Last updated on January 31st, 2023 at 09:31 am
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First-Generation Cattleman Makes His Mark in the Show Cattle World
Hard work, passion, and a great mentor are the foundation of Casey Hilmes’ success.
MEET Casey Hilmes
Fort Cobb, OK
Do you have to be part of a multi-generation ranching family to get a start in the cattle business?
Nope. Just ask Casey Hilmes.
What you do need is passion, a work ethic, and mentors. That’s the triad that Hilmes employed to grow into a successful seedstock producer.
Hilmes and his family run around 200 Simmental and Sim-Angus cows in Southwest Oklahoma, around Fort Cobb. The core of his operation is purebred Simmental and Sim-Angus cattle, which account for about a quarter of the herd. The rest are commercial cattle used as recipients. “We run an embryo transfer operation and depend heavily on that and artificial insemination for our breeding program,” he explains.
And, as of this writing, he’s been at it for all of 10 years. “First generation and started from nothing and working our way up.”
Hilmes focuses on producing high-end show heifer prospects and bulls bound for commercial herds. Originally from Durango in Southwest Colorado, his interest in seedstock and show cattle began when he joined the livestock judging team at Redlands Community College in El Reno, Oklahoma. From there, it was on to Oklahoma State University, where he continued his livestock judging career.
“I just developed a passion (for the cattle business) through networking, meeting friends who are in the business.” One of those friends, Jered Shipman, a Simmental breeder from Grandview, Texas, became a mentor and partner in Hilmes’ growing cattle enterprise. “I would say he’s got as much to do with it as anybody,” Hilmes says.
Junior livestock shows are popular in Oklahoma, Texas, and other states and that’s where Hilmes focuses his marketing. And show heifers coming from his operation have seen success.
“We were supreme in the Oklahoma Youth Expo back-to-back in ’18 and ’19,” with a heifer shown by one of his customers. Now that his daughters, ages 8, 9, and 10, have begun showing, they’ll hit the show circuit themselves. In fact, his oldest daughter was successful with a heifer in 2020, getting slapped as Supreme at county shows and holding her own at the national level.
Year ‘round Effort
Hilmes calves twice a year, with his “spring” calving season beginning in January. “We wrap that up about April, then get a good break through the summer where we work the show cattle and halter-break and prepare the spring calves for the fall sale season,” he says. “We wean about August, September and sell those cattle from October to November.”
September is when the fall-calving cows start delivering their calves, “And we just repeat the process,” he says. “Start prep on those small heifer calves around February, March and sell them in April and May. So it’s around the calendar continually; either calving or breeding cows or prepping sale cattle. We don’t get much of a break except for the dead of summer.”
Squeezing the Most from Low-Quality Forage
Ah yes, the dead of summer when it’s hot, dry and pastures fade quickly. “We’re pretty sandy where we’re at,” Hilmes says. “We don’t have great soil. A lot of Bermuda grass and then native grasses.”
Even in a good year, the sandy soil lacks enough nutrients to grow great forage. In drought years like the recent past, the forage is even thinner. And when you’re selling show heifers, body condition and a shiny, full coat are essential.
That’s where the orange Riomax® tubs entered the picture. In fact, it was Shipman who turned Hilmes onto Riomax®.
“We’ve got a few partnership cows,” Hilmes says. For several years, Hilmes ran some open heifers for Shipman and sent them home as bred heifers. “The last time he sent some up here, he also sent some tubs and said, ‘Keep those out for those gals and treat them like you would normally treat them.’”
That piqued Hilmes’ interest. “He told me the benefits he had seen in his operation and from people who had told him about it. So I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet, give it a whirl and reap the benefits myself,” he says.
In fact, he was so impressed with the results was getting with his cattle on Riomax® that he became a dealer like Shipman.
“I try to run as close as I can to a commercial operation, keeping dollars and cents at the forefront, and trying to develop low-input, easy-keeping type cattle, as well as implementing a low-input management system,” he says. “So even though we’re raising specialized cattle and that’s our market and that’s the audience we present our product to, we still need to keep in mind those dollars and cents that we’re spending every day. “So I guess that’s the big thing. We try to keep it as commercially minded as we can.”
take the right road this calving season.
Prevent Calf Sickness
Scours, salmonella, and respiratory diseases are the frustration of ranchers across the continent. Nutritionally sound calves are stronger, more vigorous, more efficient, and set up for a successful life. Healthy calves make your life easier - not just during calving season - but for the rest of the animal's life.
Improve Colostrum Quality
You all know that it is critical for calves to receive colostrum after they're born. Higher-quality colostrum will in turn help the calf build a stronger immune system for the months to come and the rest of its life.
Set the Cows up for Successful Breed-Back
The first step to a successful breeding season is a successful calving season. Helping mama cow to calve well, and then clean well is essential to set her up for re-breeding. Ultimately, reducing the challenges you face with cows that don't clean and the uterine infections associated directly impacts the next breeding season.