A Family Affair: Showing cattle a tradition for Blumes
Showing cattle is a family affair for Michael and Becky, Jayna and Rett Blume, who ranch just north of Pierre, South Dakota. The family raises Registered Hereford cattle, with a few Angus, SimAngus, Red Angus, and Simmental cattle thrown in for good measure.
“We live just east of the Oahe dam, and though we can’t see the river from here we can hear the whistle at the dam when they let water out,” Michael said.
Michael and Becky both have full time jobs off the ranch, and they keep busy with their herd of cows. Showing cattle has been a part of Michael’s life since he was a child, and now their children are enjoying selecting, halter breaking, fitting and showing calves every year.
“Our children’s interest in showing cattle is mainly what keeps us invested in showing cattle now,” Michael said. “I have always been involved in showing cattle, and now Jayna (13) and Rett (9) are both involved. Jayna especially enjoys it.”
Michael’s parents, Gordon and Thordys Blume, farmed and raised cattle near Redfield, South Dakota. Gordon purchased his first registered Polled Herefords in 1964, and the family has continued to raise registered Hereford cattle since then. Michael and Becky have long been involved in the family’s Hereford business, and recently took over the operation.
“This is the first year my dad hasn’t calved out any cows,” Michael said. “They have still been fairly active and still come to shows to watch the kids.”
Becky did not grow up showing cattle, so she doesn’t get in the ring, but helps with the cattle work on the ranch, getting the cattle ready to show, and all of the behind the scenes work that happens at the shows.
A Red Angus bull who took Reserve Division honors was Jayna’s special project at the Black Hills Stock Show.
“He was kind of a ‘one hit wonder,’” Michael said. “She had a Red Angus heifer that she showed, and that cow had a really nice bull calf so she showed him this year. He is a fall yearling bull, and he was her baby; my cousin was going to help her get him ready for the ring and when he got to the barn she already had him in there all by herself. She did very well; the bull that beat them was also the Champion Red Angus bull.”
“When we’re out working with him at home I can just walk out into the pen and pet him,” Jayna said. “He’s super sweet; he’s basically a big baby. We sold him at the stock show, so that was pretty tough, but his new owner didn’t need him right away so he’s back at our house for a while.”
Blumes also showed two Hereford bulls and a Simmental bull at the BHSS. One of the Herefords was Reserve Champion in the fall division, and their Simmental heifer was Reserve Champion in her division.
Rett didn’t show any cattle at the BHSS but was involved behind the scenes helping shine the calves up for the ring.
“I helped with getting the bulls and heifer ready to show,” Rett said. “My main job is to blow them dry after they are washed.”
Both Rett and Jayna love meeting new and old friends from across the state when they go to the BHSS. Their circle grows even broader when they show at Junior Nationals. They have both made many friends through showing cattle.
“I really enjoy hanging out with my friends at the Stock Show,” Jayna said. “I’m also a Junior Beef Ambassador, so I get to go around and talk about beef, promote beef, and teach people about it. They had a booth at the BHSS so I got to sit there and work it for a while.”
Gordon Blume started his herd with Polled Herefords, but they have added some Horned Herefords along the way.
“Good cattle are good cattle,” Michael said. “We started using a little Horned Hereford blood in the late 1980s. After the associations combined it really didn’t matter. We have some of each now. This year we showed two polled Hereford bulls at the BHSS; last year we showed one horned and one polled bull.”
Blumes added a few Angus cattle to their herd about twenty-five years ago, and some Simmental cattle eight years ago. They have some diversity, but their herd is still mainly Hereford.
“Herefords were what we had so when I started helping with breeding decisions I just worked to make them better,” Michael said.
Blumes select for big bodied cattle with structural soundness, muscle, and volume. They use a variety of bloodlines in their breeding program, and Michael does their AIing before bulls are turned out with the cows. They also do some embryo transfers each year to further improve their herd.
“We calve in both spring and fall,” Michael said. “Roughly sixty percent of the cows calve in the spring and forty percent calve in the fall. We do some of each to spread the workload out a little bit. It’s also partly to get different ages of heifers for the kids to show, and we can sell fall bulls that have a little more age on them than the yearlings do.”
Depending on a particular year’s calf crop, Blumes market twelve to twenty bulls every year.
“We sell a few at the BHSS and the rest private treaty,” Michael said. “Our registered heifers are mainly sold private treaty. We also consign some Hereford heifer calves to the South Dakota Excellence sale in November and take some Simmental heifer calves to the Simmental Source sale in Mitchell in December. Last year we also had a couple of Hereford show steers in the South Dakota Excellence sale.”
Jayna gets involved in selecting the calves that will be shown.
“I don’t have full say when I’m out there helping my dad pick out future show heifers,” she said, “But I definitely have a little input on what calves would make good show heifers or steers.”
Jayna and Rett both have cattle chores that keep them busy.
“We have a few pens of cattle at our house and I help feed grain every night, and help feed hay,” Jayna said. “We want to make sure our calves are as healthy as possible and can trust a human being.”
“We had a bottle calf that I fed; now she’s grown up and she had a calf,” Rett said. “I have to feed her and two steers every night.”
Rett enjoys playing tackle football at school and is a big SDSU Jackrabbits fan. Jayna enjoys her role as Junior Beef Ambassador and loves doing the projects that are part of the Hereford Fed Steer Shootout and the Simmental Steer Profitability contests.
“I’m involved in the Hereford Fed Steer Shootout where we send steers down to a feedlot and get information back on how they are doing,” Jayna said. “It is a contest to see whose steers can grow and perform best. We also do one for the Simmentals, the Steer Profitability Contest. Every few weeks, we get a new assignment. I like doing the assignments, they are really hands on. Last year, I got to make cookies showing how different individuals in pedigrees influence the offspring, for instance, if a calf is blaze faced, where got that in its genetics.”
Preparation for moments in the spotlight begins with the selection of the calves and getting them gentled down and ready for the ring.
“It really all starts at home,” Jayna said. “We spend a lot of time working with them, getting them halter broke and show stick broke. We normally get our show heifers in and we try to tie them up every weekend throughout the winter. During show season we get them in the barn every day before school and tie them up. We get them in the barn every day before school; we try and wash them after school or during the summer we wash them in the mornings and work with their hair. We try to make sure the cattle look good and are presentable for show day.”
Blumes take cattle to the South Dakota State Fair, where Jayna and Rett show both in the open classes and in 4H. Michael still participates in some of the shows but says that most of the shows they go to are youth shows. This year Rett had a market heifer that he showed.
“I showed her at the fall shows and we did ok,” he said. “Probably fitting them is the hardest part of getting them ready to show. Clipping them takes a while for them to get used to; sometimes we’ll scratch their tail or scratch their chest with a show stick to help them relax. Shaping their tail is tricky too.”
“We go to our county fair and to the state fair; I don’t think I’ve missed a state fair since I was born,” Michael said. “There are a few jackpot shows around here that we like to go to, including at Miller, Wessington Springs, Howard and Watertown. We’ve also taken the kids to the Simmental Junior Nationals twice and the Hereford Junior Nationals three times so far.”
Some years the family only shows two or three calves, other years they may have six or seven calves and only take some of them to each of the different shows.
“Typically the more you do with them the more they get used to it,” Michael said. “They figure out the routine pretty fast and realize that a show is not a bad place to be.”
Blumes are already busy with a new set of calves in preparation for more shows in the coming season.
“Jayna and Rett have a couple of Hereford heifers and a Simmental heifer they are working with,” Michael said. “Rett has a market heifer, and one of Jayna’s cows had a calf that is going to be a pretty nice steer so she wanted to keep him and try showing a steer this year. We’re planning on going to the Hereford Junior Nationals this year so that will be a big part of their focus.”
Michael has been showing his cattle at the Black Hills Stock Show for over twenty years.
“My favorite part of showing is the people you meet doing it,” he said. “That’s still what drives us to go. The whole industry is people oriented; that’s the fun part of going to shows, we meet a lot of different people from all over the country who have great cattle.”
Now Michael and Becky enjoy watching Jayna and Rett in the ring with calves of their own, and watching them learn the lessons that hard work and caring for animals instill.
“Working with their calves gives them something to do in the summer so they don’t sit in the house all the time,” Michael said. “I really love seeing how much the kids enjoy showing.”