By Doug Rich
The latest in genetic improvement from nearly every livestock breed will be on display at the American Royal from Oct. 18 to 25. It is also an opportunity to bring buyer and seller together as many breed associations conduct sales during the American Royal.
Since 1971, Ken Holloway and his family have made a name for themselves inside and outside the show ring at the American Royal as well as other national livestock exhibitions around the country. Inside the ring Holloway exhibits cattle from his Coyote Hills Limousin Ranch and outside the ring he helps bring buyer and seller together through American Cattle Services, Inc.
Holloway gained valuable experience with purebred cattle and sales management when he worked as a field representative for the American Shorthorn Association. It was during this time that he saw his first Limousin cattle. He helped people locate Shorthorn cows that they bred to Limousin bulls.
"That was how I first began to see Limousin calves around the country nursing these Shorthorn cows we helped people buy," Holloway said.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s he and his cousin put in a bull test station where they gain-tested bulls from all breeds of cattle. Among these bulls were some half Shorthorn and half Limousin bulls.
"They gained so efficiently we decided we should be raising some Limousins," Holloway said.
Holloway purchased some Limousin semen in 1970 and got serious about the business in 1971 when he started Coyote Hills Limousin Ranch. It is a family business that includes his wife, Sue Ann, and daughters Shari and Shana.
"We got involved because people kept telling us about the lean beef the Limousins would produce," Holloway said. That was about the time the American housewife was beginning to call for less fat trim when she went to the beef counter. "They do produce a lot of lean."
The original Limousin cattle that made their way to the U.S. via Canada were red. Coyote Hills has made a name for itself producing homozygous black and homozygous polled Limousin cattle. "Through an upbreeding process and the use of Angus blood we have been able to select for black and polled traits," Holloway said. "All of the bulls in our sale last year were black and polled and will be again this year."
"We started with red cattle like everyone did and then started buying black cattle in 1974 to build our herd of black purebred cattle," Holloway said. According to Holloway nearly 50 percent of the cattle recorded by the Limousin Association are black these days.
He said in Texas and Oklahoma producers are more color conscious than the rest of the country and they want their cattle black. "This goes back to the feedlot operator who connected black hide to fleshing ability and marbling," Holloway said. Coyote Hills had one of the first purebred black bulls in the country in 1980.
"Just like Wal-Mart, we need to stock our shelves with what people want to buy and not what we want to sell," Holloway said. Their customers want black cattle.
Many of those black bulls were used on commercial black-whiteface cows. "What those black baldie cows needed was more growth and muscle and Limousins lay claim to muscle growth efficient as their tag line," Holloway said. "Honestly they are all of those things."
Holloway still has an appreciation for a good red cow and will use them in his program but all of his bulls are homozygous black and polled. "We try to make sure that every calf born here is black and polled," Holloway said. "There is enough DNA testing available that we can test our calves and know what they are in an early stage of life." In the past they had to prove their cattle were homozygous black and polled through progeny testing that took some time to do.
His herd is evenly split between spring and fall calving cows right now but Holloway is moving toward more fall caving. "It suits our bull market better," Holloway said. "If we can sell a bull in the spring of the year that is 15 to 18 months old, he is ready to go out and do anything a two-year old bull will do and a lot more than a yearling calf can do. Our customers tell us they would rather have an older bull, so we want to produce what the customers want."
Putting his cattle in front of potential buyers at state, regional, and national livestock shows has been part of his business since the beginning. When his daughters were growing up they made all of the junior shows and national shows. In addition to the American Royal, they have been regular exhibitors at the National Western, Fort Worth Livestock Show and Louisville.
"Getting cattle ready for a show takes a lot of hard work and a strong nutrition program from day one until you are ready to go," Holloway said. "Select the right one and give them a lot of TLC the last 90 days ahead of the show." This includes doing hair work, halter breaking, and fine tuning to make sure you have cattle that will be competitive when you get to the show.
For car load shows with big yearling bulls Holloway makes selections early in October. Younger calves are selected as they approach weaning time. "We will select six to eight calves for a pen of three and one alternate. The final selection is made a week or two before the show.
When his work in the show ring is done Ken Holloway moves to the sale ring. In 1971, about the same time he started his purebred Limousin business, Holloway started American Cattle Services, Inc., to help other people merchandise their cattle as well they also manage the All American Futurity, a level one summer show.
"I could see a need as the Limousin breed started growing and expanding in this country," Holloway said, "a need for someone to help merchandise these cattle."
American Cattle Services provides cattlemen with help in selecting cattle for sale, sale catalogs, sale brochures, and placement of advertisement. Holloway also keeps a list of people who are looking for Limousin cattle. In the last 35 years they have managed over 2,000 sales.
"We are in the business of getting buyer and seller together," Holloway said.
What buyers are looking for has changed over the years. Holloway said they are looking for moderate framed bulls that are softer fleshing, deeper ribbed bulls with more scrotal development.
"Buyers have learned how to use EPDs and stack traits that are economically important to them," Holloway said. "Commercial buyers are better versed than some of our purebred breeders. They know what they want and they will not accept anything else. To their credit they have done a good job of educating themselves. They are willing to pay for the right product if you will produce it for them."
Last year more than 3,500 head of animals were shown at the American Royal representing exhibitors from 36 states. Ranchers like Ken Holloway will be making the trip to exhibit the latest trends in the livestock industry and to connect with buyers.
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at email@example.com.