Running Creek Ranch Does Things “Limousin” Style
December 31, 2012
Spending time at the Freund family's Running Creek Ranch, in northwest Elbert County, is like taking a vacation. The sounds of cattle and horses fill the air and the only people you meet are friendly. But don't let the relaxing environment fool you, they are all business when it comes to their Limousin cattle.
After Joe Freund (pronounced "friend") Sr. purchased the large spread of grassland pasture in 1970 and then began raising Limousin cattle in 1979, the family has tweaked and honed their Limousin genetics to the point where they confidently assert: "The last several years we have registered more Limousin cattle than any other seedstock producer. Quality in volume are foremost from our program."
"We have quite a few (acres); we haven't counted it all yet," answered Joey Freund (Joe Freund's son and the current ranch manager) with a personable laugh. "It takes us around 30 sections. We'll rent about half our grassland."
The volume of acreage is necessary to sustain their operation of breeding and raising over a thousand cows, bulls and calves each and every year. While a lot of cattle operations are geared for selling their product straight to the commercial beef market, Running Creek Ranch's (with the Lazy V brand) goal is to help those operations make their product even better.
“We’ve spent a lot of time looking at genetics and the overall performance of these cattle to produce a top performing bull where a guy can raise calves that will end up going into the feed and be harvested.”
~ Joey Freund,
son of Joe Freund, Sr.
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"Our main business is selling 2-year-old bulls," explained Freund while he answered questions in front of a large red barn on the property. The initial interview took place while longtime ranch helper and now brother-in-law Pat Kelley and Joey Freund's son Ethan worked with young cattle in the background, creating a perfect backdrop of efficient labor and relaxed livestock. "We'll market about 250 2-year-old bulls this year. (They are) kind of a niche deal. Not many guys sell 2-year-old bulls."
Most virgin bulls sold to cattle producers are about 15- to 18-months-old, but the Freunds found a niche market where they offer 2-year-old bulls that are more mature and can cover more cows as a result. It costs Running Creek Ranch more upfront to keep the bulls on their property longer, but their superior product creates such a demand that they sell all their livestock by private treaty, with about 80 percent of those sales going to repeat customers.
"Most of our bull customers like that point," said Freund about the 2-year-old bulls. "It goes back to how many cows a bull will cover. A good rule of thumb an old guy told me once, a bull will cover however many months old he is, up to 25."
Asked regarding the family's decision to focus on the Limousin breed, Freund's answer was confident.
"Number one, we really believe in this breed," he said without hesitation. "We think there is so much to offer and our main customer is the commercial cattleman. We believe we have more to offer the commercial cattlemen with this Limousin breed. We've spent a lot of time looking at genetics and the overall performance of these cattle to produce a top performing bull where a guy can raise calves that will end up going into the feed and be harvested."
On the topic of what the breed offers, Freund readily became specific.
"Efficiency," he stated with conviction. "Efficiency and muscle yield. It doesn't take as much input to get to final weight. When we sell a bull and he has some black influenced cows, our purebred bull will go and really complement the two where you can gain the efficiency and the muscle and the overall muscle yield. Fat and muscle are antagonistic to each other," Freund added while the interview continued in his diesel truck as it crisscrossed pastures of separate herds. "We're trying to find a happy medium between the two. If a (cattle producer) has these black cross-bred cows, he knows that those animals, you breed them to another black bull, they will do very well in the quality grading, but low in the yield rating. So we can take a Limousin bull that is a little heavier muscled, kick that yield up and we can take those antagonistic traits and keep them together. We used to think that was impossible."
Running Creek Ranch not only focuses on the quality and efficiency of the Limousin genetics, they also work hard on improving ease of handling characteristics like polled cattle, docility, low birth weight, fast growth rate, etc. Although he feels their ranch has been dialing in positive genetic characteristics for the last 20 years, he also knows the work is never finished.
"We're always trying to improve," he said with a smile. "Someone said something about cloning once, and I said I've never seen one good enough worth cloning! They haven't made the perfect one, have they?"
Asked to sum up what he wanted people to know about Running Creek Ranch, Freund paused a few seconds in his truck before giving a thoughtful reply.
"We raise an efficient cattle for the beef industry to try and make a wholesome healthy product for the beef consumer," he stated. "At the same time we get a great lifestyle for our children to grow up in." ❖