Cattle Journal 2023: K2 Red Angus, Wyoming
Ranchers often choose cattle breeds based on what they like to look at and work with. This is the case for Jason and Kim Cullen Goertz, of K2 Red Angus in Wheatland, Wyoming.
Both Kim and Jason were raised on ranches, and when Kim was an Animal Science major at the University of Wyoming, she worked in the college’s E.T. program and fell in love with Red Angus. “We kept all the donor cows there,” said Kim. “That’s when I started getting into registered Red Angus. They’re good mothers, great on the range and easy to be around with fantastic dispositions. They work well where we live in Wyoming.”
When Kim started her own herd of Red Angus, she sold bulls via private treaty. Her first sales were small, with about ten head. Her sales opened January 1, and she recalls not selling bulls until May when people were desperate. “As the business grew, I remember the year I decided to make changes,” she said. “On January 1 at 6:00 a.m., I got a call from a guy who wanted three bulls. At 10:00 a.m. I got another call from a guy who wanted two bulls, but one was the same bull the earlier buyer purchased.” Kim says the misunderstanding is what spurred her to switch to online sales in 2010.
The Goertzes work two groups of cattle: Jason’s family’s cows that calve in May and June, and their own registered Red Angus herd that calve in late February and March. “We kept the same schedule and started putting embryos in the May-calving commercial cows,” said Kim. “That was the start of our summer herd, and we still have the original spring herd.”
The two herds are maintained in separate locations, and the Goertzes are adamant about not moving open cows from one herd to the other. ““We expect cows to be efficient machines,” said Kim. “We are firm about fertility, and we think that has paid off. Where we run the cattle, it’s a matter of labor, time and terrain.”
Spring calvers are bred in May then moved to higher elevation range. “The May and June calvers are wintered hard – we don’t want to draw them out of protected areas in winter – we expect them to go up and we don’t mess with them until March or April,” said Kim. “It’s different terrain with different grass. That herd has grown, so this past year we finally decided to move more cattle to the summer calving because we live up on a cold, windy hill. We’re going to change the percentages a little bit, but we still do both (calvings).”
As their success with video sales continued to grow, the Goertzes realized they needed a sale barn that could also serve other purposes. Jason says he and Kim had a good idea of what they wanted in a barn prior to starting construction. “We wanted to make it a multi-use barn,” said Jason, adding that the barn was built in 2018. “Our sales are all video, so the cattle are penned by the barn and can be viewed prior to the sale. Buyers can ‘walk’ through and look at the cattle.”
In the February bull sale, the family offers about 100 head of yearling and 18-month bulls and some registered heifers. The commercial fall female sale, which the Goertzes started in 2018, features about 400 head and showcases maternal traits. K2 Red Angus is also starting to offer embryos and semen.
The commercial cattle in the K2 herd include reds, blacks, and baldies. “We do a little crossover because you can register Black Angus as Red Angus,” said Kim. “Once in a while we’ll pull over some genetics we really like and work a couple years to get a red animal. Most of the commercial females we sell are heifers bought back from our customers so they’re all out of our bulls. The baldies come from customers with crossbred cows.”
Kim explains that PAP (pulmonary arterial pressure related to high-mountain disease) testing is critical to buyers who will be running cattle in high country. “The low PAP, complete bulls are in huge demand in this area,” she said. “It’s a big draw and still unique. We’ve been PAP testing for 20 years with Dr. Tim Holt of Colorado. We sell cattle that will be living up to 12,000 feet or more, and we offer a guarantee for retesting because the score can change.”
Thanks to diligent testing, the Goertzes haven’t had any bulls returned due to a bad score at a high elevation. Kim added that PAP testing has caught heart murmurs and other problems that can save a rancher from discovering a dead bull in the pasture. “People who have been testing for years know it shows up more in cattle at lower elevations,” she said, “and feedlot cattle with good PAP scores are surviving better to finish.”
While PAP tested genetics are important to buyers, Kim says there isn’t a lot of semen available on PAP tested bulls. “We’re hoping to get into that niche,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons some of our buyers come to us.”
K2 Red Angus also includes a custom freezer beef enterprise operated by Jason’s family. “We raise most of the cattle for that in our commercial herd,” he said. “We also buy some steers to finish from our bull customers and direct market beef.” In addition to the beef herd, the Goertzes raise dryland hay, irrigated hay, dryland wheat, oats and millet hay for their own use.
Like others who sell beef cuts directly to the public, the Goertzes saw a surge in beef sales during Covid. “Most of them have remained customers, and we’re still getting new customers,” said Jason. “We were fairly busy before, and when Covid hit, sales continued and it hasn’t slowed down since.”
The Goertzes’ two children, Cole and Laynie are high school juniors and an integral part of the ranch. “They have their own registered and commercial cows,” said Kim. “I used to have a custom A.I business before we got so busy. I told the kids I’d breed their cows to whatever they wanted, and if it turned out worthless, they’d not get any money and if it turns out great, good for you.”
Kim has bred her kids’ cattle to a variety of sires, then Cole and Laynie select and show their own home-bred calves in 4-H – a good assessment of their developing breeding programs. “They pay attention to the numbers,” said Kim. “They like making a profit when they use their own calves.”