In the Real World… You Better Raise What They Eat.
Dr. Randy Schmidt graduated from Ole Miss in Oxford and then attended medical school at Ole Miss in Jackson. He is now a well recognized surgeon in Texarkana as well as the owner of Schmidt Farms located in the rolling hills and bottom land of Northeast Texas, just East of Simms, Texas. Like many producers in the seedstock business, Dr. Schmidt got his start in the cattle business producing commercial cattle.
Randy’s father, Howard, always had a dream that at retirement he would return to the cattle business and have a small herd of cattle, having left the dairy and row crop farm that his parents ran. When his father was 60, Randy leased a small place and bought the cattle that were on the lease place outside of Texarkana. That herd was mainly crossbred Brahman cattle together with Beefmaster bulls. Part of the dream was not fulfilled as Randy’s father passed away three years later at the age of 63. The rest of the dream has become a reality as he has grown his ranch and built his cowherd into one of the well recognized Brangus seedstock operations in the country. He credits his wife, Karen, not because she has a great passion for the cattle, like he does, but because she tolerates his passion for the breed.
As he was developing his crossbred cow herd, he continued to build cow numbers and ran on a small home ranch and 4 – 5 leased acreages around the county. In the meantime, Dr. Schmidt became a real student of the industry, consuming massive amounts of literature available on ranching, forage production and the industry as a whole. He attended the beef cattle short courses put on at Texas A&M, and visited the grass growing station at Overton. Soon he realized as he watched cattle sell at the local auction barn that he wanted black calves to market. He replaced Beefmaster bulls with Angus; however, he was disappointed in the weaning weights of the resulting calves. He made a purchase of Brangus bulls from MTG Brangus in Simms, Texas. Disappointment turned to happiness as his calves weighed 100 to 150 lbs more than his Angus cross calves, and the heifers were good enough to use as replacements.
In 1999 he made the initial purchase of a portion of the land currently known as Schmidt farms from Jack Watson. Mr. Watson was a “real cattleman” and a mentor to Randy Schmidt as he developed his cattle enterprise. “Jack was a grass farmer and manager, ran both stockers and commercial cows, owned a piece of Canadian Feedyards and together with his wife, ran a brokerage firm trading cattle and grain futures.” says Randy. He remembers this advice as the most sound, “If you are going to make money in the cattle business, you have to raise what they eat.” As a result, the goal at Schmidt farms remains to minimize feed inputs while optimizing gain and forage for maintenance. They plant Marshall Ryegrass every fall, and use commercial fertilizer on the hay meadows while using chicken litter on the grazing lands. On the grazing lands they have in addition to Bermuda grass interceded stands of clover, Vetch and Lespedeza. They manage the clover annually to maximize reseeding. In addition the farm is set up to handle silage, with pit silos and the ability to distribute it to the cattle through bunks in the pastures. Excess forage in the spring is harvested, ensiled and used to supplement the cowherd and yearlings.
With the current home ranch purchase in 1999, he hired Richard Norris as a full time manager. Richard has been the force behind successful day to day operations of the ranch. Their original plan, with their upgraded bull power was to produce replacement females and market their steers in truckload lots. Their reasoning was simple, they could see the difference black hide made in their steers at market time, they also noted that “Brangus replacement females were always in the demand and remain somewhat recession proof”. While they remain diversified and maintain a set of commercial cows, market commercial replacement heifers and sell steers in truckload lots, their original plan diversified into the registered Brangus business. The same year they purchased the ranch, they attended an MTG production sale where they purchased several registered females. Today they are developing about 120 home raised commercial replacement heifers and about 160 home raised registered Brangus heifers. They try to buy back the heifers from their commercial bull customers, but they are so good most of their customers won’t part with them.
As they became acquainted with Herb Murray and B.D. Richards, both of whom fall into the mentor category, they decided the registered Brangus cow herd would be an important part of their ranching portfolio. Today the registered herd dominates their passion and they look to long time Brangus breeder and president of GENETRUST, Vern Suhn, as a mentor and herd advisor.
Every registered female at Schmidt farms is AI’d at least once and most are detected for heat a second time, with the return heats AI’d again. Artificial Insemination gives Schmidt farms the ability to match each cow to the ideal sire providing more mating options and at the same time adding marketability to the offspring because they are out of “known, reputation herd bulls”.
Regarding embryo transfer, “I think it pays. It adds another layer of marketability and reputation when you are selling herd sires or daughters of proven donors and known herd sires,” says Dr. Schmidt. He adds, “Our ET calves have the lowest cull rates of all the cattle we produce, plus you must consider the quality of the female you are putting back into the herd.”
The Schmidt Farms philosophy regarding cleanup sires is a unique approach for many seedstock producers. “We feel proven herd sires are a bargain for us. When we purchase walking rights on a proven herd sire, we already know what he will do in our herd because we will have used him in AI already. We are buying not only the proven genetics and the replacement females he is capable of producing, but also name recognition and the marketing and promotion dollars already spent on that herd bull,” explains Schmidt.
At Schmidt Farms, they are looking for the best cattle available and not necessarily “outcross” cattle. They believe heterosis is a wonderful tool for the commercial cattleman, but as seedstock producers, Dr Schmidt feels it is his duty is to provide a closely bred, consistent genetic product so their commercial customers can take advantage of maximum heterosis. Their selection criteria and mating philosophy is designed to eliminate throwaways, increase consistency and build a cow herd with more and more herd cows of the genetic ability and reach of today’s donors.
Schmidt Farms is an original member of the marketing cooperative, GENETRUST. Dr. Schmidt recognized a need for marketing and exposure for the product he was producing, and the need for a venue to get his cattle in the public eye to build a higher profile. In addition he realized more could be accomplished together than would be possible by 10 different stand alone marketing entities. In addition, “I already knew several of the other members who eventually formed GENETRUST and knew they had similar philosophies and realized the synergy that could be built,” said Schmidt. Over the last few years that bond has become very close for the members of GENETRUST, both professionally and socially.
For new seedstock producers just getting in the business, advice from Dr. Schmidt is simple. “Develop a plan. Look to successful breeders and see what you think they are doing right, write your plan down. Consider finding a mentor or other producer you respect or trust and together develop the plan, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. After you have a plan stick with it, modify it after you see what is working for you, and remember that ranching is a marathon not a sprint.”
If you are in the North east corner of Texas and in the business of producing forage for cattle, are in the commercial business and considering buying replacements or in the registered seedstock business and wish to view a real world operation with a good handle on where they are going, stop by Schmidt Farms in Simms, Texas. It will be worth your time.