Hulm Family: Commercial Producer of the Year

Charolais bulls have roamed the Hulm pastures in northwestern South Dakota since the early 1980s, and if the resulting calves continue to grow, gain, and feed as Dennis Hulm knows they can, Charolais cattle will always have a place on the family’s ranch.
For these reasons and more, Hulm was selected Commercial Producer of the Year by the South Dakota Charolais Breeders Association.
Hulm knows every rancher has a reason for the genetics used, but for him, the proof comes in pounds.
“Today’s Charolais are more streamlined than some of those early ones,” Hulm says. “We rarely pull one, yet they don’t seem to have any trouble getting to a good weight by sale time. September is really go-time for Charolais calves. I think they outshine their counterparts from there out.”
In an area with only 12-15 inches of moisture annually, feed efficiency matters. Hulm buys black or black baldy bred heifers rather than developing his own. This strategy allows him to focus trait selection when buying bulls because they have only one job.
“First, I look at a bull on paper. He needs a birthweight in the 85, maybe 90-pound range. Then, I take a look at his weaning ratio and average daily gain,” Hulm says. “If his index is over 110%, he’s on my list to see in person. From there, I like them stretchy and docile.”
Hulm adds with a chuckle, “It’s not as fun to get kicked out of the pen by anything anymore!”
Genetics from South Dakota breeders Sandmeier and Lindskov-Thiel along with Nebraska breeder and feeder Randy Schmidt keep Hulm’s calves hitting the auction barn strong each November. Hulm appreciates the way his bull providers stand behind what they sell.
“I don’t have trouble often, but when I have, these guys helped me get a solution. They’ve even taken or invited me to see my calves in the feedyards, which I really appreciate,” Hulm says.
While his wife of 48 years, Susan, retired from her career at the FSA (formerly FHA) office, Hulm has no plans to join her camping just yet.
“I used to have hobbies like hunting and fishing, but with cattle and farming like we do, hobbies have taken a backseat,” he says. “I do enjoy following our grandkids around to their school stuff though.”
The Hulms’ two children, son Dakota and daughter Daphne, each have their own families, and much to Hulm’s delight, all live in or near Bison. Dakota’s two children attend elementary school in Bison while Daphne’s two children are now grown.
“Our son lives in town with his family and comes out every day to work with me,” Hulm says. “Our daughter and her family have their own ranch south of us, but they come home to help any time we need them, especially for big jobs like working calves.”
The family’s 350 head of commercial cows keeps them plenty busy; however, they have also found a crop rotation that works well on their West River South Dakota ranch.
To make it all work, heifers and cows begin calving about March 1. Though weather can be a challenge, the bulk of the herd generally calves before the big snowstorms known to arrive in mid-April. Then, by the time ground is ready for field work, the pairs are well settled.
The family’s rotation includes sunflowers, soybeans, spring wheat, winter wheat, and occasionally hay millet.
“We’ve considered adding malt barley like others in our area, but freight can get a guy fast,” Hulm says. “Soybeans do surprisingly well out here, nothing like over East River of course, but sunflowers and soybeans especially make a nice mix with wheat.”
Hulm wouldn’t want to live and work anywhere else, but the reality of rural life means travel.
Most of the family’s cash crops are trucked to market in Lemmon, which is about 80 miles round trip. After weaning in November, the calves are shipped roughly 135 miles from the ranch to the auction barn in Philip.
“We run our own semis and hire guys when we need, so we understand freight and shipping costs well,” Hulm says. “There’s no doubt keeping trucks on the road these days cuts into some already narrow margins, especially on the cattle side. We’ll keep hanging on and hoping the tide turns again soon!”
Hulm doesn’t consider himself an example of much when it comes to awards; however, the specialness of the SDCBA’s 2023 honor isn’t lost on him.
“After I got over being surprised, I think it’s quite humbling to be recognized for doing something I’d do regardless of the awards,” he says. “I felt bad to miss the banquet, but I sure do appreciate the recognition. Charolais cattle are part of what we do every day, and I intend to keep them that way as long as I can.”

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
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