Black Hills Stock Show Stockmen of the Year: Krebs Ranch
The Sandhills of Nebraska are known for big spaces, big cowherds, and, for families like the Krebs, big dreams.
This year’s Stockmen of the Year, Eldon and Louisa Krebs, got their own start in the cattle business when they bought a ranch in Sheridan County, Nebraska in 1980. But their cowherd is built on even bigger shoulders, dating to when Eldon was herdsman for Ken Caryl Cattle Company in Colorado. In 1977 Mr Angus 8017 was born to that program, starting a life that Eldon guided through a show career that culminated in the high-profile bull being part of the emerging A.I. stud industry. But it was High Voltage in 1980 and his Triple Crown show career that gave Eldon and Louisa the financial means to plant their family roots near Gordon, Nebraska and launch the business that has made Krebs a household name in the Angus industry. Initially they brought some of the herd they’d accumulated at Ken Caryl, and started a partnership with Joe Huckfeldt.
Some of their first females were twin sisters from the first calf crop out of Mr Angus. One of those, Queen of Ken Caryl 179 produced Shamrock HK, who became a Pathfinder sire that held the number one milk EPD spot for several years.
It was this quality of cattle that gave the Krebs the platform to build a notable Angus cowherd, but it was the showring that gave them the spotlight.
Through showing at venues like the Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City and National Western Stock Show in Denver they crafted a network that carried their reputation across the country.
One of these associates was George Lemm, a manager for Whitestone Farm, of Aldie, Virginia. He’d bought cattle from Krebs for a couple years, then a joke turned into reality, Louisa Krebs said.
“He said he needed to buy some cows, and Eldon jokingly told him, ‘They’re all for sale.’’’ A month and a handshake later, the deal was done, creating a 50/50 partnership and Whitestone Krebs, a name familiar to Angus breeders for nearly 30 years.
Today, the Krebs name stands alone, but Eldon and Louisa have plenty of company. When their two children, Ty and Kami, grew up and were ready to take their place in the family operation, Lemm said it was time for him to step aside and allow the Krebs to become a family partnership.
“Ty pretty much does all the production and oversees all the cattle and everything else,” Louisa said. Ty’s wife, Kaleigh, and three kids, Sage, Kinsley and Cashley, are all part of the business, and Sage’s name is a familiar one at the Black Hills Stock Show. He’s usually at the end of the halter rope of a red and white animal, making a name for himself in the Hereford showring. His Hereford bull took Supreme Row honors a few years ago. Kinsley and Cashley are now joining him and are quickly becoming the handy handlers their brother is.
Kami and her husband, Jake Scott, are also integral to the business. About 12 years ago, Eldon realized a long-time goal and started a commercial bull stud, called Western Sire Services. Kami has been running that since the beginning, working originally with John Weston, formerly of Dakota Sire Services, who helped Krebs get established before he retired. Jake runs all the marketing and cattle records, as well as helping with all the day-to-day work on the ranch. Their oldest daughter, Peyton, is showing cattle for the first time this year and little sister, Harper, is in kindergarten, waiting for her turn in the showring.
“It’s nice to have them around,” Louisa said. “It’s good seeing their progress and growth.”
While it’s difficult to get away from the ranch, Louisa attributes a lot of their success to making the time to go to shows like the Black Hills Stock Show. “When we were just starting, if you took a bull to Denver and he was a champion, his value was just insurmountable. It helped sell a lot of calves and a lot of semen. You meet so many people it was the best advertising you could do. You just meet so many ranchers and people who are interested in your cattle. You might not get any business that year, but two or three years down the road they might remember seeing you or your cattle.”
In a “handshake” industry, personal relationships still matter, Louisa said. “Your word is good. You represent your things correctly and are good to do business with. Those are things that stand out more in this industry than any other industry.”
The Krebs family looks forward to attending the shows every year, in part to see how their cattle measure up, but also for renewing the relationships that they’ve built over the years.
It was one of those relationships that set them on the path for being named this year’s Stockmen of the Year at the Black Hills Stock Show.
“Their nomination actually came from individuals in the industry,” said Lori Maude, secretary of the Black Hills Stock Show board of directors. The committee solicits nominations for the awards from the board as well as the industry. “Eldon and Louisa have been such an influence in the Angus breed,” Maude said. “They were involved with the Black Hills Stock Show for decades, since they were first getting their business off the ground. Now their grandson and granddaughter are showing Herefords. It’s a great family thing for them. They’re excellent stockmen and do such a great job with their cattle, business and support of the Black Hills Stock Show and Central States Fair.”
Louisa estimates it was about 1976 when they first started showing Ken Caryl cattle at the stock show, when it was still at the Central States Fairgrounds. They’ve exhibited Angus cattle for years, and now have added the Herefords with their grandchildren. They’ve also marketed horses through the horse sale and are members of the Foundation.
They’ve claimed Supreme Champion honors with both the Angus and Hereford cattle, and look forward to continuing to breed excellence, and teach excellence as the third generation takes to the spotlight.
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