Taking up the Fuoss tradition
February 18, 2009
Four generations of the Fuoss family have been raising black Angus at their Draper, SD ranch. The third generation member of the family, Dave Fuoss, watched his father and grandfather work the ranch that he and his sons now operate. He says the fifth generation of the family is waiting in the wings to become part of the operation too.
“My grandsons, Mike’s boys, will be involved with the cattle when they’re old enough,” Dave says. “For quite a few years we ran commercial cattle, but we picked up some of Leo Howard’s best genetics when he went from selling bulls to feeding calves a few years ago. He did a really good job with his genetics and we implemented a lot of his practices in our own operation.”
One hundred of Howard’s top cows came from Winner, SD to Dave’s ranch last year. They joined the registered Angus Dave had purchased from Marcy Cattle Co. in Hay Springs, NE. The Fuoss’ also purchased registered stock from Charles Mogck’s mature cow herd in Olivet, SD, when he held a dispersal sale several years ago. All told, Dave and his sons run about 800 cows, half of which are registered stock.
“Good disposition, great udders and balanced EPDs are the characteristics we look for in our cattle,” Dave says. “Last year our sires included TC Gridiron, TC Total, TC Topper, SAV Traveler 004, Mytti Infocus, Sitz Alliance 6595, and Boyd New Day. All their EPD numbers are moderate and well balanced. One of the things we want to see in our cows is strong maternal instincts. Producing a good mother cow is one of our key goals.”
It was Dave’s grandfather, Henry Fuoss, who came to Draper in 1913 and started raising cattle. Herefords filled the pastures until 1949 when Henry decided that he wanted to begin using Angus breeding.
“He was probably one of the first ranchers here to put an Angus bull on a Hereford cow,” Dave says. “But he never got to see the calves out of that cross because he died in the spring of 1950 before the calves were born.”
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Dave’s father, Orville, continued with the breeding program his father had developed. As Dave moved into the cattle operation, he began moving toward registered stock, which he and his sons have continued to acquire over the past 10 years.
“We’re really careful with the disposition of our cattle,” Dave says. “If one of them is just a little wild, they’re culled out of the herd. We run in some pretty large pastures here and our cows have to be easy to manage.”
Dave notes that his family runs their Angus program at a very practical level and has seen their genetics prove to be profitable for commercial producers.
“We have a powerful set of bulls, probably the deepest we’ve ever offered,” he says. “That shows improvement in our program. We believe our bulls will put pounds on calves in the most efficient way possible when they’re on production females with great udders. We breed for balanced traits so our bulls are profitable for commercial customers year after year.”
Because of the size of their rangeland acres, the Fuoss’ are careful to retain cows that are easy calving and quickly bond with their calves.
“We raise crops here too, so there’s no time to pen the cows up when they’re calving,” Dave says. “They have to be able to drop that calf and take care of them. They don’t get much one-on-one attention. If the weather’s bad during calving, we do bring cows into the barn. Those that are in the pasture are checked twice each day. They seem to get along fine. Another characteristic you’ll find in the cows is good udders. We concentrate on those female traits so our cows are the best they can be.”
Dave credits his wife, Kathy, for her record-keeping skills and ability to “make this all work.”
“She takes care of all our bookwork and the pedigrees,” he says. “Most of our cows calve from April through May. At our production sale, which is February 21 at Presho, we’ll offer right at 100 Angus bulls.”
From the corn, sunflowers, milo and winter wheat they raise, the Fuoss family uses some of the grain for feed. They liked the Hubbard Feeds plan Leo Howard used and have continued that practice to develop their own bulls.
“They’ll get corn silage, hay and a total mix ration,” Dave says. “We raise all our own feed. Our family really works together to make that happen. When we go to the field to harvest, we’re all there. Kathy runs the combine and everybody else pitches in with whatever needs to be done.”
Their sunflowers and winter wheat are cash crops, although the wheat straw is used in the TMR. Stubble fields provide grazing once crops are harvested.
“We bale quite a bit of the wheat straw for bedding too,” Dave says.
The Fuoss family exhibited some of their bulls at the Valentine, NE, Bull Bash. A TC Gridiron son, Schurrjene 2595 and Woodhill Admiral 775K son are the genetics behind the bulls they brought to the event.
“When we ultrasounded these bulls, we got really good carcass information,” Fuoss says. “That’s what producers are looking for.”
The Fuoss family has been pleased with the genetics in their herd and Dave hopes to see his grandchildren take up the tradition his grandfather started.
“I’d enjoy seeing them raise quality Angus cattle,” Dave says. “It’s a lot of work but there’s a lot of enjoyment that goes with it too. Every spring we all look forward to seeing new calves. This year we’ll have calves out of Net Worth, SAV, Bismarck, Pendleton, Focus and Objective. We’re anxious to see how they turn out. That’s the kind of experience I’d like to see them enjoy.”