Gray Angus Ranch is 2021 Nebraska Angus Producer of the Year
Rod and Laura Gray and family of Harrison, Nebraska, are the recipients of the 2021 Nebraska Angus Producer of the Year award.
Raising registered Angus has been a family tradition for the Grays.
Rod’s great-great grandfather Starr Fuller had American Aberdeen Angus registries from Toledo, Iowa, dating back to 1898. Harry Gray, Rod’s grandpa purchased Angus cows from his wife’s father, Art Fuller and held public auctions of “Richly Bred Angus Cattle” in the 1940s. Wayne Gray, Rod’s dad, built the Angus cow herd to 400 registered females and sold bulls private treaty. At the age of 15, Rod purchased his first bull from the Champion Pen of 3 at Denver, which was a son of Ankonian President. Rod grew up active in the Iowa Junior Angus Association and served as President. He showed their own Angus breeding stock in 4-H, Progress Shows, Iowa State Fair, and the Denver Stock Show.
Rod and Laura moved to Nebraska in 1983 and have raised their family in the Angus business since. Their children were active in the Nebraska Junior Angus Association. Naomi was Nebraska Angus Queen in 2000, and a finalist for Miss American Angus. Their children also showed at AKSARBEN, the National Junior Angus Show, Progress Shows and in 4-H. Rod served on the Nebraska Angus Association Board of Directors and was the 1992-1993 President. He also served on the Nebraska Beef Check-Off Board for eight years and traveled to Central and South America with the US Meat Export Federation promoting beef. In 1997, the family picked up their roots and cattle, and all moved west to the Wyoming border southwest of Harrison. They hosted the Nebraska Junior Angus Show at Fort Robinson, and a few Nebraska Angus Tours. They have exhibited at Husker Harvest Days, the Nebraska State Fair, Wyoming State Fair, Central States Fair, the NILE, Denver Stock Show, Western Junior Stock Show and the Black Hills Stock Show. In 2008, Grays’ Angus bred and raised steers won the Champion National Certified Angus Beef Angus Source Carcass Challenge. They have also exported registered Angus breeding stock to Russia and Turkey.
Today Rod and Laura’s sons Heath and Garret live and work on the place. The ranch has pivots for raising alfalfa and corn silage for winter feed. At an altitude of 4,600 to 5,000 feet, the growing season is about 90 days. Their son Colt and wife Riyatta and their daughter Keirra are close by on Wyoming property and regularly help out. Son Levi, wife Sarah and their kids Cooper and Kendall, take in Grays’ Angus pairs for the summer on their ground in the White River country. Their daughter Naomi and her husband Jeff Pelster and their family, Chisum, Ruger, Linnea, Canton and Kimberlynn ranch north of Harrison on the Coffee War Bonnet Ranch. They have Grays’ Angus bloodlines in their cow herd and have a yearling operation. Grandpa Rod has started the seventh generation showing Angus breeding stock where Chisum had a Champion Angus Bull at the Western Junior Livestock Show in Rapid City this fall. They all take the Angus cattle business seriously and help out tremendously with the spring bull sale, branding, and ranch work.
This time of year, the Grays are sorting through the 400+ bull calves, picking out the top one-third to offer for sale. Careful selection for a “Complete Package” including dam production, performance, profitable EPDs and soundness are being closely monitored. Later born calves are held over for buyers looking for 2-year-olds. The bulls are developed at the ranch on a sensible, low concentrate diet with ample room to exercise. Heifer calves are also wintered at the ranch, synchronized, and AIed before trailing to grass for the summer. Calving usually starts the first of February with AI and ET calves. All the pairs leave the main ranch for the growing season. There are several environmental challenges for the herd from year to year. At White River and Deep Creek, south of Crawford, the terrain has very steep ravines and is covered with pine trees. Up at Provo, South Dakota, the pairs face sparse water, is treeless, and is a drought susceptible gumbo. For Sioux County the hard grass is great, but is also drought susceptible in the high plains, shortgrass prairie.
Rod has kept a closed cow herd through the years, keeping the very best genetics going. With hardy Angus bloodlines tracing back to the original Gray cow herd, these females have been tried and proven to perform in various range conditions and terrains. The cows go to work, take care of themselves and their calves, and rebreed to do it all over again the next year. The steers are fed in a feedlot and consistently finish with an ADG over 4.5lbs/day. Their carcasses grade 95 percent choice and higher, and 57 percent CAB and prime. Grays are all about providing good quality beef for consumers, and profitability for their customers. They will be hosting their 27th “2nd Century” Performance Bull Sale at the ranch the third Saturday in March. All of the family has been a big part of the entire success for the operation. From the ancestors and extended family to the kids and grandkids who are actively involved now. Everyone has been very thankful to God for His blessings and favor.
“No one who believes in Christ will be disappointed” Romans 10:11.
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