Four generations roam in Boone CountyGerry and Gail Sansing’s back property line borders on the city of Harrison, Ark. But don’t think that means they’re city folk. Gail learned 37 years ago when she married Gerry that they were definitely in the country.
Gail said, “The first month we lived here the electricity was out for a week and we didn’t have water. They thought I’d never last.” But she did. Since then, they’ve raised hogs, chickens, had lots of dogs, but mostly they run Simmental cattle.
The Sansings have been here for four generations now. Gerry’s father and grandfather also lived on the same piece of land. His grandparents had milk cows, but mostly raised crops and sold them in town. His grandpa had an old sleigh that he pulled with a mule and used it to take produce to market. The next generation, Gerry and Gail’s son, Jeremy, lives next door to them, in the family homestead.
The family has 20 cows right now, but Gerry said that’s too many. His first priority is taking care of the land. He said, “You’ve got to take care of it if it’s gonna take care of you. We have 43 acres here. It’s not enough to make money off cows by quantity, so for the last 5 years I’ve been going for quality. Right now I need to cull a few and get back down to about 15 cows – I just haven’t decided which ones I want to cull.”
Gerry’s goal is to have a herd that is the old-style Simmental, black with a blazed face, called South African Fleckvieh. For the last 5 years, Gerry has been artificially inseminating the cows to achieve that goal. But Gerry said that’s hard to do. He said, “It’s been real tough. I started out looking for calving ease and milking ability and got pretty good blood lines doing that, but I wasn’t getting what I wanted. I was also looking at weaning weight on them. The last two years I’ve been going for what they call the ‘All Purpose Index’ on them, and I’m having a lot better quality calves.”
Gerry would classify himself as being very picky when it comes to culling the herd, deciding which he keeps and which goes away. He said, “I’ve had lots of calls for bulls this year, but I’m real picky. If it doesn’t really please me, I figure it won’t please somebody else either. I’ve sent some real good blood lines to the stockyards because they just didn’t grow like I really wanted them to grow.”
Gerry’s efforts have paid off. He has a bull right now that’s in the top 15 percent of the whole Simmental breed. He said, “I raised him and thought about selling him and then thought, well, I think I’ll back up my heifers this year with him.” In addition, his herd bull is an Ellingson Black Perfector bull that Gerry calls “top notch.”
This summer the family will begin to AI the heifers. Gerry said, “The ones that actually stick, I’ll keep them, and I’ll give the other ones a chance to stick by natural – I’ll put a bull with them. Then if they don’t do that, then they’ll go. So if I have to cull part of these heifers, that’ll work too and I’ll keep some of my better cows.”
Gerry’s humorous explanation of why he wants blazed faced Simmentals goes like this:  “In a snowstorm, you can see them because they’re black. At nighttime when you go out to look at them, when you call them, they’ll turn that cross face to you and you can see ‘em.”


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