Going cattle crazy

BOWMAN -- They say variety is the spice of life. Variety is exactly what ranchers got during the 21st Annual All Breeds Cattle Tour this past Wednesday and Thursday.

BOWMAN -- They say variety is the spice of life. Variety is exactly what ranchers got during the 21st Annual All Breeds Cattle Tour this past Wednesday and Thursday.

The tour spanned four counties including Bowman, Slope, Hettinger and Adams. There were 14 operations who hosted approximately 200 people on the tour that stopped near Bowman, Amidon, Rhame, Hettinger, Regent and New England.

The event put on by North Dakota Stockmen's Association Seed Stock Council rotates tours to nine different areas of the state. Each hosting operation is sponsored by a business or organization.

Being involved

Duane and Darlene Trautman have gone to 17 of the 21 tours. They are semi-retired from ranching life, but own a Gelbvieh cow/calf operation in Medina. The couple has bought bulls from operations they've seen on the tours.


"What I like are the ideas we've gotten over the years by visiting others' operations," Duane Trautman said. "Things like steel corrals and different kinds of gates to put onto our operation has been a great part of going."

Meeting new friends and seeing old ones also is a great part of going on the tours, Darlene added.

"The countryside is just beautiful too," she said. "It's a nice way to see the state."

Having these tours benefits producers and spectators, Trautman said.

The Lazy JS Ranch off U.S. Highway 85 was the first stop on the tour Wednesday.

This is the second time owner Logan Silha and his family has hosted on their ranch for a tour. The Silha's have polled Herefords, quarter horses and Corriedale sheep.

"You get a lot of people there to look at your operation who otherwise wouldn't ordinarily be there," Silha said of the tour.

Silha said the return on showcasing his animals to others didn't yield an immediate difference in sales.


"Over a period of time it pays off," he added.

Jerry Lambourn in Amidon was the second stop on the tour Wednesday, which was his first time hosting a tour stop. The Lambourn family operates the L Double Bar Ranch and backgrounds steers and young heifers.

"I thought this was a great opportunity to reach a broader area of people," Lambourn said.

The Lambourns, Silhas and other hosts have been busy during the past month preparing for the tours, getting calves weaned, cleaning up their pens and organizing livestock to showcase.

"It's time consuming, but time well spent," Silha said.

The tour isn't just for livestock producers, but has become a chance for younger generations to learn about the industry.

Animal science students from Grant County High School in Elgin were part of the group tour. Their observations during the tour go into journals written later.

"A big part of going to this is that we are looking at the Expected Progeny Difference or EPD," senior student Logan Hehn said. "It's a lot easier to see them and compare. It's a neat way to look at conformity, calves and characteristics within a certain breed. We're getting our education."


All five students come from Angus ranches. High school senior Ben Gifford will be the fourth generation on his family's ranch, while junior Holly Mosbrucker wants to go into veterinary medicine. Their teacher, Pete Hetle, is a rancher.

"They are supposed to find a Hereford bull for me to buy," Hetle said.

Hetle has taken students in the school's agriculture education curriculum to other sites such as bull testing and auctions, but this was the first all breeds cattle tour.

"They see something new at each site that they can take for themselves," Hetle said. "It's an opportunity to visit and see how cattle are handled and marketed a bit differently. They've seen four different breeds today."

The students are studying performance testing and the experience on the tour could be part of class tests in the future.

The evolved tour

The tour has a long running history, but has changed quite a bit since its inception. Before the association took over the tour, it was started by a few ranchers and others who were looking at a good way to market their pure bred operations.

Director of Livestock Services Agri-Media Livestock Group Terry Robinson was one of those first coordinators and remembers the tour's humble beginnings.


"The tours used to be all individual breeds, like the people who raised Herefords went to the Hereford tours and so on," Robinson said. "We realized we weren't getting a good cross section of people, especially good commercial cattle producers. We didn't have a drawing card to get the commercial people out who wanted to see a variety of breeds."

The group started looking at different ways to involve a greater number of people and a variety of the ranching community.

"We wanted more commercial people involved in the breed tours because that's ultimately who the customer is anyway," Robinson said. "We also found the stops for tours were miles apart and people don't sign up to ride a bus all day. They want to see cattle."

Organizers began to look at areas in the state where commercial cattle operations weren't so far away from each other and would showcase different livestock, including horses at some ranches.

"Not only did it get it changed to an all breeds tour, but the tours incorporate some really good commercial stops," Robinson said. "Doing this created a whole new set of potential tour visitors. Looking at the group today, 25 percent are pure breed producers marketing their business of selling seed stock, while 75 percent are commercial (producers)."

The incorporation of commercial producers and tour stops soon became too much for the small group to organize and they sought help.

"We contacted the North Dakota Stockmen Association, which is a natural organization to be the stewards for this type of tour," Robinson said.

At first, the reception by pure breed producers was mixed, but they have since warmed to the idea and close to 100 percent of the feedback about the tours is positive now, he added.


"It isn't about breeds anymore, but about the industry. Few people run straight herds anymore," Robinson said. "The tour is a much better picture of the industry."

It's a time for people in the industry to talk about work, weather, their ranch's history and different things, he added.

"People talk about cattle prices, drought, this year's hay crop and what's going on in the beef industry today," Robinson said. "The ID program, government safety programs, land management are all hot button issues, but by the conversations you can tell it's been a pretty good year for the cattle industry here. Two years ago, we were talking about the Canadian border and now you hear little about that."

Next year's tour showcases producers in the Dickinson and surrounding area.

"I really like things like this," Robinson said. "Any time we can get cattle people out talking to each other and mixing some of the current issues with just plain, old, good ranch talk, it's a good time."

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