Sims Cattle Company, LLC: Family operation utilizes holistic management approach
Scott Sims and his son Shanon are partners in Sims Cattle Company, LLC, located near McFadden. Sims Cattle Company, LLC is a “family inspired business producing quality livestock for a healthy environment and creating opportunities for personal growth,” according to their mission statement.
Scott and his wife April are also shareholders in Sims Land and Livestock. They lease from Sims Land and Livestock, as well as two other ranches.
Other family members involved with the ranch include Shanon’s wife Melinda, children Kagan and Jentry and Scott and April’s daughter Kendra. Scott’s dad and his wife also live on the ranch, but his dad is retired from the business.
Kagan and Jentry are the fifth generation on the ranch. The ranch runs a closed herd of Angus/Simmental/Gelbvieh crossbred cows and yearlings.
Scott says the ranch has gone through many changes over the years.
“When I was a kid, we had Angus cattle – my granddad was the first to bring Angus cattle into this valley – everyone else ran Herefords,” he says.
Scott and his dad transitioned to Black Baldy cattle for a while, then they started breeding those cows to Gelbvieh, and from there they went to more of a composite breed – Angus with Simmental and Gelbvieh influence.
The Sims artificially inseminated (AI) cows for over 30 years and built their genetics.
“With AI, we were having trouble getting cattle that would adapt to our environment,” says Scott. “We would think we picked the best AI sires, but then whenever those heifers would come into the herd, we’d find it wasn’t always a good choice.”
In the last three years, the Sims quit AI and closed the herd.
“We are just concentrating on cattle more adapted to our environment,” Scott says.
The Sims have also changed their wintering system.
“Before 2014, we would take our replacement heifers out of the valley and winter them at lower elevations,” says Scott.
“What we found with those heifers is they’d get all of this growth in the weather away from here, but they’d have to readjust to our environment when they came back,” he says. “Heifers will breed better if they are on an incline rather than a decline.”
The Sims have also transitioned into windrowing hay.
“About 75 percent of our hay is left in windrows on the field,” says Scott. “We save a lot in expense on packaging and hauling to a haystack and winter feeding by leaving hay in the windrows. We just use a temporary electric fence and give them a set amount of about three to four days worth of hay at a time.”
Holistic management, developed by Allan Savory, is an approach to help land managers, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and policymakers develop strategies for regenerating degraded landscapes and the livelihoods of the people living on them.
“My brother Olin and I went to a holistic management school in Bozeman, Mont. in February of 1989,” Scott says. “We came home, went to work, started making changes and began seeing some results.”
They started reducing the size of pastures and monitoring the land.
“The best thing we could’ve done is start monitoring,” says Scott. “In our environment, in higher elevations, change is slow in our grasses, but we started seeing results – more ground cover, more life and insects on the land. That’s what kept us going.”
The Sims family eventually came together for a goal setting session, says Scott, and everyone was able to offer their input.
“It was pretty neat the way it came together,” he says. “We all had our chance for input, and we formed the key things we wanted to address.”
“That’s how we live our life,” he adds. “It has to do with the people and how we want to live individually or as families, and how we want to contribute to the community, drive profit and what we want the land to look like.”
Plant recovery and drought management
The Sims practice rotational grazing to ensure their grasses are able to fully recover between grazing periods. They divide larger acres of pasture into over 140 smaller pastures.
“Our growing season is so short here, so it really takes us most of two seasons to get a full recovery on a plant,” says Shanon. “To get 90 days of growing season recovery requires two full years of deferment, so that’s why we have so many pastures.”
Stock density is also key to the operation, says Shanon. The more stock in a small area for a short period of time, the more hoof action occurs.
“It’s like tilling a garden,” Shanon says. “You have to break up the surface and create a seed bed, so that’s part of the reason for so many pastures.”
The Sims’ drought management plan begins with drought proofing.
“Our biggest strategy is proofing ahead of time,” says Shanon. “Rather than reacting to drought, we are planning for it.”
“Even in our worst year of drought, we still can grow pretty decent forage,” he adds. “If we have two years in a row of drought, we are growing OK forage – by the third year, we will probably have to destock, but that’s our first strategy.”
Shanon and Melinda attended their first Ranching for Profit school in January of 2020 and joined the Ranching For Profit Executive Link program.
“The program gives your ranch five other ranches as board members holding you accountable,” Melinda says.
Last summer, Shanon and Melinda were asked to become instructors for the school, so all last winter and up until June this year, they have been training and studying.
“We will now be instructors as a couple, so we kind of moved into the role of being able to share principles and things that have worked for us to help others improve and share our ideas on a large-scale basis,” Melinda says.
The Sims are always looking towards the future and working to better their operation.
“There’s always a yearning to do better for the animals, people, environment and the bottom line,” says Melinda.
The Sims strive to build a business for future generations.
“We would love for our children to come back, but we want them to be fulfilled in whatever they do,” says Melinda. “We want to build and maintain a business that is enticing to future generations, so it can be carried on and the land management can be improved on.”
“We want the next generation to have the opportunity to take the ranch over,” says Scott. “If they want to be here, it’s there, if not, there’re lots of young people out there who would just love to have an opportunity to ranch. Once in a while, those things can happen.”
April offers advice for future generations of ranchers, saying, “Faith is important. Sometimes, you have to accept you are going through a tough time and down the road, things will get better.”
“Realize it’s not something that happens overnight,” she adds. “It takes time, dedication and hard work.”
For more information, visit simscattlecompany.com.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.