We all look forward to those times in life when all the pieces come together. That is exactly what is happening for Dusty Schirm who resides in Chebanse Illinois with his wife Nicole and son Wyatt, awaiting the arrival of their second son due in June. Dusty is the Show Manager at Butlerview Farm where he tells us he feels fortunate to work with some of the top show cattle and most sought after genetics. (Read more: Exciting Times for Butlerview) “I spend the vast majority of my time working with Joe Price and our crew with the show cattle, preparing everything for the upcoming show season.” This life he loves started at home for Dusty.
In His Footsteps
Dusty has always had a keen eye for cows and people and gives credit to his father, Larry Schirm. “The biggest influence in my life has always been my dad. He is a man I have respected as long as I can remember. He has always been sought after to judge the greatest shows in the world and is someone everyone always enjoys. Mike Heath is someone who has helped me along with every aspect of learning cattle. When I was first starting out I would spend weeks with him touring around looking at cattle and trying to learn how to see them in the rough just like he does. He has also been one of the toughest critics on me and never afraid to push me to be better.”
Dusty’s First Top Model
Dusty’s father and Grandpa both contributed to the star maker he would become. He looks back fondly, “My start in cattle started in Junior Jersey shows. Both of my grandparents were Jersey breeders and the passion for not only dairy cattle but the show ring started at a young age. When I was 8 my grandpa Schirm let me pick out a calf to start my own cow family with and to show that year. I spotted my calf. She was a broken color Jersey with quite a bit of white on her and I named her Dusty’s MX Butterscotch and she was a March calf. Little did I know she would go on to be very successful the following year and be named Jr Champion at all the national shows (World Dairy Expo, Harrisburg, Louisville) and that was when I was hooked!”
Learning the Saw-Dusty Trail
Some people have a natural talent for bringing out the best in dairy cattle. Dusty is modest and prefers to give credit to others. “I first started fitting around the age of 16 and was very fortunate to have some great teachers. Starting out with Terry Rawn and Steve Deam. Once I turned 18 I worked with Delbert Yoder for the first year and learned many valuable tools. After that I was fortunate to work along with all the great fitters, Paulo, Roger Turner, Mike Heath, Joel Kietzman and Mark Rueth.” He continues to study these talents.
Roadways, Roses and Runways
For the observer, fitters are the magic makers of the show scene. We rarely consider what hard work that must be. Dusty explains, “For me the hardest challenge in being a fitter was the lifestyle I lived. I would spend 320 plus days a year on the road never having much free time and when I did have some time off I would usually spend that looking for the next great one on the road. It is a wear and tear business and not for everyone. There are many highs and lows that also come with being a fitter and a lot of scrutiny win or lose!” Dusty has learned to make it work.
Learning from the Topliners!
Being at the top of your chosen career is never easy but Dusty has advice to those who would follow the fitters dream, “Starting out is not as tough as one might think. There are many great people in this business that will give anyone a chance. My advice is when you get an opportunity, take full advantage of the people you are surrounded by. The reason you are working with those individuals is because they have the formula for success. Take what they do and apply it to your own goals.”
From Heads and Tails to Setting Sales
Looking back Dusty’s career path is a straight line from show string to sales string but thinks it has more serendipity (he encouraged the Bullvine to use big words). “Last year was my first sale on my own. It is a funny story how I got pushed into doing one though. Mike Heath always had a very successful Spring Valley Jersey Sale every other year and last year would have been time for him to do another sale. When he told me he wasn’t going to do one I thought well, do you think I could do one. He more or less said yep you are doing one and that was it. Following in his footsteps was not an easy task because his success with his sales has always been top level. Mike was great though with helping me through all the steps of having my own sale and with his help and many others we had a very successful sale.” A little serendipity. A lot of hard work.
Happy Talk is the Measure of Success
Everybody measures success differently. For Dusty Schirm he likes to have people talking about him. “Success for me is getting calls from all the consignors that let me know they saw their animal win at a show or they just talked to the buyer of the animal who wants to come to the farm to purchase another one or to see the animal’s cow family. That for me is how I measure success from a sale when seller and buyer are happy and say, “Thank you!”
Dusty Follows the Stars from Runway to Retail
Over the course of his “hands-on” career, Dusty has been side-by-side with many great cows. As always, cow-men find it hard to pick out favorites. “There are so many I have loved to be part of. From Jerian Sterling Mason, Dupasquier Cousteau Mamie, Friendly-Acres Linjet Murphy, Co-Vista Airliner Sarah, SavageLeigh Linjet Joy, Harvue Roy Frosty to current stars such as Cookview Goldwyn Monique, Silvermaple Damion Camomile and R-E-W Happy Go Lucky. I have been so fortunate to be associated with these individuals over my short career. But I would have to say my favorite all time was JIF Little Minnie. I bought Little Minnie as a 3yr old many moons ago in an old tie stall barn before she was popular and she has now gone on to be such a marquee cow in the Jersey breed.”
Making Change when Shift Happens
For Dusty the biggest change he has witnessed in his career has happened in the marketplace. “The value of show cattle is increasing to extremely high ends at the top and losing some of the value for the state show and regional type of cattle. It used to be if you had a real nice cow with a great pedigree that could win or compete at state show levels, she would be worth $7500-$15000. Though it’s great to see the value on the greatest show cattle in the world at an all time high, it’s sad to see that the markets for smaller homebred herds to market their individuals are losing their value.” This brings Dusty to face the future with a forecast.
Survival of the Fittest
Not one to mince words, Dusty looks ahead with a clear eye. “The number one change ahead for my generation is survival. This means that milking cows will probably not cut it to raise a family so you must find a niche market to provide more income to support your love for dairy cattle. Also we must learn the art of mating cattle to achieve our personal goals. Taking the time to study pedigrees that would be the ideal cross on a cow to make the next great one. It seems more and more we use the “HOT” sire, which is ok for some matings, but we really need to learn about cow families and thinking outside the box. Some of the best cattle ever have been as a result from someone doing something no one else would have!”
Fortunes, Favorites and Fatherhood!
Dusty says he is fortunate to have been involved in many great accomplishments from fitting cattle that have won at Madison to owning or selling individuals that have been National Winners or All Americans. However, these are not number one on his achievement list. He points out, “My proudest moment ever is seeing my little guy for the first time!” He continues to add special achievements, “My greatest accomplishment so far would be seeing so many individuals go on to be successful from our Jersey Sale this past spring. It is truly one of my proudest moments seeing the Reserve Jr Champion and Honorable Mention Jr Champion heifers from Madison that sold in the Franchise Sale last spring.” (Check out the great work Dusty and the team are doing for The Franchise Kind II Sale)
Wit, Wisdom and a Happy Wife
Dusty loves the new opportunities opening up in his life and has special visions for the future. Jokingly he suggests, “Perhaps I will start up an internet site that tells the truth about the cattle industry… OOPS! … That’s been done .. The Bullvine!”
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Then seriously Dusty concludes, “I would like to continue the blessings of time shared with my wonderful wife and family and someday have my own herd of cows that my children could carry on with.” No doubt his boys will enjoy learning hand-in-hand with their dad. Dusty Schirm is a shining example!