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Forging the genetic link: Adams Angus Acres provides top-quality feedstock for commercial operations

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Chet and Phyllis Adams established their Angus breeding operation near Firth, Idaho in 1973 when they purchased a small ranch on the Snake River. 

They started their breeding program earlier when Chet was still working with his parents, Bob and Opal Adams, who established the Leadore Angus Ranch in 1941. Chet had already acquired a few Angus cows. He purchased his first registered Angus female in 1952 when he was nine years old, using money from his 4-H steer. 

A growing operation

After buying a ranch in Firth, Chet and Phyllis added more acreage over the years as neighbors retired and sold their farms. 

 “We were fortunate to have the opportunity to buy land adjacent to our ranch. It took us 30 years to put it all together,” Chet says.

As they gained more land, they increased their registered herd, and now the couple runs 100 head of cows. The Adams’ have been committed to the Angus breed, producing superior livestock for commercial producers, which helps meet the demands of the consumer.  

“We put a lot of emphasis on performance and balanced expected progeny differences (EPD), including strong maternal values. As we continue to forge the genetic link, our goal is to breed sound cattle with a lot of capacity, length, good feet and udders,” says Chet.

A changing breed

Many changes have occurred within the Angus breed during Chet’s lifetime. 

 “Back in the 1950s, I remember people breeding small-framed cattle. Then breeders started increasing frame size during the 1970s and 1980s, and many people were raising extremely large-framed cattle. I have tried to stay moderate and not follow fads. That was my dad’s philosophy, and it’s worked for us,” says Chet.

His breeding program embraces available science and technology and Chet feels having science-based information is an asset to the Angus breed and to the cattle industry as a whole. 

 “We DNA test every calf. With DNA results incorporated into the EPDs by the American Angus Association, it increases accuracy of the EPDs, which assists us in identifying the genetic strengths and weaknesses of each animal,” he says.

Building a bull sale

Bulls are marketed through their annual production sale, the Adams Connection Snake River Valley Genetics Bull Sale. Their 52nd sale will be the first Wednesday in March 2021.  

“When we were getting started, my dad and I had a joint production sale, and I hauled all my bulls to Leadore, Idaho,” says Chet. 

After losing his father in a drowning accident in 1995, Chet brought his parents’ bulls down to Firth and started having the annual sale at the Blackfoot Livestock Auction Company yards.

“Over the years we’ve enjoyed good demand for our heifers, and most of them have been sold private treaty. A few heifers are sold in our production sale. In 2012, we invited Rimrock Angus, owned by Arnold and Teresa Callison at Blackfoot, Idaho and Beckman Livestock, owned by Wade and Vicki Beckman at Roberts, Idaho, who raise Lim-Flex cattle, to join us.”  

The three breeders together market 90 to 100 bulls each year through this sale.  This year they will host their first Snake River Valley Genetics Female Sale on October 31, 2020 at the new Bonneville County Fairgrounds in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The Adams’ commitment to quality and consistency paid off in repeat customers who buy bulls year after year. For example, the Willis Ranch in Cokeville has purchased Adams bulls for 34 years. 

 “To be successful at this business, producers must have quality cattle and integrity. We are dedicated to doing our best,” Chet says.

He believes if a breeder produces bulls that work for the commercial rancher, there will always be some bulls good enough to utilize in a registered herd as well.  Most years, a bull or two from their sale goes to a registered herd. This is always a good sign the genetics are above average.

Bull calves are fence-line weaned in August on grass and kept on grass until mid-September. Then they are brought in for a feed warm-up period prior to a 100-day performance feed test. At the end of the test, yearling weights are obtained and the bulls are ultrasounded for marbling and ribeye size.

Winter calving

The ranch has been doing embryo work since 2001.  

“We also try to artificially inseminate (AI) every female at least once. We start our AI program the last week in March and AI until we turn out to pasture the first week in May. We preg check with ultrasound to determine whether it’s an AI calf or bull bred,” he says.

The cows start calving the first of January, but there are always a few that arrive in late December.  

“Some of those are Christmas presents,” says Chet.  

“We’ve found over the years January is the best time to calve as there is less muddy, wet and sloppy weather, causing less sickness in the calves. However, the past couple years this has not proven true,” he says. “It’s nice when mud is frozen and everything is cleaner.”

“We bring every cow into the corral two weeks prior to their due date for calving, and run every calf though the barn to prevent frozen ears, obtain birthweights, tag and give the necessary shots,” Chet adds.  

He notes the babies can handle a lot of cold weather after they are dry and have suckled.

“We try to keep them in the barn 12 to 24 hours, depending on weather and how fast we are calving. We also have calf shelters in every pasture. If young calves can get out of the wind and cold, they do fine,” says Chet. 

Growing hay

The ranch raises almost all hay needed for the cattle, including a lot of alfalfa. The third cutting is sold as high-quality dairy hay since it is the most valuable and not needed for beef cattle. 

With this money, the Adams’ buys more first-crop alfalfa. When hay ground needs to be rotated out of alfalfa, they plant hay barley.

“Our cattle will leave alfalfa to get to the hay barley,” Chet says.

Manure from the corrals is all composted. It’s hauled out in the spring and sits for a year, stirred occasionally for optimum composting, and then spread over the fields.  This practice helps ensure optimum hay and pasture production.

Raising a family

Chet and Phyllis raised a family and enjoyed their six grandchildren.  

“When our kids were young they were in 4-H and did a lot of showing at 4-H and Junior Angus shows. Now, our daughter Lisa lives in Boise, Idaho, and our son Eric is a doctor of chiropractic medicine in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Our son Scott, who was the most interested in the farm and cattle, died in an airplane crash in 2000. We don’t have a younger generation to take over the ranch operation at this point,” Chet says.

Phyllis passed away Aug. 5, 2020, from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease.  

“I am now discovering my new normal without her, but I enjoy raising top-quality cattle and plan to continue ‘forging the genetic link’ in Angus cattle,” he says.

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Heather Smith Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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