Angus, SimAngus seedstock company evolves in southwest Minnesota
J.T. Weber, LuAnn and sons operate Weber Brothers Cattle Co. from Lake Benton, Minn. They focus on artificial insemination and embryo transplants. Sons Jake, Garret and Matt promote their bulls and heifers at major shows, including the recent Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, S.D.
LAKE BENTON, Minn. — Weber Brothers Cattle Co. is getting used to a new name in their longtime game — selling Angus and SimAngus breeding stock from southwest Minnesota.
John Terrance “J.T.” and LuAnn Weber farm north of Lake Benton, Minn. Their beef seedstock business gradually is being taken over by three sons — Jake, Garret and Matt.
J.T.'s parents, John and Marie, established the farm in 1947. They sold the milking herd in 1975, the same year J.T. — the fourth of eight siblings — graduated from Lake Benton High School.
J.T., now 63, went on to South Dakota State University, at Brookings, S.D., about 30 miles to the west. He joined the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity, Block and Bridle Club, Rodeo Club and Little International. A defining moment came in 1978, when he competed on the livestock judging team that won the American Royal Livestock Show, under famed coach Dan Gee.
“And my interests changed from dairy to beef,” J.T. said.
Graduating in 1979, J.T. came back to farm. He married LuAnn Effling, now 56, from Clear Lake, S.D., who he met at the South Dakota State Fair. Initially, the Webers sold Duroc boars, but soon focused on the beef enterprise with a few cows and sold club calves. Six Weber kids all were active in 4-H and the Minnesota State Fair.
Through the years, J.T. had been an auctioneer. For several years he’s worked weekly sales at the Pipestone Livestock Auction Market. He is a licensed and bonded order buyer in South Dakota and is a familiar face at the cattle markets at Faith, Mobridge, Belle Fourche and St. Onge.
At home, the Webers focus on selling breeding bulls and heifers.
“Long-term where we belonged was with the Angus seedstock and SimAngus seedstock that we felt were more sustainable, had a long-term future to them,” J.T. said. “Good on their feet and legs, good on their udders. High-performance kind of cattle. Good dispositions.”
The Webers in the past two years have changed the company brand from JT Weber Family Cattle to Weber Brothers Cattle Co.
Jake, 33, graduated in animal science from SDSU, and saw his future back at home.
“Right or wrong, I’ve always had the (livestock) bug,” he said, smiling. “I love these cattle — the day-in, day-out of it.”
Garret, 29, graduated in animal science at SDSU in 2014. Garret works from his base at Lake Benton as a sales and consulting representative in North Dakota and South Dakota for McFleeg Feeds Inc., Watertown, S.D.
Matt, 16, is a high school sophomore.
The Weber daughters also stayed close to the land. Elizabeth “Liz” Fiedler, 31, is a physician’s assistant at St. Cloud, Minn. (In a tragedy for the family, her husband Joshua Fiedler, 39, collapsed and died suddenly Dec. 9, 2020. Josh was a vice president for Compeer Financial, an ag lending institution.)
Maria Opheim, 24, was on the SDSU livestock judging team and ranches with husband, Cade Opheim, of Mobridge, S.D. Sara Weber, 22, St. Cloud, is a human development specialist.
In the past three years, the Webers have settled into marketing their bulls through private treaty sales.
It’s a first-come, first-served type of a market, but the Webers like the one-on-one.
“We have quite a few repeat customers, and we feel real comfortable with that and I think they do, too,” J.T. said. “The fact that they’re coming back and wanting more every year, that speaks for itself.”
The Webers appreciate their loyal, local customer base, but many of their bulls go to western South Dakota, Wyoming and North Dakota producers. They conduct an online sale in the fall breeding heifers.
“You get a lot of eyes on your cattle that way,” J.T. said.
The Webers raise some corn for silage and bring in their own alfalfa hay.
“We bale a lot of ditches around here,” J.T. said.
In the past few years the predominant part of their ration is a CHS Bull Challenger pellets, a high-protein cob-based pellet that doesn’t contain starch. This keeps hoofs stronger, which helps with breeding longevity.
Beef producers sell pounds, so the Webers focus on production “spread” — lower birth weights, and higher weaning weights. They strive for low-maintenance heifers with good udders.
The Webers promote “carcass merit” issues such as rib-eye-area and marbling. One of their featured embryo donor cows ranks in the top 1% in the breed for progeny that produce rib eye area.
“We’ve seen that transmit into these bulls,” J.T. said. “That’s something we’re pretty proud of.”
In 2016, the family started exhibiting some cattle at the National Western Stock Show in Denver during the first week in January.
They've gone every year, except for 2021 with COVID-19. They got to see and meet other breeders and even won their division. They promote their animals at the Black Hills Stock Show, among other places.
In the next five years, Jake expects to do more with DNA testing to try to predict the future of the bulls and their progeny.
“I think that is the next frontier: We want them to be just as good under the hide as they are on the outside,” he said.
End of the day
Looking ahead, one of the things that makes Jack the most optimistic is how his family sticks together and navigates the transitions between generations.
“It’s a lot of give and take, and a lot of, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’ and communication,” he said. “We all want it to work, to make the farm to always have a future for the next generation.”
Jake is concerned about over-regulation and the impacts of social media on the livestock business.
“For every one pro-beef producer (social media post) there’s 99 people on the internet that either don’t understand it or have an agenda against it," he said.
He wishes more people knew how beef producers value their customers and how much work it takes to produce a safe, wholesome product.
“I think people — at the end of the day — they still like the taste of beef,” he said. “At the end of the day, even though we’re up against a lot of adversity with ‘fake meats,’ and with all sorts of different environmental stuff they come at us with, I believe that people still like the taste of it and will pay a premium for it. The world’s population keeps growing, and we’re finding new ways to feed them.”