Meet The Ranchers at Gateway Simmental
Gateway Simmental and Lucky Cross is a family owned and operated ranch managed by Jim and Tom Butcher and their families. Jim and Lynn have four children Logan, Austin, Brockton and Gracia. Logan and his wife Gabby live on the ranch with their two children Bentley and Brodi. Brockton and his wife Martha recently moved back to the ranch after graduating college. Tom’s family includes his wife Denise and 5 children, Tyler, Colton, Jordan, and twins Emily and Avery. The home place consists of farm and working facilities headquartered 2 miles northwest of Lewistown, MT. The cattle are summered on mountain pasture 25 miles southwest of Lewistown in the Snowy Mountains. The cowherd is between 850 and 900 cows. We winter and breed all the heifer calves and sell them in the fall as bred heifers. The operation also includes 3000 acres of farmland and 1000 acres of hay.
Emmet Butcher was a pioneer in the Simmental breed. He AI bred Hereford cows to Parisien, the first Simmental sire available, in the spring of 1968. He AI bred his first cow back in 1961 making him one of the first in this area to AI. Today, approximately 400 cows and the heifers are AI bred each year. Gateway Simmental became an entity in 1975 at the conclusion of the Emmons and Butcher joint production sales. The bull sale in 2020 will make the 66th production sale Gateway has been involved in. Today Gateway has a bull sale the first Monday in February and markets their females by private treaty.
Until 1989, Gateway Simmental produced traditionally marked Simmental. However, at that time, the national cowherd was predominantly black. It became obvious for us to produce black and red Simmental cattle. Unpredictable color would not work. We believed Simmental had a place in the American cattle industry, so in order to provide a crossbreeding option on Angus cows, we needed to adapt our program. It was exciting for us to produce cattle with solid pigment from top to bottom so we could focus on the maternal traits that Simmental had always been noted for. Sunburned udders and cancer eyes could become a thing of the past. Providing a moderate framed, easy calving, maternally functional animal would become the centerpiece of the program. Today, carcass value also contributed heavily to the equation. Our goal was to add muscle without reducing marbling potential. We have been feedlot and carcass testing our genetics since 1994. We believe it should be a prerequisite that if you sell commercial bulls, you need experience in the feeding sector.
Gateway's Lucky Cross Genetic Program
The Lucky Cross program was formed in 2001 as a way to name Gateway hybrid genetics. We wanted to have a unique name that represented the kind of hybrid cattle we were striving to raise. Hybrid bulls were beginning to gain recognition as a breeding option that offered a way to simplify crossbreeding and sustain a crossbred cowherd.
The parameters we set for Lucky Cross was to have them at least 3/8 Simmental and not more than 3/4. The multi-generation 1/2 and 5/8 cattle seem to be what is in most demand. The consistency in our product is most apparent in the multi-generation Lucky Cross cattle, versus the F1’s.
What makes Lucky Cross unique is the traits the genetics are selected for. Production traits such as calving ease, both direct and maternal, post weaning gain (spread in the growth EPDs), and carcass value, both marbling and muscle, are the areas we identified as most important. Some may wonder why growth was not as high of priority, when most producers sell their calves off the ranch by the pound? It seems most cattle are big enough today, they just need to have more value, longevity and usefulness. If we are trying to produce moderate framed, multi-dimensional cattle, extreme growth will not fit.
Gateway Cattle are selected for:
- Calving ease, moderate mature size and carcass value
- Optimum growth and milk, competitive with the other popular breeds
- Non-measured longevity and convenience traits, such a correct structure, feet and legs, clean sheaths, nice udders and quiet dispositions
Gateway Simmental Sales Article: 2020
30 years since Gateway transitioned from traditional purebred Simmental to black and red Simmental and Lucky Cross…This takes us back to before marriage and kids as well. Seems like it was just yesterday, but we have been working on providing solid colored, polled outcross genetics to Angus cattle for most of our adult working lives. Our dad Emmet would always preach, the industry needed a maternal, beef breed. The industry needed genetics that made good productive cows while at the same time improving the red meat yield on the resulting offspring from British bred cows. The problem then was we could not overcome the color unpredictability. This made sense, but that wasn’t what the industry was demanding. In order to stay in business, the genetics had to be re-packaged. The base herd had changed from Hereford to Angus.
In 1989, the US commercial cow herd was more crossbred than it is today. Lots of breed experimenting had taken place in the previous 15 or so years prior to 1989, with all the imported continental European breeds. It was a time when commercial producers desired less crossbreeding. More uniformity was needed. Producers were also focused on the convenience traits that Angus provided. Pigment on the eyes and udders, more calving ease, more calf vigor, and uniformity of color. If we had a chance to make an impact, our cattle had to be pigmented and polled. Producers wanted more uniformity and less horns. Angus was rolling with momentum. They were providing genetics that fit better with the goals of producers. However, we had different ideas.
Many Simmental breeders at that time gave up and switched breeds to remain viable. That was never a viable option for us, because we had this vision to provide a maternal, heavier muscled option. Until then, we had been working 20 years breeding purebred Simmental up from a Hereford base. With the performance boost we received from the Simmental Hereford crosses born the first time in 1969, our family was hooked on producing Simmental cattle. But as we got closer to purebred, the less we really liked the cattle. There seemed to be a limit to what we could do with a single breed type. It seemed like we lost something from our cattle from when they were mostly crossbred. It was apparent and difficult to improve cattle using a single breed. The cattle weren’t as functional as they were 10-15 prior when they were crossbred. They were better because the purebred was not cutting it. Early on, we did a lot of embryo transplanting to engineer purebred genetics we liked, but our long term goal was to create great black and red cattle that weren’t purebred.
We were forced to change our business plan. We were accused of copying a lot of other names.For the most part, we were just copying their color genes. We were coming out of the worst 10 years economically since the great depression. To many, it seemed like a crazy timing to re-invent your business. Tom and I were young, so we did it anyway. We knew then that we needed to take on the challenge to eliminate the problems of the past. Calving issues, mature size issues, and quality grading issues. So, following has been our mantra since that time.
Compared to today, cattle evaluation was based on individual records and phenotype instead of EPDs generated through statistical analysis. Statistical analysis was not recognized like it is today. That was a time when EPDs were proving their worth. EPDs were not well understood by most producers. Although they had been around for 10 years or so, it was new. Today there is a much greater understanding of the various genetic evaluations and producers in general are using EPDs as a huge part in their genetic decision making. We now have a multi breed evaluation (IGS) that is capable of creating EPDs on crossbred cattle.
Now the industry is trending toward more acceptance of crossbreeding and utilizing hybrid sires. For people like me who have seen many different trends through my working life, it is very welcome. It feels like the 70’s again when hybrid bulls are back in demand. The big difference between then and today is now we know so much more about the genetics we are selling. Maybe we have made the full circle in the last 50 years.We would like to thank our customers for believing in our efforts and supporting Gateway through the years.The vision we had back then is no different than it is today. The cattle are just better. This statement has been on our website since the creation of gatewaysimmental.com. Not that we wanted to copy the Angus cattle, just provide a maternal option that would provide producers breed complementarity and maternal heterosis.
Range management: We follow the simple philosophy that we make money by selling feed through the front end of a cow. Selling bulls and heifers is just a way to add value to our grass, hay and grain. Stewardship of the land is very important to us so that future generations are able to continue the same lifestyle that we enjoy.
Farming: Our farming operation allows for some diversification. We crop about 3,000 acres of Spring and Winter wheat, as well as some Corn, Garbanzo beans and lentils. We also put up about a 1000 acres of hay every year to feed over the winter.