Ranch honored: Gray’s Angus Ranch receives 2021 Nebraska Producer of the Year Award
Harrison, Neb. – Rod and Laura Gray and their family of Harrison, Neb. are the recipients of the 2021 Nebraska Angus Producer of the Year. Raising registered Angus has been a family tradition for the Grays.
Rod’s great-great grandfather Starr Fuller had American Aberdeen Angus registries from Toledo, Iowa dating back to 1898. Harry Gray, Rod’s grandpa, purchased Angus cows from his wife’s father, Art Fuller and held public auctions of “Richly Bred Angus Cattle” in the 1940s. Wayne Gray, Rod’s dad, built the Angus cowherd to 400 registered females and sold bulls private treaty.
At the age of 15, Rod purchased his first bull from the Champion Pen of Three at the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver, which was a son of Ankonian President – the Grand Champion Angus Bull at the International in 1964. Rod grew up active in the Iowa Junior Angus Association and served as president. He showed their own Angus breeding stockin 4-H, progress shows, Iowa State Fair and NWSS.
Establishing the ranch
Rod and Laura moved to Nebraska in 1983 and have raised their family in the Angus business since. Their children were active in the Nebraska Junior Angus Association. Naomi was the Nebraska Angus Queen in 2000 and a finalist for Miss American Angus. Their children also showed at AKSARBEN, the National Junior Angus Show, progress shows and in 4-H.
Rod served on the Nebraska Angus Association Board of Directors and was the 1992-93 president. He also served on the Nebraska Beef Checkoff Board for eight years and traveled to Central and South America with the U.S. Meat Export Federation promoting beef.
In 1997, the family picked up their roots and cattle, and moved west to the Wyoming border southwest of Harrison. They hosted the Nebraska Junior Angus Show at Fort Robinson and a few Nebraska Angus Tours.
The Grays have exhibited at Husker Harvest Days, the Nebraska State Fair, Wyoming State Fair, Central States Fair, the Northern International Livestock Expo (NILE), NWSS, Western Junior Stock Show and the Black Hills Stock Show. In 2008, Gray’s Angus bred and raised steers, which won the Champion National Certified Angus Beef Angus Source Carcass Challenge. They have also exported registered Angus breeding stock to Russia and Turkey.
Current ranch operations
Today, living on the ranch doing daily management along with Rod and Laura are their sons Heath and Garret. The ranch has pivots for raising alfalfa and corn silage for winter feed. At an altitude of 4,600 to 5,000 feet, the growing season is about 90 days.
Their son Colt and wife Riyatta and their daughter Keirra are close by on Wyoming property and regularly help out. Son Levi, wife Sarah and their kids Cooper and Kendall take in Gray’s Angus pairs for the summer on their ground in the White River country.
Their daughter Naomi and her husband Jeff Pelster and their family, Chisum, Ruger, Linnea, Canton and Kimberlynn ranch north of Harrison on the Coffee War Bonnet Ranch. They have Gray’s Angus bloodlines in their cowherd and have a yearling operation.
Grandpa Rod has started the seventh generation showing Angus breeding stock where Chisum showed the Champion Angus Bull at the Western Junior Livestock Show in Rapid City this fall. They all take the Angus cattle business seriously and help out tremendously with the spring bull sale, branding and ranch work.
This time of year, the Grays are sorting through the 400-plus bull calves, picking out the top one-third to offer for sale. Careful selection for a “complete package,” including dam production, performance, profitable expected progeny differences (EPDs) and soundness are being closely monitored.
Later born calves are held over for two-year-old buyers. The bulls are developed at the ranch on a sensible, low concentrate diet with ample room to exercise.
Heifer calves are also wintered at the ranch, synchronized and artificially inseminated (AI’d) before trailing to grass for the summer. Calving usually starts the first of February with AI and embryo transfer calves.
All pairs leave the main ranch for the growing season. There are several environmental challenges for the herd from year to year. At White River and Deep Creek, south of Crawford, Neb., the terrain has very steep ravines and is covered with pine trees.
Up at Provo, S.D., the pairs face sparse water and treeless pastures, which is a storm of drought-susceptible conditions. For Sioux County, S.D., the hard grass is great, but is also drought susceptible in the high plains and shortgrass prairie.
Rod has kept a closed cowherd through the years, keeping the very best genetics going. With hardy Angus bloodlines tracing back to the original Gray’s cowherd, these females have been tried and proven to perform in various range conditions and terrains. The cows go to work, take care of themselves and their calves and rebreed to do it all over again the next year.
The steers are fed in a feedlot and consistently finish with an average daily gain over 4.5 pounds per day, carcasses grade 95 percent Choice and higher and 57 percent Certified Angus Beef and Prime. The Gray family is all about providing good quality beef for consumers and profitability for their customers.
They will be hosting their 27th “Second Century” Performance Bull Sale at the ranch the third Saturday in March.
All of the family has been a big part of the entire success for the operation; from their ancestors and extended family to the kids and grandkids who are actively involved now. Each family member has been very thankful to God for His blessings and favor.
The family shared Romans 10:11: “No one who believes in Christ will be disappointed.”
This article is courtesy of the Nebraska Angus Association. For more information, visit nebraskaangus.org.