Curtis Claeys,

Curtis Claeys, left, was named the 2018 Outstanding Commercial Producer recently by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. He and his son Kendall operate a 250-cow commercial herd on their eastern Iowa farm and also feed 650 head annually.

DELMAR, Iowa — Curtis Claeys began his career in agriculture in uncommon fashion.

“I’m a first-generation farmer,” he says. “You don’t see many of those.”

Claeys, who farms near Delmar in Clinton County, started farming on a 50-50 share with an older neighbor in 1974.

“He gave me a chance, and I have always appreciated it,” he says.

Claeys was named the 2018 Outstanding Commercial Producer recently by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

He and his son Kendall operate a 250-cow commercial herd on their eastern Iowa farm and also feed 650 head annually. Most of their cattle end up in high-quality programs for Iowa Premium Beef in Tama and Aurora Packing Co. in Aurora, Ill.

Claeys worked for a dairy farmer while in high school. He endured the farm crisis of the 1980s and was able to buy ground in the late-80s and early-90s as he built his cow herd.

“My commercial herd was born out of cows I bought at the sale barn,” he says.

But that has changed since Kendall returned to the farm, including the last five years as a full-time partner with his father. He began tinkering with genetics, using bulls purchased out of the ICA bull test and AI to build a better cow.

“Kendall really came in and improved our herd tremendously,” Claeys says, adding they use primarily Angus and Simmental genetics.

The operation keeps detailed performance records and uses those records to make decisions regarding culling and sire selection. In six years, the Claeys farm has achieved a 95-pound increase in yearling weight, while decreasing instances of calving difficulty to zero.

Claeys has made improvements to the operation over several years, including construction of a slatted confinement building. The family also recently began a locker beef program to sell directly to consumers.

“We are very pleased at the steps we’ve made over the past few years,” Claeys says.

He has also been very active in the community, serving on the county fair board, and he just recently began a term on the Iowa State Fair board. Kendall serves on the board for the Clinton County Cattlemen.

Claeys says he and his family sat down several years ago and developed a plan allowing Kendall to farm.

“We are very fortunate that he wanted to come back,” he says. “I’ve turned the bulk of the management over to Kendall, and I’m glad to be rid of it. I’m happy to just feed cattle and haul manure.”

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.