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Practicality is the rule at 7P Ranch

published: November 12th 2021
by: Sharla Ishmael

For just shy of 50 years, Joe Prud’homme has been raising purebred cattle to satisfy his customers’ demands for practical commercial cattle. Simbrah females are the most recent – and popular – addition to the range of genetics offered by 7P Ranch.

One of the nicest fellas you’ll ever visit with is Joe Prud’homme, but there’s more than meets the eye with this humble gentleman. Some know him as an East Texas seedstock breeder, others as a surgeon, and if you go back in his past, Prud’homme has been a calf roper, junior college basketball player, served in the Vietnam War and at a federal penitentiary in the public health service for a few years. But he always comes back to the cattle business.
    “It’s the only thing I know anything about,” he says.
    Prud’homme bought his first set of cows at the tender age of 15. He bought 13 purebred Brahman heifers from a neighbor for $65 a piece. He halter-broke the set and held on to them until medical school forced his hand to sell them. Once his surgical practice was established, he and wife Mary bought a place near Tyler to restart his cattle business, however this time he bought a herd of Simmental cattle.
    It was in the early ’70s, when the Continental breeds were really hot, and the Simmental cattle of the day were really big, red and horned. As Prud’homme built his herd, commercial producers were wanting more moderate animals to work in their own environments, so he used AI and embryo transfer to breed his cows to moderate Fleckvieh bulls to meet buyers’ needs.
    “I was Fleckvieh before Full Fleckvieh was cool,” he says with a laugh. “For the last 20-plus years, we’ve continued to use a lot of Fleckvieh bulls with a frame score 5 to 5.5. They work beautifully in my country – good calving ease and numbers. The Ameri-can Simmental Association (ASA) has been a real leader in EPDs. We primarily breed purebred cattle for commercial producers so the bulls we sell need to be practical with performance behind them.”
    To provide the genetics and traits that cattle commercial buyers want, AI has been the backbone of the 7P breeding program since 1974-75. Over the years, the makeup of the herd has changed. These days, in addition to (mostly polled) red and black Simmental, you can also find top-quality Sim-Angus cattle and a sizable herd of Brahman cows grazing green, mostly coastal pastures in East Texas.
    “About 15-20 years ago, we bought a set of Brahman cows to put with Hereford bulls because people wanted the Braford females. So, we bred some replacement heifers to add to our sale offering. Then about four years ago, Dr. Charles Long at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center in Overton asked me what I thought about using sexed semen.”
    Prud’homme went to J.D. Hudgins for top-quality sexed Brahman semen for use on Simmental cows. The Simbrah cattle produced from those matings impressed him greatly – not the least of which because the sexed semen gave him 95% heifers.
    “These were the gentlest cattle on the place,” Prud’homme explains. “We don’t horse them around and you can move them all over the place just with your voice. Simbrah cattle are just dog-gentle; if you don’t want to get up close and personal with them, you better keep your window closed.
    “That is important to our customers, because they want gentle cattle, too. Life is too short to put up with cattle that are wild. Plus, they all had perfect udders and the calving ease was built into them. And you just can’t beat that hybrid vigor you get from crossbreeding,” he adds. “The market for Simbrah heifers in this area is real strong.” The halfblood Simbrahs are registered with the ASA and can be used in a breeding up program to a purebred status and are eligible to be Golden Certified registered with the American Brahman Breeders Asso-ciation.
    When customers buy cattle from 7P Ranch, no matter the breed, they can be sure what they see is what they’re going to get at home. That’s because their sale cattle are not put on feed before the sale (with one exception in 2011 during an extreme drought). He wants customers to be able to turn his cattle out on grass without falling to pieces. The calves also don’t get creep feed, for two reasons: a) fall-born calves at 7P have been known to gain 3-3.5 lbs. on overseeded winter pasture and b) the menace of feral hogs make creep feeding impractical.
    Having just hosted his 43rd annual sale in October, Prud’homme can back up his management philosophy with plenty of repeat buyers over the course of four decades. The ranch has two sales a year. They have an annual production sale in October with yearling to 2-year-old red and black Simmental and SimAngus bulls, plus bred heifers and bred commercial F-1 Simbrah heifers. The annual bull sale is held in February.
    After Mary passed in 2009, their youngest daughter, Shelia, stepped up to the plate to help fulfill Mary’s sale duties and she now helps with marketing and advertising. Daughter-in-law Martha helps with the sale these days, too. The rest of the 7P family includes daughter Carol who lives in New York and daughter Sharon, a kindergarten teacher in Arling-ton. Plus, two sons, Steven and Joey who coached together at Nolan High School in Fort Worth for 26 years (Steven in basketball and Joey in football). Today, Steven is the associate director of Texas Asso-ciation of Private and Parochial Schools (TA PPS), and Joey is the head football coach Texas Wesleyan University hired in 2017 to restart their football team after a 76-year hiatus.
    During their marriage, the Prud’hommes received several awards, including in 2004 the highest honor bestowed by the World Simmental Foundation, the Golden Book Award. This award recognized them for making noteworthy contributions to the Simmental and Simbrah breeds. They also served in numerous volunteer leadership or-ganizations, including the Texas Simmental/Simbrah Association, East Texas Beef Industry Roundtable, East Texas Piney Woods Cattle Women, the Texas Beef Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
    Today, Prud’homme still does surgeries, even after an injury to one of his hands. But his volunteer time is limited to serving on the board of Tyler Junior College, where he once played basketball.
    On the ranch, his right-hand man is Tom Barker who has been the ranch manager at 7P since 2009. Tom, wife Laurie and son Thomas live on the ranch. Warren Garrett has also been involved in the ranch’s promotional efforts for many years.
    He also mentioned that he has had great respect for the Carlos Guerra family and the impact they have made on youth and youth programs in the beef industry.
    You might wonder if there are any commonalities between practicing medicine and breeding seedstock cattle.
    “You do have to be somewhat self-confident to be a surgeon, but I hate arrogance,” Prud’homme says. “You just have to believe that you can do it as good as anybody else can to be successful. That might sound arrogant, but I sure don’t mean it that way. You also need that confidence to be successful in ranching.
    “You also have to be something of a risk taker. It takes a lot of money to develop land and I am board certified in borrowing money,” he jokes. “You have to be creative, and you get to see if what you did qualifies as a success or not. I’ve made my share of mistakes over the last 50 years, but one thing I do know is you don’t go all in on one bull.
    Prud’homme adds, “There are sacrifices in ranching, like your standard of living, but it’s just a very satisfying business.”

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