From Corporate Life to Cows

In 1968, brothers Ron and Leroy Bieber were in search for land to develop a cattle herd. Even more, Ron was looking for the right place where he and his wife, Lois, could put down roots for a family. Eventually, they found a grassland oasis in north central South Dakota.

Fifty years later, the third generation of Biebers has returned to the family’s operation near Leola. Ron’s granddaughter Kristin Harms, and her husband, Jake, joined in managing Bieber Red Angus Ranch in 2017. They now run 800 head of Red Angus cattle with Kristin’s parents, Craig and Peggy Bieber.

After working in corporate careers in Sioux Falls, Jake and Kristin decided to make a lifestyle change and raise their family on the ranch instead. Jake worked in digital marketing and sales, while Kristin worked in Raven Industries’ precision agriculture department. The skills they acquired there translated well to life at Bieber Red Angus today — Jake works on cattle sales and feeding regimens now, while Kristin manages the marketing. 

“We wanted to take part in a family operation where we had a real say, and could bring true value to something bigger than ourselves,” Kristin says. For Jake, who did not grow up ranching, the experience has given him a new appreciation for stewardship. 

“Looking back, I appreciate now that I didn’t have a background in agriculture because it allowed me to ask good questions from a curious mind rather than having a bias toward certain practices,” he says. “After transitioning to life on the ranch, I learned how much research and development happens here —not only in the production aspect, but in land management and the business sense as well. I never understood how little of the population is providing such a large amount of protein to the U.S. and the world.”

red angus cows in pasture

Purebred Red Angus cattle have grazed the north central South Dakota pastures under the stewardship of the Bieber family for more than four decades.

To preserve the Bieber tradition of breeding performance-based, Red Angus cattle using sustainable methods, the couple consistently looks for new techniques to enhance their business. One such endeavor is participating in South Dakota State University Extension beefSD program — a two-year intensive course in beef production management. The program has broadened their holistic view of the life cycle behind beef, and helps them understand how management decisions at the cow-calf level affect a finished product for consumers.

“Initially, it was a big challenge to learn all the different aspects of this business. ‘Ranching’ is an all-encompassing term that most people don’t think about. It’s not just raising and caring for livestock; you run a business while also focusing on nutrition, genetics, sustainable land management, customer service, marketing and advocacy,” Jake says.

Kristin adds that, “We especially try to be conscious of our grazing and grass management. My grandpa was passionate about that, and we are today as well. These cattle eat the grass and forage that wouldn’t be used otherwise.”

Like the generations before them, the Harms find success in serving customers. They provide a tailored breeding plan to meet each customer’s needs, recognizing the importance of shared success to grow their business.

“We’re not just doing what’s best for us, but what’s best for the customer,” Kristin describes. “We want to make sure they have a solid product. We want to know how their cows are doing, so we can take that information and improve our own cows. We take what we do seriously, and we want what’s best for everyone.”

The couple talks to customers regularly. “We check in on how the bulls or cows are doing, or hear what trials customers are going through and how we can help out,” Jake says. “It's not just, ‘you're buying a bull and that's it.’ That’s not where the business stops.”

And, if tradition continues, Bieber Red Angus Ranch will forge ahead with Kristin and Jake’s children, preserving a way of life and sense of home for years to come.

bieber red angus family photo

Four generations of the Bieber family share in managing the operation today. Pictured (l to r) are: Craig and Peggy Bieber; Lois Bieber; Kristin and Jake Harms, and their children, Londyn, Hartley and Holton.

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