Competing for the top, Sellman ranch thrives on producing the best Hereford cattle
Crawford, Neb. – Sellman Ranch sit southeast of Crawford, about 1,000 feet in elevation higher than Chadron.
“When we got here in 1973, the kids wondered why we stopped,” says Butch Sellman, patriarch of Sellman Ranch. “It’s windy, cold and snowy, but it works for us.”
Butch and his late wife Becky bought the ranch, where they raised their three children, Adam, Ryan and Georganne.
“We’re a family ranch,” Butch says. “There are four different families who are involved. We all have our own niche, but we all pitch in and help each other.”
Moving to Nebraska
The Sellman family’s ranching history extends back to the 1940s, when brothers Marshall and Dick established Sellman Brothers Ranch at Watrous, N.M.
For the Sellman family, Hereford cattle were a draw, and Marshall was president of the American Hereford Association in 1964.
“When we decided to expand, we relocated to western Nebraska’s hard grass country,” Butch says.
Butch and his brother Tom operated Sellman Brothers Ranch together from 1974-82, when the brothers decided to split the operation.
“We’re probably one of the only family ranches that split on good terms,” says Butch. “We decided, with our growing families, we could do more with two operations.”
Butch and Becky’s ranch became Sellman Ranch, and they have maintained their passion for the Hereford breed and their high-quality cattle.
After Becky’s passing in 2010, Butch married Gail Hartman, who was born and raised on a ranch in western Nebraska.
“We run about 500 cows and buy 1,500 head of calves to make fat steers or grass cattle out of them,” Adam says. “We also host a bull sale on the third Friday in March and sell about 150 bulls. We’ve been doing that for about 20 years now.”
The ranch started with Hereford cattle, but in 1995, the Sellmans added Angus cattle to their operation. Both Angus and Hereford bulls will be available for purchase at their annual sale on March 23, 2018.
“We’re looking for a moderate birthweight, easy fleshing bull with lots of maternal traits and good expected progeny differences,” Adam says.
Butch continues, “We send a lot of bulls into areas like Newcastle, so we know they have to survive on the range.”
The Sellman family artificially inseminates (AI) 80 percent of their cattle using bulls from their own herd and the breed’s top bulls. There are about 100 later-calving cows that are naturally bred by their own bulls.
“We did our first embryo work on Herefords in 1983,” Butch says. “We wanted to stay progressive and competitive with our cattle.”
In the last 10 to 15 years, the family has raised between 40 and 60 Angus and Hereford embryo calves each year.
The diversification of Sellman Ranch means they stay busy year-round.
“We have the registered cattle and put on a bull sale, and we have yearling cattle we purchase in the fall,” Adam says. “Keeping the yearlings healthy and finding enough grass keeps us busy.”
Butch adds, “It can be tough to find enough grass, though. We’re always looking for more grass to run yearlings on.”
The yearling steers are sold on Western Video Auction each year, often to repeat buyers.
Crawford Livestock Auction represents their yearling steers on Western Video and also hosts the annual bull sale.
“We also have a lot of farmland that keeps us busy in the summer,” Adam says. “Our summers are busy haying, like everyone else.”
Their operation is entirely dryland farm ground, and recently, they started raising corn for silage.
“Everything we raise goes back to the cattle,” Adam emphasizes. “We don’t sell any small grains or corn. It all goes to the cattle.”
Cows are calved in the beginning of February through barns, and after AI’ing at the beginning of May, cattle are taken to grass by May 20 until October, when they are weaned.
“If the cattle don’t make a bull, they’ll go to be fat cattle or grass steers,” Adam explains. “We also sell 100 to 150 head of bred females every fall privately or through the sale barn. That allows us some flexibility in our herd.”
“We are competitive people, and we enjoy raising good bulls,” Butch says.
Adam continues, “We’re just like every family. We’re hoping to better ourselves and our cattle for the next generation.”
The Sellman family also takes competition seriously, and they attend six to eight or more shows over the course of the summer, including the Hereford Junior National Show and others.
“Attending shows teaches kids to be competitive,” Butch explains. “They also learn to go out and meet people. Adam and Jodi met because they went to shows.”
In their early years, Adam and Jodi competed against each other at the Junior National Hereford Show.
“We used to take cattle to the National Western Stock Show and have 10 to 15 head on The Hill, but as the kids got older and times have changed, we haven’t done that as much,” Butch says. “Our grandkids still go to 4-H and Hereford shows around the country.”
Butch’s children are all actively involved in different aspects of the ranch today.
Adam, the oldest son, lives on the home ranch and is involved in the daily operations of Sellman Ranch, along with his wife Jodi and children Jake and Bailey.
“Ryan and his wife Sandi really enjoy the show steers and club calves,” Butch says. “He concentrates on raising really good show steers, and they, along with their children Kendall and Reid, travel around the region attending a variety of cattle shows.”
Georganne and her husband Brent along with children Wiley, Hannah and Kyle have a backgrounding lot, where they feed several thousand calves. They also have a cow/calf operation, and “Brent also does a lot of custom farming, as well,” says Adam.
“All four families are here on the ranch. We’re all independent, but we work together,” he adds.
“The next generation is also coming up,” Butch says. “They’re actively involved and excited about ranching. I think that’s helped us to be successful.”
He continues, “We’re a family operation, and we enjoy each other and the work. There aren’t many jobs that I don’t enjoy on the ranch. Some things are better than others, but there isn’t anything I don’t like.”
Butch adds, “It’s nice to do what we want to do and to experience the joy in agriculture.”
More information on Sellman Ranch is available at sellmanranch.com.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.