Evolving with Simmental

A long-time Simmental seedstock producer utilizes breed diversity.

By Emme Troendle

“Our prime goal is to produce practical cattle for practical cattlemen,”  says Joe Prud’homme (pronounced Prude-home), owner of 7P Ranch. Since 1972, the ranch, situated in eastern Texas, just outside of Tyler, has been producing Simmental and Simmental influenced cattle built around the principle of developing functional cattle for commercial cattlemen.

When Prud’homme was getting into the Simmental business, the breed was characterized as large, red, and horned, but as all things must change, Prud’homme’s 7P Ranch evolved from the traditional red Simmental Fleckvieh operation to a modern SimGenetic enterprise. “When it comes down to it, I am just trying to create a product in the most economical way. A product that will perform and work for my customer,” Prud’homme elaborates. “In the last 20 years, we have started crossbreeding to offer more genetic potential to customers, and they like it.”

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7P Ranch SimAngus cow-calf pairs on spring pasture.

Today, the 7P Ranch has expanded from the initial 500 acres to over 1,900 acres of established Bermuda grass pasture with 800-plus registered Purebred and Percentage Simmental, and 60 Brahman cows.

Commercially and Performance Driven
When he was first starting out, Prud’homme focused on developing the best genetic Fullblood foundation possible by exclusively using AI and embryo transfer. He recalls, “Initially, we did ET work for the first 15 to 20 years. Today we use a frozen embryo here or there, but we breed extensively AI and clean up using pasture sires.”

All cows are synchronized and AI bred in groups 45 days postpartum. Heifers are synchronized but bred at 14 months of age, or 750 pounds, to calve at two years of age. If the cow comes back into heat, Prud’homme will AI the cow one more time before putting it out with the cleanup bulls.

For Prud’homme, it’s too warm in eastern Texas to start fall calving until the first of September. Typically, 7P Ranch splits fall calving and spring calving, but are now considering focusing more on fall calving for optimum growth.  Calving in the fall means that the calves are going to be getting the best grass during Texas’s prime growing season. “Calves born in September will have a 150-pound difference in weaning weights than spring-born because calves that are born in September will have the mother milking good on winter pasture,” Prud’homme explains.

The majority of the pastures are Coastal Bermuda, with a small portion of Tifton 85 Bermuda. Five hundred and seventy-five acres of hay meadows are harvested annually and utilized on the ranch. Supplemental grain isn’t used very often, and as a result, a lot of their success in a year depends on the growing season. “Really, we are grass farmers, not cowboys,” Prud’homme jokes,“The feral hogs really keep us from creep feeding, but we have winter pasture and overseed our coastal Bermuda grass. That usually carry us through Febuary, March, April, and May. During that time, a calf can gain three pounds a day easily.”

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7P Ranch bull calves

To meet the standards that 7P Ranch has set for themselves, they focus on developing and selling high-quality females and bulls to their purebred and commercial clients. Prud’homme is a strong advocate for collecting accurate performance data on cattle and it has led him to get stronger accuracy on his herd’s performance, “When you collect weaning weights and yearling weights, you get a better idea of how the cows and bulls are performing in your environment. We believe in using EPDs and trying to collect clean numbers on our calves to get a better prediction.”

Prud’homme stresses that despite keeping some replacement heifers in their own herd, what they sell is of comparable quality, “The animals that we put in our sale are what we call a replacement female. They are our face. People are taking a day and making an effort to get out here, we want them to take home a really good replacement female.”
When making cull decisions, Prud’homme admits that it’s nothing different than letting the heifers that don’t have quality structure and good legs go first, and then the cows and heifers that don’t breed are the second to go. “In the end, we take a half of what we call really good replacement heifers, and sell those,” he says.

40 Plus Years of Improvement

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Left to right: Joe Prud’homme, owner; Tom Barker, ranch manager; Ryan Robert and Larry Haselhorts, long-time ranch hands.

In the early ‘70s, Simmental cattle were known for their large size. To answer the customer’s demand for smaller framed cattle, 7P Ranch flushed their donors to popular, moderate-framed Fleckvieh AI sires. “We have made errors along the way,” Prud’homme admits. “But we tried to breed for smaller frame-score cattle because large cows are too big for our country. We bred our purebred reds smaller, and got some great cattle out of them.”

As coat color variants like the red diluter gene became apparent, Prud’homme bred his cows to diluter-free sires, and when black-hided Simmental came on the scene, 7P Ranch took a portion of their red purebred heifers and bred to black purebred Simmental sires to meet the commercial desire for black-hided Simmental cattle.

In 2005, top Angus sires were introduced to the herd’s breeding program to meet the demand for SimAngus™ bulls. Prud’homme is pleased with the positive feedback he has received from his buyers, “This has proven to be a very successful cross. Any time that you can get hybrid vigor, you get good performance. These SimAngus bulls have genetics behind them that we know work in our area, and work even better when they are up North.”

7P Ranch recently expanded upon Simmental cross options by using sexed Brahman semen on Simmental cows to develop F1 ½ Simmental ½ Brahman, Simbrah heifers to sell in their October sale. “The addition of Simbrah females has been really popular,” Prud’homme shares. “We use sexed semen to develop these F1 Simmental-Brahman crosses because the Simbrah heifer market is strong in my area.”

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Simmental cattle grazing.

In addition to crossbreeding for SimAngus and F1 Simbrah, 7P Ranch sells commercial replacement heifers. In the 1980’s, Prud’homme acquired a herd of 200 registered grey Brahman cows and bred them to registered Hereford bulls. The Braford heifers were then bred AI to Angus sires before being sold. Today the ranch has narrowed down to 60 Brahman cows that are bred to offer commercial cross heifers in their sale.

Alongside developing a wide variety of Simmental and SimGenetic options for his purebred and commercial buyers, Prud’homme has noticed that the genetic selection decisions 7P Ranch has made over 42 years of operation have paid off because his buyers come back. He shares, “A great number of my buyers are repeat buyers, which is comforting. Some of them have gone to the purebred Angus route, but they discover that they want a little bit more pop so they come back.”

Family-Centered

Since the age of 15, Prud’homme has bred registered seedstock. He purchased 13 grey Brahman heifers while he was a calf roper in high school, and bred Brahman cattle until he was in medical school and was forced to sell. He recalls meeting his late wife, Mary, at the age of seven while attending Catholic religion classes. “She thought I was a smart aleck. I don’t know how that translated to dating, and falling in love, but it did,” he smiles. They dated the entire time he attended Tyler Junior College where he had a basketball scholarship. When they moved to Austin, they got married, and he attended the University of Texas for one year before being accepted into medical school.

Mary worked to support him while he was going to school. When he graduated, Joe did the same for her. After finishing his residency, the family moved to Tyler, to start ranching. Prud’homme has been a practicing surgeon for the past 45 years and hasn’t slowed down yet.

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Top row, left to right Steve, Carol Davis, and Joe Jr. Prud’homme. Bottom row, left to right: Sheila Lemmons, Joe Prud’homme, and Sharon Waldrep.

The 7P Ranch name is derived from the original seven Prud’homme family members. Joe, Mary, and their five children: Carol, Sharon, Joseph, Steven, and Sheila. All the children were involved with the ranch growing up, but Shelia, the youngest, is still actively involved with marketing today.  Steven’s wife, Martha, helps with the sale and photography, and Joe’s granddaughter, Danika, took over some of Mary’s responsibilities with the sale the year after Mary passed away. He couldn’t be more thankful for all that the family has done. “All my kids and grandkids are givers. I have been very fortunate,” he summarizes.

In addition to the family, Tom Barker, manager, has been working on the ranch since 2009. He lives on the ranch with his wife, Mimi, and their children Cheyenne and Thomas.

Prud’homme believes that what success he has had ranching comes from listening to local extension agents like Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Overton. “I encourage people, especially young people, to listen to extension agents and research centers that have little bias. These people, and people doing research in your region, give honest opinions about what we should be doing to be more successful. Those sources help us stay in business, and there is always more to learn about ranching,” Prud’homme concludes.