MB: Tell me about your operation:
CW: We run a diversified operation raising crops and cattle at the same location that was homesteaded by my great grandfather in 1872. The herd totals 150 to 170 cows depending on the year. The bull calves and heifer replacements are developed here as well as the bottom half of the calf crop fed and marketed for beef. We grow all our feed through the form of grass and alfalfa hay, corn silage and aftermath stover. From a cropping standpoint the majority of the acres under tillage raise corn and soybeans with about 20 percent devoted to winter wheat.
MB: How did you get started in Limousin?
CW: Back in the mid to late 1960’s (or so I am told as I was too young to remember), dad had gone to AI school in Chicago and began utilizing this technology in our commercial operation. I remember sitting at the table with the semen company rep looking through the catalog and he recommending different bulls that he suggested we try. He told us about this new breed that had just been recently imported and thought we should consider using some. Dad had been using angus and hereford along with simm and char so he said why not. Those first calves were all it took. They were born easy, were up sucking before you could blink and grew like gangbusters. After those first calves the ai tank got purged of everything but limousin. It was just a few years later he decided to join NALF and continue to breed up from the commercial herd towards the registered herd of today.
MB: How has the Limousin breed and NALF changed over the years?
CW: I think limousin breeders have done an amazing job over the last forty years of improving the cattle. As I look back through old catalogs and see the pictures of the bulls that we featured thirty plus years ago and compare them to the bulls that we are raising today, wow what a difference. And while it was uncommon to find a bull that exceeded 35 centimeters back then, now entire offerings will average north of that. Breeders have done a commendable job of improving depth and capacity, scrotal circumference, and temperament while maintaining the muscle that these cattle have always been known for. As testament to the job breeders have done in addressing the docility problem, we now rank number one as a breed in the IGS evaluation.
MB: What are the challenges and opportunities facing Limousin today?
CW: In my opinion the IGS collaboration has been a game changer. Prior to it coming online we couldn’t directly compare to our competition, we didn’t have measurable data from which to draw conclusions. Did we calve as easy or grow as good or perform on the rail as well? But now that we can compare how we as a breed or as individual operations stack up, we need to each one be evaluating our strengths and weaknesses and be making efforts to improve those areas that are subpar while maintaining the areas that are at or above acceptable levels. That is why the board has been providing suggested mating targets that are designed to be a target to shoot for. If each breeder would strive to improve on areas of weakness while preserving and maintaining our identity as a breed, we will have positioned ourselves to reclaim lost ground.
MB: What will the Limousin breed and NALF need to do to continue to stay relevant in the beef industry for years to come?
CW: Never be satisfied, but rather, always strive for improvement. For me in my herd I am currently trying to address the cows that rank in the bottom one third for marbling EPD either with corrective breeding or culling. If I can move the needle by two to three tenths on those individuals that are outliers in a bad way, I believe it will position me to better compete with other breeds of cattle in my area.
MB: How has being on the board or even board president changed your perspective on the Limousin Breed?
CW: For me it has been the friendships that have been cultivated as a result of being on the board. Not only are the members that I have served with great cattlemen, they are exceptional people and the opportunity to collaborate with them and our science team of Dr. Weber an Dr. Amen on a regular basis has been a rewarding and learning experience. Speaking of our science team, I recall a lunch break about four years ago where I found myself at a table for three with Dr. Bob and Dr. Tonya. As I sat down, I distinctly remember this overwhelming feeling of being as out of place as a milk pail under a bull. Kudos to my table mates for unpacking the topic of discussion that day in such a way that even I could participate.
MB: Why did you run for the board?
CW: I firmly believe that every person who is a member of an organization should be willing to take their turn and contribute to the success of that organization.
MB: What is your favorite part (so far) about being the NALF Board president?
CW: Getting to work more closely with our staff. They are some of the most outstanding people you can find anywhere. To a person, our entire team is dedicated to serving this breed with excellence and bleed limousin just as much as you and me. I would challenge each one of us to not take for granted how lucky we are to have such a qualified and dedicated staff. The next time you bump into one of them at an event or call in to the office maybe consider giving a word of encouragement.
MB: What would you say to young people in the Limousin breed?
CW: Get involved in the programs that are available and let that involvement help to develop you as a person and a leader. On occasion the board has the opportunity to receive updates from members of the NALJA board and it is truly heart warming to see the leadership skills that the next generation already possess and to know that these skills are due in part to their involvement in the junior programs is a testament to the value of being involved.
MB: What inspires you?
CW: Faith, family (being a grandpa), good cattle, and a job well done
MB: Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
CW: First and foremost is my lord and savior Jesus Christ. Before inviting Him into my life I wasn’t the most pleasant person to be around, and while I readily admit that I am still a work in progress, to look back and see what I once was and where I am today for me is truly humbling. Second would be my dad. He taught by example that hard work and perseverance does pay off and that a conservative approach to business and the importance of living within one’s means were valuable lessons that have served me well.
MB: What are some fun facts about you?
CW: 2020 marked the birth of my first grandchild, thirty two years ago my wife said “ I do,” despite having stated that she would never marry a farmer (doesn’t God have a sense of humor), I have three sisters and three daughters which explains why the little hair I have left is trying to turn grey, and in 1980 I exhibited the grand champion carcass steer at the South Dakota State Fair.
MB: Anything else you would like to share?
CW: If you would have told me ten years ago that I would one day serve on the NALF board and even be president I would have told you that you were crazy as that would have been about as far from my comfort zone as I could imagine. Fortunately for me its not about being the smartest or brightest or most articulate person in the room that matter, but being willing to put the needs and interests of the organization ahead of my own when making decisions and being fair to all members is what matters most. If you can check your brand at the door you likely have what it takes to be an effective board member.
Curt’s final thoughts….
Serving on the board these last six years has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. My advice should the opportunity come your way would be to take advantage of it as you will get way more out of it than you will put into it if your experience is anything like mine.
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