Catching Up With A Nationally Honored, Young Producer: Good genetics the foundation of success at Walter Angus
December 12, 2013
What Ty Walter had done in his teens in the cattle world would be plenty for some ranchers several years older to hang their hat on.
But not for the young cowboy from Hudson, Colo., whose ultimate, long-term goal is to be "big in the Angus industry."
Walter, now a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming and a graduate of Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo., brought home the National FFA Proficiency Award in Beef Production-Entrepreneurship Award two years ago from the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, placing himself among the very elite in a national organization that has more than 500,000 youth participants.
He won his award for a 70-head herd that was his own. He had started the cattle herd from a heifer that was given to him by his parents when he turned 1. Starting with that gift early on, his Angus herd would earn Walter dollars for college, in addition to his national recognition.
Becoming certified in artificial insemination at the age of 13, Walter used his knowledge and hands-on experience to develop the top-notch herd.
In the two years since then, Walter hasn't let a little thing like college slow down his involvement in the Angus world. It's only been full steam ahead for Ty and his part in operations at Walter Angus.
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While most college students are most concerned with finding tickets for the weekend's football game, Ty is borrowing money to help grow the herd back home — such as the $25,000 he personally borrowed from a retired local veterinarian last year to buy 20 bred heifers.
Instead of heading to the bars on the weekends, Ty is helping spearhead the next genetic undertaking at Walter Angus — that being a an improvement in genes to make their bulls more developed by sale time, as he explained.
While many top-notch college students run for student government boards on their campuses, Ty will soon be volunteering his time to another kind of board. In January, during the National Western Stock Show, he will officially take a seat on the Colorado Angus Association board of directors.
When he's not in Wyoming studying ag business (and getting his minor in banking and finance) or back home on the ranch, he's headed to bull sales and stock shows.
"I love Wyoming, and I love getting an education, but it's kind of tough," Ty said. "My heart is definitely back home."
Home for Ty is what's become one of the largest Angus operations in Colorado — a ranching, farming and calf back-grounding family business that's now spanned over four generations.
The ranch headquarters and farm office are located 11 miles north of Hudson. The family farms in the Fort Lupton, Colo. area, raising corn, wheat, alfalfa and grass forages, while its main pasture lands are also in northern Colorado, with mountain summer pasture in Granby, Walden and the Frasier Valley.
Ty's father, Terry, has owned black Angus cattle since he was 8 years old.
Like Ty, Terry's parents gave him a heifer — Barbara Blackcap of SSA — purchased from a neighbor.
Since that beginning 46 years ago, the family has continuously built its commercial Angus cow herd.
In 2003, Terry went into a partnership with Roy Wardell of Wardell Angus. That was the start of WXW, and what is now Walter Angus.
Watching his son become involved in the operation and receive his national honor a couple years ago only reminded Terry Walter of what he's known for a very long time.
"Our family operation could be in awfully good hands some day," Terry said of Ty, who in 2010 — the year before his big win at the National FFA Convention — had earned National Gold placement in Beef, although he wasn't named a national finalist in the beef-entrepreneurship category.
Ty insists that his father doesn't put any pressure on him to return home and take over Walter Angus some day.
Ty, though, said it's never been in question whether or not he wanted to join the family operation.
And — with excellent cattle prices, and the U.S. herd its smallest in more than 60 years and needing growth — Ty sees no better time than the present to be a young person in the industry.
"It's the perfect time to grow," Ty said.
But smart growth — with smart genetics — is the only way to do it, he added.
Ty said he's seen first-hand what good genetics can do.
With the genetic program his family has had in place for years, the Walter Angus herd weathered the 2012 drought, seeing almost no impact on its birthing rates or feeding efficiency during the worst of the dryspell and feed shortages.
"Those good genetics and taking advantage of all the new technology out there as it becomes available … that's what it's going to take to continue succeeding in the future," said Ty, whose family won the bred heifer competition at the National Western Stock Show last year.
Ty's goals in the industry go beyond just wanting to increase numbers and the quality of cattle.
In addition to his new seat on the Colorado Angus Association, he plans to join other organizations down the road, and, in general, be an advocate in an agriculture industry that's short on young people.
Across the board, mom and dad couldn't be more proud.
"Oh yeah … if I died tomorrow, I'd trust him to take things over," said Terry, who, like Ty, added that Ty's national honor two years ago — and his other success before since then — wouldn't have been possible without the help of Platte Valley High School's FFA advisers, John Stahley and Desirae Weber, along with other people. "He's got everything you want — the work ethic, the intelligence, the background. I've been blessed with great kids."
"We couldn't be prouder," Terry continued, referring to his wife, Becky. "We're pretty lucky."