ICA’s Symbol of Excellence Sales: A Jones Tradition

The Iowa seedstock industry is booming with top-of-the-line genetics in several cattle breeds. The bull and heifer evaluation program through ICA is a testament to the caliber of seedstock that comes from producers in our state. This year, the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s Bull and Heifer Evaluation Program (BHEP) is celebrating its 32nd anniversary.


The BHEP is well known by both seedstock and commercial producers throughout the Midwest and allows for producers to enter their elite seedstock to be tested and potentially sold in the spring Symbol of Excellence sales. The annual sales also give producers an opportunity to purchase some top-of-the-line genetics to bring back to their herd.

Commercial cow/calf producer Will Jones has been attending ICA’s bulls sales for as long as he can remember and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon, “I am 30 years old and we don’t have a bull that isn’t from one of the ICA sales.” Will and his family run 150 white face cows with Simmental bulls in rural Clay county near Sioux Rapids, Iowa. Jones has been in the cattle business his whole life and has seen great benefits to using bulls from ICA sales as part of his herd’s genetic program.

Over the years, one of his main focuses has been to optimize hybrid vigor in order to achieve a high level of calving ease and carcass characteristics. Like many cow/calf farmers in our state, Jones has a diversified agriculture operation where he farms a couple thousand acres of grain as well as dabbles in the feedlot business.

In order to be able to keep up with all aspects of his operation, it is important that his cows are able to calve without incident. “We can be out planting and spraying in April and May and calving with a high likelihood they won’t have any trouble. We just have to check them a couple times a day.”

After lots of time spent trying to find the best pairings that lead to high quality calves on the ground, the Simmental breed is just the right fit for the Jones’ cattle program. In the past, Jones had been incorporating Gelbvieh bulls into his herd for calving ease but soon found that with advances in the Simmental breed, he could get the same calving ease and optimize rate of gain with his Simmental genetics.

Jones sees value in buying his bulls from ICA’s sales with the biggest benefit being the amount of data available and the consistent playing field that all the animals are on. He is able to use this information for his herd genetic program and pass on genetic information to customers that he will sell cattle to in the future.

Many components of ICA’s sales contribute to the ability to deliver quality cattle come sale day.

Cattle in ICA sales are weighed and evaluated multiple times during the testing period prior to the sales in the spring. This bull and heifer evaluation program provides an ample amount of data for cosigners, buyers and sellers. Jones adds, “You can get quality and have sellers competing against each other to deliver that.”

The annual BHEP sales held across the state offer a great opportunity for seedstock and cow/calf producers to buy and sell proven, tested genetics. Bulls and replacement heifers must meet very specific and strict selection criteria in order to be eligible to sell in one of the three sales in Dunlap, Bloomfield and Tama. After evaluation and testing on eligible animals, only the top 75% are selected to be sold in the sales.

The Iowa cattle industry is full of quality cattle producers like Will who see great value in being a Iowa Cattlemen’s association member. When asked the significance of ICA for cattle producers Jones commented, “It’s good to have a positive image with the public and be a part of an organization that people like dealing with and like being a part of.”

Jones, like many cattle farmers, enjoys going to these sales to purchase some great livestock as well as socialize, catch-up and mingle with fellow cattle folk. Attending the Dunlap sale is a long standing tradition for the Jones family. Will, along with his father, attended the sale for 16 years straight prior to Will going off to college. But today, the Jones’ keep the tradition strong and look forward to the being a part of the sale each year.