by Cheryl Kepes
photos courtesy Owen Brothers Cattle Company
Owen Brothers Cattle Company - standing firm in its foundation.
When the Owen family ventured into the Simmental cattle business, they were stepping into uncharted territory for cattle producers in Southwest Missouri. Aaron and Jennie Owen purchased their first red and white Simmental in 1979, at a time when Angus were dominating the cattle scene in their area. However, after the Owen family’s years of involvement in the breed, the number and quality of Simmental cattle has increased in the Show-Me state and across the nation.
Owen Brothers Cattle Company
What started with a young couple and one cow, quickly bloomed into a full family operation. Aaron and Jennie’s sons Adam, Matt, and Casey dove headfirst into the Simmental business from day one. As kids, they jumped into 4H and FFA, along with state and national junior associations. Now as adults, they are all partners in Owen Brothers Cattle Company (OBCC).
OBCC operates on a thousand acres of owned and leased land and manages 250 momma cows near Springfield, Mo. The vast majority of the herd consists of purebred or percentage Simmental; the remainder is Angus.
Their success stretches from the show ring to the sale ring and everywhere in between. OBCC owns some of the industry’s top AI sires and national champion heifers. The Owen family attributes their accomplishments to work ethic, family bonds, devotion to their cattle philosophy, and lifelong friendships. “Our whole livelihood in the Simmental business is we have friends that go way, way back. And we love that,” Aaron Owen explained.
Elevating their Herd
OBCC utilized embryos and AI work, starting in the early 2000s, in order to advance the quality and quantity of their herd as quickly as possible. “We were able to buy genetics out of cow families that we necessarily couldn’t afford to buy the cow, but we could buy the embryos out of her,” Matt Owen said. “Same deal with the AI sires, it’s hard to give $100,000 to $200,000 for some of these bulls, but we were able to utilize the semen out of them, to have the same genetics.”
In the years since, OBCC has built a nationally recognized herd that includes a proven donor battery and bull studs. The operation relies on ET and AI work to improve its herd. OBCC flushes five to ten cows a year from its donor battery. “There is probably more that could be flushed, but we try to emphasize on the proven ones and then moving forward keep a daughter out of them as we sell them in our production sale,” Matt explained.
Ninety-nine percent of the registered cow herd is bred via AI. Many of OBCC’s 100 recipient cows are half-blood Simmentals. Since OBCC owns several different bull studs, their cleanup bulls are all AI sires. “We don’t really hardly ever have a calf here that wouldn’t in most people’s eyes be viewed as AI sired,” Matt said.
The Owen family, along with some of their partners, currently own bull studs whose semen is being marketed through different companies. The latest generation of bulls produced by the Owen family include OBCC CMFM Deplorabull, OBCC Kavanaugh, OBCC Ships Ahoy, W/C Family Tradition 69E, and OBCC Goose GB17.
The family places a priority on cows and bulls that display excellent groundwork. One of the first characteristics they look for in an animal is a good foundation. “I would say the thing that we set out that’s never changed and never will change here is the groundwork of these cattle: their feet and legs,” Adam Owen explained. “The first thing Matt always tells me when he sees a good herd sire is how good footed and how flexible he is on both ends.”
In addition, the Owen brothers place an importance on assessing an animal’s pedigree. Animals making their way into OBCC’s herd must have an established track record. “Whether it is a bull we are using or a cow we are buying, we want to know the history about the cow family and know that she is successful, otherwise we don’t take the gamble on her,” Matt shared.
OBCC observes and utilizes EPDs, but EPDs are not a focus for the operation. Instead, the Owen family places more significance on an animal’s phenotype.
Following Their Own Path
Just like their parents’ determined spirit in the early years, the three Owen brothers never think twice about blazing their own path. Despite what is currently trending in the industry, OBCC holds fast to its core cattle philosophy.
Most years sticking to their philosophy of raising sound, functional breeding cattle pays off in the show ring and sale ring, but there are times it doesn’t. Regardless, OBCC’s committed to producing cattle that will ultimately perform in the pasture. “We try not to chase fads,” Adam said. “We know that if we stay the course and keep those cattle good on the ground and don’t get caught up chasing anything that is trending at the moment, we will be successful.”
The Owen brothers fondly reminisce about the days the entire family had to learn the ins and outs of showing beef cattle at the same time, since their parents both grew up raising dairy cattle. That’s one reason why the Owen brothers spend countless hours devoted to supporting youth in agriculture. The brothers especially enjoy mentoring juniors who are willing to learn and put the effort in. “We have done that with several kids throughout the years and that is a lasting impact with them, and they grow their operation,” Casey Owen stated.
The entire family collaborates to operate OBCC. However, Matt manages all the daily operations. Adam and Casey call themselves the weekend warriors, pitching in wherever help is needed. Casey also serves as the resident mechanic. “Casey is the one who doesn’t get the good calls because he is the mechanic. So, if something is broken, his phone is ringing,” Matt chuckled.
The Owen brothers bale 95 percent of their own hay, supplementing with a few loads of high-quality hay for heifer calves and square bales for show days. Two years ago, OBCC transitioned from growing and baling wheat hay to producing rye silage to feed through the winter. Additionally, the brothers stick to round bales, silage, and base feed as their staples.
OBCC launched its first production sale in 2008. Each April, the Owen family hosts the Diamonds and Spurs production sale. Selecting females for the sale comes easily for the brothers, as soon as a cow reaches five years old, she walks through the sale ring. In addition, each production sale features a set of elite show calves, semen lots, and genetic packages.
OBCC’s production sale also includes offerings from guest consignors. In the fall, some of OBCC’s cattle is marketed in other production sales. In addition, OBCC sells more than 50 bulls through private treaty annually.
The third generation of the Owen family is now growing up in the Simmental cattle business. The younger generation is the recipient of all the cattle knowledge the older generations can impart. And if there is one lesson the older generation wants the younger one to remember, it would be to stay tried and true to their family, friends and cattle philosophy.