Hager Cattle Company is home to both registered and commercial Limousin cattle. Herd owners Leah and Austin Hager are the fourth generation to operate this gem in Karlsruhe, N.D.
Throughout the state’s intense winters, the pair has worked to build a tough, reliable animal to thrive in such an environment.
With four growing children (Bailee, Pitch, Tripp, and Remmi), the family understands first-hand the need to breed and develop cattle that grow well, and thrive in intense winters. Under Austin’s leadership, they have worked diligently to breed more rib shape, capacity and fleshing ability while constantly striving to increase performance levels, maintain modest birth weights, and maintain high maternal traits.
How They Started and Where They Are
Austin got his feet wet with the Limousin breed when he was only 12 thanks to a loan that allowed him to purchase his very first cow.
He followed in the footsteps of his father who started in the cattle business during the late 80s and early 90s. Though he started with commercial Charolais bulls, it was soon apparent that the large birth weights were simply not a good fit for their cow herd, so he switched to Limousin sires.
“I was just a young kid but for some reason I took a liking to those cows and figured if he was going to be buying bulls, he might as well buy them from me,” Austin recollects. “That’s why I ended up buying a registered cow in 1992 when we first got started and it just kind of grew from there.”
From this point the herd grew into the 900 head the operation is today.
Austin’s family runs the day-to-day operations and gets help from a few employees.
2006 was the year they made the transition from purebreds and started breeding crosses. Initially, they bred their registered cows to Angus bulls, which established the Lim-Flex line. They started with 50% Lim-Flex to inject maternal and marbling traits in addition to softness, mobility with productive efficiency bred into the cow herd which works better in their northern environment.
“Now our entire commercial cow herd is primarily all half-bred Limousin’s…the biggest thing we’ve noticed by doing that, by keeping them and replacing heifers, is longevity versus our straight-bred Angus cows who were given on average two more years of production,” Austin explains. “The other thing that we really noticed was when we go to sell or cull our older cows, our Lim-flex cows always brought a premium to our straight-bred Angus cows just because they’re a little heavier with more pounds.”
As Hager Cattle became more established in the Limousin sphere, the Hager’s moved into annual public sales.
Originally, they started selling a small handful of bulls of bulls privately, but as the herd grew Austin transitioned to public sales. His customer base and herd have grown ever since, with 2023 marking their 17th sale.
“We sell more Lim-Flex bulls than we do registered bulls,” Austin continued. “But there are other parts of the country that guys are able to sell more purebreds than Lim-Flex, so I think it’s kind of region-specific.”
He has also seen a rise in new buyers with an interest in diversifying their straightbred herd coming to the sales. Austin notes it is usually easier to sell Lim-Flex bulls first.
“I believe that is because the Lim-Flex bulls are a more similar type and kind to Angus bulls than the purebreds…I think it’s a little easier selling point,” he elaborates. “With first time buyers, if they look down the pedigree lines on the cattle see a lot of Angus pedigrees in there that are recognizable” they are more likely to buy as Austin explains.
It isn’t uncommon for these first-time buyers to return looking for three-quarter Lim-Flex bulls or purebreds after they start seeing the Lim-Flex-influenced calves hitting the ground as they “add a little more power back into calves.”
In the Hager’s breeding program, there is a primal focus on moderate birth weight genetics, overall performance and EPDs contributing to a high-quality meat grade. Austin says these are the three focal points of their breeding program.
“I’m a firm believer in a cow herd,” he continued. “You need to have a good, high-quality cow herd to make a good set of bulls to sell. In my opinion, a bull all starts with the female that’s raising him.”
Another part of their program is that their cows should have ample overall fleshing while remaining sound and efficient. Quality udders are also a must, in addition to sound hooves.
Austin is proud to say that they have never trimmed a hoof, and never will.
The registered animals are managed in the same way as their commercial stock.
“Our philosophy is if they don’t work for us, they’re not going to work for you,” Austin said. We have always kept a commercial rancher mindset in our breeding program, remembering the endpoint of their marketing program, he summed.
“I don’t want to propagate genetics that don’t work because I know if they don’t work like that for us, they’re not going to work in the commercial cattlemen setting and that’s kind of one of our big focal points in our cow herd breeding program as well.”
Continuing the Limousin Legacy
It doesn’t appear that Austin and Leah’s passion for the breed is the end of the family dynasty as their young sons already have an ardent interest in Limousin cattle.
Pitch, their oldest boy, wanted to get into the business and already has about a half dozen registered cows in his name, following in the ambitious footsteps of both his father and grandfather.
Austin has been around cattle his entire life and has even shown his passion off the farm through participation in livestock judging from his childhood through college.
He stated, “To me personally, there’s no better crossing cow than a Limousin-Angus cross. They just kind of get all the aspects that you’re kind of looking for in a set of cattle. Limousin’s will bring out feed efficiency and increase cutability in crossbred calves…you get the best of both worlds.”
Limousin cattle deliver to your bottom line. With superior genetics, a simple crossbreeding plan and state-of-the-art selection tools, the Limousin breed will serve profit-minded cow/calf producers. In today’s competitive markets, taking advantage of all available opportunities is key. The Limousin breed offers a variety of options from Fullblood to Purebred to the Lim-Flex® hybrid (Limousin x Angus cross) to match your program’s needs and market goals. Crossbreeding for the right blend of muscle, maternal ability and profit is easy with Limousin seedstock.