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Thriving on the challenges presented by the beef industry

published: April 17th 2023
by: Martha A Hollida
source: Southern Livestock Standard

The beef industry is multi-faceted and challenging, to say the least. Clyde Sommerlatte    thrives on those challenges to produce better genetics, better cattle and a better eating experience.

      Sommerlatte, Luling, Texas, has chosen to be involved in multiple segments of the beef chain. He owns and operates 2 Bar C Ranch, a registered Black Angus operation, and is one of two owners of Hometown Meat Market.  In addition, he runs commercial cattle and has a calf buy-back program for his bull customers’ calves.

      Sommerlatte is local to the Luling, Texas area, as he was raised in nearby Gonzales. He is a 1972 University of Texas graduate with a BBA in business administration. He returned home with thoughts of going to law school, but instead spent 18 months in the family’s custom farming and hay operation and registered Beefmaster program.

      In 1974, he entered the insurance business and today has four companies related to that industry. He also started his own cattle business at this time by leasing acreage in the Texas Hill Country. A few years later, he purchased land in Caldwell County (Luling) and moved his commercial cows there, while operating the insurance businesses out of Austin.

      Sommerlatte enjoyed owning the cattle, but also realized some just performed better than others. He was intrigued by the genetics side of the product he was producing. In 2001, he was introduced to Bill Bennett of BB Cattle Co. in Connell, Washington. Bennett, a premier breeder of Angus and Hereford genetics, would make a lasting impression on Sommerlatte and soon after that meeting, he decided to start a purebred Angus herd.

      “I’ve seen the Angus breed change considerably since that initial introduction. Today, the emphasis is very heavy on EPD and index numbers. I realize the importance of those numbers and the predictability they provide, but I strive for a total balance. I feel phenotype is extremely important, especially when it comes to structure and we value pounds. We utilize all the tools we can—artificial insemination, embryo transfer, EPD data, feed efficiency testing and visual appraisal,” he said.

      2 Bar C utilizes the GrowSafe Feed Efficiency system, a feed intake recording system that enables continuous data acquisition.

      “Our local veterinarian at the time, Florian Sanchez suggested the program to me. His family owns Red Doc Farms, a Santa Gertrudis operation in New Mexico, and they have used the system heavily. He encouraged me to take my bulls to Hereford Feed Yard in Hereford, Texas and develop them there with the GrowSafe program. Sommerlatte was so impressed with the system that he became a partner with Red Doc Farms and Hereford Feed Yard.  Together we have expanded the system to handle not only our and their cattle but others that may want to participate in this exceptional data collection system. The data collected supplements the Angus EPDs data with individual performance and feed efficiency,” he explained.

      He added that this allows 2 Bar C customers to have the maximum data possible on each animal and allows for a better selection of performance that will put more dollars in their pocket.

      One of their bulls, now an ABS sire, 2 Bar C Crossfire converted 22 lbs. of feed to six lbs. of gain on the program.

      The young bulls are on the GrowSafe system for 120 days and are on a ration designed to develop bone and muscle. They are finished on grass pastures in the Luling area to be acclimated to this environment, where the majority of their bull customers ranch.

      “We have worked to educate our buyers about what we’re doing with our cattle across the board and how that can be an asset to them if our genetics are used,” he emphasized.

      Over the past two decades, 2 Bar C has continued to build their registered program, incorporating genetics from a wide base of established breeders, always making selections with balance, efficiency, and profitability in mind, as well as carcass traits. Today, the herd produces right at 500 purebred calves annually in owned and leased pastures across Caldwell, Guadalupe and Gonzales counties, plus they raise their own hay. They continue to run commercial cattle in the area that are heavily Angus influenced.

      Five years ago, the program began hosting an annual production sale the first weekend of December on the ranch headquarters just right outside the Luling city limits. Both females and bulls are offered.

      “We only sell right at half of our bulls in the sale—we offer our very best there, sell some by private treaty and we cull hard. Just because you have a bull calf, doesn’t mean you have a bull,” he stressed.

      Sommerlatte has been very pleased with the acceptance at public auction of both the females and bulls. He is very customer oriented. Whether it’s insurance or cattle, he spends time with 2 Bar C buyers after the purchase, when possible, and makes a concentrated effort to check up on how the animals with the 2 Bar C prefix perform. To date, the program has their genetics in 27 states and British Columbia.

      In 2019, Sommerlatte and Cole Bolton, K&C Cattle Company and a 2 Bar C bull buyer, joined forces to open a meat market in Luling, Texas.

      “The timing was not good, as Covid would come and we couldn’t get equipment and delays were just part of the process,” he remembered.

      In October 2022, Hometown Meat Market, a 15,000 square foot harvesting plant and retail store opened and at capacity, will be harvesting 150 head a week.

      “Right now, we’re running about 50 head a week. We have a staff of experienced butchers that can break down a carcass much farther than most. We not only hand fabricate the basic steak cuts, but we can offer other cuts from the ground and roast cuts. We also do value added products like bacon, beef jerky, snack sticks and sausages,” he said.

      With the meat market needing a constant supply of genetics, Sommerlatte instituted a buy-back program for calves produced by 2 Bar C bulls in customers’ herds. The program offers a .10 cent premium at weaning for eligible calves.

      “We don’t buy every calf produced by our bulls as we have a protocol we follow. First, I evaluate the customers’ cowherd. I want the mommas to be three-quarter English breeding and when crossed with my bulls, produce Choice and Prime grades. The maximum I will take is one-eighth Brahman breeding in the calves we buy back. In addition, we are a no antibiotic, no hormones program and there is a strict health program that must be followed. We buy the steer and heifer calves. The heifers we keep and AI once and then some are used as recips for our extensive ET program and others go to our commercial herd. We also have incorporated some Santa Gertrudis x Angus females in our commercial herds, based on our relationship with Red Doc and the history of efficiency in that program,” he explained.

      The commercial calves produced by 2 Bar C and their customers’ calves are fed out at nearby Graham Feedlot. They are pre-conditioned on grass until they reach approximately 850-900 lbs. and then fed on a ration, that coupled with their genetics, is designed to have a 5.5-6 lbs. average daily gain.

      “In the industry, there are a lot of challenges. Breeding cattle is a big puzzle and we have lots of pieces to utilize to make it better, but it needs to be a balanced approach.  I would stress that from a meat standpoint, we—the entire beef industry, regardless of what segment you are in, needs to work together to improve the eating experience for the consumer. That is one of the driving forces for the time I put into genetic selection, efficiency measures and the taste and tenderness of the end product,” he said.

      Sommerlatte is joined in his efforts by his wife, Karen, son Chris and his family, and daughter Kimberley and her family, plus longtime employee Ben Soto.



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