Maddux honored with Golden Spur Award | TheFencePost.com

Maddux honored with Golden Spur Award

Gayle Smith
Gering, Neb.

Jack Maddux is an innovative cattle producer from Wauneta, Neb. He uses new management techniques to make his operation more efficient and profitable.

Jack Maddux is an innovative cattle producer who isn’t afraid to try new management techniques to make his operation more efficient and profitable. As a result of those efforts, Maddux currently operates a successful cow/calf, cattle feeding and farming operation in Wauneta, Neb. The rancher, who is well-respected by his peers and within the industry, was recently awarded the National Golden Spur Award, which is presented by the Ranching Heritage Association in Lubbock, Texas.

The Golden Spur Award is presented each year to the nation’s top rancher, honoring him for his outstanding contributions to the ranching and livestock industry.

“I was very honored, pleased and surprised to win the award,” Maddux said recently from his Wauneta ranch. “What made the award particularly important to me was that it was selected by my peers. When you look at the people who have won this award in the past, it is quite an honor to be selected to be amongst them.”

Maddux is also the first Nebraskan to win the honor, which was started in 1978. “The really important thing about this award is that it is not about me or my accomplishments, but about my entire crew,” he explains. “They are the people who really deserve the credit for what our ranch has done.”

Maddux said over the years he has carefully recruited his help, and as a result has a low turnover of employees.

“Once we find a good, hard working employee, we do everything we can to treat them right and keep them here,” he said. As a result of his managing ability, some of his employees have been with him 25-35 years. His longest employee worked at the ranch as a foreman for 50 years. Maddux said they had a 50th anniversary retirement party for the employee and a nice portrait painted to give him as a gift. “That was Saturday night,” Maddux said. “On Monday morning, he showed up for work and worked another three years.”

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Maddux is also proud that his operation is currently owned and managed by the third and fourth generation of the Maddux family. In addition to Jack, his son John is also involved in the operation and manages his own operation that adjoins them. Jack and his wife, Carol, have three grown children: John, Sandra and Mary, and eight grandchildren.

The Maddux family first homesteaded 160 acres 11 miles north of Wauneta in 1886. “My grandfather, Taylor Maddux, came from Iowa and homesteaded near the Stinking Water Creek,” he said. “The creek got its name because a herd of buffalo had got stuck in the swamp and died, and when people went by it, it smelled like decaying buffalo.”

Although he had homesteaded in the Wauneta area, Taylor actually ran a livery barn in McCook. “He built a sod house on that 160 acres, and moved his family there,” Maddux says. “He would spend weekends with them and then ride his horse 50 miles back to McCook to run the livery stable.”

When Taylor moved to Chase County, Maddux said he brought some cattle with him. In 1892, the area went through some tough financial times, dry weather and grasshoppers. “He survived that, but a lot of people didn’t, and he was able to buy additional real estate,” Maddux says. “He traded a couple bronc horses and a pair of spurs for a quarter of land that joined him. After that, he just continued to accumulate real estate.”

In 1918, Maddux’s father Glen and uncle Wilfred formed a partnership and ran the operation for nearly 40 years. During that time, they also started feeding cattle, and at their prime fed over 1,000 fed with a team of mules. Eventually, they split their partnership and Maddux’s father went off on his own. “We have continued to feed cattle up until now,” he said.

Jack joined his father’s operation in 1956 after serving in the Air Force. “I came back and went to work on the ranch,” he said. “Dad only lived a couple years after that and passed on.”

These days, Maddux Cattle Company encompasses 40,000 acres of deeded and leased land in the Nebraska Sandhills, in addition to a 3,000 head feedlot and a 2,500 head cow-calf operation.

Maddux said they also run some stocker cattle on grass in New Mexico and Colorado, and in Sioux County, Neb. “We are still feeding cattle in the feedlot, but we will be shutting it down because it is located too close to the creek,” he said. “We also have some center pivots and raise some corn.”

The cow herd, which is a composite of 1/2 Red Angus, 1/4 Tarentaise, 1/8 South Devon and 1/8 Red Poll, are in Chase County. Maddux said he went with the composite cattle following some advice from the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.

“We were able to establish our herd with the help of artificial insemination,” he says. “We have two herds. One herd is terminal and the other is composite. We only keep cows and bulls from the composite herd. We constantly cull out of our composite herd for bad udders and bad disposition. We also focus on calving ease.”

Maddux said they keep bulls out of the composite herd, and do some selection at calving. “If the mother has a bad udder, bad teats or a bad disposition, we just band the calf right then. We also udder score the cows, and if they don’t have a good udder score, we band the calves. The final test we use is a gain on feed test. After the calves are weaned, and toward fall, we conduct a 30-45 day gain on feed test. It helps us in the selection process. We use some visual selection also,” he said.

In Maddux’s operation, he only breeds his cows with yearling bulls he has raised, and he only uses the bulls for one breeding season. “I use one bull to 15 cows,” he says.

“After they are finished breeding, I castrate them, put them on feed and market them as fats,” he continues. He said he does this for two reasons, it is cheaper because it saves on wintering costs and fence repair, and he can keep more accurate records on costs. “I charge grass against the bulls during breeding in the summer,” he said. He also keeps records of how profitable it is to feed the bulls out and sell them as a fat steer. “I have to watch the weight real close, because it is easy to get them overweight,” he said. “We try to finish them at 1,350 to 1,400 pounds.”

Maddux said his mature cows are moderate in size and weigh 1,150 to 1,200 pounds. They aim for calves that average 75 pounds at birth. “We have a little different philosophy, we want a moderate size cow. Uniformity and grading are important to me. I also want an easy-keeping cow. I think I am better off with having cows that are more moderate in frame score and size than pressing for high weaning weights,” he said.

“We have converted from early spring calving in March to late spring calving in late April and May,” he adds. “It has really helped us economically, because we don’t have a lot of need for hay. We lease cornstalks in the winter to graze cattle.

“Our goal is to graze cattle 12 months out of the year, either on native grass or cornstalks,” he says. “We only keep a little feed around in case the stalks are covered with snow.”

Maddux isn’t afraid to deviate from traditional ranching methods to keep his cow-calf operation profitable. “We originally were calving in March and weaning calves in June and July. We would put the calves on feed and market them at 12-13 months old as finished cattle,” he said. “The conversions on those light calves were phenomenal. The gains were cheap then because corn was cheap, and it worked really well for us. We would get a three or four to one gain conversion. Unfortunately, that program will no longer work for us because corn is too expensive.”

Maddux early weans his April and May-born calves in August and September. At this point, some of the calves have only been on the cow 30-60 days. This is quite a deviation in the industry where the standard is to leave a calf on the cow for 205 days. After the calves are weaned, they are put on wet meadows and supplemented with wet distillers grain. Later, they are turned into cornstalks, and fed some supplement.

In the spring, the calves are turned into native pasture and marketed mid-summer to late-fall depending upon their size. Maddux said they purchase quite a few calves, in addition to the calves they raise. “We aren’t able to purchase many calves in the size bracket we raise, they are usually heavier. We market the heavier calves at 800-850 pounds in the middle of summer, usually mid-July,” he said. “The others are marketed in September or October.

“We switched to this system because the cost was becoming prohibitive in terms of putting up hay and feeding it in March,” he said. “The driving force was the cost issue. When we moved over to being able to graze 12 months of the year, it reduced costs and improved our bottom line.”

Jack is also an intensive grazing manager. “I spend a lot of time with range management,” he says. “I have been interested in it for a long time. We try to do a good job managing our grass. We skim all the grass in the spring just taking a little bit out.”

Maddux explained he uses a rest rotation system where they only graze the grass once in the summer. “We have lots of cross-fencing to make relatively small pastures,” he said. The cattle are mob grazed for five to 10 days depending on the size of pasture and number of cattle in the pasture. “We try to concentrate cows so we can graze quickly and get them out of there,” he said.

Like many other areas in western Nebraska, the drought took its toll on the grazing land, no matter how intensely Maddux managed it.

“The drought was really bad,” Maddux said. “Some years it didn’t rain at all. We didn’t graze because there was no rain. Our grazing land looked tough, so we sold off our cows. We are just now building our cow herd back to what it was.”

Maddux said he feels it is important to keep an open mind when figuring out how to make a cattle operation work.

“Part of the reason we’ve been successful is because we are willing to change from the traditional methods of ranching,” he says. “You have to keep an open mind and listen to what others have to say. Everyone needs to design their program to fit their resources. What we do here may not fit everyone’s operation.”

Jack Maddux is an innovative cattle producer who isn’t afraid to try new management techniques to make his operation more efficient and profitable. As a result of those efforts, Maddux currently operates a successful cow/calf, cattle feeding and farming operation in Wauneta, Neb. The rancher, who is well-respected by his peers and within the industry, was recently awarded the National Golden Spur Award, which is presented by the Ranching Heritage Association in Lubbock, Texas.

The Golden Spur Award is presented each year to the nation’s top rancher, honoring him for his outstanding contributions to the ranching and livestock industry.

“I was very honored, pleased and surprised to win the award,” Maddux said recently from his Wauneta ranch. “What made the award particularly important to me was that it was selected by my peers. When you look at the people who have won this award in the past, it is quite an honor to be selected to be amongst them.”

Maddux is also the first Nebraskan to win the honor, which was started in 1978. “The really important thing about this award is that it is not about me or my accomplishments, but about my entire crew,” he explains. “They are the people who really deserve the credit for what our ranch has done.”

Maddux said over the years he has carefully recruited his help, and as a result has a low turnover of employees.

“Once we find a good, hard working employee, we do everything we can to treat them right and keep them here,” he said. As a result of his managing ability, some of his employees have been with him 25-35 years. His longest employee worked at the ranch as a foreman for 50 years. Maddux said they had a 50th anniversary retirement party for the employee and a nice portrait painted to give him as a gift. “That was Saturday night,” Maddux said. “On Monday morning, he showed up for work and worked another three years.”

Maddux is also proud that his operation is currently owned and managed by the third and fourth generation of the Maddux family. In addition to Jack, his son John is also involved in the operation and manages his own operation that adjoins them. Jack and his wife, Carol, have three grown children: John, Sandra and Mary, and eight grandchildren.

The Maddux family first homesteaded 160 acres 11 miles north of Wauneta in 1886. “My grandfather, Taylor Maddux, came from Iowa and homesteaded near the Stinking Water Creek,” he said. “The creek got its name because a herd of buffalo had got stuck in the swamp and died, and when people went by it, it smelled like decaying buffalo.”

Although he had homesteaded in the Wauneta area, Taylor actually ran a livery barn in McCook. “He built a sod house on that 160 acres, and moved his family there,” Maddux says. “He would spend weekends with them and then ride his horse 50 miles back to McCook to run the livery stable.”

When Taylor moved to Chase County, Maddux said he brought some cattle with him. In 1892, the area went through some tough financial times, dry weather and grasshoppers. “He survived that, but a lot of people didn’t, and he was able to buy additional real estate,” Maddux says. “He traded a couple bronc horses and a pair of spurs for a quarter of land that joined him. After that, he just continued to accumulate real estate.”

In 1918, Maddux’s father Glen and uncle Wilfred formed a partnership and ran the operation for nearly 40 years. During that time, they also started feeding cattle, and at their prime fed over 1,000 fed with a team of mules. Eventually, they split their partnership and Maddux’s father went off on his own. “We have continued to feed cattle up until now,” he said.

Jack joined his father’s operation in 1956 after serving in the Air Force. “I came back and went to work on the ranch,” he said. “Dad only lived a couple years after that and passed on.”

These days, Maddux Cattle Company encompasses 40,000 acres of deeded and leased land in the Nebraska Sandhills, in addition to a 3,000 head feedlot and a 2,500 head cow-calf operation.

Maddux said they also run some stocker cattle on grass in New Mexico and Colorado, and in Sioux County, Neb. “We are still feeding cattle in the feedlot, but we will be shutting it down because it is located too close to the creek,” he said. “We also have some center pivots and raise some corn.”

The cow herd, which is a composite of 1/2 Red Angus, 1/4 Tarentaise, 1/8 South Devon and 1/8 Red Poll, are in Chase County. Maddux said he went with the composite cattle following some advice from the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.

“We were able to establish our herd with the help of artificial insemination,” he says. “We have two herds. One herd is terminal and the other is composite. We only keep cows and bulls from the composite herd. We constantly cull out of our composite herd for bad udders and bad disposition. We also focus on calving ease.”

Maddux said they keep bulls out of the composite herd, and do some selection at calving. “If the mother has a bad udder, bad teats or a bad disposition, we just band the calf right then. We also udder score the cows, and if they don’t have a good udder score, we band the calves. The final test we use is a gain on feed test. After the calves are weaned, and toward fall, we conduct a 30-45 day gain on feed test. It helps us in the selection process. We use some visual selection also,” he said.

In Maddux’s operation, he only breeds his cows with yearling bulls he has raised, and he only uses the bulls for one breeding season. “I use one bull to 15 cows,” he says.

“After they are finished breeding, I castrate them, put them on feed and market them as fats,” he continues. He said he does this for two reasons, it is cheaper because it saves on wintering costs and fence repair, and he can keep more accurate records on costs. “I charge grass against the bulls during breeding in the summer,” he said. He also keeps records of how profitable it is to feed the bulls out and sell them as a fat steer. “I have to watch the weight real close, because it is easy to get them overweight,” he said. “We try to finish them at 1,350 to 1,400 pounds.”

Maddux said his mature cows are moderate in size and weigh 1,150 to 1,200 pounds. They aim for calves that average 75 pounds at birth. “We have a little different philosophy, we want a moderate size cow. Uniformity and grading are important to me. I also want an easy-keeping cow. I think I am better off with having cows that are more moderate in frame score and size than pressing for high weaning weights,” he said.

“We have converted from early spring calving in March to late spring calving in late April and May,” he adds. “It has really helped us economically, because we don’t have a lot of need for hay. We lease cornstalks in the winter to graze cattle.

“Our goal is to graze cattle 12 months out of the year, either on native grass or cornstalks,” he says. “We only keep a little feed around in case the stalks are covered with snow.”

Maddux isn’t afraid to deviate from traditional ranching methods to keep his cow-calf operation profitable. “We originally were calving in March and weaning calves in June and July. We would put the calves on feed and market them at 12-13 months old as finished cattle,” he said. “The conversions on those light calves were phenomenal. The gains were cheap then because corn was cheap, and it worked really well for us. We would get a three or four to one gain conversion. Unfortunately, that program will no longer work for us because corn is too expensive.”

Maddux early weans his April and May-born calves in August and September. At this point, some of the calves have only been on the cow 30-60 days. This is quite a deviation in the industry where the standard is to leave a calf on the cow for 205 days. After the calves are weaned, they are put on wet meadows and supplemented with wet distillers grain. Later, they are turned into cornstalks, and fed some supplement.

In the spring, the calves are turned into native pasture and marketed mid-summer to late-fall depending upon their size. Maddux said they purchase quite a few calves, in addition to the calves they raise. “We aren’t able to purchase many calves in the size bracket we raise, they are usually heavier. We market the heavier calves at 800-850 pounds in the middle of summer, usually mid-July,” he said. “The others are marketed in September or October.

“We switched to this system because the cost was becoming prohibitive in terms of putting up hay and feeding it in March,” he said. “The driving force was the cost issue. When we moved over to being able to graze 12 months of the year, it reduced costs and improved our bottom line.”

Jack is also an intensive grazing manager. “I spend a lot of time with range management,” he says. “I have been interested in it for a long time. We try to do a good job managing our grass. We skim all the grass in the spring just taking a little bit out.”

Maddux explained he uses a rest rotation system where they only graze the grass once in the summer. “We have lots of cross-fencing to make relatively small pastures,” he said. The cattle are mob grazed for five to 10 days depending on the size of pasture and number of cattle in the pasture. “We try to concentrate cows so we can graze quickly and get them out of there,” he said.

Like many other areas in western Nebraska, the drought took its toll on the grazing land, no matter how intensely Maddux managed it.

“The drought was really bad,” Maddux said. “Some years it didn’t rain at all. We didn’t graze because there was no rain. Our grazing land looked tough, so we sold off our cows. We are just now building our cow herd back to what it was.”

Maddux said he feels it is important to keep an open mind when figuring out how to make a cattle operation work.

“Part of the reason we’ve been successful is because we are willing to change from the traditional methods of ranching,” he says. “You have to keep an open mind and listen to what others have to say. Everyone needs to design their program to fit their resources. What we do here may not fit everyone’s operation.”

Jack Maddux is an innovative cattle producer who isn’t afraid to try new management techniques to make his operation more efficient and profitable. As a result of those efforts, Maddux currently operates a successful cow/calf, cattle feeding and farming operation in Wauneta, Neb. The rancher, who is well-respected by his peers and within the industry, was recently awarded the National Golden Spur Award, which is presented by the Ranching Heritage Association in Lubbock, Texas.

The Golden Spur Award is presented each year to the nation’s top rancher, honoring him for his outstanding contributions to the ranching and livestock industry.

“I was very honored, pleased and surprised to win the award,” Maddux said recently from his Wauneta ranch. “What made the award particularly important to me was that it was selected by my peers. When you look at the people who have won this award in the past, it is quite an honor to be selected to be amongst them.”

Maddux is also the first Nebraskan to win the honor, which was started in 1978. “The really important thing about this award is that it is not about me or my accomplishments, but about my entire crew,” he explains. “They are the people who really deserve the credit for what our ranch has done.”

Maddux said over the years he has carefully recruited his help, and as a result has a low turnover of employees.

“Once we find a good, hard working employee, we do everything we can to treat them right and keep them here,” he said. As a result of his managing ability, some of his employees have been with him 25-35 years. His longest employee worked at the ranch as a foreman for 50 years. Maddux said they had a 50th anniversary retirement party for the employee and a nice portrait painted to give him as a gift. “That was Saturday night,” Maddux said. “On Monday morning, he showed up for work and worked another three years.”

Maddux is also proud that his operation is currently owned and managed by the third and fourth generation of the Maddux family. In addition to Jack, his son John is also involved in the operation and manages his own operation that adjoins them. Jack and his wife, Carol, have three grown children: John, Sandra and Mary, and eight grandchildren.

The Maddux family first homesteaded 160 acres 11 miles north of Wauneta in 1886. “My grandfather, Taylor Maddux, came from Iowa and homesteaded near the Stinking Water Creek,” he said. “The creek got its name because a herd of buffalo had got stuck in the swamp and died, and when people went by it, it smelled like decaying buffalo.”

Although he had homesteaded in the Wauneta area, Taylor actually ran a livery barn in McCook. “He built a sod house on that 160 acres, and moved his family there,” Maddux says. “He would spend weekends with them and then ride his horse 50 miles back to McCook to run the livery stable.”

When Taylor moved to Chase County, Maddux said he brought some cattle with him. In 1892, the area went through some tough financial times, dry weather and grasshoppers. “He survived that, but a lot of people didn’t, and he was able to buy additional real estate,” Maddux says. “He traded a couple bronc horses and a pair of spurs for a quarter of land that joined him. After that, he just continued to accumulate real estate.”

In 1918, Maddux’s father Glen and uncle Wilfred formed a partnership and ran the operation for nearly 40 years. During that time, they also started feeding cattle, and at their prime fed over 1,000 fed with a team of mules. Eventually, they split their partnership and Maddux’s father went off on his own. “We have continued to feed cattle up until now,” he said.

Jack joined his father’s operation in 1956 after serving in the Air Force. “I came back and went to work on the ranch,” he said. “Dad only lived a couple years after that and passed on.”

These days, Maddux Cattle Company encompasses 40,000 acres of deeded and leased land in the Nebraska Sandhills, in addition to a 3,000 head feedlot and a 2,500 head cow-calf operation.

Maddux said they also run some stocker cattle on grass in New Mexico and Colorado, and in Sioux County, Neb. “We are still feeding cattle in the feedlot, but we will be shutting it down because it is located too close to the creek,” he said. “We also have some center pivots and raise some corn.”

The cow herd, which is a composite of 1/2 Red Angus, 1/4 Tarentaise, 1/8 South Devon and 1/8 Red Poll, are in Chase County. Maddux said he went with the composite cattle following some advice from the USDA Meat and Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.

“We were able to establish our herd with the help of artificial insemination,” he says. “We have two herds. One herd is terminal and the other is composite. We only keep cows and bulls from the composite herd. We constantly cull out of our composite herd for bad udders and bad disposition. We also focus on calving ease.”

Maddux said they keep bulls out of the composite herd, and do some selection at calving. “If the mother has a bad udder, bad teats or a bad disposition, we just band the calf right then. We also udder score the cows, and if they don’t have a good udder score, we band the calves. The final test we use is a gain on feed test. After the calves are weaned, and toward fall, we conduct a 30-45 day gain on feed test. It helps us in the selection process. We use some visual selection also,” he said.

In Maddux’s operation, he only breeds his cows with yearling bulls he has raised, and he only uses the bulls for one breeding season. “I use one bull to 15 cows,” he says.

“After they are finished breeding, I castrate them, put them on feed and market them as fats,” he continues. He said he does this for two reasons, it is cheaper because it saves on wintering costs and fence repair, and he can keep more accurate records on costs. “I charge grass against the bulls during breeding in the summer,” he said. He also keeps records of how profitable it is to feed the bulls out and sell them as a fat steer. “I have to watch the weight real close, because it is easy to get them overweight,” he said. “We try to finish them at 1,350 to 1,400 pounds.”

Maddux said his mature cows are moderate in size and weigh 1,150 to 1,200 pounds. They aim for calves that average 75 pounds at birth. “We have a little different philosophy, we want a moderate size cow. Uniformity and grading are important to me. I also want an easy-keeping cow. I think I am better off with having cows that are more moderate in frame score and size than pressing for high weaning weights,” he said.

“We have converted from early spring calving in March to late spring calving in late April and May,” he adds. “It has really helped us economically, because we don’t have a lot of need for hay. We lease cornstalks in the winter to graze cattle.

“Our goal is to graze cattle 12 months out of the year, either on native grass or cornstalks,” he says. “We only keep a little feed around in case the stalks are covered with snow.”

Maddux isn’t afraid to deviate from traditional ranching methods to keep his cow-calf operation profitable. “We originally were calving in March and weaning calves in June and July. We would put the calves on feed and market them at 12-13 months old as finished cattle,” he said. “The conversions on those light calves were phenomenal. The gains were cheap then because corn was cheap, and it worked really well for us. We would get a three or four to one gain conversion. Unfortunately, that program will no longer work for us because corn is too expensive.”

Maddux early weans his April and May-born calves in August and September. At this point, some of the calves have only been on the cow 30-60 days. This is quite a deviation in the industry where the standard is to leave a calf on the cow for 205 days. After the calves are weaned, they are put on wet meadows and supplemented with wet distillers grain. Later, they are turned into cornstalks, and fed some supplement.

In the spring, the calves are turned into native pasture and marketed mid-summer to late-fall depending upon their size. Maddux said they purchase quite a few calves, in addition to the calves they raise. “We aren’t able to purchase many calves in the size bracket we raise, they are usually heavier. We market the heavier calves at 800-850 pounds in the middle of summer, usually mid-July,” he said. “The others are marketed in September or October.

“We switched to this system because the cost was becoming prohibitive in terms of putting up hay and feeding it in March,” he said. “The driving force was the cost issue. When we moved over to being able to graze 12 months of the year, it reduced costs and improved our bottom line.”

Jack is also an intensive grazing manager. “I spend a lot of time with range management,” he says. “I have been interested in it for a long time. We try to do a good job managing our grass. We skim all the grass in the spring just taking a little bit out.”

Maddux explained he uses a rest rotation system where they only graze the grass once in the summer. “We have lots of cross-fencing to make relatively small pastures,” he said. The cattle are mob grazed for five to 10 days depending on the size of pasture and number of cattle in the pasture. “We try to concentrate cows so we can graze quickly and get them out of there,” he said.

Like many other areas in western Nebraska, the drought took its toll on the grazing land, no matter how intensely Maddux managed it.

“The drought was really bad,” Maddux said. “Some years it didn’t rain at all. We didn’t graze because there was no rain. Our grazing land looked tough, so we sold off our cows. We are just now building our cow herd back to what it was.”

Maddux said he feels it is important to keep an open mind when figuring out how to make a cattle operation work.

“Part of the reason we’ve been successful is because we are willing to change from the traditional methods of ranching,” he says. “You have to keep an open mind and listen to what others have to say. Everyone needs to design their program to fit their resources. What we do here may not fit everyone’s operation.”