FOOS ANGUS Efficiency is a Necessity
Transitioning a ranch or farm from one generation to another can be a difficult thing and when it’s a registered operation, the potential for problems is even greater. In the case of Foos Angus, Nisland, S.D., though, the shared vision for the registered Angus cattle made the handing over of the reins much easier.
When Bryce Foos moved home in the spring of 2007, he took over the main work of the ranch as his dad Norman Foos, was battling an illness. Together they made the day to day decisions on the ranch, but by 2008 Bryce was running it on his own. When his father passed away later that summer, the whole responsibility for the ranch was on his shoulders and he and his mother, Renee’ continued on with the Angus herd.
It was 27 years ago that Foos Angus was established, northwest of Nisland, S.D., and Norm and Renee’ joined the Angus Association in 1984. They began having an annual bull sale in 1990 and still continue the tradition. The next sale will be held Feb. 13, 2014, at Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange.
By the time Bryce and Meghan were wed in June of 2012, Renee’ had moved to town to be closer to her job and the newlyweds took over completely.
“I haven’t changed things too much,” says Bryce, “We’ve been trying to expand the cowherd but that takes time. You always try to add a little new blood and Dad did too.” Meghan adds, “He’s built upon the good foundation that his Dad had built.”
Bryce believes that sticking to the basics is what works for them. “We don’t chase fads and we are after what fits with our program, not someone else’s.” says Meghan. Feeding a high-roughage, low-corn ration has been expanded on by Bryce. “I feed them just enough corn to put a little finish on them for the sale, but they’re not fat. We limit the hot feed to add to the longevity of the herd,” explains Bryce. The cowherd and the replacement heifers are fed an alfalfa and grass hay mix along with High Plains Nutrition mineral. They believe that grazing is best for them and if they can’t maintain themselves, and in the case of the heifers, grow out and breed on grass and hay, they aren’t what the bull buyers are after.
The longevity of the cowherd and the bulls is extremely important to Bryce and Meghan, and Bryce says with a grin, “Our bulls maybe last too long ‘cause our customers don’t have to replace their herd bulls as often.” The repeat buyers at the Foos Angus sale are a testament of the satisfaction with the bulls, and that pleases the young couple greatly. Folks who come and buy for the first time are impressed with the guarantee and the soundness of the bulls.
Foos Angus utilizes some AI sires, but gravitates toward the proven genetics of Tracker, Really Windy and Right Time lines. “We line breed a little, but not really line one or anything. We just want to maintain a type in the cattle,” says Bryce.
“All of the calves coming in 2014 are by our own sires or by bulls bred very closely to them. I feel if you don’t prove the bulls in your own program you really don’t know how they perform at all,” says Bryce. “I raised Foos Right Time 135, a bull that I kept back and am using in our cowherd. He’s a Right Time, Tracker, Really Windy combination and I’m sure pleased with him. He combines calving ease with excellent growth. Foos Right Time 135’s heifers look very promising.”
“For us, performance means fertility, maternal ability and efficient growth. I want to create an animal with a balance for efficiency, both reproductively and feed-wise,” says Bryce, adding “If I’m going to use a bull I want one that is well rounded. We never go after just one trait. Too much of one thing can leave a shortage in another. I’m convinced that extremes are more a detriment than a benefit in one’s herd.”
Meghan added to that by saying “We want to be raising the right number of bulls too. We want to have affordable bulls that always sell.”
Another factor in the Foos cattle is disposition. They handle their cattle with horses and a dog and do it with ease. If a heifer or bull doesn’t exhibit the disposition that they are striving for, they will be culled from the herd.
They rope and drag the calves to the branding fire and any doctoring is done right in the pasture with a saddle horse. The registered cows are run like commercial cows in all ways possible. They calve starting the middle of January, and calve outside as long as the weather cooperates. Even on a brisk January or February day, the calves will be out with the cows, chasing each other through the snow and hay.
With that early calving date, the re-breeding of the cows could be a challenge, but they are efficient in that area too. Bryce and Meghan AI and have bulls turned out when most people are still calving.
A concept to promote local genetics was the brainchild of Jim Willson of Crook Mountain Angus, Whitewood, S.D., and Norman Foos. The goal was to provide genetics for both the commercial and purebred breeds and so Real Ranch Genetics, a source for AI sires out of their herds, came to fruition. The next generation is now improving upon the foundational idea.
The program was developed to breed good, solid cows. They believed that the female is the most important part of any herd and her type and fertility are crucial for the raising of good calves. The longevity of that cow is also critical, as the longer she’s in production, the more profit she’ll show the ranch. Raising one’s own replacement heifers is also critical for the improvement of a cowherd and the sires chosen for the Real Ranch Genetics offering are the cow making kind.
Since Norm’s passing, Willson has encouraged Bryce and Meghan Foos, and additionally, Lance and Kerry Frei of Frei Angus, Red Owl, S.D., to keep growing Real Ranch Genetics. The young couples are bringing fresh ideas to the already proven program.
In the meantime, back at Foos Angus, the bulls are eating their ground hay and barley, with just a little corn in it, and then go out on pasture and graze the day through. The feet and legs of the young bulls are kept healthy and strong and the playing and rough housing in the pasture keeps them in shape.
The heifers are turned out on pasture to grow out on grass and forage. They have plenty of room to travel and develop the sound feet and legs they’ll need for their long careers in the cowherd.
The mothers of all of them are grazing in their own pasture, staying fat and shiny on grass and stubble from hay fields. The bred heifers are mixed in and are treated just like the mother cows they’re bred to be. The condition of the cattle is excellent and the cows and heifers are in fine shape to give plenty of milk when that new little Foos Angus calf arrives in January.
So time has marched on, the “guard” has changed, but the focus of Foos Angus is still the same. Efficient, fertile cows build cowherds, and that is why people need bulls bred to do the same.