A learning experience
Firmly believing that agriculture is worth promoting, each year, Jason and Shirley ZumBrunnen of ZumBrunnen Angus in Lusk, Wyoming, invite several classes of students to their ranch and bull sale. Second graders from Lusk Elementary and Middle School got to experience the preparation work required to host a successful sale March 7. They then returned to their classroom to watch the sale online through DVAuction.
“Essentially, one of our goals is to promote agriculture, and we feel the best way to do that is to reach out to kids and give them an opportunity to personally experience some things we do,” Shirley said. “Each year we have one or two grades come to our bull sale to learn what we do. We take some time to explain how we care for the animals, why we raise them, and what we may look for when purchasing a bull.”
“The students learn about the undertaking it takes to set a bull sale. The students fill out a booklet that we bring to class to keep discussing what went on. They witnessed how the sale was set up outside and inside. They learned what it took to get it ready and what needed to be done. The students found out what the whole family does to work on the sale. They experienced seeing a video sale and how it worked and all the things needed for it to be successful,” said LEMS second grade teacher Teresa Tucker. She is also the creator of ag in the classroom at LEMS, which was born as an opportunity when one of the ZumBrunnen girls was in her class.
“Teresa Tucker is the driving force in the school to help expose the younger kids to agriculture,” Shirley said. “We try to have them out several times a year to see a branding and see baby calves. Probably 75 percent of these children have never been up close and personal with livestock, and the experience they have petting a calf and the fun they have we believe makes a difference in that kids and is positive for the ag community.”
Emily, the youngest ZumBrunnen daughter, was among Tucker’s class that traveled nine blocks to the Niobrara County Fairgrounds to preview bulls in the pens and question Chris Earl of CK6 Consulting and Lex Madden of Torrington Livestock Auction on their respective roles at the sale.
“The auctioneer discussed what his job was and why it was important to the ZumBrunnens. Careers were discussed from everything of videotaping the bulls and what it took to do that. They discussed what ranchers may look for in a bull and why that was important. They found out that many people were involved in the sale and that it had to be organized to work. They witnessed everything it took to put a sale together,” Tucker said. “The other item they were exposed to was actually watching the sale on the internet. We watched the sale in our classroom; they got a taste of what it was like to see, hear, and watch the sale.”
For the past three years, ZumBrunnen Angus has also welcomed students from Niobrara County High School ag classes to witness pregnancy checking with an ultrasound machine.
“Each kid is given an opportunity to check a cow and determine whether she is bred or not,” Shirley said. “Most of the kids have been a part of something similar, but for some this experience is interesting, to say the least.”
While many family and corporate ranches surround the small town of Lusk, Wyoming, there are ample families living in town who don’t have connections to agriculture, ranches, and livestock.
“Our students live in an agriculture community, and it is important for them to know what the ag community does. It is also important that they know where their food comes from and who the producers are,” Tucker said. “Also, many students do not have a ranching/farming background any more so it is important that they are exposed to agriculture. Students need to be exposed to all areas of agriculture. It is important that students have a background of where they live and what makes your community successful and sustainable.”
As 4-H members themselves, the ZumBrunnen family creates opportunities for 4-H youth and FFA members to learn and grow.
“For the clubs FFA and 4-H we offer the kids an opportunity to come to judge bulls before the sale and then we put on a 4-H judging in the first part of June and have several classes of bulls and heifers for the kids to evaluate,” Shirley said.
Very much a family affair, the ZumBrunnens’ other two daughters Melody, sixth grade, and Gracie, fifth grade, help at the sale each year. Four-year-old Levi was also at the sale, though his ability to help will come later on down the road.
The ranch was first homesteaded by Jason’s great-grandad Jacob ZumBrunnen in 1888; the registered Angus herd was initiated in 1948. As the fourth generation, Jason and Shirley returned to the ranch in 2012 to partner with Jason’s parents Mel and Lola. Melody, Gracie, Emily, and Levi are the fifth generation of ZumBrunnens on the ranch.