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ASA’s SimSpecialists Are Here to Help You

By Lilly Platts


A team of highly-respected, knowledgeable beef industry professionals and producers are available to represent our Simmental breed and advance the relationship between seedstock and commercial producers. 


ASA is fortunate to have a team of beef industry professionals, with a wide variety of experience, available to represent the Simmental breed. The SimSpecialist team covers the US attending sales, presenting at educational events, and serving as a resource for seedstock and commercial breeders alike. Luke Bowman, Member Events and  International Operations Director, coordinates the SimSpecialists team. For Bowman, the experience represented by the team is invaluable, and the model is industry-leading. 

“I would say the most obvious strength that our team has is ‘wisdom,’” Bowman shares. “Many of the SimSpecialists have storied histories working around the country in all aspects of the beef industry we have nutritionists, reproductive physiologists, all the way to meat scientists on the team. Many are professional educators and are well-known throughout their state and region for being the experts in beef cattle production; however, the team's expertise doesn't come with just the extension specialists. We have folks that ranch full time and can understand the day-in and day-outs of our membership and the challenges they face.”

The SimSpecialist program model is unique compared to others in the industry. Bowman explains, “Our model is special and innovative. Rather than recruiting young, fresh-out-of-college kids ready to hit the road shaking hands and learning the ways of the seedstock and commercial industries, we have folks that are literally celebrities in the beef cattle business. These men and women are well known and well respected in their given territories already.” 

Bowman emphasizes that the SimSpecialst model parallels the mission of the Association. “Advocacy is paramount in this model. These men and women are contractors and aren’t salaried to preach “Breed ‘em all Simmental” as part of the job description. That makes this program excellent. The fact of the matter is that the science, knowledge, and economics of beef cattle breeding and production all follow what we do at the ASA. Basically, just speaking facts about topics such as heterosis, economically-important traits, a breed that can do it all, etc., all follow the story of the modern American Simmental or SimGenetics animal. These experts are so well versed in the application of science and animal biotechnology that talking about what we do at the ASA is just the easiest thing for them to do!” 

The SimSpecialst team consists of highly qualified and respected beef industry professionals and producers. ASA took a minute to speak with four of our SimSpecialists, two who are new to the team, and two who are long-time veterans. 


Gary Burns 

Gary Burns recently joined the SimSpecialsts team and is looking forward to building relationships within the breed, and especially with commercial producers. Burns managed a commercial herd, and later a purebred Simmental operation before being hired by Clemson University to serve as the Beef Cattle Research Station Manager. At Clemson, he became involved with the Simmental breed, and recalls,  “Over time it became apparent that Simmental was a fit for what I was interested in. That led me to become a strong believer in Simmental.” 

Burns has had a wide range of experience and plans to bring his passion for the industry and breed into his role as a SimSpecialist. “It was just a natural fit for me to become involved. It gives me an opportunity to reach out to Simmental breeders and commercial producers, and really talk about the strong aspects of the breed. I’m really looking forward to going to some bull sales and field days, and to get the word out about what SimSpecialists can do and what their goals are,” Burns explained. “I’ve always felt that ASA has been very progressive toward their purebred breeders, and their membership, and supplied resources through EPDs, and they put a lot of effort and emphasis on the importance of the tools that we have today for selection.”

Making connections with commercial breeders is something Burns is especially looking forward to. “I think the real opportunity for the SimSpecialists is to not only take that and get more purebred breeders involved with the programs that ASA has to offer but also those are extending out to the commercial breeders. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for commercial breeders to look at their herd and use selection tools they haven’t had access to in the past. Burns also points to the varied experience of the SimSpecialists team as a strength. “When you look through the SimSpecialists, they are all people with a broad background. Many have a background in education, and they are used to presenting information. Most are representatives in areas that they live, that they know. They have a lot of contacts in the area they are serving as SimSpecialists, and to me, I feel like I have a feel for where I should go to present what ASA has to offer, especially for commercial breeders.” 


Russ Danielson 

Russ Danielson is a veteran of the SimSpecialist program. Danielson was a member of the animal science faculty at North Dakota State for 44 years. At NDSU, Danielson taught animal science courses, livestock evaluation, beef production, and beef systems. He managed the University beef unit, and was a part of the development of the purebred Simmental herd in 1978. He saw the early development of the breed, and through his students and personal interest, has remained involved. 

He became a SimSpecialist six years ago through his connections with other Simmental advocates like Bill Zimmerman, Bert Moore, and current EVP, Wade Shafer. He agreed to become a representative for the breed for a number of reasons. “One was the fact that the Simmental Association, for all of the time that I have been involved, has been at the cutting edge in terms of programs, and the use of technology, and working to improve the lot of the cattle producer.” He also highly values the collaborative nature of the Association. “The Simmental Association has provided leadership in the collaboration of various breeds, through International Genetic Solutions and those programs. The mission is more than promoting the Simmental breed it’s to enhance the profitability of the beef industry. If you go to sales and visit with people, they are more willing to use SimGenetics in conjunction with their programs, take advantage of heterosis, and the good programs they have to help commercial producers.” 

Danielson has carried out a variety of tasks as a SimSpecialist, including being present at sales, educating potential customers, and helping seedstock and commercial producers acquire bulls. On average, he will attend between a dozen sales in the area between January and March. Being of service to each breeder and the Association is a top priority for Danielson, “I always try to make it a point to get there around three hours early, because that gives me the opportunity to talk to the owners and managers before they get busy, as well as the auctioneers and ring staff, and any buyers who may need help. It’s been a great experience, and it’s a benefit to the Association to have a field staff that is familiar with the local areas they represent and have a working relationship with producers in that area, and across the country.” 

Susan Russell 

Susan Russell has been a lifelong member of the Simmental community, and as a SimSpecialist, she is able to put her extensive knowledge of the Association and breed, to great use. Russell grew up in the beef industry, and her family’s operation, Reflected R Ranch, joined ASA in 1993. They participate in the Carcass Merit Program, Cow Herd DNA Roundup, and Calf Crop Genomics. The Russells also utilize DNA testing and are focused on selling high-indexing, balanced, performance-oriented SimGenetics bulls that will improve their customers’ herds. 

Russell has a wealth of experience organizing events, including the National Western Stock Show breed events, and has served as the Colorado Simmental Association Secretary/Treasurer since 1998. She served a Western Region Trustee from 2010 to 2016 and was a member of the Executive Committee. Her husband, Curt, also served six years on the Board, and their sons were both extremely involved in the AJSA. The Russells have been Golden Book Award recipients. 

Russell uses her years of experience and intricate knowledge of the Association in her role as a SimSpecialist. “ASA is unique in its focus on downstream success. With its mission of making our member’s customers more profitable, I think that goal will keep the breed in the forefront of the beef industry,” Russell explains. “I interact with cattlemen at shows, auctions, and other livestock events. I especially enjoy taking photos and talking to ranchers. Good weather, good cattle, and good people are a dream “office” for a SimSpecialist. When visiting in the sale pens, over a piece of pie, or in the stands, I am promoting our breed and that breeder’s operation. I have been fortunate to be a SimSpecialist where the breeders are diligent in providing accurate data and tools to help the potential buyer evaluate their cattle. With the world’s largest database, we can help show how matings with SimGenetics will aid operations of any size and niche market.” 

Dr. Jack Whitter 

Dr. Jack Whittier, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, is ASA’s most recent addition to the SimSpecialst team. Dr. Whittier spent his career in academia, first working at the University of Missouri, then in the animal sciences department at Colorado State University, and most recently, as the Director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center for the University of Nebraska. After retiring in August, Dr. Whittier stepped up to represent the Simmental breed. Over his career, he was focused on a variety of subjects, including nutrition and reproduction management. He was an important part of the development and naming of the CO-Synch protocol that is now commonly used for time-breeding in Artificial Insemination. 

Dr. Whittier’s history with the Simmental breed goes back many years, and while in Colorado, he and his wife, Robynn, purchased a group of SimAngusTM heifers, eventually selling bulls in conjunction with Altenburg Super Baldy Ranch. Today in Nebraska, they continue to raise SimAngus bulls and replacement females. Dr. Whittier became interested in the SimSpecialist program because of the connections he had made within the breed over the years, and because he believes in the vision the current Association was built upon. “I’ve always been impressed with the breed,” he explains. “I was impressed with the forethought to focus on performance and balanced traits.” 

Continuing to build relationships in the industry while also having the opportunity to help spread the word about ASA programs are also some of the reasons Dr. Whittier became a SimSpecialst. As a scientist himself, the heavy-emphasis on using the available knowledge and tools to advance the breed makes sense to Dr. Whittier, and he has also been able to interact with ASA staff, like Dr. Jackie Atkins and past EVP, Jerry Lipsey, over the years. “I enjoy cattle and the people who go with those cattle,” Dr. Whitter says. “I enjoy looking at good cattle, and I’ve always enjoyed sales.” 

Erika Kenner, Kenner Simmentals, Leads North Dakota, has utilized the SimSpecialist program in a number of ways. “Our SimSpecialists are a wealth of knowledge, especially with the Learning Library. They know the programs and can explain them to our customers,” Kenner says. “It’s nice to have someone at our sale who can answer questions, and spend more one-on-one time with people who may be new to Simmental. It really is a great program.”  


There are a number of options for individuals and state associations to utilize SimSpecialsts: 

- The member must have spent $2,000 or more with ASA Publication within the last fiscal year.

- The member must have spent $3,500 or more with the Association within the last fiscal year.

- There must be an audience of at least 25 cattlemen and the SimSpecialist gets at least 30 minutes of speaking time to discuss ASA programs.

- The member whose event doesn’t qualify with the aforementioned can pay the ASA $500 for a “Buy a Day” with a SimSpecialist.

- The member must host a State Association event; each state gets 2 free days per year, at least one day must be commercially focused.


Below is a full listing of available SimSpecialists, and the general areas they cover. For more information on scheduling, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Bert Moore- IA (Indianola, IA)

Michael Dikeman - KS & MO (Manhattan, KS)

Russ Danielson - ND, SD, MN (Fargo, ND)

Perry Thomas - ND (Bismarck, ND)

Daniel Weidenbach - SD (Highmore, SD)

Ben Spitzer - South Central US (Fort Worth, TX)

Brian DeFreese - North Eastern US (West Lafayette, IN)

Gary Burns - South Eastern US (Pendleton, SC)

Susan Russell - CO & NE (Sugar City, CO)

Jack Whittier - NE (Scottsbluff, NE)

John Paterson - North Western US (Bozeman, MT)

Chris Davis - KY & TN (Horse Cave, KY)

Bill Zimmerman - MN (St. Cloud, MN)

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