Martin Sims and Crossroads Cattle Company move about 2,000 calves a year
What do a lumberjack, trucker, touring country singer, cattleman, competitive fishermen and turkey farmer have in common? They are all parts of the life of Martin Sims.
Martin and his wife Liz own 300 acres in Marble, Ark., and lease more than 1,200 additional acres for an extensive order buying and backgrounding cattle business.
Martin grew up around his grandfather Ryan Holt who ran a cow/calf operation and was in the lumber industry. One of his favorite memories occurred when his grandfather and neighbor Joe Carter were helping each other work cattle. A 700-pound bull got loose. Martin and Joe’s son Pete were 7 and 8 at the time and very excited. They were told to rope the bull so he could be castrated.
Wanting to prove themselves, they did exactly that and were dragged around because they didn’t want to let go.
“We couldn’t let go of that rope fast enough and had the rope burns to prove it,” Martin recalled with a laugh.
Another of Martin’s significant memories is going to cattle sales with his grandfather and watching order buyers pull cards out of their pockets. Wanting to be like them, the young boy put cards in his pocket and believed everyone thought he was an order buyer. The memory stuck and he added order buying to his turkey and cow/calf operations. By the time Martin was in his early 20s, he figured the lumber industry was going to be his life. Then he had a serious accident that revealed many more possibilities. Well accustomed to trucks and hauling cattle, Martin decided to start a cross-country hauling company, which worked well until fuel prices rocketed in 2009. The business couldn’t withstand the financial pressure.
Now Gary Tharp of Dixie Grove Farms in Siloam Springs, Ark., hauls 90 percent of his cattle, which mainly go to feedlots in Nebraska.
In 2003, Martin decided to add three turkey houses to his still thriving trucking operation and ever present cattle. Helping was a neighborhood youngster named Hunter Villines who has worked for Martin since he was 12. He transitioned into a full-time employee a year ago. The houses run on a 13-week rotation, starting the day the poults are born. The turkeys are raised to 15 pounds and then taken to Cargill in Springdale, Ark., for processing.
In the midst of cattle and turkeys, Martin also began a successful country music career which included frequent visits to Nashville every other week and touring around the country as the lead singer. Music was a childhood dream and singing fulfilled another of his passions. He loved everything he did but had too much to do.
One of the feedlots he worked with kept telling Martin that backgrounding and order buying rather than his current cow/calf operation had a really strong income potential. Marty mulled it over.
“Like a log chain, you can drag me anywhere but you can’t push me. Three years ago, I finally pulled the trigger and began the transition which really made sense once I hired Hunter full-time. We do everything ourselves. While the workload is crazy busy, it is doable leaving enough time for my love of competitive fishing and for Hunter and his wife Hailey to pursue their lives,” Martin explained.
An important part of what makes Marty’s workload doable was eventually choosing cattle over the music industry because they demanded complete attention. While he still performs four concerts a year to feed his passion for music, his professional life is now with Crossroads Cattle Company whose catchy motto is “a steer in the right direction.”
Martin’s backgrounding is relatively new with his land divided into two sections. One is a preconditioning section used for custom feeding and healthcare to ensure every animal is ready for the second section which is devoted to pasture. The first section is also used for preparing cattle to be sent to the feed yards.
Martin develops his own feed ration from commodities he purchases in bulk according to price points available at the time. He then consults nutritionists on how to best balance his current profile of commodities for the desired daily weight gain taking into consideration appropriate fat content and 16 percent protein. His commodities include corn, corn gluten, distillers grain, hominy, soy pellets, soy hulls and cottonseed hulls with rations comprising 60 percent of his farm overhead.
A group of 1,200 head is pastured beginning March 1 before being sent to a feedlot July 1. Another group of 700 head is pastured beginning August 1 and sent to a feedlot December 1, with Martin sometimes retaining ownership until the cattle are processed.
“We are now at max capacity for what two men can handle which includes continuing to expand facilities,” Martin said.
An important part of Martin’s ability to multitask is the use of cell phone and computer technology because of the time saved. A feedlot that he sometimes shares cattle ownership with gave him a program they developed for their business which he uses for his operation. He has a vast network of contacts across the country. He believes integrity, fairness and honesty are the key to success personally and professionally with one result being he has never had to advertise.
Two of the most important aspects of Martin’s life are his religion and his wife. He readily admits that he’s not the easiest person to live with because of the diversity within his life and is deeply appreciative of Liz who supports everything he does and who stands by his side through every undertaking.