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by: SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - JoHanna and Jeremy Symons, of Madras, were honored Feb. 15, as the Jefferson County Livestockmen of the Year.Jeremy and JoHanna Symons were named the Livestockmen of the Year at the 62nd annual banquet of the Jefferson Count Livestock Association held Feb. 15, at the Inn at Cross Keys Station in Madras.

The award is to given to livestock operators who have demonstrated excellence in livestock production practices, and have been involved in livestock-related organizations.

Shane Gomes announced the award, sharing some the history of the young cattlemen:

Both were born and raised in Central Oregon and involved in farming and livestock from a very early age. A strong work ethic was learned from changing pipe, babysitting, hay hauling, construction work, rock picking, and working cattle.

“Above all, they learned how to earn a dollar, save and invest it,” Gomes emphasized.

Both were involved in 4-H and FFA, winning numerous awards, including grand champion market hog, beef and sheep, champion showman, judging awards, and many more. Competing in peewee, junior and high school rodeo events provided them with the riding and roping skills that would be very valuable in the future.

Their cattle herd started through the FFA program in which a bred Simmental cow was given to a student to raise for the year, with the student being able to keep the calf when they gave the cow back to the program.

“As luck would have it, the calf was a heifer. She needed company, so trades involving old Ford pickups and hay hauling for a few more heifers were common,” Gomes said. Jeremy Symons’ “collection of cows” quickly outgrew the family’s small acreage, so land was leased and cattle were hauled.

Meanwhile, JoHanna (Martin) was going to school, acquiring business and computer skills which would prove to be beneficial in the future.

“When driving by, Jeremy would take note of her pipe changing skills and thought that someday she would make someone a great catch,” Gomes joked.

In 2002, the two were married and a great partnership was formed, as together, they set many goals. They bought their first place in Prineville that year, a house on three acres, and leased the Castor Ranch on Allen Creek to run their current “collection” of 125 cow-calf pairs.

Both did outside work, such as driving mail routes, construction jobs, hay hauling, as well as irrigating and haying, just to keep their operation moving forward.

In 2008, they purchased the feedlot and 352 acres on Dogwood Lane. A major cleanup began, including rebuilding the shop which had been lost in a fire, installing concrete water troughs, replacing pens with metal pipe and cables, and graveling all the alleyways.

At the time of purchase, they mostly ran outside cattle in the feedlot, and ran 300-350 mother cows on grazing allotments on Gray Butte and other leased ground.

They acquired irrigated property to raise hay and grain, irrigation pivots were installed, and wheel lines used on fields around the feedlot.

“They also remodeled and repaired homes on different properties to house their help as the operation grew,” Gomes said.

The total cattle numbers on their herd of Angus-cross cows and Angus bulls is “hard to nail down,” Gomes said, because the Symonses are constantly buying calves, finishing them to a certain weight, and shipping them out. They retain ownership, but the cattle are sent to Agri Beef to be finished, and are processed at AB Foods.

The Symonses now have rangeland in Ashwood, allotments on Crooked River National Grassland, and recently acquired the Fopiano Ranch in Mitchell.

In 2013, they bought some 780 irrigated acres in the Mud Springs area, where they grow wheat, hay and corn for the feedlot. Currently, they are feeding their own cattle, with very few outside cattle taken in. They grow their own hay, buy some, and last year for the first time raised corn for silage.

They regularly use a nutritionist to test and tweak their feed rations, and manure from the feedlot is screened, then spread back on their fields. “Many youth throughout the summer, work at the feedlot, as they teach the next generation all they have learned,” Gomes said.

Another goal was to raise a family, and they added three children, Tristen, Desirae and Hadley to the team. “With raising three kids, doctoring, feeding, processing cattle, changing pipe, haying and bookwork, it gets to be a very exciting balancing act. They have done this hand-in-hand together, and the business has grown, and by working together, they have seen it thrive,” Gomes said.

When Jeremy was a little boy, he told his dad he was going to have a big semitruck to haul cows in some day. That Christmas, he got a toy one. “But through hard work and determination, he now has his own semi, and with JoHanna’s help, has achieved much more,” Gomes said.

In the community, Symons Livestock is an annual supporter of the 4-H and FFA Livestock Auction at the fair, Jeremy is a board member of the Gray Butte Grazing Association, and both are active members of the Jefferson County Livestock Association.

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