2018 Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo Stockman of the Year: Thomas Ranch
January 16, 2018
The Black Hills Stock Show Stockman of the Year award recognizes the cattlemen and women who have excelled in the agricultural industry. This year's recipients, Troy and VeaBea Thomas of Harrold, South Dakota, have certainly made their mark, building a highly recognized brand for quality cattle and prime rodeo horses.
Thomas Ranch was started in 1931 by Alvin and Gebe Thomas with the purchase of 320 acres of land near Medicine Creek in central South Dakota. The second generation, Harry and Kay Thomas, started farming alongside Harry's parents, and thirty years later, Troy and VeaBea partnered into the business. Today, the Thomas family has welcomed the fourth generation to the ranch, daughter Cally and her husband Clint Kindred.
Together, Harry, Kay, Troy, VeaBea, Cally and Clint run 830 mama cows and sell nearly 400 bulls on their annual sale held at the ranch. Additionally, Thomas Ranch raises and sells quarter horses, and Cally competes on the national rodeo circuit where she promotes the family's breeding program. They also host 300-400 hunters each year, complete with guided pheasant hunting trips and home-cooked meals by Kay.
With many irons in the fire, the Thomas family has always kept their focus on raising high-quality seedstock. Thomas Ranch has become a fixture at BHSS; they have exhibited stock nearly every year since the start of the event, including cattle, Quarter Horses and even embryos at the Gold Rush Embryo Sale.
"Harry remembers exhibiting cattle at BHSS when it first started, and showing out at the fair grounds," said VeaBea. "We have shown at BHSS every year since the beginning, with the exception of two years when Cally was in college. We like exhibiting at BHSS because it gives us a chance to visit with past and prospective customers. It's a social event for ranchers before spring calving begins."
Over the years, Thomas Ranch has had a successful run at BHSS, and they've earned a spot in the Supreme Row every year that they've exhibited cattle. Additionally, they've won Supreme Championship honors seven times. This year, Thomas Ranch plans to take 10 head to BHSS, including an Angus bull and heifer, two Charolais bulls and a Charolais heifer, a Hereford bull, two Red Angus bulls and a Red Angus heifer and one Sim-Angus bull.
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"We are extremely humbled and honored to receive this prestigious award," said VeaBea. "We couldn't be more humbled to be honored with this award the year after Bob Mills did. There are many deserving folks who could have won this award."
Harry Thomas received the Stockman of the Year award in 2002, and being an industry leader must run in the family.
"I always remember hearing stories of Harry riding the train to Chicago to learn how to artificially inseminate (AI) cows; he was one of the first two people in South Dakota to learn how to AI," said Chris Effling, a friend of the Thomas family who nominated Troy and VeaBea for the award. "Harry put himself through college at South Dakota State University by AI'ing at a dairy near Brookings. Harry, as well as Troy and VeaBea, have always been very innovative and at the forefront of emerging trends in this industry."
In years past, Troy has served as the South Dakota Angus Association president and a six-year director for American International Charolais Association. Meanwhile, VeaBea is currently the president of the South Dakota Beef Breeds Councils and sits on the South Dakota Beef Industry Council. Together, they've won numerous awards and national championships for their ranch practices, cattle genetics and rodeo horses.
"I nominated both Troy and VeaBea to win this award because it is truly a team effort at Thomas Ranch," said Effling. "Troy handles much of the day-to-day operations while VeaBea does all of the record-keeping and registrations. They are both very active in the industry. In the past couple of years, Troy has traveled to Russia with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture to promote South Dakota beef cattle, and VeaBea just visited New York to promote beef to urban consumers there as part of the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative. On or off the ranch, they are leaders in what they do."
Effling credits the Thomas family with being huge supporters of BHSS.
"It's a family affair for them, and they are always ready and willing to support BHSS, whether that's exhibiting cattle, buying stock or even competing in rodeos," said Effling. This year, Cally and Clint will both be competing in the 2018 Rodeo Rapid City.
Back at home on the ranch, the Thomas family is working together as a family to continue to raise high quality seedstock. In the last 85 years of operation, they have grown corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, sorghum and sunflowers, with most of the cropland used to raise feed for the cattle. They track the multiple breeds they raise using the Cow Sense Cow-Calf Program, which allows them to keep close records of the different breeds in one place.
"We focus on structural correctness, disposition, performance, fertility and general health," said Troy. "The cattle at Thomas Ranch run in big pastures, therefore the ability to travel back and forth to water and feed in all kinds of weather conditions is a must for their survival. We are continually trying to improve the performance of our calves using all of the tools that are available to satisfy our customer demands."
Thomas Ranch will host its 46th Annual Bull Sale on April 10, 2018 at the Thomas Ranch Sale Facility north of Harrold, S.D.
"The opportunities that Troy had presented to him as a young man because his parents, Harry and Kay Thomas allowed him to follow his dreams have helped us in this industry," said VeaBea. "The networking and friends and acquaintances through shows all around the United States have helped us build our business to where it is today. The future for young people has as many or more opportunities because of social media, online sales and all the technology available today. Of course, hard work and luck are also helpful. Clint and Cally Kindred will hopefully carry out the work on the ranch going into the future."