Hould Angus focuses on building cattle to thrive where they are
For J Bob Hould, decades of exhaustion, splitting time between a “town” job and the ranch, culminated in a few sentences at their early April bull sale.
“Spring of 2020 was tough on everyone and it was finally sale day,” Hould said. “I was so excited that we were finally going to be having our first live auction. It was April 4 and right in the heat of COVID shutdowns and restrictions. I did all my homework and made all the calls leading up to that day. People were still coming and others were going to be on the conference call line. We had built a new sale facility the summer before and we were ready. I knew what I was going to say and had rehearsed it for days. I sit on the auction block and our auctioneer, Kyle Shobe, introduces me and hands me the mic. I look out over the crowd and see my family that has been behind me. Brothers and sisters who know how hard I have worked for this. Customers and friends that have been with me for years and now it’s my turn to finally say thank you to all of them, and I fail miserably. I’m so choked up from all of their support that I can’t hardly get a word out. I’m not a man that is short of words, but that that moment I couldn’t think of any. That short little sale with 45 bulls made a memory that I will never forget. It was the culmination of so many things and just the pride I have for my family. I will never forget that day.”
J Bob and his family, wife, Ruby, daughter Jessica, sons Tucker, Hunter Cole and Tyler, married to Brooke, with granddaughter, Hadley, have worked together, Ruby and kids managing the ranch with the help of Kaleb McLain and Kyle Konesky, while J Bob worked 12-hour days in town. “I relied heavily on my wife and kids to keep an eye on things. Which they did very well, and I’m very grateful for them, and proud of them all. I also thank my brother Dwain Hould, who has helped us with promotion and been a great advocate for us and our type of cattle.”
Their type of cattle weren’t arrived at by chasing pedigrees or EPDs. They focused on building cattle they like, that can get by without a lot of extra labor and expense–just good, honest cattle, Hould says. “Our ranch slogan is, ‘cattle with maternal performance and genetics with maternal integrity.’ Just straightforward and simple.”
J Bob is about to retire from his 21-year career as a journeyman telephone technician for the local telephone cooperative. He’s looking forward to being able to do the things that he enjoys the most, being around his family and cows, though he acknowledges he wished it could have been sooner, while his kids were still at home.
J Bob’s job in town required a cow that fit the environment, that would survive and stay sound with little help or assistance. “I think we have a great set of cows that have proven themselves to do this job very well,” he said. “Now the toughest job is to maintain this level of ability and not screw it up.”
Years ago, J Bob recognized a certain cow–number 1450–that checked all the boxes and fit the environment and objectives perfectly. They flushed embryos, and ended up with more than 30 direct daughters, and over half of their herd tracing to this cow at least once, if not several times. “Most of these direct daughters are well into their teen years and still producing outstanding calves for us,” he said. They used proven, time-tested sires, like Emulation EXT 5522, E31, OCC Anchor, Basin Q Bar, Rito 054, CSU Rito 4114, Wandering Creek Dynasty and Basin Rainmaker 814z.
All of the home-raised herd bulls are out of one of her daughters, or a direct son, but are also getting up in age. So in the spring of 2020 they brought in five of 1450’s aging daughters to flush and implant fresh. Two of those cows have been kept open all year and flushed. They plan to implant 80 to 100 embryos into cows that they are buying specifically for this project. “The two cows chosen both have two herd bulls in our lineup and have proven themselves to be much like their mother in type and kind,” Hould said.
J Bob’s ideal cow hasn’t always looked like the cows that are standing in his pastures now. “In 1991 when I purchased my first registered cows, my ideal cow was completely different than what I have now. Your environment will dictate what is going to work for you and I find it easier to just let it play out that way. There was a time when I just knew that I needed that super-stout, wide-bodied, belly-dragging cow to make a great set of cows for us. That was not the case. What I found was a cow that was more refined, and feminine-fronted. Not near the massive belly depth that I envisioned. And cattle that were not a three frame, and dang sure not a six frame or more. I don’t mind a cow that shows wear a little bit and brings in a great calf, but can immediately get on the gain after weaning and be back in good rig by January, without any help other than grass and mineral. She needs to have a great udder, as well as be fertile and functional. A cow that is range-adaptable and can survive is a must here. Nobody gets a second chance.”
The cattle run on grass in the foothills of the Bears Paw Mountains southeast of Havre, Montana.
“I’m getting to be kind of a grass snob,” J Bob says. “I don’t like grazing pastures down and do my best to keep grass in great health. Since 2015 we have rested a third of our ranch pastures for a year. Some pastures have rested for two years and it has been satisfying to see the drastic changes in forage.”
They’ve also slowly transitioned farmland into grass and alfalfa for winter forage, and for a hay crop in good years. When they need extra forage they can use those to graze, and rest the native pastures.
Water isn’t an issue, with springs to spare. Their goal is to develop those springs and put in tanks to protect those areas, then build cross-fences to better utilize the grass and route water into the grass/alfalfa fields.
The goal, ultimately, is to keep growing the ranch so Houlds’ kids can return at some point, but J Bob is aware of the possibility that the kids may not share the goal. “I have several friends and acquaintances that have worked their tails off to build a legacy, only to learn that maybe one, if any of their children want to come back. It may be all of our dreams, but just not our children’s dreams.”
He wants to position the ranch to make it a possibility, and have that conversation when the time comes.
A couple new outside leases allowed them to expand their recip herd, and keep all their heifer calves. They plan to add registered females to their sale this spring, and down the road they’d like to offer 3- to 4-year-old pairs. “It makes sense to me to market cattle at this stage, when they generally are at their highest price point and demand. All of the cattle with issues would have been culled out and some great cattle will be available to our customers annually,” J Bob says. “In recent years we have been contacted by commercial ranchers to help them find cattle like ours. Either in weaned heifer calves, bred heifers or running-age cows. We have placed several hundred head of them in the past couple years and would like to keep this service going.”
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