Jaclyn Wilson’s Flying Diamond Genetics offers a full-service embryo transfer service, doing business with top seedstock producers across the country. Additionally, Wilson is a forward-thinking, multi-generational rancher who is ready to take on the challenges of modern ranching.
Jaclyn Wilson is a fifth-generation rancher, leader, and businesswoman. Her family’s Wilson Ranch, located in northwest Nebraska, was started in 1888, and currently focuses on Red Angus cattle with some Simmental and SimAngus™ influence. Wilson started her own enterprises in embryo transfer (ET) service after returning to the family ranch, and along with business partners, is launching a ranch to table beef service.
Flying Diamond Genetics specializes in providing an all-encompassing embryo transfer service for seedstock producers, in which Wilson utilizes her herd of recipient (recip) dams, has the embryos implanted, and raises the resulting calves until weaning. Wilson’s focus on quality has garnered the business of a number of top SimAngus and Angus seedstock producers across the country. Wilson is also dedicated to the larger beef industry and has risen up as a leader in many circles. She has spoken across the country at agricultural events, writes a weekly column for the Midwest Messenger and Tri-State Neighbor, and was recognized for the 2016 Farm Journal Media 40 under 40 lists, among a number of other accolades.
Wilson returned to her family ranch in 2002, and in 2011, started Flying Diamond Genetics. “Someone told me about a ranch that they had purchased that was just specifically for recips, and said I would be good at it and to give it a shot,” Wilson recalls. “We were going through a really severe drought that year, and it seemed like it would be a good time to pick up some of our ranch cows. Even before the website was finished, I sent an email to around 20 people that I thought may be interested in ET’s and within 48 hours over half had gotten back, and soon after I was booked for the first year.”
Flying Diamond Genetics has grown substantially since then, and Wilson has been able to expand by taking advantage of leasing opportunities on pasture. In 2019, she was able to bring in a full-time business partner, Jamie Glantz, and on average, she will implant 200 to 250 embryos each year. Seedstock producers pay for the use of the recip cow for their embryo, the implantation process, and care and feeding of the calf until weaning. “We cover all expenses both on the cow and on the calf. The clients pay a fee to implant each embryo, a fee for a positive pregnancy check, a fee at birth, and a fee upon delivery. We backload it just because conception with embryos is so tough. It’s enough to cover our cost to get from stage to stage,” Wilson explains.
Traditionally, the quality of a recip dam hasn’t always been a top priority, as cows with genetic potential can offer more by raising their own calf. Wilson has a different take on the ET process, and makes the fertility, maintenance, milking, and mothering ability of each recip a top priority. The recip dams used in the Flying Diamond Genetics program, most of which were part of Wilson’s original ranch herd she started when she was eight, would excel raising their own genetic calf. “You want a cow that is an easy keeper, has a good disposition, is a good milker, and has a calf that is weaning the same as other calves,” Wilson says.
This emphasis on quality has drawn in some of the top seedstock producers in the country. The majority of the embryos Wilson receives are for SimAngus™ and Angus genetics. Data is tracked on each calf from birth to weaning and is shared with the customer and utilized by Wilson to gauge her cow herd’s performance.
Wilson Ranch was started in 1888 by Anthony Wilson. He and his wife, Sarah, settled north of Lakeside Nebraska, and since that time, the Wilsons have lived in northwest Nebraska. The family transitioned through Shorthorn, Hereford, and a three-way cross of South Devon, Red Angus, and Hereford throughout the last 132 years. The Red Angus females stood out and have remained the focus. In the last decade, Simmentals were also brought into the program to use on the solid red herd. Wilson says, “We were looking for something with added growth, and Simmentals provided that opportunity”.
Returning to the ranch in 2002 after studying economics and business at the University of Nebraska, Wilson became a part of the day-to-day operation joining her father, Blaine, and uncle, Bryan. With succession occurring this last year, she was able to lease the majority of the commercial cow herd from Blaine, and they continue to work side by side. “My dad and uncle did a phenomenal job in ensuring that succession went smooth. Succession opened up new doors where we have been able to take on partnerships, and there are more opportunities for the commercial herd and the recip herd to integrate with each other. The greatest part for me personally, is working next to my idol
and mentor. My mom, Charlie, calls me Blaine Junior at times and that makes my day.”
Land stewardship is a priority, and the Wilson family was awarded the Leopold Conservation award for Nebraska in 2006.
Fertility is a priority within the Flying Diamond and the Wilson Ranch herds. Wilson explains, “What I have found out over the years in terms of finding recips is I will use a number that are re-breeds from the commercial operation, which I am ok with because they have not been bull exposed for more than 45 days. There’s a lot of factors for why a cow can be open in a short breeding season. We do have her vet checked out before she transfers into the ET program, but anything above 45 days I wouldn’t even consider.”
Since 2019, all commercial replacement females have been genomic tested through Neogen’s Igenity Beef. Wilson explains, “We signed a couple of partnership deals this last year. One was with Allflex and the other was with Neogen and their Igenity program. We will be utilizing the data that we receive on our heifer genomics to add to the 14 production parameters we already have in place along with phenotype to choose replacement females. Out of those heifers we have chosen for replacements, we do timed AI followed by a 28-day breeding window. We understand that there is the likelihood of more opens but our goal is uniformity and one of the quickest ways to reach herd uniformity is to shorten the breeding window.”
This means that a number of quality females won’t fit either program because they fall short on fertility. Wilson saw an opportunity to utilize genomic technology and capitalize on having these animals available. In partnership with Glantz, and close friend, Danna Schwenk, who is a feedlot and meatpacking specialist, Wilson will be launching Flying Diamond Beef. The ranch to table business will select animals that show high carcass traits from a genomic test, including females removed for fertility, to be fed, finished, and processed at a regional facility. Currently, they plan to offer an online store and are exploring the possibility of subscription services, retail opportunities, and added-value products like bones for pets.
Flying Diamond Genetics and Wilson Ranch have continued to adopt new technology to increase efficiency and improve each cow herd. Wilson has formed partnerships with Neogen, Allflex, and the data program, Cow Sense, which the family has used for over a decade.
Flying Diamond Genetics and Wilson Ranch have given Neogen access to over 20,000 animal records for research and development on furthering their herd data.
Allflex’s SenseHub tags track minute-by-minute activity in cattle and are used for fertility tracking as well as health monitoring. Wilson is one of a handful of beef producers in the country to try the new technology in the fall recip herd, with plans of utilizing it in the spring recip herd, and potentially in the ranch’s commercial herd. This technology allowed for improvement in the time-consuming and high-stakes process of implanting embryos. Fertility is especially critical in getting embryos to settle, so having SenseHub data was a major plus. The tags can hold data for up to 23 hours before transferring it to a station, which then transfers the data to an app or laptop. The program creates graphs for each animal’s activity, alerts the user of each female’s cycle, and can tell the exact time that the female is most fertile.
After seeing an opportunity to improve the organization of this massive amount of data, Wilson approached Allflex and Cow Sense about making their programs compatible and able to transfer data from program to program. The companies happily agreed, and now data from Allflex can be transferred to Cow Sense, and vice versa. This made Flying Diamond Genetics the first US beef program to integrate the two technologies, and as Wilson explains, only having to enter information into one system cut data entry time in half.
In addition to being a passionate beef producer, Wilson is highly committed to serving the larger beef and agricultural communities. She writes editorials published weekly in the Midwest Messenger and Tri-State Neighbor, which circulate to over 80,000 producers throughout the region. These articles are focused on her experiences as a rancher, and topics range from calving season to larger beef industry issues. Wilson enjoys sharing her experiences with the larger community and explains that connecting with producers across the country is a special opportunity.
One of the most memorable articles she wrote focused on mental health in agriculture. After publishing the article, Wilson received a flood of feedback from agriculturalists across the country. At first, the response was overwhelming, seeing first-hand the number of people who are struggling. She quickly turned the feedback into an opportunity to incite change, and the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association will be holding a webinar on stress management and mental health issues in the coming month. The article also allowed readers to connect to a real person, encouraged them to share their story, and created the kind of connectivity the community needs. Wilson says, “It [the column] lets a voice be heard, and lets farmers and ranchers know that they might be a minority, but that there are other people out there experiencing the same things.”
Wilson has traveled across the world representing the US beef industry and has served on boards and committees for a variety of organizations, including the NCBA, Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association, and several state representatives. Wilson commits a significant amount of time to these organizations, in addition to operating two cattle businesses, but explains that service is a vital part of making sure the beef industry is viable in the future.
Wilson realizes in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing beef industry, it is critical to be at the front of changes in order to survive. Her diversified business plan, utilization of technology, and ability to balance her family legacy with the challenges of modern ranching have allowed Wilson to stay relevant. She also has a great passion for what she does, and concludes, “I read an article a number of years ago that said ‘ranching is the closest to God we will get while on this planet’. I truly believe that. Sure there’s been sacrifices, but the legacy and continuing what my ancestors have built is the reason I get up every morning.”
With each of these tools, Wilson balances the new with the traditional. With the Neogen genomic tests, she explains that the data she receives on each animal allows her to validate the actual data and performance that she and Blaine see. “We still use a lot of visual appraisal, our gut feel, and our tradition and legacy, but technology really allows us to be a lot more efficient,” Wilson explains. “Case in point, if an individual has a cow that they think is a good producer — she looks good, she’s sound, she has a great disposition — it’s the data that will show what her offspring is doing and if she’s actually pulling her weight.”
Pictured left: Allflex SenseHub tags track activity and can tell users when a female is most fertile.
Right: Wilson's business partner, Jamie Glantz (left), works with Allflex staff. Flying Diamond Genetics has created unique partnerships to capitalize on data including coordinating data flow through Allflex's SenseHub and Cow Sense softwares.