2019 Winter Cattle Journal: Barstow Angus
Producers are getting paid for raising better cattle, and it shows in the cattle they raise, says Neri Barstow.
“It’s hard to hide your genetics. With the use of genomic testing, cattle are easy to identify, especially to buyers. There are no secrets; being aware of what you are raising and where you buy cattle is very important,” Neri said.
Barstow Angus sells 95-100 yearling bulls at their annual sale located at the ranch near Springview, Nebraska, and in 2019 will also offer the top pick of the 2018 heifer crop. The sale is always the second Monday in March—March 11 in 2019. A good number of the bulls stay in the Sandhills but many states are also represented at the sale. “Our bulls are home-raised; they never leave our place. We sell a few private treaty and save some for back-up bulls, as we have a first breeding season guarantee,” Neri said. “Customer service is important, we stand behind our product.”
Nebraska hasn’t always been the home of the Barstow family. Neri’s parents, Marlan and Shirley Barstow farmed in Kansas. They grew wheat, raised cattle and bought feeder cattle to feed out. Traveling around Nebraska and South Dakota buying cattle gave them the opportunity to see different areas. In the 1970s they were seeking a change from Kansas. The hills, trees and river around Springview, Nebraska appealed to them. They purchased a ranch in 1976, where Barstow Angus is still headquartered.
Neri, their middle son, then a senior in high school, moved there with his grandparents in 1978, along with some of the cows. Marlan and Shirley continued farming in Kansas with their two younger daughters, before moving north several years later. Shirley was a pharmacist for the state of Kansas and wanted to work until her retirement date so she commuted between the two states for a number of years. The Kansas farm is now leased to a neighbor.
Barstows raised Hereford cattle, but as time went on Marlan started looking at other breeds because of issues they had with the Herefords, especially eye problems. Marlan attended Angus dispersal sales in the early eighties and purchased some Black Angus heifers for his daughters to show in 4-H. He studied the Angus breed and liked what he learned: easier calving, hardiness and good genetics. He purchased more registered females and built his herd, phasing out the Herefords altogether.
Neri married a local ranch girl, Patty Frauen, in 1980, and continued working on the ranch and rodeoed on the side. In 1988 Neri and Patty purchased some registered Angus females from Marlan. The family started an artificial insemination program and eventually replaced all their commercial cows. By having registered cows they were able to make a living with a smaller herd due to higher premiums for the calves. Marlan and Shirley turned over the Nebraska operation to Neri in the mid-1990s, and still live in the area today.
Neri and Patty built up the herd and began selling some bulls private treaty before having their first production sale in 1992. The Barstows now run a base registered herd of 250 cows and a cooperator herd of embryo recipient cows owned and run by the current lessee of the Kansas farm, taking advantage of the southern weather for early calving.
They have an extensive AI and embryo program, usually having 60-100 embryo calves a year. The registered herd is bred via AI and exposed to herd bulls, with every calf being DNA parent-verified.
They start calving in January so the yearling bulls are big enough to do their job by breeding season. They also have a good feed program so the heifers breed back. Neri doesn’t believe in using a bull just because of his numbers on paper. “I want to see the animal in person. I get out and look at a lot of cattle. I only use balanced, multi-trait sires that are strong on the maternal side,” he said. “Structural soundness is also one of my main criteria.”
Neri and Patty have two sons, Wyatt and Austin; they grew up leaning to work on the ranch and also rodeoing. Wyatt works alongside his dad on the ranch now. He is married to Amanda, an occupational therapist, and they have two children. Austin and wife Sierra live in Bozeman, Montana, where he is a catastrophic insurance adjuster and she is a lawyer, but they still run cattle at the family ranch.
Family is very important to the Barstows, so to have Wyatt and his family there working alongside is a dream come true for Neri and Patty. “Wyatt has been a tremendous help, it’s like a having an extension of Neri and has taken a lot of the burden off him,” Patty said. “He has a fresh and new prospective on things and it’s nice to have another view. His young muscles are also a help for building and upkeep of the place.”
Wyatt Barstow is carrying on the family tradition of focusing on the eye appeal of the cattle, striving to raise animals that are ascetically pleasing. “We want our bulls to match their visual appearance with their EPDs,” he says. “I want to expand our market, to match customers with the bulls that will best fit their needs. There are basically two types of producers: the western ranchers with large pastures and the farmers with smaller pastures who background their own calves, I want to provide the best bull for each environment.”
Barstow Cash, a 2011 bull raised by Neri, was a sire with all the strengths they—and their customers–seek. He sold 1/3 interest for $108,000 in 2012. The highest-selling bull ever raised by the family had a very prolific career as an AI sire. His progeny excel in the show pen and also as herd bulls. Cash was a bull who perfectly married the traits Neri has been breeding for, and his visual appeal matched his numbers. Two of his progeny raised by the Barstow family carry on their sire’s legacy: Barstow Banker and Barstow Bankroll are available from Select Sires with Bankroll being one of the leading AI sires in the country.
“We run a fine line between proven lines and cutting-edge genetics. We are constantly bringing in new and better genetics to improve our own herd and that of our customers’.” Wyatt said. “We try to raise a product that sells its self. We encourage customers to come see our bulls and not just shop out of a catalog.”
“There is a trust between commercial producers and genetic suppliers. Cattle producers need to raise the best cattle possible. Be aware and do your homework on what you are raising and the amount of input it takes,” Neri said.
Patty handles all the bookwork in addition to her own tax and accounting business. “Without Patty, there would be no Barstow Angus,” Neri said.
“An accurate set of books is important for all producers. I like seeing the numbers, trends and comparisons, and what made the difference from year to year,” Patty said. “Bad cows don’t stay. We have bred out bad disposition; we don’t have time for them. All our cattle work is done horseback and it makes a huge difference. With the registered herd we can focus on quality over quantity.”
Patty used to do all the advertising but in recent years has been outsourcing much of it. “The best decision I ever made,” She said. “Our buyers have become more educated on the numbers, technology has really helped that, the internet gives everyone all that information. I use the Angus Information Management Program (AIMS), a software program from the American Angus Association. It gives us access to all the information at our fingertips, for breeding decisions, registration, everything.”
“Rock Solid” is their motto and the Barstow family is committed to raising the most functional cattle for their environment and looks forward to providing ranchers with top-notch bulls for many years to come. “We want to help our buyers to be successful, providing bulls that will hold up to use,” Patty said, “We love what we do.”