Shelby Homer begins cattle operation on foundation set by past generations.
Upon moving to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota from the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, the world of cattle ranching opened up to Shelby Homer (Navajo). While sheep thrive on the drought-resistant trees and brush of New Mexico, South Dakota’s grasslands offer a prime environment for raising cattle.
“The land [in New Mexico] is so desolate that operating cattle is difficult. Moving here to South Dakota made that opportunity more available,” explains Shelby.
After gaining a few years of experience helping her fiancé with his cattle, Shelby made the plunge into her own operation. In 2019, she utilized a loan from Akiptan to purchase 25 cows. Today, she has grown her herd to 41.
“Honestly, I was a little scared. It is a big responsibility, and it’s big money. It’s something you don’t deal with every day, but my fiancé was very encouraging,” says Shelby. Her fiancé, a life-long rancher who has been financed by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Akiptan, referred her to Akiptan.
Despite her trepidation, Shelby declares her lending experience with Akiptan very positive. “My experience with Akiptan was really good, really informative. The process was stress-free, and I wasn’t worried,” she says.
Shelby says that her experience as a cattle rancher has been very humbling so far. As she is learning the science behind caring for her animals, she is also working her way through some of the toughest aspects of the job, such as calving, which is a 24/7 job for about a month every year. Fluctuating prices also create struggles for her operation.
“Everything has skyrocketed right now – feed and hay,” explains Shelby.
However, her passion and positive outlook keep her going. “The learning aspect of it is phenomenal. It can only get better from here because of the experience you’ve endured,” says Shelby.
As a homeschooling mother of three, Shelby’s values and life lessons are impressed upon her children on a daily basis. Through daily chores and caring for their home, she teaches her children that no matter what is going on in the world, a hard day’s work is success in itself.
“I hope [this lifestyle] gives them a sense of stability on what hard work really accomplishes. Having that good work ethic for my kids means the world to me, because I grew up that way,” says Shelby.
In the coming years, Shelby plans to continue growing her herd. Her ultimate goal is to get to 150 head. The investment option with her Akiptan loan is a critical piece to this, as it allows her to keep back heifers.
“Instead of just selling every year, and your loss becoming higher every year, replenishing your herd is a very successful approach,” she says of the unique option Akiptan offers.
Although Shelby is forging her own path and always learning in her own way, she carries the lessons of past generations with her. She often thinks of her fiancé’s father, who is now passed, and others who started cattle ranches many years ago.
“If it weren’t for all the Native American ranchers before us who struggled, we wouldn’t have these opportunities. I am truly grateful for them,” says Shelby.