By Travis Svihovec: Reprinted with permission of the Mobridge Tribune.
The sign over the main corral gate at Schott Limousin Ranch could say any number of things: Limousin, for the breed they raise; Lumberjack, for a prized bull they raised on the ranch; or maybe just welcome, because that’s how you’ll feel.
The Schotts went with one word: People.
The people behind the cattle at Schott Limousin Ranch take pride in their product, but they also take pride in the relationships they have through their business.
Jim, Priscilla and their son Jared, who along with his fiance Lisa is a partner in the ranch, were introduced to the Limousin breed in the late 1970s. Jim was at the South Dakota State Fair when he was approached by a Limousin producer interested in testing the performance of some imported French bulls. He said the Schott’s herd of black white-faced cows would work well in the test. “We got to keep the heifers,” Jim said.
That was the start of their life in the purebred business. For them, it’s as much about people as it is cattle. They’re eager to work with their customers to provide quality bulls, of course, but they know that keeping up with technology is important too. That means educating themselves and their customers while hanging on to the idea that a handshake still holds some value.
A number of things were being tested with those French bulls. The outcome and the data meant less to the Schotts than to the other producer, perhaps. More importantly for them, they now had some half-blood Limousin heifers. Jim had done some research on the breed too, and he was impressed. “I liked the muscle, the calving ease. I saw maternal traits I liked,” he said. “And what’s kept me with it was the good disposition.” The Schotts bought some purebred cows in 1982. There was no longer any discussion about whether or not to be in the purebred business. “When we bought the cows, that was the decision,” Priscilla said. The next March they held their first bull sale at McLaughlin Livestock. It was held there every year until six years ago when they moved it to Mobridge Livestock Exchange. They have repeat customers from hundreds of miles away.
The Schotts appear to enjoy every aspect of the purebred business and ranching in general. When Jim and Priscilla moved to their place east of McLaughlin in 1972, corrals were one of the first improvements they made. “There were no corrals to speak of,” Jim said. “It was a blessing to be able to go out there and build the corrals we wanted, to make working cattle enjoyable.” One thing that was designed into their corrals was a lack of corners. Jim sees them as places where cattle stop and then get stressed. The family has worked hard to keep a herd with a good disposition. It makes handling and working cattle enjoyable, Jim said, and it’s important at every level of the operation. It’s also important to those who buy and feed the calves that are the offspring of the bulls the Schotts sell. Schott bulls annually go to North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Montana. They deliver many of those bulls to the buyer. “It’s important to drive into a guy’s yard,” Jim said. Other times, the buyers have come to them. A few years ago a man was in the area to hunt prairie dogs. He went home to Minnesota and told his dad about the cattle he’d seen. “He came and wanted to buy heifers and did so for three years in a row and kept increasing the numbers,” Jim said. Some of the heifers they sold have gone as far as Mexico, Jared said. The phone call from a potential buyer came without warning. The man on the other end thought Jim’s price on the heifers was a little high, but said he would come and look. The top two-thirds of Jim’s heifers were in the pen next to the lower one-third, which was the group from which the Mexican buyers had agreed to purchase. “They didn’t bat an eye,” he said. “There was no negotiation and they were back the following year. They were pleased with what they saw in depth of body and disposition.”
Jared holds a degree from South Dakota State University and has added his business and knowledge of technology to the ranch. They maintain an extensive database on their herd and share data with the national association. Priscilla handles the heat detection during AI season, keeps the calving book, and in the fall starts working on replacement heifer data.
“Mom is pretty savvy now,” Jared said. “I’m more apprehensive than Dad about new technology.”
Jared said one of the biggest challenges they face is educating themselves and then their customers about that technology and how it benefits them. EPDs provide excellent information, Jim said, but genetic profiling is being relied upon more and more. Efficiency in a breed is critical, and the Schotts believe the Limousin breed is among the best. Jared said industry magazine articles and nearly any discussion about profit and loss includes the costs associated with feed. “With Limousin, the data is out there to show their efficiency,” Jared said. Jim, several years ago placed steers in the Beef 20/20 program at SDSU. The program gives producers the opportunity to follow cattle through the processing phase and determine profit or loss. The two steers they placed, in two different years, were the lightest live weight cattle in the test. They proved to be the most profitable in pounds of boxed meat and, even though their quality grade was lower than the others, a taste panel found that the meat was similar and in some cases better in tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Jim admits it took time to get the quality of their herd to the level it’s at today. That process never ends, and Jim says it never gets old. By midsummer, a few months after calving, the bulls for the next sale are taking shape. “It’s exciting to look at each cow, pick the weak points and try to find a bull (that will) override those weak points,” Jim said. A few years ago Jim felt the frame of his cows needed to be downsized. He was concerned that it would result in lower weaning weights on the calves. The weaning weights actually went up. A third of his bulls’ adjusted weaning weights were more than 700 pounds at weaning time in the last two years. “To be able to compete today is not easy,” he said. “The beef industry is competitive.” Jared says his parents’ longevity in the business is quite an accomplishment. The average number of years for a rancher to stay in the registered business is between five to seven. “They’ve lasted 31 years,” he said.
Jim said his priorities are simple. First is the quality of the cattle they produce. Second is people, meaning customers and consumers. Third is the beef industry as a whole. Fourth is Schott Limousin. Fifth is monetary. “Take care of the top four properly, and I mean properly with character, the fifth one will fall into place,” he said.
And after 31 years, so far, so good. Lots of people when they arrive at the Schott place ask about that sign over their corral gate.
“When they drive out, I hope they realize what the word is about,” Jim said.
Jim Schott and Schott Limousin Ranch named
Commercial Marketing Booster of the year!!
Press Release Below!
Schott Limousin Ranch Is Commercial Marketing Booster
Schott Limousin Ranch of McLaughlin, South Dakota was honored as the Limousin Commercial Marketing Booster of the Year at the National Western Stock Show in Denver CO. Dr. Dent Andersen, executive vice-president of the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) and Bo Sexson, co-director of member and commercial relations presented the award during the Pen and Carload show on January 16, 2008.
Jim was recognized for his demonstrated commitment to commercial cattle producers. The family enterprise includes Jim, his wife Priscilla and their son Jared. They have co-hosted communitywide educational seminars and steak dinners for area cattle producers to tout the advantages of Limousin genetics. The radio program AgriTalk broadcast from the seminar to 66 stations in 15 states, providing far-reaching exposure for the breed.
There were two nominations for Schott Limousin Ranch for this prestigious award; Elmwood Limousin and the Heartland Limousin Association.
"Jim Schott has been very innovative in promoting Limousin genetics, and he is very concerned about the success of his bull customers," said Gordon Schuppe of Elmwood Limousin, Iliff, CO who won the award last year and was one of the nominators this year.
"Jim and Priscilla Schott have been a positive voice for the Limousin breed in the rangeland of northern South Dakota," said Dean Summerbell, HLA executive secretary. "Jim's diligent effort to promote the Limousin breed has helped maintain its popularity in South Dakota. His commitment to the breed is unfailing, and his love of Limousin cattle is extremely evident."
In 2006, Schott Limousin Ranch entered cattle in Round 2 of the NALF Visions Quest (VQ) cattle-feeding and carcass-discovery project. BW allows NALF to collect data for genetic evaluation, research and breed promotion.
"Jim and his family have been tireless promoter of not only their program but also the entire Limousin breed," said Frank Padilla, NALF director of member and commercial relations. "Jim's extra effort in promoting the breed sets him apart."
He was the 2000 South Dakota Cattleman of the Year and received the NOCA outstanding service award in 2001.
A NALF member since 1983, Schott Limousin Ranch will host its 25th production sale March 14 in Mobridge, SD. The sale averages 65 bulls per year, with more than 90 percent selling to commercial producers. That is a fitting testament to the rancher's goal of producing bulls to sire feeder calves that excel in performance and efficiency while hanging industry-leading carcasses.