Standing the test of time, Grey’s Angus ranch looks back over seven generations of success
Harrison, Neb. – Gray’s Angus Ranch and Rod and Laura Gray continue their family tradition of raising Angus cattle on the high plains prairie of Sioux County, Neb. on the Wyoming-Nebraska border.
Rod first came to Sioux County in 1978 when Windy Acres Angus hired him to fit and show cattle for them, and he fell in love with the people and the country. Later, in searching for a ranch, he returned to Harrison with his family in 1997.
“We feel very blessed to have the privilege to raise our family and ranch here,” he says.
Rod and Laura run about 800 registered Angus cows with the help of sons Colt, Heath and Garret.
Daughter Naomi and husband Jeff lease the historic Warbonnet Ranch north of Harrison, and son Levi and wife Sarah live in Torrington and run cows on the ranch.
Rod’s family has been in the registered Angus business for over 100 years. The Gray Family is in their seventh generation with grandchildren now coming up in the business.
Gray Angus Ranch sells about 150 yearling bulls and 50 head of two-year-old bulls each year, on the third Saturday of March, at the ranch headquarters.
“The top 30 percent of our bull calves are carefully selected for the sale each year,” Gray explains. “Cow data production, weaning and birth weights, soundness and performance all take a vital role in the 150 to 200 top-end of the yearlings and two-year-old bulls offered at our sale.”
Their ranch, which sits southwest of Harrison, is home to the Angus cowherd, where the cowherd is calved, heifers are developed and bulls are fed for the sale.
From calves, the Gray family carefully watches the development of their cattle.
Gray says, “We want our bulls to have a Milk EPD in the high teens or low 20s, and they need to marble well with a mid-sized rib eye.”
They also collect carcass ultrasound data as a means of producing desirable traits in their cattle.
With a focus on producing functional Angus bulls, the family looks for a six-frame bull maturing around 2,000 pounds.
Running the ranch
“We run a hands-on operation,” Gray describes, noting they follow the development of the calves and performance of the dams throughout the year. “Performance and the ability to thrive are of utmost importance in maintaining our cowherd.”
The Gray family strives for a cow that weighs between 1,250 and 1,350 pounds and is able to wean 50 percent of her body weight.
“Breeding back on time each year is also a priority,” Gray says.
“We keep a closed herd, bringing in fresh genetics through artificial insemination, and we raise our own herd sires,” Rod says.
The Gray’s rely on proven Sires and avoid chasing extremes.
“We’re in the business to make raising cattle profitable for us and for our customers,” Gray comments.
Rod and Laura started with 20 cows from Rod’s grandfather Harry Gray in Iowa that can be traced to his great-great grandparents Star and Eunice Fuller in 1898.
Spending his growing up years involved with the family’s registered Angus business in Iowa, Gray developed a passion for the beef industry early on. He hired on with neighbor Kenyan Herefords and showed with them at the Chicago International Stock Show. He worked his way through college at South Dakota State University clipping bull sales and shows.
“I met many great people and clipped for them over the years,” Gray says, noting that he fit the Grand Champion bull and heifer at the 1978 National Western Stock Show.
The 26 Bar Ranch was part owner in the heifer, and Gray comments, “John Wayne was just an ordinary cattleman like the rest of the guy. He was great to work for, excited to have Grand Champion Heifer and wanted me to hire on.”
He continued, “I had just two months left to graduate from college, so I passed on the opportunity.”
Rod and brother Terry also showed a steer they raised and won Reserve Champion Angus Steer at Denver, produced by a bull Rod had bought at the Iowa State Show and Sale.
Gray has been actively involved in the cattle industry, serving on Junior and State Angus boards, State and National Independent Cattlemen Boards.
For the past eight years, Gray served on the Nebraska Beef Council, as well.
He says, “It was very informative, and there is a lot going on. I wanted to be involved in the decisions of where our beef check-off dollars where going.
“We can’t just change things, but being involved, we can bend the direction things are headed,” he comments. “I really encourage grassroots ranchers to get involved and let their voice be heard.”
Gray was picked as a Nebraska representative on the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to Latin America, as well, and five years ago, he joined USMEF on a trip to Bogota, Columbia. Since then, he has been to Guatemala, Costa Rico, Peru and Panama with them, representing ranchers.
Gray says, “Latin America is a prominent, growing market for our high quality U.S. meat products.”
Saige Albert compiled this article on Gray’s Angus Ranch. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.