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On the Black Angus trail
May 24, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer
Ranchers tour cattle operations in Fremont County
Ranchers and others interested in the Black Angus cattle business converged via the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association May 19 at the bull test station south of Shoshoni.
They gathered -- drinking coffee and talking about the rain from the day before -- to take part in the second and final day of the Wyoming Angus Association's annual tour.
Throughout the day, a rotating group of 10 to 15 individuals hopped on a bus or drove themselves to several Shoshoni-area Angus operations.
The group had visited ranches outside of Lander and Crowheart among other stops the day before. The association also hosted a banquet that evening.
On the drive to the first stop, tour organizer Bob Pingetzer pointed out to his guests different ranches along the road, announcing who owned what and when it was sold to the current owners.
Within a few minutes, the bus, driven by University of Wyoming Extension educator Ron Cunningham, pulled into the Gardner Heart Dot Angus ranch.
Chad Gardner, who runs the ranch with his parents, took the group to see the ranch's bulls, cows and calves.
Gardner said the family has been in the Angus business for 15 years, ever since his parents sold their commercial cattle operation.
He said Angus cattle originated in Scotland, and the first in the United States were imported in the late 1800s.
Gardner said the family decided to focus on the species because of its "marketing power."
"All the big food chains have Angus burgers," Gardner said. "It's become a big name."
There are other benefits to raising Angus.
"They're a very docile kind of animal," Gardner said, adding you don't have to worry about being run up a fence by one. "The cows are a very good mothering animal."
Soon the Gardner operation will have a herd of 125.
Many on the tour either own an Angus operation or work in the artificial insemination field. The men, and a couple of women, observed the cattle, watching without much conversation.
Rural Riverton rancher Dan Ingalls said Angus owners are always wanting to see how others are doing, and the association's annual tour sets aside a time to do that.
Bloodlines and genealogy are important in the Angus world, and Ingalls said seeing what phenotypes other operations have helps give him ideas. Phenotypes are an animal's observable characteristics.
Ingalls said that when he looks at Angus cattle he's looking for the species' traditional characteristics.
Riverton Rancher Terry Angel said he always looks at cows' milk sacks to determine healthiness and calf-raising ability.
Pingetzer said he looks at consistency within a herd as well as thickness and length of the animal.
"I'm always looking for a calf that matches my goals," he added.
Lucky 7 Angus
Following the tour of the Gardner place, the group piled back into vehicles and traveled to the Lucky 7 Angus operation in the Midvale area, which is owned by Jim Jensen, who was along on the early part of the tour.
On the drive, conversation focused on irrigation issues, antelope migration and artificial insemination.
Jensen gathered the tour around a tent adjacent to one of his feed lots and spoke about the GrowSafe System he has used for the last two years to monitor the feeding habits of his cattle.
"Feed efficiency is the biggest asset," he said.
The system consists of 16 feeding troughs that are electronically wired to measure the weight of the feed, and it takes into account wind and bumping by the cattle in its measurements. Jensen said weight measurements are taken 10 times per second.
Inside each trough is an electronic reader that scans microchips implanted in each animal so feed data can be correlated with the animal that ate it.
Jensen said the GrowSafe company has a Canada-based employee who monitors the data to let Jensen and his staff know if a cow's or bull's eating habits become irregular.
"After two years, it lines up pretty well," he said.
He said each animal is given certain feed times each day, and they adjust their lives to the system.
Jensen's wife, Jamie, then showed the tour a brief overview of the monitoring software on a computer she had set up next to the feedlot.
She estimated their personal system is about 95 percent accurate.
Jensen plans to install scales at the water troughs in the near future to further increase his operation's efficiency.
After browsing the Jensens' bulls, the tour returned to the bull test where the Fremont County Cattlewomen had prepared a taco lunch.
Pingetzer thanked everyone for attending as well as a long list of sponsors.
The tour then perused his operation, including the cattle he keeps for others, before leaving for the day.