Since 1948, the team at Flying H Genetics has focused on producing the best cattle with the optimal breeding, meat production and meat quality characteristics. Over almost 70 years in operation, Flying H Genetics has continually adapted its practices to utilize the latest technology, but the dedication to hard work, integrity and quality has never changed. While business has continuously expanded thanks to the high quality of cattle and use of technology to create the most healthy and optimal cows and bulls, it is a strong work ethic and the integrity of Flying H Genetics that keeps customers coming back. The passion of customers and the hard-working staff at Flying H Genetics has helped make them build one of the most successful catting breeding businesses in the area.
Flying H Genetics began as a family-owned and operated enterprise and still operates that way today. Owners Dick and Bonnie Helms started the farm, working through difficult times and expanding during fortunate times to make it stronger every year. They have both worked hard to give their children the beauty of the farm and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Four generations are now represented on the farm, with many more still to come. Each new member of the family and member of the crew brings their own experiences and talents to the farm, and helps to make it stronger every day.
Learn more about owners Dick and Bonnie, their son Kyle and his wife Kayla, and the ranch’s newest crew members, Cody and Casie Helms below. The story of the crew also tells the story of the ranch, how it came to be and how it continues today.
Dick & Bonnie Helms
Bonnie and I (Dick) were married in August of 1973 before I finished my degree. I graduated the University of Nebraska, College of Agriculture with a dual major in Agricultural Economics – Communications Option and Animal Science – Production Option, giving me several options for a choice of careers. Since we didn’t have a place at the family operation, I interviewed with several companies. I received 5 job offers including everything from finance to promotion and sales.
What I really wanted to do was production agriculture—cattle and crops. We visited with a neighbor that I worked for during high school and explained how we could help him build a cow herd to graze his grass and crop residues while helping with the farming. He liked that idea so we moved back home and started our career in agriculture production.
Bonnie got her Cosmetology License and had been working in Lincoln to help pay the bills while I finished college. She had not grown up on a farm/ranch because her father died from cancer when she was 4 years old. Her grandparents were all farmers with cattle and horses, but her stepfather was a radio and TV repair man in Arapahoe where she, her brother and two sisters and mother lived. She was not sure about being a farmer’s wife (her grandmother told her to marry a banker or lawyer, not a farmer!) but could see it was what I wanted to do so she agreed to give it a try.
In 1975, the place where my mother was born & raised was offered for sale, I jumped at the opportunity. Talk about leveraged—we owed money on school and the car and didn’t even have the earnest money to put down on the 20 year contract but we made it work. Our first year we got hailed out and Bonnie said the Good Lord was trying to tell me something, I guess I was not a good listener. I give Bonnie a tremendous amount of credit because she supported me in this attempt to make it on our own when there were easier ways to go. Since I did not have an opportunity to “come home to a ranch or farm” I learned that many times it is not one’s ability but the lack of opportunity that limits our success. I made it a goal to be able to give our children that option and opportunity.
Our story has both good and bad times but the memories are all good because we learned from both the good and the bad, cherished each other and became a team and a family. 1977 brought a new edition and learning experience. Our first born son Bryan Paul came to us on April 2nd. Our family was growing, our operation was growing and we had added to the Helms Polled Hereford herd as we expanded and started holding annual sales. Our family, my parents Clarence and Lois and brothers Randy and Bruce worked with us to grow the business.
In the 1980’s the Ag crisis, tractorcade to Washington, D.C., bank failures and drought made for tough times. We did survive, even with our high debt load, but it was a tremendous challenge and quite stressful. We learned that Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about when he said, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. We slowly dug out of the hole, expanded the seed stock herd, added additional help and grew both the cows and crops. We felt they complemented each other well by spreading risk and revenue streams.
In 1981 we received a letter from a very good friend and former County Extension Agent Darryl Loepke, suggesting we look at expanding our genetics by adding the Gelbvieh breed. After some research, including the data coming from the Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, NE, we went to Iowa and visited several Gelbvieh breeders. That trip convinced us that Gelbvieh, a breed originally developed in Germany, fit our breeding philosophy and would be a good option for our cattle customers. We purchased approximately 20 cows and heifers, mostly from Iowa and started down a journey that has continued with the addition of more breeds as crossbreeding proved to be such a valuable tool for our customers and we needed to offer genetics that complemented each other.
Kyle Henry was born November 3rd 1983. He came early causing Bonnie problems but was healthy and had 10 fingers and toes.
In the spring of 1983 our local bank was foreclosed. We learned to appreciate the good times even more because of the challenges and tough times we endured.
Throughout the years Bonnie and I have spent a lot of time and energy volunteering for various organizations and activities. We have given time and talents to everything from church boards and offices to the Arapahoe school board, the Nebraska Cattlemen and the American Gelbvieh Association. From local, district, state and national organizations to being selected for the first ever Nebraska Leadership Education/Action Development Program. We were 4-H leaders, FFA sponsors and willing workers whenever needed. We gave but we received more than we gave–life is better when we give without expectations.
One of our most cherished awards was when we were selected as the “1998 Seed Stock Producer of the Year” by the International Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) while attending their meeting in Canada. We had come from debt ridden beginners to national winners not because of our size or fancy facilities but because of our dedication and passion to succeed in the seed stock business by working hard for our customers and the industry.
Creating opportunity for the next generation in agriculture is hard work, but it can get easier with each generation if they don’t have to repurchase the ranch or farm. Adding families to the operation requires adding net income and that cannot be done on the 160 acres my grandfather homesteaded. The business must grow as the family grows, which is the challenge and the reward!
In December of 1999 Bryan got married to Dawn and shortly thereafter they chose to go out on their own.
A new century, 2000 was the year the computers did not crash and the Helms family and Flying H Genetics continued to grow. We added the Missouri operation along with Simmental genetics and were given two of the greatest blessing known to man—grandchildren.
On April 1, 2006 Kyle came home from college, joining the operation to work with the livestock. In July of 2008 he married Kayla, a Valentine, Nebraska native.
Kyle and Kayla have begun the next generation of Helms’—that is number 6 on the ranch/farm in Nebraska. Lilly was born in 2011 and Abby in 2013 and they will have the opportunity to make production agriculture their family’s life and career if they choose to do so.
That’s what it’s all about—giving our children and grandchildren the opportunity to choose production agriculture. Because of the extreme competition and capital needed to start and make a living in production agriculture, without some help and an opportunity the next generation will not have that option. Now, the only thing left for us to do is to help them understand the significance of that opportunity so they cherish it and want to pass it on to number 7.
Bonnie and I cherish the many memories, family, friends, customers and acquaintances that have made our journey so rewarding. We are not done, retirement is never mentioned in the Bible, but we are starting to refocus and enjoy our blessings. We pray that every one of you remembers to count your blessings; always do your best and enjoy your family because they are your legacy.
Kyle was born into the Helms family farm and ranch legacy in 1983. As the third generation he was introduced at a very young age to the everyday ins and outs of ranch life. Chores before school, cattle work till dark, and homework in between was a regularity at the ranch. His father was sure to remind him on a regular basis that this responsibility, hard work and dedication would “build character” that would influence the rest of his life. Little did Kyle know how right his dad was.
At age 8 Kyle received his first Gelbvieh heifer calf, Ms Flying H 173B, which started his cow herd and a lifelong career in the cattle business. Junior National Shows, County Fairs and FFA all played an extremely important part of growing up, developing skills and learning all about the beef industry. The network of people and the challenges presented will stick with him for a lifetime.
Kyle graduated from Arapahoe High School in 2002 and found his way to Southeast Community College in Lincoln, NE, where he received an Associate degree in Business Management and Marketing. While going to school full-time, he worked an internship at the Nebraska Corn Board and helped manage a successful remodeling company. He oversaw 15 employees and learned how to manage time and people all while honing his customer service skills.
Kyle jumped at the chance to move back to the ranch in the spring of 2006. He had the opportunity to purchase his grandparents, Clarence and Lois Helms, homestead and current sale site. He joined his parents, Dick and Bonnie Helms, in the family ranch operation. Shortly after moving home he was introduced to his soon to be wife, Kayla Dawson, by the current cattle manager, Larry and his wife Deb Dawson. Kyle and Kayla were married in July of 2008 in Valentine, NE., in Kayla’s hometown.
Kayla was also born and raised into the ranch life as well. She grew up on a ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills and lived 70 miles from school. She learned how to juggle ranch chores and school activities as well. She grew up showing club calves and horses. After her time in Lincoln as a Business Accounting major she jumped at the chance to become an intricate part of the family operation alongside her husband.
Kyle and Kayla have been blessed with two wonderful daughters. Lillian Belle was born in September 2011 and Abigail Mae was born in April 2013. Kyle and Kayla were extremely excited to introduce the fourth generation to the family seed stock operation and look forward to continuing the tradition of raising their family in the lifestyle with friends and family.
Cody and Casie were born and raised in Colorado, and they both grew up with a strong passion for cattle and agriculture. They each attended Colorado State University where Cody studied Animal Science and Casie studied Agricultural Business, Animal Science, and Equine Science, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2003. After college, Cody obtained the Herdsman position at Upstream Ranch in Taylor, NE. Casie eventually joined him at Upstream Ranch, and they then went on to work and manage registered Hereford herds in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Cody and Casie joined the Flying H Genetics team in August 2013 when they returned home to Nebraska to settle in Arapahoe with their two sons, Hayden and Kylan. They still maintain their own herd of Hereford cattle and feel blessed that they are able to share their passions and the Helms Family cattle legacy with their children.