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On the ranch, On the road
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Good stories, part I

Rick Gurley’s a storyteller. You know the kind.

Dissatisfied with a simple synopsis, driven by detail, he’ll settle into a memory and take you back with him for the ride.

Life, love, Angus cattle – we talked and laughed about it all.

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Married for 30 years, Rick and Susan have two grown children, Nicole [pictured] and Heath. Both play an active role in the family operation.

The year was 2001. Rick was sentenced to couch arrest. i.e. six weeks time to heal after back surgery

Determined, the Arkansas mailman broke out to work cows after two and wound up back in the hospital. This time his bride wouldn’t be so lenient.

“Suze, she’s little but she’s mighty,” he says with a smirk. My favorite story of all tells how the two met.

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Rick studies EPDs and selects for traits like docility. That way he can protect his back injury and still walk through the cattle every day.

So Rick sat. With an abundance of well wishes and a set of 30 crossbred heifers in the pasture, his mind raced.

“I watched TV for about 15 minutes and then I was done,” he says. “I was climbing the wall.”

That’s when lifetime friend Jeff Williams dropped off a stack of magazines.

“He was an Angus guy and he brings these Angus Journals over and says, ‘look at them and stay in this house.’ I’m looking at the pictures, going through all of them and they all seem to go back to Gardiner [Angus Ranch, Ashland, Kan.].”

Around that same time, with a bad back and no permission to pull calves, he’d been looking to change his bull battery when a neighbor suggested an Angus bull for sale.

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Known for calving ease and other maternal traits, the Angus breed was the perfect fit for the Gurleys. They’ve raised them ever since.

“He delivers that bull and I’m in the house looking out the window, going, ‘He just hooked me.’”

Looks aren’t everything, though: “Lo and behold, that fall I sold those calves and man did they grow. That’s what truly convinced me that genetics matter,” Rick says.

That and the fact that he cold called Mark Gardiner. Soon after, he and Susan made their way to Kansas.

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Today, the Gurleys artificially inseminate (AI) everything to one bull. A family affair, they’ll put CIDRs in late April to AI the first of May. Calving begins February 10, and come November there’s the annual “Thanksgiving weaning.”

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on and they run Grid Maker in there at half interest, no possession. We looked so out of place,” Rick says of that first sale. “I said to Suze, don’t make eye contact with anybody, don’t sneeze. Just look at the floor and we’ll soon be outta here.”

The couple bought two toward the end of the sale and the road was paved.

With assistance from Mark and hours spent reading those Angus magazines, “we just continued to go back year after year,” Rick says.

But that was then. In the years since, through AI and using Gardiner bulls for cleanup, genetic selection and analysis of EPDs, the herd grew to 250 and the calf crop went from commodity to premium.

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Rick sees the carcass premiums available for hitting the CAB target. Keeping the consumer in mind, he says, “I want paid for all of it; you’re leaving money on the table if you don’t do that.”

“Back then, I couldn’t afford to go buy a new set of cows,” Rick says. “But through bull selection, you can do an awful lot.”

Driving through his herd, it shows.

“We want to be able to guarantee what we’re putting out there,” he tells me of plans to retain ownership through the feedyard this fall.

“I want to own them from the time they’re in the straw to the time they’re hanging on the rail,” he says. “I’d like to aim for 70% CAB.”

That’ll be a good story to tell.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

PS – Check out the August Angus Journal to catch the rest of the Gurley story.

blackinklaura Visit Website
Born and raised in the Sunshine State, I grew up surrounded by more livestock than people on my family’s working cattle ranch. A willingness to address a crowd and an eagerness to ask questions led to my passion for spreading the word of agriculture. A lover of words, cattle and those who produce them, I couldn't ask for a better job. A Gator grad, blessed by years of learning and Tebow football, I’m a firm believer that people should be honest, lyrics should be moving and tea should be sweet. I love music, my family, my God, and of course writing for CAB.
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