Hermes Livestock: Improving Herds in One Generation
Anton Hermes of Hermes Livestock in Washington County, Colorado, feels like they’re at the forefront of heifer development.
“If we’re able to help somebody improve the genetic makeup of their herd in one generation – that’s what we’re after,” he said.
He appreciates good cattle that accomplish this, no matter the breed.
“I enjoy genetics and experimenting with crossbreeding to make progress, whether it’s single-trait progression or all the way through in the genetic line,” he said. “Usually we prefer an F1 baldy, but I have some producers I work with who have some excellent Simmental Angus cross cattle. But breed really doesn’t matter if we’re improving the quality of a cowherd.”
Hermes also appreciates that he gets to raise cattle every day with his family. Between his three brothers, his wife, Kathi, and their five children, they all play integral roles across the operation.
The operation is primarily focused on the development and breeding of replacement heifers, but includes a mid-scale cow/calf operation, growyard, heifer development center, where they develop their heifers as well as customer cattle, and a breeding center where they AI and background all classes of cattle.
“We’re fairly diversified,” Hermes said. “My brother, Chad, runs the feedyard and oversees the day-to-day operations. Another brother, Derek, who owns Hermes Genetics, works hand-in-hand in a breeding business with me. My brother, Brendan, is also a partner with some of our heifers and helps care for them on grass.”
Kathi grew up in Idaho on a cow/calf and irrigated alfalfa farm and they were married while Hermes was working at a large ranch in Wyoming after college at Sterling Northeastern Junior College.
“Now, she works with me every day, does all of our books, helps take care of the cattle, works on fence and the feeding operation,” Hermes said. “She’s very involved and I can’t stress enough how integral she is to the day-to-day operations and with our five children.”
Hermes’ five children are involved, too.
“Our oldest son, Nick, is 17 and he’s an important part of the operation,” he said. “Both him and my daughter, Gabrielle, who is 15, are very helpful during calving and, when I get busy traveling with our breeding business, they spend a lot of time tagging calves, working on fence and keeping cattle where they are supposed to be. Our younger three boys, Colten, Bradley and Martin, are very active on the ranch as well and they like to ride horses, which we use for a lot of our work, and help any way they can, especially during processing.”
Breeding for the Environment
The operation runs cattle across five counties, and conditions can be tough in this part of the country. Most of the cows and calves run on native grass, and corn stalks in the wintertime.
“It’s a consistent drought country that requires a tough cow to maintain all year round,” Hermes said. “Trying to keep our overhead down and production up is something we have to strive for every day, so producing cattle that fit the environment is important.”
On the breeding side within their own herd, his goal is to maintain an efficient, productive cowherd that will wean 60 percent of the cow’s mature weight, and that’s a big goal to reach.
“I prefer a cow that is moderate on milk, excellent foot, keeps a good clean udder and easy fleshing,” Hermes said. “That’s usually why I prefer a baldy cow because the heterosis seems to show up in body maintenance — they eat the same amount of feed but seem to stay in better body condition year-round. We strive for these traits specifically because we have some pastures that cows need to walk a couple of miles to water sometimes. If we have a cow that isn’t structurally built right or has bad feet or a big swing bag, that’s an issue. That’s why we need a cow built to move that still carries enough power and muscle to raise a substantially above average calf.”
High-quality replacement heifers take extensive planning
The goal of producing the best replacement females for operators across the country and producing a higher quality calf through their cow/calf operation requires a large amount of detail and planning.
“Our cows consist of a predominantly Angus base, and we use Hereford Bulls and breed Hereford semen to get an F1 baldy cross to produce the best F1 baldy heifer we can come up with — that’s our niche market,” Hermes said. “For heifers that we don’t raise, we source from operations that have a similar mindset and cattle quality.”
When selecting heifers, he first sorts and takes pelvic measurements. They’ll also fertility track score their heifers and keep the top end for replacements.
Then, he’ll sort the heifers after they ultrasound in August, market the opens as feeders and will sell private treaty and at a few production sales. One production sale is the Maternal Merit Sale at Warner Beef in Arapahoe, Nebraska, in November. Hermes said they’ll also be selling the highest quality heifers from four breeds at a new maternal merit sale at the Denver Stockyards in January. There’s also a commercial heifer sale group in Oklahoma, and he’s planning to take several loads of heifers there.
“We’re going to take some of our heifers to Oklahoma with a couple of other producers to bring some good northern genetics to southern producers,” Hermes said. “Our goal is to not just sell all our heifers next door. We want to reach producers that are looking to improve their herds with high-quality heifers.”
The operation’s grazing program has also made a difference in their program.
“We use a rotational grazing program and try to utilize grasses at different times of the year,” Hermes said. “In doing so, this has improved our conception rates and it improves the quality of cow. Those cattle will go to another operation, and they won’t have any problems being able to find a meal for themselves.”
Some parameters before numbers for selecting bulls
The operations has two herds–an Angus herd that they AI and clean up with all Hereford bulls, and their F1 baldy herd that gets bred back to Angus and SimAngus bulls. All of the Hereford bulls are from Hoffman Herefords in Thedford, Nebraska, and they buy Angus and SimAngus bulls from Chrisman Family Cattle, Hoffman Ranch and Hornung Livestock.
Before even looking at growth and power numbers, Hermes said the first thing he looks at when picking bulls is feet and structure.
“Again, they’ve got to be able to move for us,” he said. “Once they’ve passed my foot and structure test, then we start looking at numbers.”
Hermes has some guidelines and parameters for birth weight and milk production.
“We keep milk production moderate because of the country we’re in and high-protein grasses,” he said. “I also set benchmarks for weaning weight and yearly weight. However, I feel like as long as we’re maintaining a good female and I keep the growth and power at moderate levels then we’re happy with the result.”
And good results ultimately mean accomplishing a goal everyone strives for — improving the quality of a cowherd.