Lucky Seven Angus emphasizes efficiency, functionality in high altitude bulls
Riverton – “My great-grandpa James Jensen homesteaded the Boulder Valley in 1895 and lived in a dugout that first winter. Every day he shoveled snow off the grass so his seven cows and three horses could survive,” says Lucky Seven Angus owner Jim Jensen of how his family got their start in western Wyoming.
“That country is known as the icebox of the nation, so I don’t imagine it was a very nice winter. Since then the ranch has been handed down, and I’m the fourth generation and my kids will be the fifth.
“We chose to expand our operation into the Riverton area because Sublette County is so tough in the winter. We would produce one ton of feed per acre, and feed over three tons per cow to get through the winter. In Riverton we can produce three to four tons of feed per acre and it takes about one ton to winter a cow – that was the driving force behind moving to Riverton,” explains Jensen.
Lucky Seven Angus is a seedstock operation running cattle in tough country, and Jensen believes that produces tougher, better bulls that will work in any condition.
“In the summer we run our cows on pastures up to 38,000 acres, and the heifers summer at elevations above 10,000 feet. These pastures are big, rocky and cover some very tough country. The cows are in Sublette County, at over 7,000 feet, from the first of May through the first part of January with no supplemental feed. Then those cows are taken to Riverton, where we finish wintering them and will calve them out. We usually don’t bring them down until we can count their ribs, and once they arrive at the farm they’re fed a balanced ration that consists of a lot of straw and starts at about 16 pounds per cow per day. They don’t get very much feed,” says Jensen.
By running the cattle with limited nutrition for 10 months of the year, Lucky Seven has ended up with a very feed efficient herd. “The inefficient cows have culled themselves out. Results suggests our cowherd might be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than the average,” explains Jensen.
The next step is to start locating the most efficient animals through a GrowSafe feed efficiency testing system the ranch recently purchased, says Jensen. Through locating the most feed efficient genetics and adding those to the current protocol, Jensen’s goal is to get his cowherd up to 60 or 70 percent more efficient than the average.
“Right now we are starting to locate the best end of our cows. The next step is to put in between 200 and 300 embryos per year from those cows to propagate their genetics,” notes Jensen.
Bulls are marketed as two-year-olds the first Saturday in March at Riverton Livestock. Some yearlings out of first-calf heifers are sold, but Jensen notes almost all are two’s.
“We sell mostly two-year olds, just for the fact that we don’t believe in over-feeding and over-conditioning, and we think you have to push bulls coming out of our environment too hard to get them sellable as yearlings. We grow them out, which is not the case with most registered breeders.
“They’re above 7,000 feet most of their lives. We send them to the Laramie Plains from the middle of May through mid–October, then PAP test at that elevation. I think we’re the only outfit in the nation that PAP tests above 7,000 feet, runs cows above 7,000 feet and sells more than 100 head of bulls per year,” comments Jensen.
He adds that 250 bulls are run on about 9,000 acres, and he feels running them together keeps them tough. “It’s like the person who keeps getting into bar fights. Sooner or later he learns how to fight and not get hurt any more or quits fighting. I think it’s the same way with these bulls.”
Lucky Seven is confident enough in their bulls to provide a four-year guarantee. They started the guarantee two years ago and have found it to be very successful. “To be honest, it’s working way better than we ever thought it would. The bulls are holding up and lasting like they’re supposed to,” says Jensen, who hopes one day all producers will sell bulls with this guarantee.
“We’re commercial cattlemen – we’ve been involved in the commercial end forever. We feel we’re different in that we’re not in it to sell high-dollar bulls; we’re in it to change the industry. We think that, as a whole, the seedstock producers haven’t done justice to the commercial cowmen out there. They’ve done a heck of a job marketing pretty, fat bulls, but not in producing cattle that will make the commercial people money.
“We’re hoping that with our four-year guarantee, and the feed efficiency of our herd, we will help start a paradigm shift in the seedstock industry, and we hope that shift will force out those seedstock producers who won’t put their cattle in tough conditions,” adds Jensen.
“In the cattle industry we have the fewest cows since around 1956, but you can’t find pasture. What that means to me is that fewer cattle are eating more feed than any time in the past 30 to 40 years. In short, less pounds per acre, and less efficient ranches. We hope to have a part in changing that – the cattle industry should feel lucky to have survived the last 30 years when our factory and genetics have become less efficient.
“That problem comes from seedstock producers unwilling to stick their cattle in tough conditions and find out which are the money-making cattle. Our hearts are in changing that. If cattlemen can make a better living because we helped change the seedstock industry, if that’s the only legacy I leave behind, and I die broke, I’ll still be happy,” says Jensen.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.