Like most in our business, it started in 4-H as a young kid showing sheep. Most don’t know this but until I was 12 my parents had close to 200 Suffolk ewes. Yes I was brought up as a sheep herder. Dad done pretty good showing those breeding sheep and when us kids got old enough we showed some market lambs. He also had a few cows around and that was where my interest was so we showed a steer or two each year and I worked my tail off, well I thought I was working my tail off. We had a basement in the barn and that is where we kept the steers. We used old squirrel cage fans and bedded on sand. I thought I was up town and it was nice for the times. We would go to the show in a 1981 Chevy dually that was the first new truck my dad ever bought with an old steel trailer that weighed as much as a battleship. We had a homemade blocking chute, use flat head sunbeams to clip with, and my fitting supplies consisted of Amway soap, 3M adhesive, Steaks and Tips, JD paint, and Slick Black, then purple oil and Orvus soap to break em down. The biggest thing I ever won was a pair of Tony Lama boots at a county fair showmanship class that when I came out of the ring I kicked off the old ones and put them right on….even tho they where a size too big. I wore those boots so long that by the time I got rid of them they were a size too small. Never truly won anything as far as a show career but they couldn’t keep me from going. I would sit for hours watching the “big boys” work.
In the state of Illinois it was the Dryers, Collins, Sneeds, Elliots, and Simpens and then came IL Beef Expo and Bob May came rolling in and settin up camp there on the sidewalk. That’s where you could find me during the expo. I watched till they probably thought I was stalking them. Who would ever thought years later that I would be selling all those guys calves to win the very shows i dreamed of and now calling them my buddies. My dad would say “Son, enjoy it now because you ain’t going to make a living doing it”. I said back to him “Dad, Bobby May was 12 years old at one time”. Soooo I guess my dad took me serious and a few years later we went up to Jim Horsleys and bought a heifer.
Then for the next couple of years I when to the shows with their crew and I probably didn’t have the most glamorous jobs but at least I was getting to hang around some cattle that were winning. My parents were always great supporters but you know how it is when your kids are young and want to go to the barn by themselves, you worry as a parent. Tom Fitzpatrick was a major mentor and if it wasn’t for him I probably wouldn’t have started clipping as soon as I did. He was the one that pushed me to start and would say "don't worry about mom and dad and go". He would always say “you aren’t going to learn until you just get in there and do it”. I then got where I could fit a leg pretty good or at least I thought it was pretty good but just about then Brian Collins hired me to help fit……Tango……the winningest steer of the year. Then Bill Elliot hired me to fit his son’s steer that year at the state fair. Bill put the heat on me before I got started. He told me not to poddle those legs up……..whatever that meant. He won the IL State Fair steer show that year so I guess poddled or not poddled, he won. In the late 80’s I knew I was moving up the ladder because John Frasher hired the who’s who of the clipper guys to clip his sale and I got the call. It didn’t go over very good with my judging team coach, Curt Rincker, when I told him I was going to clip that sale and would miss a contest. Against his wishs I skipped the contest anyway but I won the next one to redeem myself a little. The next fall Lloyd Stone loaded me up and took me west to look at calves. We ended up at Leroy Beitelspacher and bought his first club calf crop. Came home, had my first steer sale in conjuction with Brian and Steve Myers and sold my first high dollar steer………..$3,100 red baldy Platinum to Todd Caldwell’s dad, Rick, for Todd’s sister, Tammy, to show. That was a lot then.
The next three years Regan Bowman, my brother-in-law now, took me under his wing and went clear out thruogh WY. Bought a group of 7 steer calves that year for $1200 a round from Paul Schmitz. That would have been one of his very first calf crops and man I thought that was a lot of money. Had a sale in Greenville, OH and one of those calves topped the sale at $12,100 and went on to be my first “big” win. I made some money, that steer won the TX State Fair, and I was off to the races. Bought a place in Tipton, IN and had sales there every year through the mid and late 90’s. Had some highlights like Adam Dryer at Kansas City in ’95, Nick Mauck at NAILE in ’96, Kevin Cooper at NAILE in ’97, Nick Mauck again at IN in ’97, Nathan Smith at OH in’98, Jaclyn Harrod at NAILE in’99, Grand and Res at IL in ’99 with Adam Dryer and Blair Branyon, Tyler Colburn at NAILE in ’00, Chad Day at NWSS in ’00, Lance Unger at NAILE in ’02, Monica Planalp at KC in ’02 and Chance Lautner in ‘03, Trent Printz and Opie Campbell was Grand and Res at OH in ’03 and Abby Harner in ’04. From there the steer show wins continued to snowball year after year that there is too many to mention but these were what got it started. Let’s just say we have been very blessed!
In 2000 I moved back home and married my lovely wife Lucy. We bought the home place from my parents and started adding to the small cow herd we had there. Before long we were over 200 cows with just Luc and I. Now I will be the first to admit that Luc will out work three good men but it got tougher when Ashtin came along in 2001 and then Nalaney in 2003.We had cows to calve and breed. With the cow herd in place we started to sell more and more heifers. With Wyatt Baker by my side we started to win some of those bigger prospect heifer shows in 2001 and 2002. Then Emily Richardson got a big win for us at the Shorthorn Jr. National and IN State Fair and Nate Tice won PA Farm Show. We started selling some of our best heifers to Josh Elder and James Sullivan those next few years. With the cow herd rolling with a full ET program in place, selling more steers than we ever had, increasing our heifer sales and looking forward to the future with our first production sale, we take over the 950 acre farm that don’t have one fence that could hold cattle or a barn that functions. We needed help!!!!
I hooked up with Steve Bonham in 2002 which was a huge relief in locating and supplying enough steers to meet demand. We currently still today do business together to try to supply the very best steer prospects from coast to coast as we can. We have been able to hold steady in the win column from year to year with as many or more than we ever have but the young guys coming up the line will made you hang your tongue out trying to stay ahead. The next generation in this business, are good and things have sure changed from when I started. Chad Day started with us in 2004 and we began to tear that farm up. We put in 15 mile of fence, build numerous barns including our current showbarn and sale facilities, water lines, lots, seeding grass, you name it we were doing it. Like I needed something else to do, Steve Myers comes to me with a plan. It included me going off and starting an ambassadorship with Purina Mills. So for 7 years I put on countless number of educational programs, speeches, and appearances that started in 2004. Started Natural Solution for Livestock Co in 2005 when Todd Kennedy and Brent Bolen came to me with this dumb idea that we were going to get this nut out of Africa, melt it down and give it to show animals to help their joints. They drug me kicking and screaming to the first meeting and who would have ever thought that Natural Stride would be the industries leader in joint health. Since then we added other products like GLUCoat, Hide and Hair, and Stretch and most recently Natural Stride for horse and dogs. Now don't forget the cow herd has been growing this whole time and in Janurary 2008 we planned our first annual production sale that we called The Chosen Few. We done something that no one has ever done outside a couple big time breed sales and that was televise it live on TV. It was a huge success and we have continued it to present day. Chad decided to leave after the 2010 sale and start his own family and went the work for ShowRite Feeds. It was like loosing my left arm because with my work schedule, he and Luc did most of the work around the farm. It's hard to find someone to treat something of yours like it was their own and he did. In late 2010 I had the great opportunity to team up with Chad and ShowRite feed and formed a partnership with them, Natural Solutions, and myself.
With the fast growth from year to year with Natural Solutions, cattle sale and service, the educational to youth of the industry, my responsiblities with ShowRite, and most importantly my family, we announced our dispersal of the cow herd in our 2012 sale. Breeding and calving cows was the only thing that I could give up and continue the meet all of my other responsalities. Now we just depend on all of our customers and friends to supply the great cattle for The Chosen Few. That brings me to present day and I plan to continue in this industry as long as it will let me. I enjoy spending time with the business, the people, and especialy the kids but all my life and all the decisions I have made for all these years have been for one reason...........my family. It's the one thing in my life I am MOST proud of.
We have taken up showing pigs as a family. It was something that about 6 years ago we tried and liked. It was a way we can stay in the livestock business but something that would be a challege and a new adventure for myself. We have showed more this past summer than we have since we started and the biggest win for myself has been the time I have taken with Lucy and the girls. As we all get older we change focuses. For me first it was to win a show and make a name for myself. Then is was the cow herd and building a program and then the businesses I've got. Now today it's family but don't get me wrong I still want to win the shows. LOL!! But I've learned you can sell em or breed em and win ever show in the country and they still aren't going to put a star on on some sidewalk in some big city.
So take care of the ones that are closest to you. (Information as of September 2012)