Stewart Select Angus, LLC (SSA) was established in 1954 with the purchase of an entire herd of 34 cows with calves from H. L. (Hal) Royce of Bedford, Indiana. The availability of the entire herd made the purchase very appealing, and Angus was the breed of choice because of its all-around adaptability and its strength in many economically important traits. Purchasers Arthur C. Stewart and sons, Gilman and John, bought the herd to graze rougher pasture ground on a newly acquired farm three miles Northeast of Greensburg, Indiana and to utilize offal from the seed business that was founded in 1918. In 1955 SSA joined the American Angus Association (AAA) with the initial membership name of “Stewart and Sons” (campaigned as “Stewart Brothers”), which then changed to “Stewart Seeds Inc.” when the business was incorporated in 1976. On September 2, 2005 Stewart Seeds Inc. joined Monsanto and Stewart Seeds Angus became Stewart Select Angus LLC. The present owners of Stewart Select Angus LLC are Tom Stewart (Gilman’s son), Jim Stewart (John’s son) and Steve Gunn (John’s son-in law). Since the initial purchase only a few outside females have been added with the exception of approximately ten head from each of the following: Gauger Brothers of South Dakota, Premier Angus of Indiana, and Thomas Angus Ranch of Oregon. No outside females have been added to the herd since 1991.
Gilman and John Stewart both had previous cattle experience; Gilman showed the Indiana State Fair (ISF) Grand Champion Steer in 1934, a Shorthorn, and John showed the ISF Grand Champion Steer in 1936, an Angus that was purchased from Holmes Thompson of Cortland, Indiana. Thompson started the Angus family of Eventress females that composed part of the Royce herd and now make up a large portion of the Stewart herd.
Gilman also was herdsman at Purdue University in 1940 and1941 and fitted and showed the 1941 International Grand Champion Steer, Loyal Alumnus IV, a Shorthorn-Angus crossbred. Gilman had been deferred from the U.S. military draft to perform these duties before he volunteered for the Air Force where he served for 3½ years. John worked as a student employee at the Purdue beef cattle farm for three years at twenty-five cents per hour. He also wrote his thesis for his B.S. Degree in Animal Husbandry under the direction of Professor Frank King. The thesis was entitled “Average Daily Gain” of the calves in the Purdue purebred beef herds—Angus, Shorthorn and Hereford. Gilman and John’s grandfather and great-grandfather, John E. Robbins and J. G. Robbins were both world famous Shorthorn breeders.
In the early days of SSA, herd bulls were purchased to use in natural service. Barry Bandolier of Kintyre sired the first calf crop, followed by Eileenmere R G 10 and Bardoliermere P S 3, a sire bred by Herman Purdy of Penn State University. Purdy, a cattleman and educator known worldwide, advised on several other herd bull purchases that included Mole’s Hill Maximillian 1227 from Mole’s Hill Farm in Connecticut, Eileenmere E F 4928 3 from Eisenhower Farm in Pennsylvania, Micmac Heckettier 99 from the Heckett Herd in Pennsylvania and Uncas Colossal 15 from Western Canada. Sir Big William 2021 was the last major herd sire that was purchased (1972). New A.I. rules shifted the trend from purchasing herd sires to utilizing semen from the nation’s top bulls for genetic improvements and using SSA bulls for natural service. Non-owned bulls used heavily through artificial insemination were P S Power Play, Pine Drive Big Sky, Paramont Ambush, N Bar Emulation EXT, R R Traveler 5204, G A R Expectation 4915, Bon View New Design 878 and G A R Retail Product. In addition to the dominant family of Eventress females in the herd other family names include: Queen Mother, Mignonne, Blackbird, Blackcap, Lucy, Lucy Rose, Empress, Ann, Clova Pride, Duchess, Elba, Elluna, Erica, Estelle, Pride, Miss Countess, Jet, Karama, Juantalite and Lass.
In the 1960’s the best way of evaluating cattle against other herds and promoting your own was the show ring. Soon after entering the Angus business Stewarts showed cattle at the Indiana State Fair, and from 1955 through 1998 the show string was a presence in the Northeast corner of the cattle barn. They also exhibited cattle at many other shows over the years including the Ohio and Kentucky State Fairs, the All-American Futurity, the Toronto Canada Royal Winter Fair, the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) and the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE). A few highlights include: Reserve Grand Champion Female at the 1975 Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky State Fairs with H F Blackbird 99 and Reserve Grand Champion Bull at the 1984 NAILE with S S Rising Sun 64R. A heifer, Blackbird S S 1182, was sold to Brost and Wilson of Indiana and became Reserve Grand Champion at the NAILE. In addition, Tom Stewart showed the Grand Champion Steer, an Angus, at the 1963 ISF and the Reserve Grand in 1969. As part of the Purdue performance program SSA participated in Gold Medal Shows at county, regional and the state levels. In recent years Stewart, Gunn and Smith offspring have done a minimal amount of showing, mostly in 4-H at the local Decatur County Fair.
The original intent of building an outstanding cowherd has led from cattle evaluation in the show ring to performance testing (weights and with-in herd ratios) to genetic predictions of Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs) and $Value indexes. The SSA herd maintains balanced-trait selection, for low to moderate birth weight, excellent growth and above average milk and carcass quality. Performance testing began in 1962 with the recording of weaning weights in Purdue University’s performance testing program; then that data was converted to Angus Herd Improvement Records in 1973. The current computerized information system that began in 1986 contains approximately 5000 animals. The Angus Information Management Software (AIMS) is utilized for data management of such things as registrations, AHIR and breeding with all information available to assist in sales and selection. Ultrasound evaluation for carcass merit was added in 1995 to aid in selection and enhance the value of our seedstock. The Indiana Beef Evaluation Program (IBEP) bull test helps in the promotion, evaluation and sale of yearling bulls, and in 1999 SSA consigned the top sale indexing bull, S S Decatur 55H, that sold to Select Sires. Also, two gets sired by S S Krugerrand 111H were the top indexing get-of-sire groups at IBEP in 2001 and 2002.
Merchandising has focused toward the production of bulls for progressive cattlemen, both purebred and commercial, with 60-70 bulls being sold annually under the “Bulls ‘R’ Us” slogan. However, animals have been sold in many different sales including: two farm production sales in 1970 and1975, state and regional association sales such as the Indiana Futurity, joint production sales such as the Showcase Sale in Ohio and Grubbs Genetic Opportunity Sale, the Indiana Beef Evaluation Program Bull Test Sale and the Hoosier Beef Congress Angus Sale. Many, many more cattle are sold privately off the farm. Freeze branding of the “Sun SS” brand on the right hip began in 1996 to act as a billboard for Stewart Select Angus along rural highways.
The Stewart Select Angus herd follows a strict health program as it has long been certified and accredited free of brucellosis and tuberculosis and since 1999 when testing was added the herd has proven negative for Johnes’ disease. Respiratory, reproductive and clostridial vaccinations are also routinely given to all animals. All eligible bulls are examined for breeding soundness prior to being sold. Embryo transfer was utilized from 1977 to the mid-90s but was discontinued because management believed that every female in the herd could produce a bull for the sale group. The calving season also became much tighter after this decision was made.
Steve Gunn has managed a cattle feeding enterprise since his graduation from Purdue University in 1974. Lower-end calves from the purebred herd plus purchased feeder steers have eaten a goodly amount of seed plant waste. Some calves sired by Stewart bulls have also been obtained for this endeavor.
Many people have been responsible for the management and success of the Stewart herd. Herdsmen over the years have included: Henry Bergfeld (long time manager at Summitcrest), Norman Filburn, Dale Gauck (1968), Glenn Heisey (1969-1973) and Dave Smith (1973-present), now herd manager. Association participation and leadership have also been very evident among the Stewart personnel as Gilman was a member and President of the Indiana State Fair Board. He was a member of the American Angus Board of Directors and became President in 1978. He served on many agricultural boards and committees in his time including the Indiana Beef Cattle Association (IBCA) and the Indiana Angus Association (IAA). Steve Gunn was on the IBCA board and was its president in 1996. He also served on the Indiana Soybean board as well as local and regional cattle and Angus associations. Dave Smith has been active in both Indiana Angus and Beef Cattle associations serving on both boards and being Angus President in 1991. He has served Indiana Angus as its treasurer since 1995 and is currently on the American Angus Association Board of Directors.
Gilman and John Stewart have both been awarded Honorary Doctorates from Purdue University and their (1972) portraits along with that of Dave Smith (2004) have been hung in the Indiana Livestock Breeders’ Hall of Fame. Steve Gunn was awarded the Young Cattleman of the Year by IBCA in 1989 and Dave was honored with the Cattleman of the Year award in 1997. In addition, the SSA was honored in 2002 by being named to the Beef Improvement Federation’s Roll of Excellence as a Seedstock Producer of the Year nominee.
The Stewart Select Angus herd now numbers 160 productive cows plus 40 yearling heifers. Herd development followed advice handed down from Arthur such as “Don’t follow fad or fancy” and “Don’t take paper for money.” The herd is a balanced-trait herd that is strong in economically important traits such as birth, maternal, growth and carcass. Stewarts are committed to producing genetically sound Angus seedstock that will work for purebred and commercial cattlemen alike, and it is their desire to enhance the enjoyment of beef eaters around the world.