Lessons through history: Spring Cove Ranch raises registered Angus cows built for the Idaho range
The Butler family has made their home at the Spring Cove Ranch on the Snake River Plains of southern Idaho for over 100 years. Homesteaded by Arthur Harrison Butler and his wife Effie, the ranch was named after a spring in the draw above the ranch where pioneers on the Oregon Trail stopped for a drink of water.
“Arthur and Effie would go on rides across the hillside and stop to get a drink at the cove,” shares Stacy Butler. “They decided it was where they wanted to settle. So, they staked their claims and built their homestead.”
Stacy and her husband, Arthur (Art) Butler, who is named after his grandfather, live on the ranch today.
“It is the same ranch, the same cowherd and the same family on the same piece of land for over 100 years,” says Stacy. “We can trace our current cows’ pedigrees to the original cows who were the first calf crop on the ranch, born in 1920.”
“Arthur and Effie bought their first registered Percheron horses in 1916, and the first registered Aberdeen Angus cattle came to the ranch in 1919,” says Stacy.
“Art’s grandfather was an enterprising entrepreneur, and he understood stockmen needed to advertise and get their name out,” she continues.
Arthur Harrison Butler served on the National Percheron Board of Directors, Stacey shares. He and his show teams of horses traveled in boxcars across the West for horse shows. At the time, they stood stallions at the ranch near Bliss, Idaho, and they also consigned Angus heifers to some of the earliest purebred sales in the West.
“Arthur and Effie had a camera as soon as they could get one to document their horses and their cattle,” Stacey shares. “We have a treasure trove of photos of the herd and can follow the different pedigrees.”
Although Spring Cove Ranch doesn’t raise registered Percheron horses anymore, they do run 400 registered Angus pairs and hold a bull sale each March. They also farm 500 irrigated acres. Last year, the ranch held their first online female sale.
Working registered herd
“The unique thing about our registered herd, is it is one of the few registered herds run like a commercial herd under the range conditions of the West,” notes Stacy. “We run them in sagebrush and rocks, just like our customers do.”
“Our market is predominantly western range cattlemen from northern Nevada, eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and Utah,” shares Stacy. “Those customers need cattle that will hold together and work on the range.”
In 2019, the Spring Cove Ranch celebrated their century herd. The same year, Art and Stacy were also awarded the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) Commitment to Excellence Award.
“It is the pinnacle of accomplishment for Art and I,” says Stacy. “We have focused our tenure in the herd focusing on genetics that are not only going to work in western range conditions and be profitable to the cow/calf operator, but also genetics that follow through and create carcasses to meet CAB specifications, added value for the feeder and packer, along with a pleasant eating experience for our ultimate customer, the consumer.”
Stacy explains she and Art’s goal was to do a lot of genetic research and identify the bloodlines that would work for them. The Butlers put a lot of focus on specifications for CAB, but the success of their goals started with the right kind of cow.
“For us, the right cow has to submit to this environment and be able to survive on sagebrush and rocks,” she says. “We have used every tool available to us, from expected progeny differences (EPDs), to artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer. We also DNA type every animal we have. There is no reason at this point, with the Angus database, we can’t breed exactly what we want.”
The Spring Cove Ranch focuses on the convenience traits the Angus breed is known for and fitting their cattle to their environment.
“We don’t have the feed resources to support a frame score seven cow in this country,” says Stacy. “We look for moderate-framed, good-footed cows with good udders. Our calves run alongside our cows on the range to learn inherited rangeability.”
No stranger to disease
Art and Stacy partner with Randy Lancaster of LLL Angus for their production sale in the spring. The sale averages 150 to 180 bulls and around 75 elite females. The 2021 sale will be held March 8.
Although daily ranch operations continued after their 2020 production sale, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stacy shares the virus did have an effect on how Spring Cove Ranch delivered their bulls.
“Nobody wanted to stick around, and we didn’t linger,” says Stacy. “Usually, we go see people’s herds. We have coffee, visit and take the time to get to know our customers and their operations.”
“This year, though, we did not because we were being respectful of our travels and the fact we had the potential to bring something along with us that might not be beneficial for someone else,” notes Stacy. “Cattle people as a whole understand viruses, and we know that when disease is introduced to a herd, there will be some in the population who get really sick and don’t make it, those who get better with treatment and those who have it but don’t show any symptoms.”
Spring Cove Ranch lost almost their entire herd of Percheron horses in the 1920s to what was called swamp fever. Their cattle herd has dealt with tuberculosis, and even trichomoniasis.
“Our cow herd has lived through the development of all the vaccines we take for granted today,” says Stacy.
For more information, visit springcoveranch.com.
Averi Hales is the editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.