Cattle Journal 2023: Thiessen’s Regency Acres Angus, Montana
The hardy, performing Angus cattle raised on Regency Acres Angus look good wearing their work clothes – and get their jobs done. “Our environment here is quite brutal,” says owner Russ Thiessen. “We believe that our cattle are unique in that if they can survive our extremes in weather and on our short grass, they can survive anywhere.”
The Thiessen family: Russ and Jill and their children, daughter Téa, who teaches math in Stanford, Mont., and Tyler, who is now the fifth generation on the ranch, raise their registered herd in rugged central Eastern Montana near Lambert, just 30 miles from the North Dakota border, on land near where Thiessen’s great-grandfather homesteaded in the early 1900s.
“As (the second generation) grew up they branched off and bought their own places, which is where we are based out of now, on land my grandfather bought,” says Thiessen, although they still operate on some of the original homestead land.
Today the Thiessens run a diversified farming and purebred Angus ranch, holding an annual production sale either the first or second Friday in April, where they sell approximately 80 yearling bulls and 30 to 40 purebred yearling heifers. Crops include dry land wheat, corn, peas, lentils, barley, oats, safflower and canola. “We got our start in registered Angus in 1957,” says Thiessen. When his dad, Jim, took over the operation in the late ’60s the commercial cows were sold and the ranch began running 100 percent registered cattle. “We’ve always incorporated the best tools to identify and progress the best animals.” In the ’70s they enrolled in the Montana Beef Performance Association, a state Extension records-keeping center that pioneered herd selection methods and contributed to the formation of the Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR) program. “We also incorporated artificial insemination, carcass ultrasound, genomic testing, and herd testing for diseases like BVD and Johnes to make sure they are free and healthy for our customers,” says Thiessen. Today the Thiessen herd is one of only a few that is state-certified Johnes-free.
“In the mid-’90s I returned home after college, married my bride of now 25 years and we had our two kids.”
Today their annual work cycle is similar to many purebred operations in the region. Calving starts the first of February with the AIed heifers. Thiessen says they try to stick to a 60-day calving cycle. Heifers calve from February first to April first; cows from the end of February to the end of April. Breeding begins in early May with synchronized heifers, and all the cows except the late calvers are also AIed on a natural cycle then hauled or trailed out to summer pastures with the herd bulls. Summer is spent haying, spraying, and fencing with harvest occurring mostly in August. Fall is spent hauling hay, fencing, moving cattle, preg-checking and fixing corrals. Calves are weaned around the first of October and put into the feedlot. Bulls are fed a ration designed for growth without getting them fat. Heifers are kept in the feedlot for around a month then turned out to pasture for the winter. Winter is usually time to haul crops to the elevator, maintain equipment and travel around to look at cattle.
“We are very diligent in the genetics we incorporate into our herd,” says Thiessen. “The cattle must have length, depth of body, be angular and have good feet. The females must be good-uddered with mild dispositions. Our customers say our cattle are pleasant to be around, last longer, and leave them with great females and steers that are highly marketable.”
The mission statement of Regency Acres Angus is, “To propagate the genetics that return the most dollars per acre for our customers.”
“That is still and always will be our primary goal,” says Thiessen. “Personally I am striving to leave a profitable business and livelihood for my son and future grandkids, and to teach them that success isn’t just measured in dollars, but in fulfillment in what you are doing.”
Thiessen says he likes the genetic side of the purebred business, and the process of searching out the right bulls to mate the cows to. “I enjoy studying the pedigrees and mating the cattle to try to improve both the dam and the sire in the offspring,” he says. “Tyler has that unique ability to sit and have a conversation for hours with someone he just met so he likes the public relations part of the business.”
Don Switzer of Switzer Land Company near Richey, Mont., runs a herd of commercial cattle and has been a customer of the Thiessens for many years. “They just have really top of the line bulls, whether you’re looking for a heifer bull or a cow bull,” he says. “He’s really particular about what sires he uses; he has good bloodlines.”
Gary Tescher owns Three Bars Angus Ranch southeast of Sidney, Mont., across the North Dakota state line. He’s been buying Thiessen bulls for around 20 years.
“First of all, they’re good people so you can trust the cattle and the information they put out on them, which is danged sure important,” says Tescher. “They’ve got good bulls and good cattle, but the other thing I notice and I admire about them is they don’t necessarily use the same sires as everybody else is using. They’re not just following the crowd. I can appreciate that too – it makes me think they think for themselves.”
Thiessen says that while they put in long hours working, they still must make time to play. A few years ago he and a couple of his friends got into barbeque. They built their own smoker (nicknamed “The Mistress” by their wives) and cook for weddings, parties and even funerals. Thiessen and his son also enjoy hunting, and Tyler has his own “herd” of hound dogs he uses to eliminate raccoons for the neighbors.
“The work load is immense and there isn’t enough profit in agriculture to afford to hire on more employees – even if you can find one. So the hours are long and stressful but we get to work alongside our kids, our wives, our fathers and grandfathers and we get to work in God’s garden every day,” Thiessen says.
“When you realize the value in that, there isn’t a more ‘profitable’ occupation in the world.”