Commitment to quality, George Ochsner joins Hereford Hall of Fame
Torrington – In November George Ochsner was recognized for his family’s quality Hereford cattle with an induction into the Hereford Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was held in Kansas City, Mo. at the American Hereford Association’s (AHA) annual meeting during the American Royal.
“We went to the Hereford show at the American Royal, and it was a big show that took all day, and the Grand Champion Hereford bull was out of a bull we sold. It was really neat to receive such an honor, and have the grand champion bull of the show be one of ours, all on the same day,” comments George.
The champion bull was a descendant of GO Excel L18, whom George credits as the bull that put the Ochsner family on the Hereford map. “He’s done really well, and we were very fortunate to own him. We still have calls from all over, from people wanting semen out of him,” he says.
Today three generations of the Ochsner family live on and operate a diversified operation north of Torrington, where George’s parents homesteaded in 1913.
“Dad lost his father when he was 12, so the work of the ranch was left to him and his older brother. When Dad was 15 years old his brother went into the service, leaving him responsible for running the ranch with his mother and two sisters,” explains George Ochsner’s son, Blake Ochsner “He worked odd jobs around town and received most of his education while working at the local sale barn.”
“I spent all my life three miles south of here, until 1955, when Ruby and I got married and bought this place,” notes George. “We bought our first registered cow in 1956, and have been in the registered business ever since.”
“We ran a lot of commercial cows in those days, too, and bucket calves. Anything to make money to pay the bills,” adds Ruby Ochsner. “George would stay late at the sales and come home and say, ‘Come look what I got,’ so I would go down to the barn and he’d unload a bunch of shabby little calves.”
Today the Ochsner herd is comprised of all registered Hereford and Black Angus cows, and they market about 200 bulls annually. They also have a feedlot operation, irrigated farmland and a heifer development program. Blake explains the expansion and diversification of the operation was the result of he and his siblings’ returning to the ranch after starting their own families.
“Our oldest daughter Tena lives about 15 miles north of here and they have their own operation, but they buy our bulls and we buy back their calves and they are still very involved,” comments Ruby. “Our other three kids are all directly involved in this operation and live nearby.”
“Every morning we all generally sit around the table for about 45 minutes to make our plans for the day over coffee,” says George.
“That is really what holds everything together,” adds Ruby. “They all discuss what needs to be done, and what needs to be done today, and if they will all work together, or go their separate ways. If the grandsons are around they will come in, too. Everyone gets along and knows what is going on, and if it gets too involved I’ll come into the living room and drink my coffee,” she says with a chuckle.
“We really are blessed with an amazing family, and that’s number one to us,” notes George.
“We still do basically the same thing on the calf side that we did in the beginning, except today we buy a lot of calves back from our bull customers and run them over. The lighter cattle go to grass and we sell them off the pasture. The bigger end we fatten in a commercial feedlot in Torrington. We have two irrigated pivots of hay, and two irrigated pivots of corn we chop into silage, and that’s our feed base,” explains George.
“We purchase heifers back from our bulls customers, too. We develop and AI them, then sell them as replacements. We’ve sold heifers to operations in New Mexico, Illinois and Iowa recently, in addition to selling a lot within our region. We even shipped registered heifers to Kazakhstan this fall,” he adds.
“Our bull customers would come and pick out their Hereford bulls, and mention they wanted a few Angus bulls, too, and ask us where they could find some good ones,” explains Ruby of why they added a Black Angus herd 20 years ago. “So when a guy was having a dispersal, George was able to buy some really good Black Angus cattle and we started raising them.”
The Ochsners sell all their bulls private treaty, and Ruby explains their customers like it that way.
“Our buyers love being able to pick. Blake writes a price beside each bull and the buyers can go through and choose what they want. It’s worked really well for us, and our buyers have told us they like choosing and knowing what they’re buying, and they have asked us to please not put the bulls in a sale,” she says.
“We also have a website, and today a lot of our customers call us to buy bulls without ever coming to the ranch. We sell bulls over the internet from here to Kansas,” adds George.
The Ochsners are also known for their success in the show ring, and have shown cattle for 65 years.
“Tena got us started showing when she was nine years old and had the champion feeder calf,” notes Ruby.
“We have shown cattle and sold bulls at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas, the National Western Stock Show and the Black Hills Stock Show over the years,” adds George. “My favorite thing is watching the grandkids show their cattle at the county and state fair. That’s a lot of fun. They always show cattle we have raised.”
Blake notes that his parents have been long-standing supporters of all local 4-H and FFA kids, and the Ochsners also sell some steers and heifers as youth projects.
“Dad has always been determined to sell problem-free cattle that perform in the pasture and the feedlot, and his philosophy is to never sell a bull unless he is willing to buy all his offspring,” says Blake. “That philosophy has been a key to the success of all aspects of the operation. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘In the long run you will make more money selling a steer than you will by selling a poor bull.’”
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.