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On the ranch, On the road
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Ovine to bovine

I was a sheep kid growing up.

My home life was cattle, we made a living off of them entirely, but I loved showing sheep the most.

I could go on and on about the animal but the industry itself I had no interest in – cattle ranching runs through my blood.

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Home is Cokeville, Wy., but Fred grew up moving every six months with his family’s flock. “When the sheep came back, I’d come back.”

I met Fred Roberts this summer outside a diner in western Wyoming. He ordered his coffee and I asked him questions about Angus cattle. Fred’s a sheep guy, too.

“Four years ago we had 8,000 ewes,” he says. “I miss the sheep a lot.”

I can see it in his half smile, his reminiscent eyes. The cattle make sense but the sheep made him happy.

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The Sublette mountain range and Raymond canyon surround Fred’s cattle as they graze in the summer.

Labor and predation issues and the next generation who preferred to stay in one place yearlong led Fred to sell. That left all his attention to the bovines.

“I started checking and liked different attributes of the Angus cow better,” he says. Decades ago, he suggested his dad move away from Herefords.

Gesturing to a group of two- and three-year-olds gathered off the mountain for a drink, he tells me, “It’s for the obvious reasons.”

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The land is so expansive here, the cattle actually stay in more than one group.

He says that’s how he “got going with the blacks.” He’s stayed because they work.

Marketability, calving ease, good health, that’s what Fred found to be true of his choice.

“Then there’s the opportunities given what the Angus breed has done with Certified Angus Beef ®,” he says.

That profit potential isn’t automatic, he’ll make clear. Feeding calves through harvest lets him know if he’s making the best decisions year after year.

“You spend a lot of money on genetics. That’s the only way you’re going to realize if you’re improving or not.”

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Weaning a calf early gives your cow a chance to rebound and ideally breed back, Fred says. That aligns with his decision to send calves to feed.

A decade’s worth of data shows he’s done it. For the consumer and for himself.

From 2015 to 2017, his cattle that earned CAB or Prime premiums grew by more than 10 points, to 40%. A recent group of 297 steers and heifers went 91% Choice and better.

“He looks for genetics to increase the maternal side of the cow, but he’s also trying to improve the end product,” Gary Darnall says. The owner-manager of Darnall Feedyard, near Harrisburg, Neb., has seen Fred’s commitment for 12 years. “It’s a business decision with Fred, number one. Whatever it is, he’s always striving.”

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The rancher studies his cattle often. This pair is an example of hard work that’s led to success.

I compliment his herd as we push a few escape artists to the other side of the fence.

“Let me put it this way,” he says: “I’ve tried.”

He’s done that and so much more with his cattle on the mountain.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

PS – to learn more about what genetic traits are top of mind and why Fred says he’ll stay with Angus, check out upcoming issues of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin.

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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