Leachman Cattle Company, The Second Chapter…
Over a thirty year span from 1973 to 2003, Jim Leachman and family built Leachman Cattle Company of Billings, MT into the one of the world's most respected seedstock operations. From a humble start of selling 100 bulls to a culmination hosting the World's Largest Bull Sale and selling over 3,000 bulls per year - the company's motto was "More Bulls, Better Bulls, For Less."
After leaving Ankony, Jim Leachman was forced out of the Angus by a non-compete clause with the buyers of Ankony. As a result, he purchased the Revelli herd of performance tested Red Angus in 1971 and moved to Red Lodge, Montana. By 1973, Jim started crossbreeding with a number of different exotic breeds. His curiosity and desire to breed the best ones possible could not be satisfied by any one breed. He quickly discovered both the advantages and the challenges of crossing Continental breeds with Angus. By 1975, Jim was marketing hybrid bulls. Later, he would coin the phrase, "phenotypic look-a-likes" that described the various Angus hybrid and composite genetics that were all selected to be similar to Angus in appearance.
In 1973, Jim also purchased a ranch, 18 miles southeast of Billings, MT. He hand-picked the location for its three major attributes that would shape the future of Leachman Cattle Company. Jim felt that Billings, Montana would become the bull marketing center of the U.S. The ranch was in the Chinook belt, allowing grazing of winter rangeland. The ranch had a feedlot - perfectly suited for performance testing a large number of bulls. The ranch would eventually become home to the World's Largest Bull Sale.
Jim Leachman established himself as one of the industry's premiere breeders and marketers of livestock. He developed a professional video narrated by Rex Allen and named it "Hell Bent for Leather." This video was viewed by thousands of ranchers, animal science classrooms, and international cattlemen. He started a Sight Unseen program that guaranteed satisfaction to absentee buyers. He also instituted the "Bull Roll" that let buyers bid on one bull and then purchase the remaining bulls in the pen that shared common lineage and traits. Demand soon outgrew supply, and so Jim developed a network of cooperators to produce bulls matching the Leachman genetic philosophies. These bulls would then be marketed through LCC with proceeds being divided between LCC and the cooperator. By the mid 80's, the Hairpin Brand was widely recognized throughout the industry and around the globe.
While the marketing was out in front, the genetic selection systems were also leading the industry. Despite exhibiting grand champion bulls at the National Western Stock Show in Angus, Red Angus, South Devon, Gelbvieh, and Salers - Jim was an outspoken critic of the show ring. Jim bucked the big frame kick of the 70's and started selecting for mid framed animals. He was one of the first breeders in the country to use the phrase "curve bender" - long before it became commonplace.
In the late 80's, Jim's sons, Leland and Seth Leachman, joined the operation and added their unique skills. Leland graduated from Harvard University and assumed the CEO role and was put to work developing advanced models for selection. Seth graduated from Colorado State University and became the company's cattle eyes and memory and was in charge of sorting cattle for sale. Seth's ability to pick the good ones quickly gained steam as LCC females garnered purple ribbons including the Champion Female at the Simmental National Junior Show. Using Leland's selection indexes, the company was able to identify outlier sires and purchase them as yearlings including Angus sires Bon View New Design 1407 and Bon View New Design 878 and Red Angus sires Buf Crk Cherokee Canyon 4912 and Beckton Lancer F442. These bulls quickly rose to the top of their respective breeds in registrations. Success was not limited to the Angus breed, as Leachman foundation Simmental sires like 600U and Wally still dominate the Simmental Multi-trait index leaders. In the Gelbvieh breed, 808X and New Day became foundation sires for multi-trait excellence. Working with CSU, Across Breed EPDs were calculated using Leachman's in house database of over 150,000 animals.
Jim Leachman developed a system coined Optimum Mainstream Crossbreeding. He pioneered the marketing of hybrid seedstock beginning in the mid 1970's and by the late 80's composites were being developed. Jim and Lee Leachman developed a plan for King Ranch in 1988 that led to the formation of their new composite, the Santa Cruz. Leachman Cattle Company then branded two of its own distinct composite lines - Rangemakers and STABILIZERS™.
The success was not limited to bull sales in the U.S. Leland Leachman developed an international franchise system that spanned South America. The program annually mated over 50,000 cows to build a tropical composite named the "Montana." Semen and embryo sales to New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, and even the U.K. boomed. LCC's genetics were in such demand that ABS formed a strategic marketing relationship to carry the full battery of Leachman sires.
In 2001, the company initiated a branded beef program called Montana Range. This natural beef program marketed Piedmontese sired beef as guaranteed tender and lower in fat. The beef met with consumer demand, but LCC encountered significant challenges bringing the product to market profitably. Resulting losses mounted and eventually the company was forced to liquidate in 2003.
Today, Lee Leachman operates Leachman Cattle of Colorado in Wellington, CO where he markets over 2000 bulls annually. Jim and Seth Leachman operate Leachman Cattle Barons and the Hairpin Cavvy in Billings, MT, where they sell 300 bulls and over 500 horses annually. The Montana Range meat company continues to market natural beef under new owners based in Billings, MT. Finally, the Leachman international programs are ongoing under the ownership of Onyc Ltd., where they design and merchandise composite beef cattle and sheep genetics throughout South America.