Written by: Erika Kenner
Every rancher and farmer loves the idea of handing down the operation to the next generation, until it actually happens! Sometimes it can be hard for the older generation to let go of the reins and let the younger generation take over. Many times it’s a work in progress and helps when both generations can work together awhile during the process. Most of the time, the next generation wants to take the operation in another direction and this can be scary for the ones turning it over. This is the case for the 2016 Promoter of the Year! Each time another generation has come to the Keller Broken Heart Ranch, they have changed the direction a little bit.
Dwight & his father, Eugene Keller, started their seedstock operation in 1982 south of Mandan, ND. Eugene only had dairy on the place until Dwight came back to the farm. Dwight wanted to be in the beef business, so after obtaining a loan, he purchased 30 beef cows and his dad did the same. They started with Simmental bulls on Hereford and Angus cows, and have grown and developed over the years to an offering of 100 bulls and 80 open heifers selling annually, with 2017 being their 20 th annual production sale.
Dwight had been in livestock judging growing up and then as a coach in graduate school and had formed a good impression of Simmental cattle from what he had seen while judging. He was looking for a breed that would offer both maternal and terminal qualities and he felt the Simmental did it better than any other continental breed.
They started incorporating artificial insemination in the program in 1984, but they also pay top dollar for cleanup bulls and go wherever the genetics happen to be. They always put their money into bulls and didn’t buy any females. They figured that would give them more money to spend on the bulls they needed.
Dwight says he could not have done all that he has without the support and help from his wife, Dr. Susan Keller. Dr. Keller is the current ND State Veterinarian and has been the Keller’s personal veterinarian all along. In addition, she also helped Dwight since the beginning with all the record keeping and mailing lists.
Now the next generation is starting to take the reins. Luke and Jake Keller are on the ranch and have tried to incorporate their ideas. Luke worked for American Simmental Association for a few years and when he came home, he had some new things he wanted to try. Luke always likes to think out of the box and is willing to try something different. He especially has been excited about implementing the new technology available, especially DNA. Dwight and Susan have pulled back the reins occasionally, but for the most part, they have let the boys have some rein.
Luke made many contacts working for ASA and had the opportunity to see many feedlots firsthand. This prompted him to suggest marketing their calves through a feedlot directly instead of a local sale barn. They have been able to get their data back on their calves so they know first hand how their genetics work. This has prompted them to select genetics differently. They still focus on performance and maternal, but they also pay close attention to calving ease and carcass traits.
Embryo transfer was also implemented this year, which is where having a veterinarian in the family comes in handy! Susan has done all the implanting herself so they are able to do everything on the farm.
In 2016, the Keller’s were a stop on the ND Stockman’s All Breeds Cattle Tour. Luke was elected chairman of the All Breeds Cattle Tour committee and worked hard to promote the tour and his own operation.
Dwight was a member of the NDSA Board of Directors for 2 terms in the past. When he was on the board, they had to deal with several tough issues and Dwight said it wasn’t always easy, but he took the responsibility seriously. Luke was also a member of the ND Simmental Board of Directors for 2 terms and was always willing to help with every project and would go above and beyond what was expected to assist the members.
Luke has also started his own consulting business and works hard to know his customers needs to help them buy the cattle that will work the best for them. Jake stays home on the ranch and is perfectly content with focusing on the day-to-day operations. Their sister Tessa is still in college, but when she is home, she is also very involved in everything going on at the ranch. She is working on an Agriculture Communication degree and may be able to assist with their advertising in the future!
Handing over the reins and working together in a family operation sometimes has challenges, but in the end is very rewarding. The North Dakota Simmental Association is proud of the accomplishments of the Keller’s through the years and appreciates the promotion they do for the Simmental breed. It is great to see it will continue for years to come.
The North Dakota Simmental Association presented the 2016 Promoter of the Year award to the Keller Broken Heart Ranch and Luke Keller on Friday, December 9, at the ND Simmental Association banquet in Bismarck.