Greg Schafer didn’t grow up on a farm. Yet this former college basketball player is now an experienced, angus cattle rancher and 27-year employee of All West/Select Sires who just reached the impressive 1 million unit sales mark with many years to come!
Growing up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, Greg took a summer job working with registered Shorthorn cattle in 1968 and returned the following year to continue work on the same farm. He joined the show circuit at this time and quickly realized his passion for working with cattle.
Upon high school graduation Greg attended Colorado State on a basketball scholarship and recalls being the only player studying agriculture. Much to his coach’s dismay, Greg was often distracted by rodeo and other agricultural pursuits while attending university, including learning artificial insemination taught by the local Select Sires representative.
Shortly after learning this skill, Greg worked for Curtiss Breeding Service for a period of three months, where he had to take part in yet another training program to become an A.I. technician. Greg recalls, “We bred cows in lab coats back in those days!” Greg was then hired by Illinois Breeding Co-op, now Prairie State Select Sires, where he worked various positions serving as a relief technician and eventually claimed a route of his own.
After taking part in the evaluations of the original famous daughters of Glendell Arlinda Chief, Greg got involved in a tour of the daughters hosted by Select Sires. Among these tourists were Superior Sires’ Tom Olson and Lloyd Vierra. A dairyman on that tour offered him a position as his herdsman in California and Greg moved west for the first time in 1974.
In 1976, Greg moved yet again to Ontario, Canada to work for Roundtree where he managed their embryo transfer recipient herd. He then worked at what became Viapax, also located in Ontario, where he managed the donor barn as well as 600 Holstein heifers. Greg acknowledges times when technologies used today were unheard of. “We had to have enough heifers cycling every day to use natural heat. All of the embryos were put in fresh.” Greg learned much about the great cows of the breed while taking part in the relatively new pursuit of embryo transfer. At peak performance, there were over 26 All-Canadian and All-American cows housed in the Viapax barn. “I will tell you,” Greg said, “when you’re putting $10,000 semen in a donor cow, you’re pretty careful how you handle it.” When his Canadian work permit expired, Greg was faced with the decision to either immigrate to Canada permanently or return to the United States. “I liked Canada, but I did not want to be a Canadian,” said Greg. He moved his family to Texas where he worked for a dairy farmer who had not bred a cow A.I. or even dehorned his 200 head of milking cattle in several years. “You haven’t lived until you dehorned cows milking 100 pounds per day!” Greg exclaimed.
After one last move back to Illinois where Greg bred for Prairie State and started his own small cattle herd, he made his final move back to California in 1983 to work as a herdsman in Oakdale until the dairy went out of business.
Greg decided to move on from the cattle business and went to work as a car salesman in Oakdale for several years. He made a great living doing this and enjoyed the sales experience he received. While making a truck sale to Tom Olson, many years after their first meeting in Illinois, he was offered a position that he could not refuse at Superior Sires, which would later become All West/Select Sires.
On November 1, 1989 Greg was hired by Superior Sires as a Select Mating Service evaluator where he evaluated just under 39,461 cows per year. Greg defines this time in his career as a great area of learning and growth. Young aspiring cattle students often ask Greg, “How do I get your job?” to which he responds, “You have to make a lot of mistakes. It takes a certain amount of challenges and trials to land on your feet and gain a little confidence. Experience like that just takes time.”
Greg has certainly put in his time with 27 years of experience in the A.I. industry! This experience allowed him to eventually take on a Sales Representative role, which he has held at All West for over 16 years. “I’ve put in lots of miles and made lots of friends,” Greg said. “I’ve been fortunate to watch several operations through generations, working with their grandfather, then their father and now their grandchildren’s generation.”
After many moves in and out of the United States, what has kept Greg in All West territory for so long? “People always say it’s a big family, and it really is. We genuinely care about each other,” said Greg. “The entire Select Sires organization finds really good people, and if they get there, they generally don’t leave.”
Greg added, “I would like to thank my customers and even competitors who have pushed me and allowed me to reach this million-unit mark. I honestly never though I’d reach it, but I’m really grateful to get there!”
Greg plans to continue selling semen and running Angus cattle in Northern California until he no longer can. “People do ask ‘When are you going to quit?’” said Greg, “I like my customers and I like my job…why would I quit?”
Not only do Greg’s customers admire his hard work, but All West/Select Sires staff as well! “We are very excited for Greg to reach this million-unit mark of sales,” said All West’s California Director of Operations Bill Genasci. “Greg is such an integral part of our success in California. He loves this industry to the core, and that’s evident in his relationships with his customers and the number of units sold. He 100% believes in the bulls, programs and products that he promotes. His big personality has become a legend in our office and we’re glad to have him as a co-worker and a friend. Congratulations to Greg, and his wife Louise, on reaching this milestone!”
There’s more – be sure to check out our full video chat with “Big Schaf”.