As with any progressive cattle and farming operation, idle time seems to be a rare commodity, and it is no different at the Eichacker’s. Based in southeast South Dakota, along I-90 and just 50 miles west of the SD/Minnesota state line, the combination of livestock, agriculture, and land tiling operations fill the yearly calendar.
Eichacker Simmentals is a family operation comprised of Raphael & Judy (dad and mom), Steve and Cathy along with their three children, Amanda, Nick, and Adam, and Steve’s brother Greg. Amanda, age 25, was just married this past summer and works at First National Bank of Sioux Falls. Nick, 23, graduated this spring from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, SD with a major in Business Management a Minor in Entrepreneurship and an emphasis in Marketing, he is currently working at the corporate office of POET in Sioux Falls, SD. Adam, 14, recently graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic Grade School in Salem and will be a freshman at McCook Central High School this fall. Adam is very active on the farm, frequently competing in various cattle shows around the area. Steve’s brother, Greg, who came back to the farm 2 years ago and has been a great addition to the farming operations. Steve’s sister, Bridgett, along with her husband, John, and son, Brady, live in Maple Grove Minneapolis, but come back often to help out when needed. We also have a fulltime herdsman, Paul Grace, who has a great talent for clipping and fitting cattle and is also very hands on with Adam in his show cattle endeavors. Paul and his wife, Lindsay, reside on a farm just outside of Salem and we are lucky to have them at Eichacker Simmentals
Our entire operation consists of about 4,000 acres, 2,500 of which are tillable. Our acreage utilization mainly consists of corn and soybeans and the remainder is used for alfalfa, hay, and pasture. The cowherd is maintained at about 300 spring calving cows, all of which are registered with 240 being Simmental and Sim/Angus and 60 Red Angus cows. Our first introduction to Simmental genetics was back in 1970. Prior to the 1970’s, we were mainly a dairy operation, but soon noticed the potential for expansion into the world of Simmental and Sim/Angus cattle breeding. It is interesting to see how we have done a full circle in the last 40 years. We started with the ½ bloods, and now find ourselves back with the Sim/Angus. Our current goal is to maintain the Simmental cows at about 1/3 of the herd as Purebreds, 1/3 as ¾ bloods and 1/3 as Sim/Angus. The Red Angus are mainly straight 1A with a few red Sim/Angus. An extensive A-I program is utilized via the electronic Heatwatch™ system and A-I’ing the cows for roughly 50 days before the bulls go in.
The diversification at Eichacker Simmentals is what keeps the calendar full. January is spent feeding cattle and compiling the bull sale data. In February, the heifers start calving, and then the annual bull sale is held the 1st Friday of March. Shortly after that, the cows begin calving in mid March and runs through April. Then spring planting gets underway at the beginning of May and the rest of the summer is spent A-I’ing, haying, and spraying. We recently purchased a WOLFF™ tile plow and have undertaken the immense task of installing drainage tile in a large number of our tillable acres. The tiling operation is spearheaded by Steve’s brother, Greg, and everyone on the farm seems to find themselves with their own role as soon as the tiling is underway. The end of the summer brings the 4-H County and State Fairs. Early September finds us working calves and preg-checking cows to get ready for weaning the 1st of October, and we are also chopping silage and doing various projects throughout these months. Then in October we change gears and the fall harvest begins. In past years we were also preparing for a 1st of December female sale which is held on our farm.
We feel it is extremely important that you raise cattle that work for you in your environment. Most of us that raised cattle in the 80’s got caught in the fad that bigger is better, but those cattle didn’t work at our place as our cows have to get out and work in the corn stalks during the winter months as long as the weather allows. The 800 pound weaning weights are great but our goal is to do that in a moderate, soggy, easy fleshing package. The base of the Sim/Angus cows mainly trace back to OCC genetics.
Our annual bull sale is the 1st Friday in March on the farm, selling approximately 125 bulls. We teamed up several years ago with JK Angus, the Jeff Kapperman family from Montrose, SD. We feel it has been a win-win partnership for both us and our customers. We call it your “One Stop Bull Shop”, selling Simmental, Sim/Angus, Angus and Red Angus bulls. It’s a great variety and selection all in one place and all in one day. We have also been associated with a group of breeders that held a female sale the 1st week of December where we sold a select group of bred heifers.
Along with all the farming, we all stay very busy with volunteering at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Salem. We work very hard at many fundraisers to help keep our St. Mary’s Grade School up and running. We also get very involved in our Salem Summer Youth & Rec program during the summer months. Steve & Cathy are currently the SD Simmental Junior Advisors and Cathy has been a 4-H leader and has been on the McCook County 4-H Fairboard for over 13 years now. We also seem to get involved with many other community projects where needed.