LR Cattle Quality calves that anyone can show
August 27, 2012
The first time a young 4-H member shows a steer can determine that student's passion for the rest of his or her show career. If a steer is unruly and scares the child, he or she is unlikely to continue. This is why Larry Reifschneider works hard every day to make sure he raises quality calves that anyone can show.
"I raise the kind of cattle that kids can buy and get along well with. I've never had one that wasn't sound," he said.
He continued, "In this deal now, where we are so limited in the number of exhibitors, we need to make sure that every kid that starts when they are young continues to show. If we burn them out when they are little, that's even less that we have to continue."
Reifschneider first got his start in the show calf industry when he was just 7-years-old, when he helped his father with the day-to-day cattle chores on the ranch. "At 9, my folks enrolled me in 4-H and my first project was a market steer. He stood dead last at the county fair which lit the competitive fire to do better," he said.
“We still run things on good old fashioned customer service. A lot of the reason why we can compete with bigger feed stores is because we treat people how they want to be treated, and they come back because of that.”
~ Danielle Nater, daughter of Dennis Nater, owner and operator of Northern Colorado Feeder’s Supply
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After that, Reifschneider traveled around with his neighbors learning the show calf business. "Dad recognized how much I liked showing cattle, and asked them to take me along to be the feed and water bucket boy when I was in my early teens. From them I learned about show cattle. I spent many hours watching my peers to learn their ways of doing things," he said.
He started his business in Iowa, raising registered Charolais cattle and club calves. He was recruited to come out to Colorado to work on a Charolais operation in 1986, and after that business was dispersed in 1991, Reifschneider began refocusing on his own club calf operation.
"I enjoy raising show steers because the challenge is to create an animal that is perfect in every way. He must be the right size and weight, have a certain look, muscle shape and style, be structurally sound, have a quiet temperament, and even if you achieve these things you still need a little bit of luck sometimes to win," he said.
LR Cattle, located in Louisville, Colo., is now a 50 head operation that specializes in raising quality calves for students to show. Reifschneider halter breaks all of his calves before he sells them, to make sure they are gentle and even young children can work with them.
"I had three daughters who all showed, and I know the importance of having a calf they can work with. If I have someone come to look at a calf with a young child, I try to direct them to the calves that I know will work for them," he said.
He added, "I want cattle that are balanced in their skeleton and muscle shape. A quiet temperament is high priority as these calves will be shown by young kids."
He uses artificial insemination on all of his cows, and breeds them to the best bulls that are available in the industry. "We AI all the cows to the best proven herd sires available which has given us outstanding show prospects to sell. I breed to the bulls that I think will mix well and what has worked for everyone else. There are some bulls that sire cattle that do better in the show ring, and I want to breed to those. I try to duplicate the ones that are doing better," Reifschneider stated.
He also uses embryo transfer on his best cows, to try to produce the best calves that he can. "We also have used ET to get more calves out of our best and most proven cows," he said.
The cows are bred to calve in March and April, and will be sold each fall. Over the years, he has sold calves locally, as well as back in the Midwest, to customers that have purchased from him for years. "When I moved back here, a lot of my clients followed me and I still have many calves that go back there," he said.
When his children were showing cattle, they each had a champion at the Boulder County Fair, and Reifschneider has also many champion steers in the area since, as well as class winners at the Colorado State Fair. He also sells steers for National Western Stock Show.
Selling a champion animal is not the most important part of his business, however. It is working with the young people and their families that really pleases him.
"The best part about raising and showing cattle are the friendships you make that last forever. The valuable hours our family was able to spend together showing our cattle was precious," he said.
He continued, "I like to see the families work together on these calves. This is something that I can do that I don't have to worry about EPDs or pedigrees to an extent. It's more visual appraisal and it's really hard to raise these animals. It's got to be perfect, and have a little luck."
Working to make these cattle better each year is a challenge, and one that he looks forward to each day. "When you have cattle, every day is a new adventure with a new set of challenges. Just seeing a newborn calf for the first time still thrills me. Treating a sick animal and nursing it back to health is very rewarding, as is the day-to-day care required to keep animals in the best condition," he said.
He also loves the thrill of the competition, and still gets nervous during a champion drive. "Any fair you go to, the highlight is picking the champion steer. There are some fairs that we thought we had a shot at winning, and even though we didn't, it's still exciting. It's a different world than the purebred end of it, and that's what I enjoy about it. I really love watching these kids succeed," Reifschneider stated.
This fall, he will hold his first internet sale, which is a new frontier for him. "What was happening to me was the fact that if some guy got in that bought one or two, word got out that I had sold the best one and people wouldn't come to the farm to look at the calves. It became harder for me to price them, and many times it wasn't even the best ones that were sold first," he explained.
He continued, "This way, everyone has a fair shot at the ones I have for sale. I put up photos and a video, and people can come to the farm to look at the cattle. Then, they can go on the internet and bid on the steer or heifer they want. At the end of the sale, the highest bidder wins. Everyone has the same chance of getting the one they think is the best."
The sale will be held on October 2, and Reifschneider hopes that the new sale method will help him to broaden his customer base, and allow him to connect to more local showmen.
The move to Colorado has proven to be positive for the family, and they enjoy the atmosphere here. "Colorado is more conducive to raising cattle. It is about as good of a place to raise cattle as there is," he stated. ❖