2019 Winter Cattle Journal: Mohnen Angus
January 4, 2019
Steve Mohnen is passionate about Angus cattle. He's spent the last 38 years studying the breed and building his herd of elite mama cows.
"I was 25 years old when I started working for Howard Hillman of Bon View Angus Farms in Canova SD from 1980-1985," said Steve. "While there, I learned how to AI and about the genetics of the breed. Bon View Farms was one of the most progressive Angus operations in the nation, and in starting my own herd back home, 90 percent of my cows originated from Bon View's proven 8-10-year old cows."
Steve added, "In 1980, my dad started purchasing bulls when I was working for Bon View and was proud of the calves they produced on his commercial cows. Our registered Angus herd began to grow, and we proudly became Mohnen Angus."
The Mohnen family has been a staple of the White Lake community since German immigrant Matthew Mohnen homesteaded the ranch in 1884. Since then, generations of Mohnens have worked the land.
"I learned my hard work ethic from my Dad," said Steve. "Growing up in a family of 11 brothers and sisters, we were expected to help on the ranch. I always enjoyed working with the cattle and hogs. In 1985, I came back home to work alongside my dad, and for the next 10 years, I built my own cow herd, as well."
In 1994, Steve and his wife Kathy purchased their own place, just four miles down the road from the original homestead site where he grew up. Together, the couple raised cattle and four children — Josh, John, Jenny and Jared.
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Josh, his wife Katie, and their four boys — Koye, Kade, Kase and Kole — are back on the ranch. John, his wife Tory, and their two children — Gage and Laynie — also came back home to continue the family tradition in the cattle business.
Meanwhile, Jennifer, and her husband Ty Krell, along with their two children — Jake and Hadlee — ranch near Sundance, Wyo. Jennifer works for Wyoming Farm Bureau Insurance, and Ty serves as the vice president of the Sundance State Bank. Jared Mohnen owns and operates Dakota Ag Insurance Mitchell SD, and runs cattle on the Mohnen ranch, as well.
Today the ranch consists of a registered Angus seedstock herd located near White Lake, S.D., as well as a 275-head commercial herd located in Canova, S.D., which is managed in a partnership with a family friend. To support three families on the ranch, Mohnen credits slow and steady expansions over the years.
"We have continued to increase our land, which has allowed us to grow," he said. "Our early-calving commercial cows in Canova are used as recips in our embryo transfer program, which has allowed us to bring great genetics to our customers year after year."
Mohnen Angus hosts an annual bull sale, marketing 140 bulls, that is held on the ranch the second Thursday in February. February 2019 will mark the family's 25th annual bull sale. Although the Mohnens don't sell females every year, a fall female sale is slated for 2019. Also new in 2018, Mohnen Angus introduced an "Open the Gate" May bull sale selling an additional 35-40 bulls to customers.
"The Open the Gate sale allowed us to further develop a younger set of bulls with the same strict set of criteria as the bulls sold in our February sale," said Josh Mohnen. "This was our first year of doing this, but it gave us the opportunity to help our customers out who were needing bulls after semen testing or if a herd sire had gotten hurt. In previous years, when we had gotten those calls, we were sold out of bulls and had to turn them in different directions."
The Mohnens agree that it's the great people in the cattle business that makes it so enjoyable.
"We love the people in this industry, our customers and the relationships we've developed over the years," said Josh. "Our customer base is a big factor in our business. We need to have strong relationships in order to be successful, and we need to believe and stand behind our products."
With strong demand for Mohnen Angus genetics, the ranch has enjoyed tremendous success over the years. In 2013, Mohnen South Dakota 402 sold for $120,000 for two-thirds interest to Semex, Dale Edwards and Anvil Angus. In 2014, Mohnen Impressive 1093 sold two-thirds interest for $160,000 to Richard Angus and Genex. Other successful sires for the Mohnens include Long Distance, Dynamite, Substantial, Success, Global and many more.
Another prestigious highlight for Mohnen Angus was winning the 2014 National Western Grand Champion Angus carload show, with a set of 10 Angus bulls. Six of the 10 bulls were sired by Mohnen South Dakota 402, and all 10 went back to the pedigree of Mohnen's very successful well-known foundation cow, Mohnen's Jilt 910.
So what has been the secret to Mohnen Angus' success?
"It all goes back to the Angus cow, and the hard work each and everyone here does to make it successful," said Steve. "We have a lot of different ideas, and that's what makes it so rewarding. We are passionate about our part in the Angus business, and we will never stop working to keep our genetically-sound females. Angus are the best mama cows there are, in my opinion. Our cows graze until two weeks before calving. They aren't pampered. They are expected to work for us and be profitable."
"Raising quality cattle isn't just our job; it's our life," added John Mohnen. "Everything goes back to the cow, and the Angus cow has always been superior as a maternal female."
"Angus females breed back on time. They are functional, easy-fleshing, and good-uddered, can wean a calf that sells well at market and produce a premium beef product that consumers all over the world love," said Josh.
This passion for the breed extends to the next generation, as well, as the Mohnen grandkids are learning the ropes from a young age.
"Every year, the kids gain a little more experience helping us in the business," said Josh. "We started in 4-H this year, and Koye is really enjoying it. Every kid gets to keep one cow each year, and they get to make their own breeding decisions. It's a learning tool for them and a way to keep them involved and have something to build upon."
"I hope our kids love the Angus breed as much as we do, and they can continue Mohnen Angus for years to come," Josh said. "We are very excited for our future in this business. One day, we'll be retired and our kids will be selling the bulls in their annual sale. It's something to look forward to."
Yet, like all ranching families, the Mohnens have faced ups and downs. In the early 2000s, they were forced to disperse half the herd after a five-year drought left them short of grass. They've weathered the market swings, the inclement weather and other challenges over the years, but Steve never wavered in his goals of developing a premier Angus herd that would serve his commercial and registered breeders.
"We've weathered the challenges by selecting the best genetics possible each year," he said. "I built this cow herd from the ground up; nothing was handed to me. I never chased fads, and I've always just focused on raising functional cattle that work in my herd. My best advice to others is to keep your mindset on what you really want and don't look the other way."
He said, "Don't build your cow herd solely off the results of a 50K test. Just because a female has the best genomics scores, doesn't mean she stays. A functional cow with a good udder, temperament, structure and feet is critical. The power is in the genetics.”