Lufkin Cattle Company: Lufkin family raises real world working cattle
Carl and Robin Lufkin have been raising registered Angus for a long time. Now, they are ranching near Tendoy, Idaho, where they continue to improve their outstanding mother cows.
“I was raised near Rigby, Idaho, on a farm where we had a feedlot, grew corn and potatoes, raised beef cattle and milked cows. I became acquainted with virtually every segment of agriculture at a young age,” says Carl.
“I married Robin Shiner from Leadore, Idaho in 1979. Her family raised beef cattle,” he continues. “Over the years, Robin and I have leased more than 10 different ranches here in the Lemhi Valley, trying to put a cowherd together.”
“I managed Karl Tyler’s property at Leadore for 16 years. He and I went into partnership and bought the Leadore Angus Ranch cows in 2003. We had an annual sale together as Leadore Angus until 2015. Then, Robin and I bought the Swanson Ranch at Price Creek. We split our partnership with Tyler and divided the cows at Leadore. Robin and I took our part of the cows to our own place,” Carl explains.
Improving the cowherd
“We are a smaller operation now but try to do a better job. Through years of leasing places and partnering on cattle, we got a start. Now, we can do our own thing, developing the herd the way we want,” he says. “We’ve spent a lot of money over the years buying herd sires, and we have done a lot of artificial insemination (AI) to improve the cattle. We were able to focus more on the cows and breed better cattle.”
Today, Carl and Robin run 300 cows and sell around 85 yearling bulls at their annual sale in March.
“The original Leadore Angus herd, created by Bob Adams, was known for good maternal traits and calving ease. We’ve tried to build on that. Many of our customers buy heifer bulls because they can count on those from us,” Carl says. “They know there will be strong maternal traits and calving ease and still have big calves to wean.”
The sale is held at their place on Price Creek the third Wednesday in March.
Carl feels his dairy background was helpful as part of his education for the seedstock business.
“I milked cows for a long time. This teaches commitment and appreciation for good udders, disposition and many things important to beef producers. My experience in the feedlot business was helpful too. My family finished a lot of cattle. Most cowboys would never brag about being cow milkers, but I learned as much about breeding good Angus cattle by milking cows as I did anything else,” he explains.
“We’ve never chased big numbers or fads. We’ve tried to breed solid cattle, and maternal traits come first. I always felt if I built a good cow, then a good steer, heifer or a good bull calf will naturally be the byproduct of that good cow,” Carl says.
“It’s gratifying to me that our neighbors want to buy our bulls. Almost all the bulls we sell stay within 100 miles of home. There are many good commercial herds in our area. Lemhi Valley calves usually sell at a premium on the video sales, because buyers recognize the value of the cattle here,” he adds.
Real world working cattle
The ranch on Price Creek has Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service allotments. The purebred cattle run in a similar environment and elevation as many of the Lufkin’s customers’ cattle.
“I think it is important to have cattle run at high elevation at some point in their lives. All our heifer calves run on Baldy Basin Range with their mothers, so nature is part of the culling process on those cows,” Carl states. “Our cattle are adapted to range conditions. They may not raise calves as big as they would in green pastures, but it is important for selection to have those cows out there.”
Living at high elevation, traveling to feed and water, raising a calf and breeding back every year are things Carl’s customers’ cows have to do.
“We try to run our purebreds like commercial cows, but we don’t run bull calves out there because they wouldn’t be big enough to make the sale, since we don’t feed any grain,” says Carl.
“We don’t pamper our cattle. My cows have never seen a feed bunk or a bite of grain. We feed a lot of grass hay and a little alfalfa/grass hay, but they mainly make a living on grass and grass hay. We could raise bigger calves if we pushed them, but I don’t believe in creep feed or any artificial feeding situation,” he notes.
The bull calves generally wean at 600 to 700 pounds at 205 days of age.
“We don’t do anything to assist the cows in production. Any cows not producing really well get culled. We keep a lot of heifers and probably have bigger turnover than some people, but the cows we have are very productive,” he says.
“We participate in the American Angus Association’s Pathfinder Program which identifies superior-producing cows. For three years in a row, a cow must breed within a 30-day window, raise a calf at least five percent bigger than herd average and never lose a calf,” Carl states.
Only one percent of cows in the entire Angus breed are on this Pathfinder list.
“I am proud of our cows because 10 percent of our herd are Pathfinder cows. I think this is due to the fact we make our cows work, and the ones that stick around are productive,” says Carl.
“We have a very strong female base. I think a seedstock producer’s job is to take some of the work out of raising cattle. I absolutely hate to pull calves, I hate to suckle calves and I despise a wild cow,” he says.
“That kind of cow makes work harder and she’s dangerous. If we have to pull calves, they are stressed and may not do as well, which can lead to sickness down the road. My role as a seedstock producer is to eliminate those problems and make our customers’ job easier and safer,” he explains.
Carl and Robin have three children who are all involved in ranching. Their son Dillon and his wife Lacey and their son CJ and his wife Kortni work on the Shiner Ranch. Their daughter Maquel and her husband Derick have a ranch near Billings, Mont.
“The whole family comes here now and then to help out. They probably spend a lot more time working than they ever get paid for, but they enjoy it and enjoy the cattle,” Carl says. “We have seven grandkids and they like to help too. In the fall when we are preg checking, weighing cattle, cutting bulls, etc. we usually have a lot of grandkids running around here, which makes it lots of fun.”
For more information, visit lufkincattlecompany.com.
Heather Smith Thomas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.