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Cultivating Genetic Progress | January 2023

by Sarah Hill

Photos courtesy Schooley Cattle Co.

Schooley Cattle Company develops bulls for strong herds.

There are some people in the beef cattle business who just have it in their blood. Roman Schooley is one of those lucky few; a third-generation sale barn operator who started raising breeding stock at age 19.

Schooley’s family has owned and operated Bloomfield Livestock Market for 53 years. He watched as his father and uncles work to provide a platform for marketing producers’ cattle. “Bloomfield has always been known for quality throughout the barn,” Roman Schooley said. “Our prices are higher than our competitors, and we’ve really taken the approach of trying to be progressive and educating producers on how to feed and present their cattle on sale day. It’s our job as an auction market to lead our customers to a successful sale day. We couldn’t do what we love without them.”

After earning a degree in general studies agriculture from Southern Illinois University, Schooley returned home in 2003. “I decided I wanted to start breeding Angus/Simmental cross cattle, since there was a need in our area for a young cattle breeder,” Roman shared.

Modest Beginning

Many cattle breeders start from modest beginnings, and Schooley is no exception. He bought 12 Angus bred heifers to start his herd. “Angus momma cows were practical, easier doing cattle, but we needed to inject heterosis,” Roman explained. “I wanted to increase their frame, make them longer, and give them a little more substance and width.”

Simmental was the perfect mating choice for Schooley, who wanted his cattle to keep a more Angus “look” about their head. “We wanted the resulting calves to be more stretchy and leaner in muscle type, so they will easily feed and be managed for those trying to feed them out,” Roman stated. “Straight Angus calves can tend to be a little harder to manage because they show extra flesh too early.”

Golden Opportunity

Adding Simmental into the genetic mix was a tremendous choice for Schooley, and the operation took off after he bought LLSF Pays to Believe from Lee Simmentals in Columbia, Mo. “I was trying to buy the best Simmental bull I could for the money, but had no idea what he would grow into,” Schooley recalled. “We ended up taking him to the Denver Stock Show through Lee’s pen of three, and he was one of the main attractions.”

Over the years, Schooley has had many opportunities to sell Pays to Believe, but he’s held onto the sire. “I did everything you weren’t supposed to be able to do with a herd bull,” Schooley said. “We ran Pays to Believe behind our cows, took him to the bull stud at Nichols Farms, then we took him straight from the stud to Louisville as a 2-year-old and won grand champion Simmental bull.”

Winning the champion banner at Louisville only made Pays to Believe increase in popularity, and Schooley took the bull’s sons back to Denver to compete in the pen show, launching Schooley Cattle Company into orbit. The operation held their first bull sale in 2017.

Focus on Bulls

“We sell our very best bulls,” Roman stated. “We’re not keeping anything back. Our goal is to promote and offer the top tier of bull calves we raise.” Pays to Believe gave Schooley the confidence to land a semen contract with Cattle Visions, and today, Schooley Cattle Company offers semen from 10 different bulls. “Bulls are our niche,” he added.

Another bull that has helped Schooley Cattle Company’s rise to prominence is OMF Epic E27, which Schooley bought in 2018 at the Denver stockyards. Leased to ST Genetics, Epic is slated to be in the top two Simmental bulls for semen sales in 2022. “Epic is a heifer bull, but he’s also good at making bulls,” Schooley explained. “We like to find sires that can make both. Cattle have to be structurally correct.”

Transitioning into producing cattle with better EPD numbers is Schooley’s current strategy. While pretty cows always catch the eye, he says that building a cow herd that implements numbers with phenotype while maintaining structural integrity is his goal. “Early on, I didn’t think you could have good structure, phenotype and a great set of EPDs,” Schooley shared. “Boy, was I wrong! We made it our goal to find and select the best of the best in terms of structural integrity while maintaining and moving forward with the numbers. With very stringent selection, it can be possible, and we’re really close to surprising some folks.”

Since 2018, Schooley has invested in other bulls, including LCDR Favor 149F and Crawford Guarantee 9137, a purebred Angus bull that’s leased out to Select Sires. “We also raised Schooley Standout 27G, the number two semen seller for Simmental bulls for Select Sires this year,” he said. “Schooley Judgment was the highest selling bull last year, and we also raised Schooley Haggard.”

Snapshot Today

Schooley runs 375 cows and manages 2,500 acres of pastures, hay ground, and crop ground. He has been flushing cows for 15 years, implanting 150 to 190 embryos each spring. “Because we own all those really good bulls, we put those guys to work,” Schooley said.

First-calf heifers get artificially inseminated, while mature females have embryos implanted. Whatever females don’t take, either with an embryo or AI, the bulls clean up. Artificial insemination is done in May, and the first of three sets of cows for implantation is done at that time as well.

“We want the first group of heifers to calve out on February 15th,” Schooley stated. “The ET babies arrive February 4th through the first week of March. Sale heifers are implanted or bred around May 10th to 20th, so their due date is February.”

When sorting cattle, Schooley says they do not use any sorting sticks, whips, or paddles. “We just go nice and slow with the cattle.” Schooley runs his herd similarly to a commercial herd, turning the females out in May and weaning the second or third week of August. Calves are sorted into the bull barn or heifer lot, and that’s where development begins.

“We chop corn silage and put out lots of rye, chopping the rye or harvesting it in wet form and putting it in baleage,” Schooley added. “We do a lot of grass hay, too.” Schooley Cattle Company bulls are fed an amino gain developer bull pellet through ADM, which Schooley says he’s been very happy with. “It’s a high protein balancer pellet, and we feel like it helps with scrotal area development,” he said. “We also feed modified distillers grains.”

Bull calves are targeted to gain 3.5 pounds per day, and no more. Schooley says this by design, as he’s looking to develop athletes for his customers. “We feel like that weight gain per day helps with longevity, and we’re very critical on foot and hoof shape,” Schooley explained. “A hot ration can hurt the bulls’ feet and legs.”

Family Operation

Operating both the sale barn and breeding operation is a family affair. Roman’s brother, Tyler, assists with the daily chores on the ranch and at the sale barn and building relationships with sale barn customers. Tyler’s wife, Kallie, helps at the sale barn and manages the meal at the Schooley Cattle Company production sale. The couple has three children, Anderson, 10; Tytan, 7; and Quinlee, 5.

Roman’s wife, Liz, helps with bookkeeping, and they also have three children, Hannah, 20; Haven, 17; and Houstin, 15. “The kids help a lot during calving season, picturing the cattle, and recording video,” Schooley said.

Herdsman Gary Gabel provides Schooley the freedom to travel the country looking at and evaluating progeny from different sire groups. “Gary takes ownership in our program, and we are very fortunate to have him,” Schooley noted.

Building Relationships

At the February 2023 production sale, the operation will be selling 85 bulls and 50 bred females. The bulls sold at their production sale become herd sires of 95 percent of the feeder calves that are eventually sold at Bloomfield Livestock Market. A majority of their cattle are sold solely in Iowa, but Schooley Cattle Company has begun branching out more to Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, South Dakota, and even Texas.

“Helping our commercial customers with forward-minded genetics to help produce the optimal bovine for the times is what excites me the most about the beef cattle industry,” Schooley said. “We want genetic progress while maintaining structural integrity.”

Raising high-quality stud bulls has allowed Schooley to build relationships with breeders from across the country, including many ranches out West that are looking for high-performing, sound bulls. Schooley notes that the most important lesson he’s learned in the business is to always treat people fairly and consistently and be responsive, as those are the two keys to building strong customer relationships.

“I learned from my dad, Rom, who was my role modeling growing up. He really enjoyed looking at cattle, and then would wait for the opportunity when the producer asks, ‘What could we do better?’” Schooley said. “My dad would reply that they were doing a good job, but if they worked on a couple of things, it would set them apart on sale day. Not even the quality or type of cattle, but about how to present those cattle in front of buyers.”

Schooley leans hard on his dad’s example of the importance of building honorable relationships with customers. “The way my dad interacted with producers and was always honest and had their best interest in mind helped me learn to build relationships to turn producers into loyal, lifetime customers,” Schooley shared.

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