most importantly, I’ll never forget the people: Kendra Elder and myself duking it out in one of the most intense showmanship contests of my life, Cally Thomas and the rest of the Junior Board running a show, competing in the fitting contest against what would someday become some of my best friends in the breed, and Troy Thomas never leaving my side even though he had countless other juniors with cattle there. No words will EVER be able to accurately describe how blessed I am to have the Thomas family in my life. Not only was I given complete access to genetics of the breeds lead matriarch’s, but more importantly a family that will go to the earth’s end for myself and my family. To say the Charolais breed is special to me would be a vast understatement. I became hooked on the breed for many reasons, but that first Junior National did me in. My goals of becoming active in the junior program and having success in the show ring seemed farfetched, but with some luck and hard work 10 years later, I’m fortunate to say I’ve exceeded my 12-year-old self’s dreams. Though my time in the junior scene is closing, I’ve only scratched the surface on what I hope to do, not only for myself within the breed, but what I hope to help my sister’s accomplish in theirs as well.
My love for the Hereford breed began when I was just three years old. At the time, my dad was working as a field man for the American Hereford Association and my favorite thing to do was read the Hereford World. I would stare out the window every time we drove past our neighbor’s, who had a herd of over a thousand commercial Herefords. When I was old enough, it was no question what breed I would show. The beginning of my show career included Hereford steers and begging my dad to let me go to junior nationals. Every time I asked, I was told it was too far away and too hot where it was being held. It wasn’t until 2015, when I was 14 and had been to two other breed junior nationals (Simmental and Charolais) a couple times each, that I finally found my favorite of them all. Now, five years later, I can still remember that week in Grand Island like it was yesterday. The atmosphere of the whole week was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I was a new kid on the block but I didn’t feel like it even for a second. The people were so welcoming, not to mention all the fun that was had. The Sullivan Supply obstacle course, the three-on-three tournament, and tailgating are still some of my favorite memories to this day. It was, however, the awards ceremony, of all things, that had me hooked. Everybody drug their lawn chairs into the middle of the show ring, we honored the accomplishments of the exhibitors in the contests throughout the week, and, my favorite, listened to the junior board members’ retiring addresses. It was watching the board members hand off their jackets that made me realize that this was something I wanted to be a part of someday. Because of that first year’s impactful experience, I plan to run for the National Junior Hereford Association Junior Board. Junior Nationals is still my favorite week of the year because it’s my first chance to see all of my closest friends in one place since the year before. Hereford Junior Nationals has allowed me to make lifelong connections within the breed that I am forever grateful for.
The Simmental breed always interested me, but it was in 2014 when I decided that this was the breed for me. That year was the first junior national I attended. Even though I did not get to show that year, it was the people that made me want to go back. That year I participated in the novice program. We did many fun activities that included visiting Church Hill Downs and the Louisville Sluggers museum. The week of activities brought me many new friends that I am still friends with today. 2015 was when I finally started showing. I was the youngest, so Cagney and Chesney got first pick of the heifers that year. I got the leftovers and that was my first Simmental. After a few years of attending other breed junior nationals and Simmental regional shows, I finally got to show at my first Simmental junior national in 2018. A fun filled week with close friends was topped off by being named Champion Percentage Female. I spent my whole summer in the barn and achieving this accomplishment made me realize that hard work pays off. I have learned many lessons from showing cattle. I have learned leadership, teamwork, and to work hard for your dreams. I have big dreams that I want to achieve, and I must work hard to accomplish them.
It takes a Village. With each of the girls having their breed and passion for Jr. Nationals, it has created some challenges throughout the summers. 2014 was the first year that we tackled going to two Junior Nationals at once. This is where our village comes in. We sent Cagney with a great crew to Charolais Jr. Nationals while the rest of us headed to Louisville for Simmental Junior Nationals. Cagney flew into Louisville from Wichita, and once everyone was together again, we began setting up, and we watched a heifer we raised win Hereford Junior Nationals via livestream. Since that summer, we have attended at least 2 Junior Nationals every summer, and some years all 3! We have been blessed with some amazing people who are always willing to help us out. We are certainly a fan of technology, being able to watch the girls achieve some of their greatest accomplishments from another Junior National is awesome.
There is an unending list of family members, operations, and pieces of livestock that we salute our success to. One thing that we are confident in, is that our undevoted dedication and passion for what we do has brought us to where we are today. Village, Army, Crew, Friends, Family; whatever you want to call them we’ve got the best one! Thank you to The ShowTimes for asking us to share our story.
Jirl & Brenda Buck
Jirl grew up on a small cow calf operation which mainly produced Limousin cattle and ran yearlings on grass in the summer. His family showed heifers and steers and was involved in 4-H and FFA. The highlight of Jirl’s junior show career was when his steer won a class at Oklahoma City his senior year. His dad, Bill Buck, was very talented at clipping and many people brought cattle to him to clip in the early days, as a result, Jirl learned some valuable skills at a very early age. He attended Murray State College and Oklahoma State University. It was during college that he had the opportunity to work for several top cattle producers including McKown Limousin, Magness Land & Cattle Co., American Cattle Services, Hal Courtney, and Ferris Ranch.
Jirl and I were married in the fall of 1988, and with very little in our pockets we started our club calf business. I remember making flyers by hand, photocopying them, and taking them to local shows, events, etc. This was before home computers and graphic designs were a thing. Jirl and a few of his friends built our first show barn. He traded and clipped show steers and cattle around the country. During that time, he made several great connections and worked alongside some of the most elite people in the business. Jirl partnered with Bobby May for several years selling show steers. He had the opportunity to be involved with many champion steers back then that he sold or helped prepare for the shows. There were many influential families that he worked with, which we credit for giving him the confidence that he could compete at every level, and the encouragement to make it on our own.
In the early 90’s we were running a handful of club calf cows when a show steer customer, Dr. Bob Morton, approached Jirl about partnering with him on a set of registered Maine-Anjou cows. Little did we know what effect that purchase would have on our future. When the first calves were born Jirl realized the demand for high quality show heifers was on the rise, and high-quality Maine-Anjou cattle were in short supply. The commitment to the Maine business was wide open from there. We could not have found a better breed to be involved in than the Maine-Anjou breed. The Maine-Anjou people will always be our first cattle family. Jirl has served on the American Maine-Anjou Association Board and we also served as the junior advisors for the Oklahoma Maine-Association for about ten years. We have so many fond memories with the Maine breed, especially all the junior national trips with the Moore family and many other customers through the years.
In 1994, we decided to host our very first Fall Premier Sale in Lawton, Oklahoma to market our spring born females. In 1996, we had our first Spring Edition Sale to market our Fall born females. Both of those sales went well, taught us a lot, and showed us where we needed to improve. We celebrated our 25th Fall Premier Sale last October and we are gearing up for our 24th Spring Edition Sale in March, and we still strive to improve with each sale.
In 2009, we purchased our first Hereford female at the National Sale in Denver, the following year we purchased a heifer in that same sale for Bailey to show. That female was our first taste of victory in the Hereford arena, she won the Junior National Hereford Expo, Reno, Kansas City, and Tulsa. We were hooked! Now, here we are ten years later with 300 plus Herefords. The Hereford breed is another breed we are fortunate to be a part of. The association and the breeders are all awesome people and we appreciate all they have done for us. There were several people that were very beneficial to our good start in the Hereford breed, but some of the key players that helped us were Jack Ward, Todd Herman, Jason Hoffman, Mark McClintock, and Kyle Colyer. We can’
t thank them enough for their encouragement and advice.
The Buck family has always been a huge fan of rodeo and has always had numerous connections to people in the rodeo business. With that background and Jirl’s interest in bucking bulls, the local veterinarian, Dr Ken Carlson, introduced Jirl to Dillon Page. The timing could not have been more perfect because the bucking bull industry had just formed a registry and was set to begin competitions for the bulls. The Page’s had been in the business for many years and had one of the top breeding programs. Jirl persuaded Dillon to do embryo transplant work on a few of his elite females. The offspring from those embryos is how the D&H and Buck partnership began. D&H Cattle had the elite genetics and Jirl began helping them with their production sales and marketing. The Pages are partners, but more like family, they simply have the best genetics and strive to be better every day. We are not directly involved with the daily management of the bucking bulls. We run a group of the cows on our place, but the bulls are all managed by D&H Cattle. D&H hosts three sales annually marketing bulls, bred females, and pairs. We have been fortunate to have been involved in many of the great bulls D&H has had over the past 17 years. No doubt, the most noted bull we have ever owned is Sweet Pro’s Bruiser. Bruiser is the Who’s Who of the Bucking Bull Business. He was the World Champion Classic Bull, 3X PBR Bucking Bull of the Year, and PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year. On an interesting note, Bruiser’s grandam was the very first bucking bull cow we purchased.
Buck Cattle Company runs 450 cows and produces Maine-Anjou, Hereford, and bucking bulls. We host two annual production sales in March and October. We also have several online sales throughout the year. Our bulls and groups of bred females are marketed at private treaty.
We are involved in this industry because we love the challenge of producing superior cattle and the awesome feeling of seeing those cattle work for our customers, whether in the show ring or in production. The junior program has always been a priority for our operation, there is no better program in the world for young people. They learn responsibility, sportsmanship, work ethic, communication skills, and are exposed to the best people in the world. Even if they don’t remain in the cattle business, they have learned skills to help them be successful in life. Our goal when we began was to develop a team spirit with our exhibitors in our show barn, and we have been fortunate to work with many great families who are part of our team.
There are far too many people that have influenced our lives to mention them all. No doubt the most influential would be Jirl’s parents. They believe in God, family values, hard work, and having a good name. The outfits Jirl worked for all had a part in directing his life and he was fortunate to have worked with top quality programs. Some people within the industry that definitely deserve recognition are; Bobby May, Mark Copus, Steve Bonham, John Boddicker, Jim Pannell, Ronnie Glover, Dr. Bob Morton, Dr. J Butler, Jerry Gibson, and Scott Manley. Many of those same guys are responsible for our success, however, we wouldn’t be where we are today without Matt Scasta, Davey Young, Ethan Moore, Craig Moore, Brett Carter, Jeremy Clark, and many others.
Bailey grew up in the show barn. She had a love for cows from the start. She would ride her tricycle from our house over to the barn and park in her "parking spot" next to the guys’ trucks and feed trucks. She started showing around age six and attended her first Jr. National Maine-Anjou Show in 2000 in Enid, Oklahoma. She showed her steer named Scooby. Scooby did not win that year but that class ribbon she received was just enough to spark her competitive spirit. She attended every Jr. National Maine-Anjou show from 2000-2014. She enjoyed competing in the contests, as well as, showing her cattle. She also served on the Junior National Maine-Anjou Association Board as a director and also as President. She began showing Herefords in 2009 and concluded her junior career in 2015 with Champion Polled Hereford female and Reserve Champion Horned Hereford female at the JNHE. Such an awesome way to end your junior show career! Her time spent in the barn, in the show ring, and serving on the junior board was significant in getting her where she is today. She will gradua
te medical school this May, but her work ethic and determination were put into motion many years ago. During her interview for medical school the panel of doctors were more interested in her show cattle career than what she knew about medicine. Before the interview was over, she ended up showing them cattle pictures on her phone and explaining to them all that went into preparing a heifer for show day. Bailey is still very involved in our cattle business. She spends time at the ranch when she’s home and shows for us at open shows when her schedule allows.
We have always had many goals and we are blessed beyond measure to have reached many of them. Our goals for the future involve improving the quality of our cattle, expanding our marketing, supporting the youth programs, and hopefully to be debt free someday. We appreciate all who have helped us along the way including our customers, our crew, and the good Lord above.
Kassidy is no stranger the showring and has made numerous trips to the backdrop. Some of her big wins include Reserve Grand Champion Steer at the 2017 American Royal and Reserve Grand Champion Steer at the 2019 Denver.
Even when she is not on the lead, Kassidy has fit for a multitude of State and National Championships. From the Iowa State and National Championships. From the Iowa State Fair and Junior Nationals to Denver and Louisville, she has the knowledge and skill to dial one in to win.
Kassidy debuted her college livestock judging career as high individual overall at her first contest! Growing up in the livestock industry, her eye for livestock is top notch.
Currently serving as the treasure for the American Junior Chianina Assn. Board of Directors, Kassidy spends countless hours giving back. Anyone has been highly involved in the industry from the time she could walk. she is a multiple time/multiple breed All-Around Sweepstakes winner at Junior Nationals and is always willing to lend a hand. Just recently, she was aon the lead of fellow exhibitor and friend of Sara Sullivan's Supreme Champion Junior Breeding Female at the 2019 NAILE. Additionally, Kassidy has shown her vocal talent by performing the National Anthem at the Maine/Chi Junior Nationals this past summer.
Jennie & I might be some of the most passionate people about this industry. No, we’re not a million-dollar operation nor do we have 1000 head of cows on 10,000 acres but nearly everything we do revolves around show cattle.
We love this industry & God has blessed us with show cattle as a way to provide for our family, serve others and do it all as a family. When it comes to our girls, My dad once said “are you raising cows or raising kids?” In our lives the cows are helping raise our kids!
My parents invested the time and money for me to be involved in this business & God has blessed me with the ability. I feel it’s an obligation for me to use what’s given to me to serve others.
I’m beyond blessed to have a wife & 2 girls to pursue this passion with.
The back of trailer & business cards have Proverbs 3 :5-6 on it. We strive to live by this.
-Grew up on our family farm in Wiley Co where we raised and showed dominantly Simmental cattle and raised Alfalfa.
-Parents - Ben & Jo Elmore, brother Elgin
-Very involved in 4-H, FFA and sports
-Attended Connors State College and was a member of the National Champion Jr College Livestock Judging Team
-Graduated Oklahoma State in 2001
-Managed a purebred Angus ranch for 6 years
-Started Elmore Cattle Services in 2006
-Spent most of childhood on family farm in NW Kansas where we had a commercial cattle operation and wheat farm
-We lost my dad in a tragic auto accident involving a late spring snowstorm when I was 10 years old
-My Mom, brother (Justin) and I continued to operate our farm four years after dad passed away before relocating to NW Oklahoma
-Parents - Linda & Russell Miller & the late Rodney Schlepp
-Involved in 4-H, Rodeo & sports
-Graduated Oklahoma State in 2000
-Taught 5th-6th grade for 6 years before returning to our place to pursue our passion together of raising our girls & starting ECS
-Married in 2003
-Daughter Pepper 13 years old
-Daughter Tylee 9 years old
Involvement in Industry / ECS
-Everything is done as a family with only part time help. Truth is Jennie runs EVERYTHING at home since I’m on the road so much. This year 180 nights away from home.
-Raise, show & sell show heifers & bulls
-Own & operate a (ECS) a custom fitting & marketing service for purebred cattle. Where we take cattle in to prepare them for shows, sales and promotion
-Raise cattle for our Fall & Spring Sales
-Show our own cattle on state & national level
-Both daughters show
-Judge numerous shows
-Work as a member of The Cattle Prostaff for Weaver Livestock
-Conduct approximately 25 show cattle clinics a year for groups all over the country
-Working for Weaver was never in the plans for ECS but it fits us so PERFECTLY
Special people or events
-I could never name just a few people. I was raised in the showbarns and have looked up to countless people and continue to learn from many of them
-Jennie & the girls have probably shaped me as much as anyone. Jen keeps me focused and positive and the girls keep me driving for more
-Events...Countless shows. Being in the barns is home to me. We know more people at a show than we do in our home town.
-NWSS, I think I’ve been there every year of my life.
-Winning our 1st National show (being Denver) It almost created an addiction, a drive and a passion to do it again and again
-Watching our girls succeed in something they also love
Goals & Why
-We’re doing what we love & love what we do. We do it because we love it, we live & breath this business. Our goal is to continue with what we feel God has led us to do, use show cattle to raise our family & serve others. We hope it helps shape and mold our girls for what the future holds for them
Preface by Jerry McPeak
The greatest sacrifices in my life and for any success people may perceive as being mine, isn’t. My family, my wife and four kids made much greater sacrifices than I did.
Days and weeks gone, missing birthdays, ball games, injuries, catastrophes with livestock and the household; My sons were pushing cattle through chutes, giving vaccinations and gathering wild yearlings off brushy hillsides at ages 6 and 9 years old. Two daughters who had to feed cows and work like real hands because Dad was not there and the boys had gone to college.
A wife who worked to hold it all together, love and discipline the kids, make all the ball games and stock shows and make them all feel special. I was a school teacher. One salary family. You did not read about my kids winning anything big. We bought bargains. Overlooked, under fed, and too often, crazy and available because other families had given up on them.
Mostly though, they showed what we raised and what Mr. Joe Ogle raised. Mr. Ogle was my high school coach and principal. I am 73 and Mr. Ogle is still helping me.
The wife, Veda, sons Jeff and Jason, daughters Jinger and Jori are still making sacrifices to help Dad look good.
The boys recently came over to patch some sorry, patched together fence a cow had crossed. Jinger, the president of an international company was called and tonight the president is writing this article. Jori the youngest, is going over to my house to help do chores while I participate in an Oklahoma public policy organization event for 3 days.
My Connors State College kids, our Be A Champ kids, they all make me better than I am capable of. I expect a lot out of them and I have to live up to what they expect of me.
Loyalty! One last thing, the most scarce personal trait in this world. The McPeak kids and wife have it! My college kids (some in their upper 50’s) have it. My camp kids, many now second generation Be A Champers have it!! Forty volunteers showed up to help at the first ever held World Champion Showmanship organized by Jerry and Jake Scott. All weekend, volunteers paid their own expenses and were happy to be there, even one couple of Be A Champ Alums came all the way from Florida to help.
I don’t know that I was very good at anything but God sure has put a bunch of really good people in my life.
My life path has been long and a bit meandering. However, I have never really worked a day in my life because I have loved everything I have done. High School, College, Navy, OSU Extension Agent, HyPlains Dressed Beef, Dodge City Feeders, Cole Grain Company, Loomix Liquid Feed, Connors State College, KTUL-TV Ag Reporter, Oklahoma State Legislature, Creek Nation.
My college kids said, “Coach looks like you can’t hold down a job.”
“If having long term goals are necessary for success, looks like I must have been a failure. But every job I learned from. Every job prepared me for the next one.”
In 1978, Connors State College President, Dr. Carl Westbrook hired Jerry to start a Livestock Judging Team. The first year he went over to the enrollment center and any student who enrolled in Agriculture he recruited for the Judging Team. Jerry taught Agriculture and Psychology courses and coached the judging team for 27 years along with the title of Dean of Men in his latter CSC years.
Now, best known in the livestock world as “Coach” for his National Champion Livestock Judging Teams at Connors State College, and for originating McPeak’s BE A CHAMP Show Cattle and Lamb Camp.
His judging teams won every major contest in the country at some juncture and many multiple times. On November 10, 2016 The McPeak Agriculture Hall of Fame building at Connors State College was dedicated in Jerry’s honor. We could list all of McPeak’s CSC Livestock Judging Team’s accolades but I think today’s current national judges who called Jerry “Coach” speaks volumes. Nationally known judges today who are CSC alums: Brandon Callis, Jason Elmore, Jake Franke, Phillip Hofschulte, Todd Kennedy, Jeff Nemecek, Ryan Rathmann, Jake Scott, Mike Zamudio and Blake Nelson.
Nelson, now Executive Vice President of the Maine Anjou Association had this to say “Coach taught us so much more than how to evaluate livestock. The majority of the time he believed in us more than we believed in ourselves and he pushed us to be our best. He instilled in his teams the importance of loyalty, integrity, discipline, and to take care of each other. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t just show up, we played to win but the life lessons and values are irreplaceable”.
McPeak founded the Be A Champ Camps in 1982 and it has always been a family run event with wife, Veda and all adult McPeak children teaching and working at some time. It was born out of necessity really. As mentioned earlier, Jerry was always helping other kids and families and over the years this help overtook all of his time at livestock shows, until his own children were walking into the ring without groomed animals because he had not yet gotten around to helping them at show time. As Jerry likes to say, “the good Lord takes care of the ignorant” and he sure did in this case. The camp is the first of its kind and celebrates 38 years of kids from 39 states and Canada. “Working with good cattle and great kids. It just doesn’t get any better than that.” McPeak said. Positive thinking, motivational speeches and posters with only one rule “Do What’s Right” encase the arena where camp is held. One of the camp’s sponsors, owner of Stone Manufacturing, Jack Rudnay, who is also a NFL Kansas City Chief’s Hall of Fame Center, stated after witnessing McPeak turn a butt chewing into a motivational speech, “McPeak, you are the Vince Lombardi of the cattle grooming business.”
And with the help of a lot of friends McPeak and Jake Scott (organizers of the event) were able to hold the first World Champion Showmanship this year. Over $20,000 in prize money was given out at the first show of its kind. During the event, Jake Scott speaking to the audience said, “Coach Jerry McPeak has trained more showmen and taught more positive thinking than anyone in the U.S. He and the BE A CHAMP staff train more kids in one summer than most folks do in a lifetime.” Remember that comment from earlier that McPeak is not known for his political correctness? McPeak noted about livestock shows, “this statement is probably one of those, but I sure believe it is correct. There are several thousand folks in the world that can do a pretty good job of judging a cattle show but just a few who realize, acknowledge, and will do a good job of judging showmanship.”
McPeak also served as State Legislator in Oklahoma for 12 years where he was known for not being too concerned about political correctness. He was known for “crossing the aisle” and “doing the right thing”. McPeak’s long time assistance Janice Stotts noted “as State Representative, we couldn't begin to count the times that visitors to the office would call Rep. Mc Peak "refreshing." In truth, there wasn't anything refreshing about the way Jerry treated people or reacted to problems. There was just truth, no speaking out of both sides of his mouth. No telling people what they wanted to hear. There was a simple honesty to his treatment of all. That was a rare way to do business in the State Capitol, but it served McPeak well in his 12 years of elected service”.
Karen Sneary, a member of one the Connors teams that won both The Royal and Louisville contests said, “Coach pushed us and pushed us hard. I don’t think he was so driven about winning as teaching us that producing to our maximum every day was really a responsibility. Our practices were so long and tough, contest day wasn’t pressure, it was a day off.”
Besides Coach said, ‘If you are prepared, there is no pressure, just opportunity.’
McPeak recruited and judged many young ladies. One year, Connors won The Arizona National contest with an all-girls team.
Another time at The Denver contest the coach of another team looked into the arena where the students were judging and asked, “McPeak, you judging an all-girls team?” Not paying any attention to whether he judged girls or boys, McPeak had to look into the arena to see who he judged. And sure enough there were 1,2,3,4 girls and then he saw his 5th member of the team, Brandon Callis. McPeak responded, “Nope 4 girls and Callis.” Callis after hearing the story, said “Coach you should have told them, you didn’t judge an all-girls team, you judged your affirmative action team.”
The student judgers and non-judgers, the Be A Champers-cattle and lamb leave their experience with “Coach” knowing he cares. He believes in them.
And it is not for a week, or a year or even two, Coach, the McPeak Family, and the Be A Champ staff will be there for you always. They have proven it!
Ask Matt Gunderson why he devotes as much time as he does to agriculture education, literacy including 4-H, the answer is simple; he does it to give back to the programs that shaped who he is today and to pay it forward as a gift for those individuals to have participate in the same programs that gave him opportunities he never imagined. He lives his life by a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” He wants to see youth, urban and rural alike see their dreams fulfilled while creating a bright future for them in the process.
Matt Gunderson’s passion for agriculture, livestock and education started at a young age. He grew up on a farm near Yankton, South Dakota and the WNAX Radio Towers, one of the tallest AM Radio Towers in North America. Agriculture programming is still front and center today at the radio station. He started helping on the farm at age four (4) where his father was raising purebred Suffolk sheep. Between the ages of four (4) and five (5) he was driving a tractor and raising his pregnant mother up and down in the loader so she could paint the house. When the neighbors asked her why he was doing it, her response was he was better at the loader controls than her husband.
His passion for 4-H and the youth livestock show world started at an early age. Matt started at age seven (7) as a Cloverbud in the local Yankton County 4-H program as a member of the Mission Hill Hillers 4-H Club. The Club was very traditional from the standpoint of it was an all boy club. The club members and he voted several years later to add girls, a great decision allowing the club to thrive yet today. He exhibited purebred Suffolk sheep during the early years of 4-H and participated in livestock judging at the local and state levels. Yankton County was then and still is today one of the toughest sheep counties in the state of South Dakota to show in. Getting a purple ribbon to qualify for state was tougher there than getting a purple ribbon at the state fair.
As he grew, his involvement in 4-H continued to grow; he expanded his showing career to include cattle and poultry in the early 90’s. He also expanded his involvement in 4-H by getting involved in the local Junior Leaders program and his final two years in 4-H helped develop him greatly. He was selected as a South Dakota State 4-H Council Ambassador and also selected as one of four (4) winners to the National 4-H Science and Technology Symposium at the newly created Disney University in Orlando, FL. He and the other delegates learned about Science and Technology bringing it back to South Dakota to teach other 4-H staff and Council Ambassadors for the 1997 State Youth Conference. Matt was asked to Chair that year’s State Youth Conference where 400 youths called South Dakota State University home for a week.
In the early 90’s, his youngest uncle farmed helped run the dairy cattle farm with his maternal grandparents in northeast Nebraska and he broke his leg in a four-wheeler accident in the spring. They had dairy cows due to calve and he took care of the bottle calves. Matt’s parents offered to help bottle calves; soon 10 huts showed up at the farm and they were helping feed the calves.
Matt’s father found an interest in the cattle operation and this started the next chapter of the livestock operation, one that still continues today. The family evolved from feeding bottle dairy calves to keep some of the angus cross heifer replacements and started adding beef cattle while building a feedlot and a vet shed with a calving area. Matt’s height continued to grow and showing sheep was getting more difficult given his height. He transitioned to showing cattle and poultry and his sister who is five (5) years younger showed the sheep. He discovered a real interest in the cattle industry and the breeding that went with it.
The family through contacts discovered Maine-Anjou cattle and were introduced to showing in Maine-Anjou junior shows where he developed relationships that still continue today. He showed mainly breeding heifers in 4-H as those heifers would go back into the herd to become foundational females. They would run around 27 head of cows for several decades until Matt’s father retired last year and they started increasing the herd size to around 35-40 today. He continues to go back to the farm monthly assisting in the cattle operation.
He from middle school on knew he wanted to attend South Dakota State University (SDSU) and major in agriculture. He attended SDSU from 1997-2001 majoring in Animal Science with a Business and Production emphasis and received minors in Agriculture Business and Agriculture Marketing.
Matt thoroughly enjoyed participating in the contests at the Maine-Anjou Junior Nationals in the mid to late 90’s. He was on the national champion quiz bowl team in 1997 and 1998. 1998 found Matt and his father on the planning Committee for that year’s Maine-Anjou Junior Nationals in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Helping plan for that year’s show fueled in interest in learning more about livestock exhibitions. He was charged at age 19 to find the family night out at Junior Nationals for 300 kids and their families. He rented an entire water park in Sioux Falls for all of the show families to enjoy; it was a hit.
That same year, Matt helped get cattle ready for the DeJong Ranch family at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The super bowl of cattle shows was a great place to view the best cattle in the nation and see more people in a weekend to discuss cattle and cattle genetics than you could in a year. He has sold cattle and embryo’s over the years through Maine-Anjou sales in the yards. He continues to attend the National Western annually to see the best genetics and rekindle the relationships.
1998 continued to serve as pivotal year for fueling the fire of his passion by him getting a job as an Assistant Livestock Superintendent for 4-H at the South Dakota State Fair. He found he really enjoyed learning and helping behind the scenes with penning, shows, facilities, etc. He moved up through the ranks to become the Overall Livestock Superintendent in 2001. His involvement during his years at South Dakota State was extensive as well. He was involved and served in leadership positions in Alpha Gamma Rho, the SDSU Livestock Judging Team, Ag/Bio Prexy Council, Block and Bridle, Little International. The SDSU Little “I” is the largest student run agriculture exposition in the nation, he served as Manager in 2001. Matt founded the SDSU AGR Steer & Heifer Show in 2000, which still continues today. The first year of the show garnered 120 entries.
All of the involvement he had at this point had prepared him for his first professional role. He started in 2002 serving through 2004 as the 4-H Extension Assistant in charge of youth livestock and equine programming for SDSU Extension. He oversaw the 4-H livestock and horse programs statewide including the South Dakota State Fair. While in that role, he helped in the founding of the South Dakota Spotlight, South Dakota’s largest youth livestock shows outside of the State Fair.
During this time period he also serves as the Coach for South Dakota’s 4-H Livestock Judging Team to participate in Louisville in the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. He also entered South Dakota’s first time in the National 4-H Livestock Skillathon Contest. His success and professionalism garnered the attention of chair of the National 4-H Livestock Contest Management Committee, Dr. Monty Chappel. Dr. Chappel asked Matt if he would be interested in serving on the National Management Committee helping with both the Livestock Judging and Skillathon Contests. He was honored and humbled to be asked to join such a prestigious group. He accepted and joined the Committee in 2003.
He served as the Superintendent for the National 4-H Livestock Skillathon Contest from 2005 to 2010, Assistant, Associate and Superintendent of the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest from 2010 to 2016. Starting in 2017 started serving as the Chair of the National 4-H Livestock Contests Committee, which oversees the Livestock Judging, Livestock Skillathon and starting this year, the Livestock Quiz Bowl Contests.
Matt was recruited in the fall of 2004 to serve in an Administrative Faculty position as 4-H Activities and Events Manager with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) in Reno, NV. He loved living in Reno and traveling the state of Nevada working across all aspects of the state’s 4-H programs and taking Nevada’s delegation on 4-H trips. The UNCE staff, 4-H leaders and volunteers across Nevada’s seventeen (17) counties were great to work with.
Matt moved back to the heartland in 2006 to begin working for the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation. Ak-Sar-Ben, Nebraska spelled backwards is the oldest foundation in the state with a deep, rich history. He began as Vice President primarily working with River City Roundup (the name previous to the Ak-Sar-Ben’s River City Rodeo & Stock Show) overseeing sponsorship fundraising, livestock auction fundraising, logistics and assisted the 4-H stock show and other foundation board activities. He expanded the sponsorship and fundraising efforts across the entire event, and worked to expand the 4-H Stock Show to more states, started the National 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl Contest and a Livestock Judging Contest that became the largest one day livestock judging contest in the nation with over 500 senior college, junior college sophomore, freshman and 4-H’ers participating at the same time. He expanded the development of the Purple Ribbon Auction into giving out scholarships to the winners and also created a general scholarship program for senior 4-H’ers to apply for. He tightened and enforced the rules of the Show, which several said would reduce numbers; it had the opposite effect. Entry and participation numbers increased because all exhibitors were held to the same standard. He served as Executive Vice President of the Foundation and Executive Director of Ak-Sar-Ben’s River City Rodeo & Stock Show.
Gunderson’s philosophy has always been, if you run a high-quality, well organized event; enforce the rules and create as many opportunities as possible to succeed; people and families will attend and participate. The participation whether they realize it or not builds memories and develop life skills for the youth. Today besides chairing the National 4-H Livestock Contests Committee, he is chairs the Douglas County Fair Advisory Board where he led efforts to revitalize the Fair as the last agricultural education and literacy event left in the Omaha area.
The Douglas County Fair is the first fair in the United States to have a campus style concept where it embodies the tagline of “Where Urban and Rural Meet”. The Fair is held at an outdoor urban shopping center with an amphitheater, donated storefronts and a parade attract audiences. The rural component is held several miles west on an expressway where livestock shows, equine events and interactive agriculture education and displays brings the traditional fair component. Attendees park at a local community college and take free, air-conditioned shuttles to each location. The fair is managed by the Friends of Extension Foundation where he serves as the Immediate Past President. The Foundation supports University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
Matt also serves on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation Board of Directors, which is home to the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program and also this year was the main organization for Disaster Relief efforts due to the March 13th bomb cyclone that hit the state of Nebraska and Great Plains. He also is a member of the Omaha Chamber Agriculture Council and Omaha Agri-Business Board of Directors.
Professionally, he is a Vice President of Farm and Ranch Management for Farmers National Company, which is headquartered in Omaha. Farmers National Company is the nation’s largest farm and ranch management firm also offering a full range of rural landowner services from the largest agricultural real estate firm in the nation to the largest independent processor of oil and gas revenue, a forestry, hunting lease, insurance, ag stock, lake management, appraisal and consultation business lines. He oversees client relations, backend processes, consultations, special projects and business development for farm and ranch management. Matt is married to his wife Mitch and they have one daughter, Maryn. Matt’s parents, Jim and Patty are enjoying retirement and the farm; his sister Jennifer, who is an SDSU graduate and has her Masters in Meat Science from Kansas State is the Research and Development Department of one the leading food companies on the nation.
One of the main reasons that Matt Gunderson is involved in the programs that is he is today is for the next generation. For him, it is in large part to give his daughter as well as the sons and daughters of everyone the same opportunities to learn about agriculture, education and livestock and hopefully have those kids find a sliver of the same passion he has.
(Written by Bailey Clanton with the help of Amy Cowan and Danielle Starr)
The Clanton Family looks back and looks ahead to their involvement with the American Royal
The Kansas City Stockyards is a cherished landmark to many livestock families across the United States. As one of the central locations for marketing cattle in the 1940s, any number of cattlemen could be found in the stockyards. The American Royal has always carried on the tradition of bringing cattlemen together in the heart of the stockyards and in the early 2000’s became an annual event the Clanton family: Brett, Sheryl, Bailey and Cole, Bucyrus, Kan., not only attended, but also took under their wing.
Exhibiting in the junior shows as well as management roles on the auction and livestock committees were the start of the family’s lifelong commitment to the American Royal. In 2004, the committees brought together a group of cattle families that evolved into a cast of characters that would shape the industry, create an environment for youth to flourish and even lend a hand to Brett and Sheryl who had kids showing livestock. The American Royal was the place where Brett & Sheryl met Neil Orth, Stanley E. Stout and Mike & Kay Hartman; individuals who were and now dear friends to the Clanton family and the reason for their involvement with the historic events.
In one short year, Brett and Sheryl quickly found their place as co-chairmen of the auction committee and held the position for six years. Sheryl is quick to say, “When you’re surrounded by your friends that all have the same passion for helping youth determined to excel within the livestock industry, volunteering isn’t work. From planning and executing the first exhibitor social in the back of a pick-up truck in the middle of the cattle barn serving all of the exhibitors, the American Royal has always had a special place for the us.”
Coming together as a cattle family is what the Clanton’s love most about this business and was half of the success of the American Royal. As chairman, Brett and Sheryl helped to evolve the livestock auction while Bailey and Cole simultaneously became more competitive in show rings throughout the country. Every fall the Clanton’s returned to the show ring they called home, in the heart of the stockyards. The American Royal is a short, 30-miles north of their operation, which made their home a hotel during those brisk, fall October days. Even if you weren’t staying at the house, you made sure to stop by on Sunday morning for a Bloody Mary with a kick and amidst the piles of boots at the door, the kitchen would be filled with energetic voices discussing the cattle and tired bodies sitting on the chairs.
Some of the fondest memories as a family involve the people that came together in 2004 for the auction and livestock committees. Reflecting through the years spent at the American Royal, Brett and Sheryl can still feel the excitement of being a part of the first grand champion steer bringing $125,000. Their son, Cole was selected champion out of the heavyweight division in 2006 with a steer name “Stanley.” The steer was named in memory of the family’s dear friend and American Royal icon, Stanley Stout, who they had developed a sincere friendship with since meeting at the American Royal just a few years prior.
There was a lot of enthusiasm that was created during Brett and Sheryl’s time at the American Royal while they led volunteer efforts and fundraising for the premium livestock auction. They laid the foundation for record-setting sales and a vibrant atmosphere for hundreds of youth to exhibit, market their animals and learn the sportsmanship of the livestock industry. The American Royal livestock auction heightened the competition in the show ring. The Clanton family takes pride in being part of building the livestock auction and contributing to a show revered as “where the best are shown”. As new families walk through the barns, they will see the determination and grit in the showmen and the quality of cattle running deep through each class. Their hope is for new exhibitors and their families to benefit from the experiences and opportunities the American Royal has to offer.
To this day, the Clanton family is now involved in the different aspects of the agriculture industry. Bailey and Cole carry on the servant tradition as they help the younger generations get a start in this industry. Bailey has been working for the American Hereford Association since graduation from Kansas State University in 2012. As the National Shows Coordinator and Youth Activities Assistant, she’s working with seedstock producers from across the country to facilitate national shows for the adult and junior associations. Bailey has found her way to working with the youth of the National Junior Hereford Association just as her parents did when she was young. Cole is the current Yard Operations Manager at Pine Landscape Center in Lawrence, Kan., he and his wife Allyson currently run 100 head of Simmental cows, selling around 30 head per year and exhibiting across the country.
The future of the American Royal is being met with excitement from the Clanton’s. The honored traditions of the stockyards in the historic West Bottoms of Kansas City will carry on with the new facility and offer new opportunities to support youth, promote agriculture and educate future generations about the livestock business. Walking into the new facility will be a different experience for the Clanton family. Shavings will be laid on freshly poured concrete, livestock will be tied up to new gates for the first time, new champions will be slapped in the show ring and new families will join the American Royal. However, throughout the new facility, a very similar cast of characters will come together to make a difference in the lives of young people. And from this familiar cast, the next generation will be taking the reigns. At the new American Royal, Cole and Allyson will be in the make ready area getting ready to exhibit their Simmental genetics, Bailey will be in the Hereford ring ensuring the Hereford show and sale run smoothly and as much as they may try to take a step back, Brett and Sheryl will continue to find themselves at the frontline, supporting efforts with the American Royal livestock show and auction.
Laurie: Hi, we’re here with Blake Nelson, the Executive Vice President of the American Maine-Anjou Association. So, tell me a little bit a bout your past and your history
Blake: I grew up in Oklahoma and came through the ranks of livestock judging and showing cattle as a youth. I didn’t show Maines, I actually showed some Chi’s and some other breeds of cattle. Then, I went through college livestock judging, at Conners State College, then Oklahoma State University. When I got through at Oklahoma State I got the opportunity to go back to Conners. There I taught Animal Science and a bunch of livestock judging teams for about 15 years. I got the opportunity when I heard that John Boddicker was retiring. John did a phenomenal job with the Maine-Anjou Association for 25 years. I talked to John and came on board. This will be my fourth year with the AMAA in August.
Laurie: We’ve enjoyed having you here. Tell us a little bit about the future and what we have to look forward to with the breed association.
Blake: Well, it’s an exciting time with American Maine-Anjou Association. We just finished up the Double Down in Des Moines Junior National. Without a doubt, youth are one of our major focuses. The kids that come on board, having an excellent youth director in Lindsey Broek, to me, that’s been one of the true highlights of this job. Getting to work with Lindsey on a day-to-day basis. In all of our activities at junior nationals, the little’s program, you guys have seen it, has been a big part of our success these past few years. Seeing that program grow, those kids getting more involved excites me knowing that our future is in good hands. The program is something that Lindsey initiated. Katie Miller, one of our past board members, that is off of the board now, teaches school and actually comes back every Summer to head that program. We couldn’t do it without her. That is a neat event.
Laurie: Our booth was next to the littles program this week. It was phenomenal. We are excited for the future, and we are excited to be in Ohio next year.
Blake: Yes! We’re going to Ohio, so were ready for that. Ohio is one of our largest junior associations here in the United States. Some great folks out there. We look forward to anytime going to a junior national, and there some of the best people to work with in the Maine-Anjou Breed.
“A View From The Best Seat In The House”
If you’re in the livestock business and you attend a state, regional or national sale or show, or you’re a cattle breeder and you purchase semen to artiﬁcially inseminate your cows or you just like to hang out on social media and catch up on what’s going on in the industry, and you don’t know or know of Kent Jaecke, you probably need to crawl out from under the rock you’re living under. He’s the guy with that unmistakable scream from around ringside at the sale, the voice over the public address system at a show, the one that pulls into your yard to offer genetics from Griswold Cattle Company or the guy in the G- hats and attire thats bringing you the view from the road, wherever and whatever part of the United States that he might be at the time on Facebook, Instagram or any various social media. Growing up on a commercial cow/calf operation in the Flint Hills of Kansas, Jaecke knew at a very early age that he loved being in front of a crowd, performing then on the baseball or football ﬁeld, basketball court, or in front of his peers at high school plays or in public speaking competitions with his FFA chapter. His time at his beloved Kansas State University only strengthened his love to perform in front of an audience through livestock judging, student government and the multiple other organizations that he actively participated through. “I’ve never been afraid to be in front of a crowd, it’s like a
drug to me, I love the rush of adrenaline I get being on stage”, Jaecke said. Building his business over the last 35 years in this industry has led to one of the best seats in the house to watch the livestock industry change, evolve, struggle and grow. “Everyday I am blessed to watch this great Livestock Industry from what I feel is the best view in the house”. says Jaecke, looking over his steering wheel logging over 80,000 miles a year, to being ringside or on the sale block at some of the best sales in America or behind the microphone in Freedom Hall on the “Green Shavings” as the public address announcer at the great North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky each November. “I have had a great opportunity to watch our industry evolve from the frame 4’s and 5’s in the late 60’s to the elephants of the 70’s, 80’s and the early
90’s and back to the more acceptable size, but adding more body and function.” Jaecke continues, “Not only have we had to adapt to every changing types and kinds, but the way we market our product has and is continuing to evolve through each generation”. A board member on the national Livestock Publications Council, he has watched the change in advertising and promotion of each producers product from the monthly and weekly
publications to more “Need It Now” information through the internet and social media. “I was reluctant to jump into the whole social media craze a few years ago, but have embraced it since, because there is no better way to build a brand for yourself or your company through effective social media practices.” Jaecke through his long relationship with John Griswold and Griswold Cattle Company, Stillwater, Oklahoma has become the face and voice
of building the Griswold Brand, the “G-“ through advertising, promotional literature and the constant use of social media. “When John convinced me to get on the road and offer his genetics door to door, it was a great opportunity to not only take his program to the people, but it was a great opportunity to build the Griswold “G-“ brand as well.” Jaecke can also be seen ringside or on the block making sale commentary at over 80 auction sales a year, from California to South Carolina, and from North Dakota to Texas and everywhere in between. Through these many events he has the fortune of meeting and forming great relationships with some of the best producers in the country in all breeds. Jaecke explained, “Not only do I get to meet some of the greatest people in the world, but it’s so fascinating watching their reactions during an auction”. Through these relationships, he is given a very broad perspective on the attitudes and direction to where the market is going and stated, “All the predictions and forecasts for our market can’t carry water, to the real world of standing in front of a
crowd at a sale, the look in their eyes will tell me so much more than anything I read about our markets”. Through all of this Jaecke’s most cherished and loved views he receives from our industry, it is from the chair he sits in, on the announcers stand each year at the North American in Louisville, Kentucky that gives him his greatest perspective. He has become “The Voice” of the show, and it is there that he feels most at peace and truly a passion and great love for our industry. “If you can’t ﬁred up about our business from where I sit in Louisville each fall,
then you don’t need to be in this industry”, he continued, “ The cattle themselves are truly amazing, but it’s the people that exhibit, attend and participate each year that make my job, more of an honor to serve”. “The view I am so fortunate to have each day of our business is true blessing, and I am so honored to work with and for some of the greatest people this
world has to offer.
Mark has known nothing other than the livestock industry. He’s been raised in it and has breathed every waking moment in it. Growing up with Dan Hoge has allowed him to learn from thee very best and to see for many years firsthand how incredible this industry is. He’s tagged along to livestock judging events at Black Hawk East College for as long as he can remember allowing him to be raised right alongside amazing, influential livestock leaders. All of the moments in his life revolve around raising and evaluating livestock. If you were to ask him he doesn’t remember any moments without livestock. In fact his greatest fear is not being around livestock. In addition to growing up learning how to evaluate livestock, he was able to raise livestock on his grandparents family farm in Walnut, Illinois. They raised every species there was and of course showed them too! The family spared nothing to make sure Mark was able be raised around all types of species. They never limited him in anything he did creating a person who is driven for the industry and knows no limitations for what is possible.
There was no doubt that this was the path Mark would take. Raising and evaluating livestock is his gift.
Mark went to Blackhawk East College followed by University of Illinois followed by masters at Iowa State University followed by PhD in genetics at Michigan State University. Professor at WIU advisor to the AGRs AND hoof and horn, WIU coach, judge raises hogs at home.
The livestock industry is Mark‘s passion. He is captivated by the industry. He won’t worry about how much time it takes or energy he just gives his all and sacrifices it all without a second thought. People that don’t know him don’t know this, but people that work with him for sure know, that Mark wants everyone to succeed around him. He wants to help them pursue their passion which in return allows the industry to be more successful. Anybody that’s passionate about something knows that when you love something so much you want to share that with others, he wants everyone to succeed and pushes them to be better. In return, he asks a lot of people. He pushes people to find strength that they weren’t taping into and therefore helps people grow in incredible ways. He would give anything to help anyone. He is very self less. He wants to pass on his passion to others. Being a professor allows him to do this.
Working with young adults is so important to him. He wants to help guide them, he loves talking with them and hearing their ideas and brainstorming. Although Mark has lots of years of experience he still wants to hear what others have to say. He knows in order to grow you can’t be one minded that you must listen to other people’s ideas and although some of these kids are 20 years old he still listens intently to what they have to say. He knows that in order to grow you can’t stop listening and learning from others around you.
I have never met someone that goes as hard as Mark. The only person that could really understand his lifestyle would be his family. And really his children don’t even know how hard he goes because they think this is the norm. I’ll never forget when we were building a barn Carter and Nolan couldn’t understand why the people weren’t working on Saturday and Sunday. It was unimaginable, out of reality to them that somebody was not working on a perfectly good day. I had to explain that most people don’t work Saturday and Sunday, they had never heard or witnessed such a thing and were taken back by this unthinkable concept.
Most things he does in one day people do over the course of a month. We can be going to two Junior nationals in two different species across the states, farrowing hogs at home, on top of judging a show because it is near the junior national, writing a reference letter, purchasing a plane ticket for a trip that occurs three days from the day and making it to a baseball game real quick. I don’t make this stuff up. Most people would say no, that’s too much going on, but Mark doesn’t know how to say no. He is without a doubt a living example of how to live every single moment to the fullest. That no minute can be wasted. That no minute can be sitting down. That no minute can be mediocre. That digging deep when you have nothing left to give is the only way to live. We aren't well rested people.
The thing that pains me the most is that people don’t think Mark has a plan for tomorrow or why he can't discuss his next week’s schedule. The problem is he can’t talk about tomorrow because his today plans don’t allow him to give tomorrow a thought. He has too much going on in one day that his schedule doesn’t allow him to think about anything but the exact moment he is currently in...and isn’t that the goal of life? To live in the moment. He does! He doesn’t waste one minute of the day. He goes hard every single minute of the day. Mark’s family is to be credited for this trait. They never limited Mark on what he could do. They pushed him and allowed him to do anything and everything he wanted to. If Mark believes with his heart that it’s a good step in the right direction, despite all of the difficulty that might come by taking that step, he’s taking it. No doubt. And let me tell you what I’ve been with him through all of his steps and I’ve never seen him going in the wrong direction. When I think he can’t do it, that it’s too much, he proves me wrong every single time. He always comes out on top.
His goals for family and the industry are simple and the same. Be better. Do more. This industry is so important to him it’s what raised him it’s what’s raising his family it's what he wants so badly for other families too. It’s his mission to make sure that as an industry and an individual person, we continue to make progress and we don’t become stagnant. Whenever you talk to him that’s what he wants to discuss making genetic progress. He wants to make sure that we aren’t influenced by trends and that the decisions we make are sound and just and that we are fair and kind and loyal to one another. He believes in picking the best one.
His ability to see things is staggering. The way he can think about the decisions of choosing an animal and breeding and raising and feeding hogs is mind blowing. It is every part of who he is and what sets him apart is he is willing to share this with others. There are many times I would like him to be at home with us, that would be so much easier, that would be better for me, but that wouldn’t allow him to share with others. I know that in order to be impactful you have to be able to share your gift with others and I’m lucky to have someone that is so worthy of sharing.
He enjoys doing things that people say cannot be done and will not be stopped by norms or boundaries. He will stop at nothing to positively impact the livestock industry. The scary thing is I know he has so much more to give and there just doesn't happen to be any more seconds left in the day that allows him to give any more than what he already is giving.
We are a family that doesn’t ever talk about our successes, ever. The goal has never been about winning a show, our goal is to raise unbelievably, industry-changing livestock that we believe in and working incredibly hard and when you have those two goals at the front of everything you do sometimes winning comes with it.
Dan and Deanna Hoge-
Where Mark Hoge got his personality is something we are still pondering but thoroughly enjoying. These things in no specific order would have influenced him in some way: Dan building a high ranking livestock judging team thus from little up, being surrounded by college age influences—want to be like them, Grandparents (Verden and Verna Lee Broers) that would listen, support and share their time in his life, livestock was raised and housed at “Grandpa’s Farm, an autistic (Asperger’s) sister –5 yrs. older with Mark being her best friend, a mother whose belief was “Whatever you enter into, you are expected to finish to the best of your ability.” So started his life at age 3----entered into tumbling because he needed to be social, he needed to be coordinated, and he needed to learn to line up! Competition in this started at age 5 and thus competition became a large part of his life in many forms as you will see.
As his sister, Kathy, was older, Mark was involved in the cattle show arena from an early age. Through his 4-H years Mark exhibited cattle, hogs, sheep, and western pleasure horse. He began speaking competitions as a Jr. High literary contestant. Formal livestock judging began in 7th grade with the Atkinson, IL, FFA coach Roger Carr who is now a highly successful FFA instructor and coach in Indiana. When joining FFA he became very active though the guidance of instructor Ron Alhorn, in livestock judging and Parliamentary Procedure—starting as a floor member and by his Jr. year was competing as a chairman and in his senior year was the Illinois state champion chairman.
In high school his extracurricular activities included football (tight end), basketball(center) and track (3200 and 1600) in which Mark excelled and was awarded multiple all-conference awards. To add to his personal development, he also played trumpet in band, marching band, and ensemble competitions (5 entries his senior year). Through his involvement in choir, Mark was a cast member of a school musical presentation all 4 years. Probably “Sonny” in the play Grease was his claim to fame.
Highlighting his early judging career, Cambridge FFA was the state livestock judging team that represented Illinois in Kansas City and was a top ten individual. Between his senior year and freshman at Black Hawk College, Mark was selected to the Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging team in which he was named high individual in the National 4-H contest in Louisville. At Black Hawk he was high individual at the National Barrow Show and the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo. At the senior college level at the University of IL, he was high individual at the National Western and finished his competitive career by winning the National Senior College contest in Louisville.
While working on his master’s degree at Iowa State, Mark was an assistant coach under Dr. Scott Greiner whose team was high team overall at the American Royal. Mark followed by coaching several highly successful teams. He finished his education at Michigan State University earning a PhD. I3n Animal Breeding. Mark joined the teaching faculty at Western IL University at Macomb, IL and serves as the livestock judging coach.
From this you can tell it takes many to encourage a youth to become the best they can be. As parents, we were so fortunate Mark had the abilities to take these paths. Hopefully this is carrying over as Mark continues to be competitive in many ways. But mainly he enjoys what he is doing and enjoying Katie and his children.
The Family Behind the Brand
Bar A Cattle Co., Schulenburg, Texas, started when Dave and Becky Allan got married, but the Bar A brand came from Mary and Dale Barber when Dave worked for Barber Ranch. Dave’s love for this industry started at an early age as he grew up in Nebraska showing Herefords and being very active in the Nebraska Junior Hereford Association having served as president in 1988.
Dave and his brother, Mark, started showing Herefords in in 1977. His first job after graduating from high school was working for Kevin Jensen, of Jensen Fitting Service, hauling 30-40 head to all the national shows around the country. In the early 90’s, he also worked for Adams Bros and Co. where he had two champion hereford bulls, one champion female and two champion carloads in Denver at the National Western, in three years. During that time he judged on the livestock team for Texas A&M University and then went on to graduate school at Michigan State University where he was the assistant livestock judging coach.
After college Dave moved to Dunlap Iowa to work for John Sullivan and manage Sullivan Limousin with his brother Mark. During this time he met his wife, Becky. Becky had just graduated from Texas A&M in Ag Development and she was working in Austin for Abbott Labs. Becky grew up as a military brat and lived in England, Australia, California , Virginia, Texas and Italy. The cattle business was a whole new world to her.
In 1999 they decided to move back to Texas where Dave did consulting and then eventually managed a stocker operation for several years in Schulenburg. In 2001 Dave and Becky started raising show steers and heifers. There were many successes in the club calf business, including raising the champion and reserve overall in Houston and the champion steer at OYE in Oklahoma City..
From an early age, Dave loved evaluating and breeding cattle, his vast experiences in different breeds and facets of industry led him to a real interest in judging cattle. He is fortunate to have judged all across the country from the green chips in Louisville, many shows at the National Western and most recently the Hoosier Beef Congress in Indiana. Some of his most memorable judging experiences have included judging with the late Bill Couch, and judging the Hereford and Angus Shows in Denver with his brother, Mark.
Becky’s passion has always been marketing and helping others create brand awareness and that led her to starting The Brand Company in 2001 doing promotional products for businesses and associations. She has been working with breed associations such as the American Hereford Association and the American Maine-Anjou Association well as many other agriculture businesses, farms and ranches with a focus on apparel and promotional products.
Dave and Becky have three boys, Tyler, Mason and Landry. Once the boys were old enough to show, they decided that the Hereford breed and the National Jr Hereford Association was where they wanted to be involved. The National Junior Hereford program is second to none and they feel very lucky that their kids are able to be involved in events such as the Faces of Leadership Conference and the Junior National Hereford Expo.
Tyler has had many successes, including winning all four age division in showmanship at the Junior National Hereford Expo. One of the proudest moments for the Allan family came this past year when both Tyler and Mason won senior and intermediate showmanship. This years junior national was one to remember having two division champions, two reserve division champions and overall reserve champion heifer .
The Allan boys are very active and have seen much success in and out of the showring. Tyler is now a freshman at Texas Tech majoring in animal science, Mason is a freshman in high school, plays basketball and baseball and really enjoys livestock judging, Landry, well he does a little bit of everything and keeps everyone laughing. Landry will start showing next year.
As a result of all the Hereford involvement, in 2012 Bar A decided to sell the club calf part of the business in an effort to expand the Hereford operation. Around this same time, the idea for GeneSource was born and Dave and Becky started down the path of marketing semen, which has been a great edition to the marketing mix at Bar A. Genesource is a multi breed semen distribution company. Dave enjoys talking with cattlemen around the country, whether it be the bull owners or the semen customers about their operations and what’s working for them.
The Allan’s said they feel blessed with all the success they have had, be it with customers cattle or Tyler and Mason’s projects, but the biggest blessing is all the time they have gotten to spend with the other families who have become their best friends.
Miller, an animal science senior at Oklahoma State University, won 2018 Overall High Individual Livestock Evaluator at The National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo.,The Fort Worth Stock Show And Rodeo, The Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo, The National Meat Animal Evaluation Contest in Lubbock, Texas, and the The North American Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky.
Miller is the most decorated individual in the history of competitive livestock evaluation. His 5-show run led the most successful livestock judging season in OSU history, and the second-most winning team of all-time.
“It’s a feat,” he said. “Livestock came naturally to me just because I grew up around it. But it’s also combination of having coaches that believed in me and were extremely talented, and my family, my community, and a support system that embraced what I was trying to do and pushed me forward.”
“It takes talent like his, drive like his,” said one coach, “and a little bit of luck.”
Miller grew up in Torringington, Wyo., helping with the family businesses: a commercial feedlot, and M Lazy Heart Ranch, a club calf operation with 300 head of Maine Anjou and crossbred cattle. He began competitive judging and showing through 4H and FFA, and M Lazy Heart often hosted collegiate teams on the ranch to practice livestock evaluation.
“From a young age, P.D. was making decisions about which calves he wanted to show,” said judging coach Taylor Frank, “and I think that teaches people a lot about livestock and how they change, important things to look for and what problems are severe. How he was raised, and what he was raised doing, molded him into who he was.”
Miller and his siblings raised and showed sheep, goats, swine and cattle throughout their 4H and FFA careers. M Lazy Heart was the foundation for success in the ring, but it was their parents that influenced their competitive style.
“Our parents were amazing examples for us,” said Miller’s sister, Paige. “They wanted us to be competitive, but they wanted us to be good people. P.D. is both.”
Miller knew he wanted a future in livestock evaluation a 9-years-old. After winning 21 consecutive cattle shows through 4H, he was buried in a class at the Colorado State Fair. That’s when Miller declared his determination to become the best.
“I walked out of the ring and told my parents ‘I want to be the person whose opinions matter in the show ring. Then I want to judge every major steer, heifer and hog show in the country.’ They said, ‘you can do it.’”
“I knew if I wanted to achieve that goal, I had to put my nose to the grindstone,” Miller said. “I had to be on competitive judging teams.”
He got his chance. He won the National FFA livestock judging contest in 2013 and was an All-American at the National 4-H Contest in 2012. His high school successes and a perfect GPA put him in the national spotlight as a top recruit, and not just in the eyes of agriculture. Miller passed on a football scholarship to University of Wyoming and committed to Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas to judge under head coach Arnold and assistant coach Taylor Frank.
Miller would win a national championship at Butler before going to OSU to judge under head coach Dr. Blake Bloomberg, four-time National Collegiate Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year, and assistant coach Kyndal Reitzenstein.
All coaches remember Miller’s outstanding resume secondary to his extraordinary drive.
“That kid wants it more than anybody else out there,” said Frank.
Ask the OSU judging team why Miller is a champion, and you’ll hear an impressive set of reasons. Some say it’s his eye — a unique ability to see livestock, with a perfect balance of objectivity and opinion. Others say it's his natural talent, his intelligence. But no matter who you ask, one word always places at the top of the class: drive.
“He’s a naturally talented stock person. He had the willingness to be the best, a unique talent, with a lot of drive to succeed,” said Dr. Bloomberg. “You could tell that he had the will to win.”
“He had drive, he had a competitive edge,” remembers Reitzenstein. “He had it all.”
Even with a lifetime of livestock knowledge, Miller had to adjust his delivery if he wanted to make history.
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t have the finesse of a lot of other kids,” remembered Miller. “I had to work at it, and get help. Taylor Frank helped me get my reasons polished. Marcus Arnold made me grounded. Kyndal helped me with flow and presentation, getting my words out but reigning back what I said. Blake Bloomberg was an incredible motivator and an awfully impressive stockman.”
Competitive livestock judging only allows two years of eligibility, split between junior and senior college. Between those years, the level of competition accelerates. Presentation becomes more influential in scoring at the senior collegiate level, and the ability to concisely and eloquently defend decisions in the ring separates the competitive from the elite. Brevity, voice quality, and confidence play a larger role. Miller had the latter in spades.
“He doesn’t lack confidence, that’s for sure,” said Arnold.
That confidence was tested on the road to a national championship. Livestock judging is 90 percent mental focus, 5 percent skill and ability, and 5 percent luck, according to Dr. Bloomberg. And luck wasn’t always on Miller’s side.
“I knew I could be the best, and it made me work harder. Once you get the feeling of winning, you never want to let it go,” Miller said. “I compare livestock judging to addictive gambling.”
After a standout, back-to-back senior college debut in Denver and Fort Worth, Miller lost at the 2018 Dixie National in Jackson, Miss. Miller placed 6th high individual, but his scores helped his team win the overall competition.
“Honestly, I thought it was the best thing to happen to him,” said Dr. Bloomberg. “When things are going so smoothly, sometimes a little ripple doesn't hurt. The loss allowed P.D. to refresh, hit the reset button, and remind himself that he’s human.”
Miller agreed, crediting the loss as a defining moment. He said the setback helped him learn how to overcome external chatter and internal pressure. Building that resilience set the stage for winning where it mattered most: Louisville.
“Winning consistently takes a lot of inner thought, and belief in yourself,” Miller said. There’s going to be people who doubt you, who say you can’t do it again. And you have to overcome those fears within yourself.”
“I worked, and wrestled with myself. And I came back to win.”
Miller’s coaches say his outstanding motivation, and laser focus, sets him apart from competitors.
“Some kids can get discouraged, and losing wears on their mental toughness,” said Arnold. “But P.D. had a competitive mental focus that you don't see in a lot of students.”
Frank agreed. “You can put as much pressure on him as you want, and he’ll continue to perform.”
Ask about Miller beyond the ring and you get mixed reactions — snorts, giggles, a grumble or two. But you certainly get a response. His star-quality talent, and courage to face failure, earned Miller a leadership role on livestock teams and the loyalty of friends-turned-family.
“P.D. has a bold personality and a bold spirit,” said Arnold. “He has weaknesses. But he stays open, and willing. And his ability to be open, to be humble, and to work together with his teammates — that’s what makes him a champion.”
Miller’s coaches and teammates remember Miller’s wit, heart, and generosity as two-fold and unconditional.
“Everyone would love to have P.D. on their team,” Frank said. “He has a big heart, and he loves people. He would do anything for anybody. He cares about everybody. If you called him right now because your tire is flat, he wouldn’t ask questions. If you wanted to talk cattle, he’d tell you everything he knows.”
“And he’s a lot of fun to have in the van,” he laughed.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
Miller will graduate from OSU in May 2019. His next chapter is undecided, but like most things to do with Miller, there are plenty of opinions.
“Coaching,” Frank said.
“I think he’ll go back to the family farm,” said Reitzenstein.
Ask Miller and he admits he isn’t sure. He’s still celebrating senior year, and reflecting on an incredible run. He tosses out a couple ideas — pursuing a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition and assistant coaching, or going home to the family business. He likes the idea of coaching and helping kids. He’s a little tired of school, he laughs.
Bloomberg has his own take.
“I don’t know what the future holds for P.D., but I know he’ll have a lot of options to do what he wants. Somebody with his ability and his talents can write their own chapter. If he decides to go back to the family farm, he’ll be successful. If he decides to coach, he’ll have success. He’s the kind of kid, like so many that come through our program, who can write their own history. “
Byline: Jessica Willingham