From the United States Marine Corps’ (USMC) All Weather Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-553) to cattle rancher in western Arkansas, RC Smith is a man of intelligence who knows his genes and has worked his way to the top.
Smith grew up in Oden, Arkansas, on the farm he now owns and manages which his family started in 1904. Smith transformed Polk Creek Farms into a successful, registered Brangus breeding operation, but not before he thoroughly researched the facts.
Smith has an extensive educational background. After high school, he attended the University of Kansas on a Naval ROTC scholarship where he received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1983. He then attended flight school after he was commissioned in the USMC. After flight school, he joined Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 533 (VMA(AW)-553), attached to Carrier Air Wing 3 and the USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier. While serving as a Bombardier/Navigator in the A-6E Intruder, Smith completed two “Med Cruises” on the JFK, totaling almost 300 arrested landings before being assigned as Marine Officer Instructor (MOI) at the Naval ROTC Unit at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. While serving as MOI, Smith obtained his Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance at Northwestern University’s JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1992. Upon graduation, he resigned his commission and was hired by Credit Suisse First Boston in New York City as an associate in their Mergers and Acquisitions group. Ten years later he retired from a position as Head of Mergers and Acquisitions for SunTrust Banks in Atlanta, the ninth largest bank in the U.S., and moved his two children back to his hometown in Oden where he had high hopes for the family farm.
Smith bought the family farm and its herd of quality mixed-breed cattle but was interested in breeding registered cattle. After extensive research into cattle that would be suitable for his environment and would be in high demand, he decided on the Brangus breed.“Primary benefits are the maternal abilities. They’re just good mothers and take care of their calves,” Smith said. “In addition to their heat tolerance, their longevity is important; I’ve had cows 16 to 18 years old still producing quality offspring on my farm. ”
Smith has always had an eye for cattle since he was the top-rated livestock judge at the state FFA competition his senior year in high school. However, after being out of the cattle business for several years, he knew he could not get started without some help. Smith received some advice and insight from the likes of Don Hall of Benton, Ark., and Finis Welch in Centerville, Texas. “Don was influential in getting me into the Brangus breed,” Smith said, “and I purchased most of my foundation females through Finis’ production sales at Center Ranch. Both men exercise sound judgment and are of the highest integrity; if they tell you something you can take it to the bank.”
Having a thorough background in accounting, Smith looked at the mathematical aspect of the business and put the numbers to work, utilizing the most advanced techniques offered today.“I knew early on that I had to do my homework. I needed to buy the best genetics I could afford and then build my herd through artificial insemination and embryo transfer,” Smith said. Among the registered purchases, he bought proven donor cows, primarily Brinks, Center Ranch and Salacoa Valley bloodlines, for embryo transfers, utilizing his best quality crossbred females as recipients. He also applied artificial insemination techniques to take advantage of the most proven and breed leading genetics. “I purchased a heatwatch system and AI’d every female, keeping them away from the bulls until 24 days passed in order to AI again if necessary,” Smith said.
After this, the cows were cleaned up by quality bulls purchased from Camp Cooley, Doguet’s Diamond D Ranch or top-end bulls Smith had bred. He also looked at expected progeny differences (EPDs) and requested production records to inspect calving intervals before going to a sale or purchasing cattle. When purchasing bulls to utilize in his herd, Smith said he looks primarily at EPD’s and confirmation, but that was just as important as the consistency of the bull’s dam. “I will not use a bull in my herd unless it is out of a cow that produces one of the top calves in her respective herd almost every time she calves,” Smith said.
Smith retains the top cut of his heifer calves to use in his registered herd, constantly striving to increase the quality of his cattle. Smith said he culls extensively, dropping the bottom 15 to 25 percent of the registered cows out of the herd in order to make way for new heifers or new purchases. “These are typically high quality cattle but just not quite good enough to retain in the registered herd,” Smith said. “They are in high demand among my customer base, though, as commercial brood cows.”
While Smith is striving to develop a herd of good-tempered cattle with exceptional depth of body, thickness and eye appeal, he also realizes commercial buyers have a variety of preferences.
“I’ll be honest and tell the customer the strengths and weaknesses of that particular animal and let the customer determine which animal is right for them,” Smith said. “They need to find a breeder they can build a relationship with and trust in the long term. You’re buying honesty and integrity as well as the animal, and you want somebody that will treat you fairly.”
Ten years in the registry business, Smith now has 65 registered, breeding age females down from 110 a year and a half ago due to the record drought conditions that drastically impacted the South. But he has goals to increase his herd size while improving consistency in producing deep, thick, long calves.
Polk Creek Farms has also been successful in the show ring. Smith’s children showed the Grand Champion Heifer at the Arkansas State Fair for five consecutive years in the early 2000’s. He has also won national titles with calves he has sold, including the 2008 IBBA Show Heifer of the Year shown by Abby Jorgenson of Tyler, Texas. In addition, Polk Creek Napoleon 99T ranked seventh in the IBBA show bull standings two years ago, while his current junior herd sire, Polk Creek Genghis Kahn 146W2, was ranked fifth in the world last year. Both Napoleon and Kahn, as Smith refers to them, were shown by Randy Deshotel and his three daughters of Ville Platte, La., who helped Smith get involved in showing cattle.
Deshotel said Smith is meticulous and honest in his record keeping and knows how to breed for genetics. He weighs at birth, at weaning, utilizes sonogram testing, uses Total Herd Reporting (THR) correctly and uses the IBBA registry system to its full potential. But Deshotel encouraged him to begin improving the phenotype in his herd for the show ring to help market his cattle.
“We show for him on the show circuit and can help him market his cattle on the national level,” Deshotel said. “That helps when he’s located in such a secluded area.” Deshotel said they have done very well and been successful with Smith’s bulls and heifers. Deshotel’s daughter, Allison, won IBBA’s photo contest with a photo she submitted of one of Smith’s heifers which is published on the cover of the IBBA publication, Frontline Beef Producer. The Deshotel family has built a relationship with Smith and become friends since Smith joined the Brangus community. Deshotel said he holds a high respect for Smith because of his character and integrity.
“You meet all kinds of people in this world, and I have a very high respect for veterans. Smith carries that honor with him,” Deshotel said. “He keeps his word, and I think that is why he’s successful.”
In addition to being a Brangus seedstock producer, Smith teaches business statistics and quantitative methods at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark. His son, now 19 years old, works in Fayetteville, Ark., and his daughter, 16, was recently accepted to the prestigious Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.
Thank you Brittni for introducing us to another great cattle producer! You can learn more about Brangus producers on their webpage and check out the Beef Tips Blog and Facebook page.
You can be the next Face of Agriculture Feature - contact us today!!