A Legacy in the Cattle Industry Leaves his Footprints

Aug 23

After 42 years, Merlyn Sandbulte has retired his AI guns and leaves his legacy in the beef cattle industry. Although it is sad to see him go, we could not be more excited for the next chapter in his life. Merlyn’s passion for reproduction began with his work as a dairyman. He realized that as a dairyman it is more than just milking cows, but that reproduction is key to a successful operation. This drive to get cows pregnant eventually lead to Merlyn’s drive to learn how to artificially inseminate cows. He was taught by another long-standing ABS leader, Dwight Williams. 

Two cattlemen in blue shirts standing next to cow pen.
Merlyn and Mark Fulton discussing cattle at Fulton Ranch, SD.

Midwest Breeders sought out Merlyn and requested he take an aptitude test in the hopes of hiring him after he learned how to AI. Coincidentally, the local ABS representative caught wind of this and reached out to share with him all the reasons why he though Merlyn should join the ABS team versus Midwest Breeders. However, anyone who knows Merlyn knows that he deflected until the time was right for him. He settled by working in the area supporting another ABS Representative and made a big impact.  

After some time working under that representative, Merlyn decided to take the plunge and ABS full time as a Sales Representative and began to work for a veterinary practice breeding cows that eventually became TransOva Genetics. As he continued to build his reputation in genetics, Willy Altenburg hired him as a District Sales Manager to cover both beef and dairy accounts in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. Over the years, Merlyn continued to acquire more beef territory that eventually led to Dwight Williams handing him Montana, Wyoming and western South Dakota as well.  

Merlyn stated the best thing about his career is that he never felt like he worked a day in his life. He developed a love for reproduction and genetics as well as sales. When asked to explain his career path, Merlyn stated, “one thing led to another in my career which led me to the perfect job and home for me.”  

(L to R) Merlyn Sandbulte, Marc Kleinsasser, Dr. Kris Porter, Mark Fulton and Annie Fulton.

During his time at ABS, Merlyn was selected as the District Manager of the Year three times–and in 2019, he was awarded the Beef Reproduction Service to Industry Award at the Applied Reproduction Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium.

Merlyn has mentored and advised countless representatives and customers over the years. He truly has left his mark on our industry. Take a second to read how his colleagues will remember Merlyn and the impact he had on them.  

DR. KRIS PORTER, ABS Authorized Representative in South Dakota 

How would customers in your district describe Merlyn?   
Merlyn is a trusted source in the area. Our customers know he has vast knowledge of the industry as a whole and greatly valued his opinion. When he suggested a certain bull this year to a longtime client, the answer was, “well, Merlyn has never steered us wrong before!”   

How will you remember Merlyn?   
Foremost, I will remember Merlyn as a friend, a trusted advisor, and a mentor.  He has been there through joys and difficulties in professional and personal life.  

Changing of the guard from District Sales Manager, Merlyn Sandbulte to Sales Team Leader, Dr. Nicky Oosthuizen.


How has Merlyn impacted your career with ABS? 

I met Merlyn when I was an intern working for the University of Florida and since then always had ABS as an employment option in the back of my mind. When it came time to apply for jobs after grad school, a Sales Team Leader position opened as a replacement for Merlyn when he retired. During the interview process Merlyn was one of my biggest supporters and I’m glad I already knew him. In other words, he was such a good example of ABS that I eventually joined ABS myself. 

How will you remember Merlyn? 

I’ll remember Merlyn as a friendly, caring, hard-working, says-what-he-thinks person. He was a great supervisor and mentor for the time I had him. I will miss working with him and all our long road trips and discussions. 

LACEY SUTHERLIN, ABS District Sales Manager 

How will you remember Merlyn?  

I will remember Merlyn as a quiet yet jovial guy. He always has a great story to tell, to the point that you will be crying because you are laughing so hard. Most of these stories are some of his experiences the last 40 plus years. Merlyn is a very hard worker and strives to lead the rest of us on his team to be the same way.  When things wind down in the evening he does have fun with his co-workers and I think that is important too.  I will remember Merlyn has a friend and a mentor. A guy that earns respect and doesn’t just expect it. He gave me the chance to be part of the ABS team and I will be forever grateful. 

THE NORDBY’S, ABS Authorized Representative in North Dakota 

We always knew Merlyn was on our side… for example, we really appreciated his help in figuring out how to deal with a barrier to spring special ordering, such as spring storms or drought issues. If we came up with a plan to help customers put orders together hinging on how things eventually turned out, Merlyn was willing to work with us.  Ordering semen in March, often before the calves have hit the ground, does not work for everyone, and on top of this if a customer doesn’t know if they will be able to keep the herd together or hold on to their heifers, makes it hard to put together a game plan for best pricing and availability.  If we told the customer let’s think best case scenario and put in an order that was contingent on them giving final approval, it gave us the ability to work with customers with less pressure and helps us get things done on a timely basis. 

On behalf of everyone at ABS Global, we want to sincerely thank Merlyn for his time and dedication to ABS and the beef producers in the United States. The immense footprint he has left on this industry will be noticed for years to come. While he will be greatly missed by our entire team, we wish him all the best in his retirement.