It isn’t just one single customer’s win that sticks with Matt Hueber, but the whole experience of helping boys and girls grow while on the show circuit through the years. In particular, the story of one boy’s overall success with a baldy steer exemplifies the best times for Matt, owner of Hueber Show Cattle. Because the boy had a great desire to improve, Matt took him on the road and together they traveled to show after show. Over time, Matt said it wasn’t one win that was exciting, but the great change he saw in the boy’s showing abilities. Matt said the time on the road and the boy’s willingness to listen to advice helped him improve at a dramatic pace. In a triumphant finish, the boy won his class in Louisville, topping off a successful jackpot and state fair season.
“The whole year from beginning to end and the growth that we watched him acquire…has been my most recent favorite memory,” Matt said.
For the past 20 years, Matt’s real passion for helping young people show cattle and his dedication to providing the best customer experience have been distinguishing features of Hueber Show Cattle. When sale averages and customer loyalty dwindled for many, Hueber Show Cattle’s commitment to its customers was vital to the operation’s success.
“It’s a big part of what we do and a big part of why our guys keep coming back,” Matt said.
Today, Matt and his wife Ashley run their club calf operation just outside of Lee, Illinois on 10 acres. From sunup to sundown, after work and on weekends, livestock consume the Huebers’ lives. During the day, Matt works at his two other family-run businesses, Hueber Feed, LLC and Great Plains Management. After work, he washes and prepares cattle, clipping two cows a night during show weeks. Ashley also works outside Hueber Show Cattle, commuting to her job at a university near Chicago. The Huebers’ two young children, Payton and Reagan, are also active showing pigs through 4-H. It’s a busy lifestyle for the family of four.
“It basically takes from as soon as we’re off of work until we go back to work and all the weekends,” Matt said. “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.”
Amid the hectic life of owning and operating multiple businesses and showing on weekends, the Huebers’ focus on their customers recently paid off big. After hearing that most sales in 2016 were 30 to 33 percent off the averages of a normal year, Matt said Hueber Show Cattle had one of its best sales in November.
“It went really well. We actually had a little bit of an increase in our average. So we feel pretty blessed,” he said.
Ashley and Matt credited the successful steer and heifer sale, in part, to the move to an online sale format and a strong marketing push, involving website, print and Facebook promotion. The team at Ranch House Designs worked with the Huebers to design cohesive print material and update the Hueber Show Cattle website for the November sale. Ashley said working with Ranch House Designs on how to best use all the different advertising outlets was a big factor in the sale’s success.
“We went back this year and we used all of the different levels. We did a print ad with Ranch House Designs. We have social media. We have Twitter. We have Facebook. And then we also have a website. This was the first year that we went back to…utilizing social media as well as the website. I think that played a great deal into it,” she said.
Like a lot of cattle operations today, Ashley said she had forgotten about the importance of having an up-to-date website. It was easy to think that posting something on Facebook or social media was good enough, but it wasn’t.
“We have customers come to us that still say, ‘Yeah, I saw that on Facebook or on Twitter.’ But then immediately say, ‘It wasn’t on your website yet,’” she said. “That’s when I realized that everything had to match. So the ad had to match, the social media had to match, and the website needed to be updated as well.”
In the future, Matt said Hueber Show Cattle planned to utilize the newest, effective livestock marketing and advertising methods.
“I would rather be on the front side of these things, trying new things whether it works or not, than sitting back and being the last guy to come to the party. You never get anywhere waiting to see if it works. You got to be the leader. If you want to be successful, you got to be the leader,” he said.
Down the road, the Huebers said they were excited for what was to come for the operation. They recently moved to a new farm in northern Illinois and said the new location would help the operation grow and better serve its customers. Looking toward the 2017 show year, Matt said he had a good feeling about Hueber Show Cattle’s set of calves, which he thought would be extremely competitive in the ring. But the most important thing, they said, was for them was to be as successful as possible without losing sight of what was important.
“We’re instating tomorrow’s leaders and the future of the industry, and so we need to keep that in mind while being successful,” Ashley said. “And we want the kids to have fun.”
Matt added that it was also about the personal relationships and shared experiences his family had with the customers.
“We’re just extremely thankful for all of our repeat customers and the families that we get to work with,” Matt said. “The people that we’ve chosen to do business with have become part of our family also.”
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