By Emme Troendle
A series highlighting influential women in the Simmental industry.
Former ASA Trustee, Beth Mercer, is one of many influential women in the Simmental industry.
Unlike many people in the agriculture industry, Beth Mercer of Lott, Texas, didn’t grow up on a farm or ranch. She spent her formative years raised by an engineer who provided underground drainage and pipelines to farms in southwest Texas. But since Beth and her husband, Joe, started breeding cattle, she has been at the forefront as a leader in the SimGenetics industry. Since developing a 120-head SimAngus™ HT and Simbrah seedstock operation, Mercer has served two terms on the ASA Board; served on an international committee; and completed trade missions for ASA to Columbia, Brazil, and Mexico. For several years, she has been active in the Beef Improvement Federation and the American Breeds Coalition, as well as serving as chairman for the Simbrah Committee while on the ASA Board.
Beth Mercer “I heard from the time when I was a little kid that there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do as long as I was willing to work for it. That was the key. After my father passed away, my husband, Joe and I took over his business. I had already been involved at an office level, but I was the face of the company, in the field, when farmers and ranchers needed irrigation and subsurface drainage while Joe handled the heavy utility construction part of our operation. They just wanted to know that I knew what I was doing. That was the main thing. I was fortunate to be born at a time that my gender was never a deterrent to stop me from anything. “When Joe and I moved in 2008 to central Texas where his family is located, we closed the business and became farmers and ranchers fulltime. We have about 550 acres of established pasture. I take care of the cattle business, and Joe farms primarily corn and oats. We run anywhere from 100 to 120 head. This is about all that we can handle without any extra fulltime help. “It’s a different world raising cattle up here than what we were doing down in the Valley. We were in improved coastal grasses, irrigated with smaller pastures. In the Valley, we could run about 2.5 head per acre with fertilizer, and it was pretty intense rotational grazing. Since we moved, we don’t irrigate, and we are dependent on rainfall. It’s all dry land, but we get enough rain that you can generally keep a cow per two or three acres. Depending on the weather, we try not to feed hay until December or January. “We have two calving seasons a year. It’s double the work, but we take advantage of two different markets. I always keep the herds separated because we don’t want the cows calving with the calves that are getting ready to be weaned. Typically, fall calving starts the first of September and goes through Thanksgiving, and then again in the spring from February through mid-April. “We have not been AIing the last few years, but we are working to improve facilities near my house so we can AI there. We retain our own herd bulls and develop bulls and replacement heifers for sale private treaty. “The tools that ASA has available for breeders are just phenomenal, and they are getting better and better. There is no excuse for not knowing what you’re trying to put together in your herd with the tools and EPDs that are available. “You can always make good progress on your cattle by using proven bulls that have data behind them. ASA gives us all the tools we need to make it on our own. You have to take some initiative yourself to breed and sell your cattle, but they will give you all the tools you need to make good cattle. “Sally Buxkemper, for one, was a no-nonsense breeder, and with her, we started to collect carcass data on steers and started collecting ultrasound data on bulls. We did testing to improve our genetics in cooperation with Sally. I would say that Sally was a huge influence on our lives and businesses. “I served two terms on the Board. It was an eye-opening and gratifying experience to see how the board worked and interacted with other breeders. There were a lot of really good people. The Board of Trustees was diverse in their cattle operations over the areas they were representing. Very few of them, at the time, had much knowledge of Simbrah influence. It was kind of fun to show people what the cattle could do. Maybe change a few of the misconceptions of what people thought of when they had Brahman in them.”