Spruce Mountain Ranch: Taking Pride in their Cattle
August 22, 2012
No matter what part of the country you are in, there is one thing that is common among all farmers and ranchers: pride. Those in agriculture take pride in what they do, whether it is in the field raising crops, or out on the pasture raising cattle.
Spruce Mountain Ranch, located in Larkspur, Colo., is a purebred Angus operation that takes great pride in the cattle that they raise. They provide seedstock for other producers around the country, and sell animals they believe will benefit other herds.
"We have the opportunity to be a part of the largest breed association in the world, and work with all the people that make an impact in the beef industry. We believe in using technology and high quality genetics to help commercial and seedstock producers improve their quality in their herds," said Mitch Rohr, General Manager for the ranch.
The goals for the operation make them a leader not only in Angus cattle, but in the cattle business in general. "The main goal we have is to be a leader in our region producing high quality Angus cattle. From the cocktail crowd to those who do it for a living to ones who just want to participate, we want to work with all markets," he said.
“From the cattle side, it gives us five to 10 minutes to engage with people who are not as closely tied with agriculture, and build to educate them on how much work and effort it takes to produce these cattle so we can produce a high quality piece of meat.”
~ Mitch Rohr
He added, "We want to be leaders in technology, genetics and customer service. Customer relations, in my opinion, is very high on the priority list. We want to help our customers have a better bottom line, and help them find more markets. If they aren't happy, we will sit and talk with them about what we need to improve. It's invaluable information. We like to hear positive feedback too, because it tells us we are making good decisions."
Raising high quality, purebred Angus cattle is not always easy. The cattle must be carefully selected, and breeding decisions made that will increase the quality.
"Being in the mountain area, PAP (pulmonary arterial pressure) scores are a consideration. We also want low birth weight calves that are easy for the cows to have. They also need to have good performance. We want strong maternal traits and efficient cattle that are structurally correct. Carcass merit is also important. There has to be a balance of carcass traits, so that the animals that breed back have a good feminine or masculine look and be efficient," Rohr said.
Breeding for all of these things is challenging, and each generation makes improvement over the last. The ranch must produce high quality cattle to sell, in addition to raising enough for replacements. "We normally sell and market when they hit about 4 years of age because then they have daughters to replace them. The biggest challenge is putting a high quality product out there, without cutting our herd short. You don't want to turn away a customer, but you can't cut yourself short in the long run either. We are trying to find the genetics that will take our herd and our customer's herds to the future. We look for the genetics that are popular, and will work on a consistent basis for several years," he stated.
These genetics are found through several ways. One of the ways the ranch finds them is through DNA testing. "We do a lot of DNA testing here. That is another tool for us to utilize to make better decisions. We embracing the technology whether it is embryo transfer or DNA testing. We will continue to do that and improve those genetics," he said.
The ranches widely uses embryo transfer and artificial insemination, and can produce several offspring out of one cow and bull mating. Every heifer and cow on the place are either bred using AI, or have an embryo put in them.
"After the first round, then we put our herd bulls out. We would like to have everything AI, but we can't feed open cows. They all need to be bred. The working cows, the cows with good genetics but not quite good enough to be in our donor pen still get bred AI. They have to earn their way into the embryo transfer program," Rohr said.
Right now the ranch currently runs 500 registered Angus cows, and has about 40 cows in their donor program. They hold three sales per year. The first is held during the National Western Stock Show and is an elite heifer sale.
The second is their bull sale, which is held on the second Tuesday in April. The third sale is their production sale, and that is coming up on August 11, 2012. "Our last production sale was our first one ever. We averaged $8,600, but the prices ranged from $2,000 to $130,000. We are excited about the genetics and the offering we have put together," he said.
In addition to have cattle in the U.S., Spruce Mountain also has cattle in South Africa. "We partnered with a guy down there to ship some frozen embryos, and so far it has been successful. It's kind of a pilot program right now, and we are intrigued with international trade," Rohr stated.
The ranch offers more than just cattle, however. "For the last 20-30 years, big ranches have used hunting and fishing as supplemental income. Where we are located, the hunting and fishing isn't that good. So we host events as a working cattle ranch. It started out small and was only word of mouth. It's grown into being a bigger business than anyone anticipated," he said.
This innovative idea has led to the ranch being a leader in terms of public education. The ranch now hosts wedding and other events, which Rohr feels is a great way to educate the public about cattle ranching.
"From the cattle side, it gives us five to 10 minutes to engage with people who are not as closely tied with agriculture, and build to educate them on how much work and effort it takes to produce these cattle so we can produce a high quality piece of meat. We are big about education. The location is a good spot for us, and it brings more attention to the cattle from a different source," he said.
He continued, "People are not surprised in what we tell them. They are very receptive to how the animals are treated and taken care of. The way we keep things and how it is presented speaks volumes about the genetics, and it's also important to talk about the quality of the people who are involved."
Those who work at the ranch work hard day-in and day-out. "It's a solid team and everyone's input is valuable to what we do. We don't have turnover. To me, when we don't have turnover, it means we are moving forward and people are taking over their responsibilities. I'm proud of the people we have involved," he said.
Taking time to talk to consumers, whether they come to the ranch to visit or for an event, is important to the entire beef industry.
"That five minutes with them is so important. It puts a vision out there that people know they are a lot of ranches like this out there that do take care of things and their animals. That little bit of education goes a long way because they can see it first hand," he said. ❖