Raising well-rounded cattle: ZumBrunnen Angus proves diversity is key
Lusk – Originally homesteaded in 1888, ZumBrunnen Angus has been a family operation for well over 100 years. After a decade long career in engineering, Jason ZumBrunnen made the decision to return to the family operation and has hit the ground running in the 10 years he has been back.
ZumBrunnen Angus is a family-owned Angus seed-stock operation located about 17 miles northwest of Lusk.
According to their website, they focus on “developing progressive bulls and females to help commercial and registered cattle breeders increase the productivity and profitability of their herds.”
In addition to raising high-quality Angus cattle, the family also feeds out their own cattle, as well as some of their customers’ cattle and offers wholesale beef.
Balancing genetics and phenotype
“We focus more on females here, and the average cattle we provide have longevity,” Jason explains, noting ZumBrunnen Angus is looking for productive females who are easy fleshing and raise a calf each year. “It makes it easy to market bulls when you have a good cowherd behind them. We strive for both carcass and growth qualities. We want our cattle to read as well on paper as they look on the hoof.”
Jason is passionate about having cattle with genetic potential and the phenotype to match.
“I think we can have it all,” he explains. “I want to produce the phenotype people want and have the genetics to back it.”
Jason adds, “A lot of people think you have to sacrifice one for the other, but we don’t believe this to be true. I really believe we can have animals that work for everyone.”
Feeding and wholesale meat
When Jason originally moved back to the family ranch after 10 years in engineering, his thought was feeding cattle was a natural next step for growth in the operation.
“We say we are selling these great genetics and we wanted to prove how great our genetics were,” he explains. “We started out by just feeding out the tail end we didn’t want to keep as bulls or replacements and sending them through the feedyard. Then, we started taking in some of our cus- tomers’ cattle. We are getting premiums and selling carcasses off the grid.”
Jason notes the meat selling business came about in a time of economic uncertainty, as the price of feeder cattle and futures tanked in 2020.
“We were looking to face a really big loss that year and we were scrambling to figure out what we were going to do,” he says. “We decided we were going to try and sell as many as we could through direct sales.”
Jason continues, “Inputs got higher and higher, so we just started advertising, found as many butcher slots as we could and we sold beef mostly through social media.”
Jason notes the direct meat sales opportunity really got them out of a pinch in an uncertain market on fed cattle and they are continuing to sell their meat directly to the public. Customers can now purchase on their website and can reserve a half or quarter carcass and pay with a credit card.
The history and the future
Jason’s father and grandfather started raising Angus cattle in 1952 and stuck with the breed. Jason has been interested in cattle his whole life and was thrilled to get back to the ranch after 10 years in another sector.
“We have been back about 10 years and my parents were still selling privately, about 20 to 30 bulls a year,” he explains. “We wanted to grow the business to make it more ideal for growth and make it possible for my kids to come back as well. I am the fifth generation, and my kids are the sixth generation on this place.”
He continues, “My parents have grown the ranch quite a bit and hopefully we will be able to grow a little bigger. With all of that, comes building within our community and making sure what we are doing is helping our customers, our business and everyone in between.”
Jason sees a lot of potential for their meat business and the younger generation coming into ranching.
“We sold probably 85 steers last year to people who were looking for beef straight from the ranch,” he says. “I think this type of market has a lot of opportunity for growth.”
“I also think most ranchers are older right now and the opportunity for younger people to get in and thrive is coming,” he says. “I really hope my kids want to come back and we are working to give them that option, but if they want to do something else, that is okay too.”
For more information about ZumBrunnen Angus, visit zbangus.com.
Callie Hanson is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@ wylr.net.