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.”