CLM Ranch, a 160-head SimAngus™ seedstock operation straddling the Ozark Mountains, 40 miles south of the Missouri River, has the well-deserved reputation of an operation that leaves little to chance when relating to their commercial buyer. “Our focus has always been the commercial cattle business,” says Chuck Miller, Olean, Missouri, who runs the operation with his wife, Christi, and their two children. “No matter where we have been, we have always focused on providing very functional $API and $TI genetics for our commercial producers.” Keeping a close eye on data, selecting for performance, and utilizing the newest technology allows the Millers to improve quality from breeding time to sale day, and in turn, develop the most profitable SimAngus bulls to help their customer’s bottom line.
The SimAngus Niche
Built from the ground up, CLM Ranch started breeding for SimAngus in the early 1990s when crossing Simmental and Angus was just starting to gain popularity.
“When I started, I knew I couldn’t compete with the purebred programs, so we got creative and tried a different angle,” Miller explains. “We started breeding SimAngus early enough that we were using some of our own bulls on the females we were developing because SimAngus sire selection was low until the late 90s.”
For the first 15 years, while Miller was growing his herd, he rented land east of Columbia, Missouri. At the time, he was teaching high school agriculture. When he retired from teaching four years ago, Chuck and Christi purchased the land where CLM Ranch resides today, and he started ranching full-time.
Focusing on the varying needs of their commercial customers, CLM Ranch uses SimAngus percentage varying from 1/4 Simmental 3/4 Angus to 3/4 Simmental 1/4 Angus. Miller explains why he offers such a wide breed variety, “As seedstock producers, we need to make the cattle that our commercial customers need. SimAngus adds more genetic variety for our buyers — it could be marbling, muscle, and a number of things, but those genetics that we infuse add a lot of opportunities for commercial customers.”
As a firm believer that crossbreeding provides more profit for his customers’ bottom line and in turn his own, Miller says, “Breeding is like a recipe — it’s like trying to make a cake with just one ingredient when you can use more. When you open up your herdbook and use other breeds, providing your customers with genetics they really need, it’s like pulling the other ingredients and spices off the shelf, putting it in a bowl, and what you dump out is a product that your customers can use and like.”
“The value of a quarter-blood Angus or Red Angus in that bull or cow we sell puts a whole new ingredient into the mix that is beneficial.”
A portion of CLM cattle is five to six generation-deep SimAngus. Currently, Miller is developing 3/4 Simmental percentage and ¾ Angus or Red Angus that will have the same generational quality. “Multi-generation SimAngus are their own breed. When we breed 1⁄2 Simmental and 1⁄2 Angus on each other, they are pretty well cemented in being half-bloods. These SimAngus consistently perform well for our buyers.”
By keeping track of whole-herd data and selecting for performance traits, Miller improves the replacement heifers and bulls he sells to his customers each year. “We collect data on almost everything from birth weights to yearling weights, bull ultrasound, mature cow data, to carcass traits on fed cattle. When we track data, selection decisions are easier, and we offer more integrity and value to each bull and bred heifer we sell.”
As a participant of ASA’s Total Herd Enrollment (THE) program, CLM Ranch has been recognized as a Performance Advocate by diligently submitting data on six different traits for each calf crop. Miller also enrolled in the ASA’s Cow Herd DNA Roundup (CHR) to genotype their entire cow herd at a discounted price, “CHR allowed us to get to ground zero, parent-verify each cow and have all females genotyped, and in turn, improved the accuracy of the EPDs.” In addition to actively submitting data to ASA, Miller has been involved with many University of Missouri beef research projects. The most recent project was a three-year study on hair shedding conducted by Dr. Jared Decker. Miller collected hair coat data on his herd for three years to help the university develop a selection tool. He says, “In our area of the country with the heat and humidity, our cattle have to shed their hair. We hope that by collecting this data for the university, they will be able to provide a way to better select for hair shedding traits.”
“We have helped with many research projects. We were one of the CIDR-study herds that got them approved by the USDA, but we’ve also done many small projects over the years.”
Selecting for Performance
CLM Ranch has a spring and fall calving herd, with a 60-day breeding and 60-day calving window. All cows and heifers are AI bred once except for 15 to 20 that are used as recipient females each season. Embryo transfers (ET) are implanted the week following AI breeding and before the rest of the females are turned out with a high-quality clean-up bull.
After 60 days, cows are gathered and ultrasounded. Any female that is less than 30-days bred is sold, keeping the calving and breeding cycles uniform. “We have been narrowing our calving window down to 45-60 days. We only keep cows that breed and breed back early. Any female bred to calve outside our ideal window we market to a few operations who buy short-bred females that work for their operation.”
Miller uses indexes and EPDs in addition to phenotype when making heifer selection decisions. “If we select cows that thrive in our environment, Mother Nature is going to tell us who needs to be here. We need cows that shed hair, are moderate in milk, and EPDs. Beyond that, we select for the performance that our customers want. We have to have the bells and whistles genetically so they will be profitable.”
The spring cow herd starts calving at the end of January and the fall herd starts calving in August, wrapping up the first week of September. Spring calves are weaned in August, and fall calves are weaned in March.
Each year, Miller selects 20-25 weaned calves to feed out. CLM retains ownership on the set of calves to collect carcass data in partnership with the University of Missouri and sells the beef as freezer meat.
Twice a year, bulls are sent to RA Brown Ranch for development and sale. Spring-born bulls head to Texas in December for the fall sale, and fall-born leave in June and sell the following spring. CLM Ranch has been cooperators with RA Brown for the past 17 years but has always been a firm believer in the cooperative nature of selling as a group.
Miller says, “R.A. Brown Ranch follows the same model of cooperators that we have always been a part of. We are all individuals selling under the same brand, but there is a cooperative group of ideas. We learn from so many people around the country.”
In recent years, Miller has received requests by Missouri customers who don’t want to travel to Texas to purchase CLM genetics private treaty. “We are fairly exclusive to R.A. Brown Ranch, but we have requests to keep a handful of bulls to be purchased directly from here instead of going all the way to Texas.”
Family and Community Centered
Chuck was raised on a small cattle and hog farm in Salem, MO, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s in animal science and a master’s in education. Christi also grew up on a commercial cattle operation, earned her degree at Mizzou, and puts all her knowledge and background into the operation in addition to working for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, leading the Missouri Grown Program.
Chuck and Christi are the parents of Abby, 17, and Ethan, 14. Both kids are active in school programs, 4-H, FFA, and the AJSA.
In addition to the cattle operation, the Millers run 10 to 12 head of show pigs that the kids show at the local and state level each year. During the summer show season, both Chuck and Christi are busy volunteering for county and state fairs. On top of judging at fairs, Chuck coaches a few livestock contest teams for FFA. Each year, the family wraps up the fair season with the National Barrow Show in Austin, MN.
“I judge a lot of county fairs around the state and then Christi runs the agriculture building at the state fair.” Chuck says, smiling about how much Christi does for the cattle operation and the family, “While she’s gone, it’s just dad and the kids at home. I can handle it, but we sure do love it when Mom comes back.”
Chuck concludes, “What we have today, we developed over time. Crossbred cattle provide so much more to our customers and the industry. We may be small, but we focus on providing good genetics for our commercial producers, and our SimAngus bulls work for them.”