Breeding cattle that matter: Bush Angus wins Supreme Champion at state fair
The 2014 South Dakota State Fair has come and gone, but many ranchers are still buzzing about the high-quality cattle presented this year at the annual event. One bull that caught the eye of seedstock producers and commercial cattlemen alike was exhibited by Bush Angus, Britton, S.D. Sired by O’Reiley Factor and owned with Werning Cattle Company, Emory, S.D., the Angus bull won the coveted Supreme Champion Open bull honors, beating out tough competition from the other breeds.
Some would argue that what wins in the show ring isn’t practical for the pasture, but Bush Angus believes this is a myth.
“A big part of our program over the years has been integrating quality and performance into one package,” said Scott Bush. “A regional manager once told us that the two won’t work in a show ring situation. Applying as much attention to quality as to the scale, we feel we have proven he was mistaken, along with any other such myths. An example would be the 2004 National Western Stock Show (NWSS) Champion — Bush’s Absolute Power, who is the only South Dakota-bred, raised, and shown NWSS Champion.”
Bush Angus has had countless successes in the show ring, including three NWSS bull calf champions, three NWSS reserve bull calf champions; two NWSS reserve champion pen of three bulls, and the 2014 NWSS champion pen of three bulls. At the Black Hills Stock Show (BHSS), they have won the champion pen of three bulls three years in a row, along with a BHSS champion and reserve champion Angus bull two years in a row. They have competed in Louisville, Ky., at the North American International Livestock Exposition, where they have won champion and reserve champion junior yearling bull titles, as well as a champion bull honor. And these are only highlights, with many wins at the county, state, regional and national levels.
More than just a pretty picture standing in front of a backdrop at a cattle show, Bush Angus genetics perform in a cow-calf setting, as well. In fact, Bush Angus hosted its 40th annual “Focus On Performance Sale” on their ranch in February 2014. About 85 percent of their customers are repeat buyers, proving that satisfied customers will keep coming back for more.
“We calve out around 170 cows,” said Jim Bush. “This produces the 60-65 bulls for our annual sale, which is the number we like to be at. Along with the bulls, we usually sell 25 yearling heifers and 10-20 bred females. Normally, about 85 percent are repeat customers. I always say our customer base is one of the best, but they sure can be picky! I guess that alone spurs us to work even harder at producing a product that creates a profit for them.”
Bush Angus was established by Scott’s great-grandfather, W E, and his grandfather Clifford Bush in 1927. The home of Bush Angus was homesteaded by Joseph Bush in 1883. Currently, Scott and Jo Bush, along with Scott’s parents, Jim and Carol Bush, are the partners involved in raising the registered Angus seedstock at Bush Angus.
“Every single cow in our herd traces back to the one purchased in 1927,” said Jim. “We have been a completely closed herd from the beginning. The purpose was to create a herd that was closely-bred and would respond uniformly in type. We are known for the great females we keep. They are good-sized, deep-sided and have a lot of natural muscling. Because they are all bred alike, they also all look alike. Through the years, many great bulls have been produced to complement the bloodlines already established here. In addition, artificial insemination has allowed us to use other sires in the advancement of the Bush herd. We presently mate 50 percent of our cows to bulls that were bred in this herd. The results have been excellent as evidenced by the increase in the performance level we have attained. Embryo transfer has enabled us to progress at a much faster pace in supplying our customers with more great bulls.”
In 1958, Bush Angus was one of the first breeders in South Dakota to start performance testing, allowing them to improve their genetics and track progress.
“A program we rely on heavily to determine the progress we are making within the herd is the 205-day weights and yearling weights,” said Jim. “Using that information, along with the EPDs and DNA testing results, provides us with the necessary statistics from which to make herd selections and chart herd progress. There are two things that have not changed for us over the years. One, is we are constantly striving to breed improvement into our herd and, two, make sure every customer is satisfied with their purchase. What has changed a great deal is the amount of information available on every animal. The main object should be to ensure the customer knows all that he wants to know about a bull and then some more!”
The focus on measuring performance data has paid off, and Bush Angus has raised many bulls of distinction over the years. Currently, Bush’s Unbelievable is getting some attention, with strong semen sales over the last couple of years.
“Bush’s Unbelievable really demonstrates our basic breeding principles of combining quality and performance in a most attractive package,” said Jim. “He is balanced in his numbers for all traits and is used in many different breeds.”
So how does an operation not only survive but thrive after more than 80 years in the seedstock business? It’s all about looking to the future and weathering the storms that pass through.
“This operation has survived generational change, drought, excess water, tornados, really great sales, and not so great sales, and the beat goes on,” said Jim. “The future for us is to figure out what the cowboy will need in five years for breeding stock, and then have it available for him. We think the most influential factors in the future that will determine profitable operations will be what we are already working on — fertility, efficiency, and predictability. We all must raise the bar higher in these areas to achieve a product that can compete against other meat groups.”
Meeting consumer demand presents equal opportunity and challenges for today’s cattleman. The nation’s cowherd is at an all-time low, and global demand for red meat is escalating.
“You have to be quite optimistic about the beef industry as the prices indicate we are not producing the pounds of red meat that the consumer is demanding,” said Jim. “With the national cow numbers at an all time low, it seems to us to be a good time to get started or expand in the business. History tells us that this strong price cycle should last seven to 10 years. There seems to be fewer people who want to do the job of raising beef. It is a challenging business that can also be rewarding, but for many the time involved is not attractive.”
Bush Angus is looking to the future already with the next generation, Scott and Jo’s children, Brittany, age 19, and Tyler, age 16, are both still involved in the operation and are active in the South Dakota Junior Angus Association and the National Angus Association.
“Brittany is in her second year at SDSU, majoring in Early Childhood Education,” said Jo. “She also works part time at Peace Lutheran Church Early Childhood Center and Rue 21. She enjoys showing cattle and spending time with her friends and family. Tyler is a sophomore at Britton Hecla High School. He is actively involved in the student council and serves as the school representative for this region. He participates in basketball, soccer and is a member of the United Methodist Youth Group. Tyler’s first love is cattle. He can be found in the pasture admiring the calves and seeking out his next show heifer. He enjoys clipping and fitting his own calves and helping others with theirs. The show ring is one of his favorite places to be. Tyler has received many showmanship honors over the years.
“He also enjoys livestock judging and hopes to be able to participate on a livestock judging team at the collegiate level.”
Whether on display at a show or in a breeding program on pasture, Bush Angus has got bulls for a variety of needs. For more information, check out http://www.bushangus.com. F
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The Montana Angus Tour was September 21-23, 2021 in the northern part of the state.