By CRISTINA JANNEY
A year and half ago, Gerri Schumacher decided to take the knowledge she has gained during 40 years of ranching and start a cattle consulting business — STR Cattle Consulting & Services.
The name of the business came from the initials of her family's ranch 3 miles north of Hays — Schumacher Trust Ranch — which Gerri, 57, still manages.
"I live, drink, eat, sleep cattle," Schumacher said. "You'll see that very readily on my social media pages. Some people have all family on there. Mine's cows.
"I love the cattle industry so much, there is no greater joy for me than to pass on the knowledge that I've learned. I want to help somebody else."
In 1960, Mel Schumacher, Gerri's father, and his brother started raising pure bred Charolais. Today the ranch still specializes in purebreds with an average of 175 head in the operation. Mel, 87, still works on the ranch and he and Gerri's mother live right next door to Gerri.
"There is something about that father-daughter bond," she said as she started to tear up. "You just can't beat it."
Gerri started in the bull pens when she was 17, and had to earn her way in a male-dominated profession.
"I could tell you stories that would make you laugh," she said. "I guarantee that people who didn't know me when I was younger and they'd come to the door and ask to buy bulls, Mom would say I'll send Gerri out. They were not expecting a 5-foot-2 female to come out and sell them bulls."
Running the ranch, Gerri regularly received questions from cattle buyers and fellow ranchers. She said she saw the consulting business as a way to help people.
"That's what this service is—a hands-on, knowledge-based service," she said.
What it comes down to is increasing profitability, she said.
Schumacher customizes her services around her customers' cattle programs. However, she breaks down those services into seven main areas.
- Herd evaluation and improvement
- Basic information
- Social media videos and bulletins
- Purebred consulting and sale representation
- Property management
- Herd replacement, heifer or bull selection
Schumacher said she serves new, green inexperienced producers or hobbyists, but also more experienced ranchers who might want help with research or promotion.
"What I tell people with this business is that you can have one head or tens of thousands, everybody's got questions somewhere along the line," she said.
She said she takes calls almost 24 hours/ seven days a week on a variety of topics. A rancher might have a calf that is not nursing or bull that is not breeding. Schumacher offers a retainer service in which she will answer these basic questions and give advice.
"People can literally call me from their pen, their pasture and it is really, really handy," she said.
Other basic questions she might receive are " 'What type of cattle are best for my area?' or 'I have an orphan calf. What should I feed it?'
"I am going to give the tips and tools that have worked for me," she said.
Schumacher said she does not seek to replace a rancher's vet or nutritionist, who are experts in their fields. She said she does refer ranchers to those sources, when she feels it's appropriate.
Schumacher will help buyers select heifers or bulls or help them with what to look for from their own herd in selecting a replacement bull or heifer.
Although Schumacher has experience in commercial operations and other breeds, she has special expertise in Charolais and Red Angus as those are the breeds her family raise on their ranch outside of Hays.
She works with ranchers to refine their cattle programs, which is essentially their business plan for their herd.
"I tell people my way or my program is not the only way," she said. "Ask as many questions as you can, and then you use what is going to work for you in your program."
Schumacher works through social media as well as produces 30- to 60-second video spots to promote cattle sales as part of her consulting business. She is working on promotion for a sale for a rancher in Montana right now.
Schumacher has spent a lifetime with her family owning or renting land for their cattle operation. She works with absentee land owners who own land for investment, hunting or recreation purposes to rent that ground for ag uses.
Schumacher was a 4-H superintendent for beef for 12 years and still offers her consulting services free to 4-Hers. She returned to the show ring just this past summer.
Schumacher hopes to grow her consulting business. Until now she has relied primarily on word of mouth and social media.
However, she said the cattle industry is tight-knit — like a family.
She noted the efforts that were taken by Ellis County to help fellow farmers and ranchers in Nebraska during the flooding there.
"It is hard. I'm not going to sit here and pretend it's an easy industry. There is a lot of mental. There is a lot of physical to farming and ranching. You live with those cattle 24-7," she said.
When temperatures are below zero, you still have to fix fences, help birth calves or pull calves out of snow drifts.
However, Schumacher said she still receives a lot of joy from her chosen profession.
"One of things that I find the greatest joy in is when I go out and look at my cows," she said. "Whether they are the purebred cattle in the registered herd or the commercial cows, they are all home raised. I can look at each one and say I genetically mated her for a reason. This set of cows a developed for a reason. ...
"My program has worked. My thought process has worked."
When she is stressed, she still clears her mind by driving through the pasture.
"To see that newborn calf. I know everyone will say that, but there is something about those new babies when they are bucking on a sunny day," she said.
To contact STR, call Schumacher at 785-623-1721 or email [email protected]