Father and son = Harper Livestock
Harold reads the weights.
Photo by Siri Stevens
by Siri Stevens
Fence Post Roving Reporter
The father and son team of Harold and Mike Harper have made Harper Livestock the second largest lamb feeding operation in the nation. They share the same mission ” to make it work.
Harold and Mike have seen their share of ups and downs in the profit margin. “I’ve got to figure out how to keep things going,” admits Mike. With 63,000 lambs on the place, his job is never-ending. “Some days, it runs me. I work seven days a week and that is a great test of character.”
Mike is used to the pressures associated with raising livestock, he grew up with it. His father joined with two other partners in a venture called Mile Hi Sheep Company in 1975. He continued on his own, purchasing part of the current location in 1979. He started with a feedlot that would hold around 19,000 lambs. In 1996, he added enough pens to increase that capacity to 65,000. With 12 employees, the size of the operation has reached its limit.
Mike talks to a feed truck driver about the afternoon rations.
Photo by Siri Stevens
“That’s probably going to be it for me,” says Mike.
Mike’s wife, Mary Ann, is accustomed to the lifestyle ” her parents, Pete and Parna Etchart, are in sheep production in Meeker, Colo. Mary Ann is a stay-at-home mom, choosing to spend her time raising their three children ” Catherine (4), Emily (3), and Madeline (1) ” the focal point for Mary Ann’s days. She has a degree in agriculture business and supports Mike in everything he does. “Sometimes he leaves here at 4 in the morning and we don’t see him all day, but we run up and say ‘hi’ whenever we can,” she said.
“I have the biggest job of my life right now ” raising kids is the toughest thing that has ever been thrown at me. I want my kids to know right from wrong and raise them in a lifestyle that we treasure,” added Mary Ann.
Harold’s background is in animal husbandry. He started his career as a buyer for a packing house in Iowa, moving on to Denver because he loved the West. He paid his way through high school and college by sheering sheep. His beginning as a sheep buyer led him to his current vocation.
Fall is the busiest time for Harper Livestock. Lambs are being delivered from Craig, Meeker and various places in Wyoming. These producers have worked with Harold’s feedlot operation for years. Most of the lambs are custom fed during these lean years when imports have reduced the profit margins for the Harper’s business.
Harold spends much of his time traveling to the producers. “Thanks to the good quality range lambs that come in here, we have a very small death loss,” says Harold.
The company receives lambs from as far away as the Imperial Valley in California. “We’ve established good relations thanks to Harold,” says Mike.
The father son team works well for this family. “My dad has given me a lot of opportunity to make mistakes,” says Mike.
The mistakes have led to success for the Harper family.
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It’s time for Colorado meat producers to throw down the gauntlet.