Harms Plainview Ranch receives KLA nomination


Staff writer

After more than 15 years of dedication to producing bulls and females with constantly-improving genetics, Mark and Kim Harms, owners and operators of Harms Plainview Ranch, 2528 250th, Lincolnville, have been nominated by the Kansas Livestock Association to receive the Beef Improvement Federation's 2008 Seedstock Producer of the Year award.

"This is a wonderful honor," Kim said.

BIF is a consortium of state and national beef cattle associations. It selects one seedstock producer and one commercial producer for special recognition each year. The winner will be announced this spring.

Scarlett Hagins, communications manager for the KLA, spent almost a full day on the ranch with the Harmses. She said she was impressed with their dedication to serving their customers. She said Harms Plainview Ranch (HPR) was chosen by the KLA because their operation is progressive.

"They work hard to meet the needs of their customers and are constantly thinking about how to improve the genetics of their herd and of their customers' herds," she said.

Kim Harms said her husband's desire for excellence drives him day and night: "Mark goes to sleep thinking about it and wakes up thinking about it."

She noted the business takes a lot of his time but she tries to protect Sundays as a time for the family to be together.

The couple didn't inherit an operation already in progress. They built it from the ground up.

After both obtained degrees in animal science from Kansas State University, they were married in 1990. They began to actively pursue their dream of developing a seedstock business in 1992, after purchasing Kim's family farm from her parents, Don and Peggy Buethe.

They have been selling bulls since 1994, when they began with an offering of eight head. In 2007, they offered 100, and this year 170 are available. Their herd consists of approximately 600 producing females.

Weaned calves go through a 90-120 day test period before Mark selects which ones to sell as herd sires and replacement heifers.

The couple began their herd by purchasing several Angus females and Hunts Calculator 2720, a yearling Angus bull which proved to have good genetics across the board. It had a huge impact on HPR and the industry, serving not only as a herd-builder for the Harmses, but for other programs across the country through the sale of semen to Alta Genetics and Genex. Some semen even went to Australia.

"We were very fortunate to get a bull of that caliber," Kim said. "He wasn't a big moneymaker for us, but he helped us develop a good herd of cows."

He also helped them develop a reputation for good genetics. The bull died in 2003, and his head and cape hang in the Angus Hall of Fame at Smithville, Mo., a suburb of Kansas City. His body is buried in the front lawn of the family home at 2528 250th.

Red Angus and Charolais females were added to the herd as time went along to meet the needs of customers.

"I didn't want extreme cows," Mark said. "I wanted easy fleshing, good-structured cows that weren't going to have problems calving."

The bulls produced on the ranch typically have low birthweight EPDs because 80 percent of those sold will be used on heifers.

It is important to Mark that his bulls produce structurally-sound females so that his customers can raise good replacement heifers for their herds.

The Harmses use artificial insemination and embryo transfer to speed up the process of improving desirable traits such as low birthweight, structural correctness, good scrotal circumference, and good carcass traits.

"When Mark makes breeding decisions, he's not just managing our operation, he's managing the operations of all our customers," Kim said.

Her job is to record the data and do the paperwork that is required for the operation.

The Harmses sell bulls by private treaty. Mark likes selling by private treaty because it naturally creates an open line of communication with his customers. During the course of walking through the bull pens with them, he learns about their concerns and what they are looking for, which guides him as he builds his program.

Buyers often come to the ranch after being referred by someone else.

"We always have viewed breeding seedstock as a lifetime achievement, pursuing excellence one generation at a time," Kim said. "The goal of our efforts is to increase the profitability of our customers' herds. If they succeed, we succeed."

They hope their work will be carried on by the next generation.

The couple has three children: Taylor, 13, an eighth grader at Marion Middle School, and Cade, 9, a third grader, and Payton, 7, a second grader at Marion Elementary School.