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Omak, Wash. – In 1961, the Vejraska family launched Sunny Okanogan Angus, and for the last 46 years, they’ve sent bulls to Midland Bull Test for performance testing. 

Lou and Elda Vejraska started the operation with the purchase of a few Angus cattle, and Sunny Okanogan Angus has flourished since then. 

“Sunny Okanogan Angus Ranch is a runaway 4-H project,” explains Craig Vejraska, Lou and Elda’s son. “I started raising a few Angus cattle after talking to my relatives in the Midwest and Nebraska who all had Angus.”

What started as a few purebred heifers for 4-H quickly grew into Vejraska’s career, and his family continues to raise high-quality bulls today. 

“We’re in north-central Washington, 30 miles south of the Canadian border,” he says. “We’re in a dry part of the state with an annual rainfall of six to 10 inches – and we see six inches more than we see 10.”

Vejraska, with his sons Todd and Scott, runs Sunny Okanogan Angus on the high mountain plateau country, which is home to a herd of registered Angus and commercial cows. 

Bull testing

Almost 50 years ago, the Vejraska family started bringing bulls to Midland Bull Test. 

“We were taking bulls to Midland back when they used to haul the bulls into Billings, Mont. to the Public Auction Yards (PAYS) for the sale,” Vejraska says. “We were using artificial insemination (AI), so we sent two or three different sire groups of bulls just to see how they would perform.” 

Over time, Craig’s father and Leo McDonnell’s father became close friends. McDonnell and his family run Midland Bull Test today. 

“It really became a family deal,” Vejraska says. “Now, Sam and Leo McDonnell and my wife Mary Kay and I travel all over the country together. We’ve always had good luck testing at Midland, and we have become close personal friends.” 

Using results

Sunny Okanogan Angus focuses on feed efficiency and carcass performance, and they use the information in making their breeding decisions from year to year. 

“We like to send sire groups to get a feel for whether we want to use a bull again,” Vejraska explains. “We try to select sires that are high efficiency as far as rate of gain, and we focus on how the cow performs.” 

Vejraska comments that some years, they do really well at Midland, but others they don’t. Either way, the information is valuable for the ranch. 

“We had a stretch where three out of five years, we had top sire groups,” he explains. “Sometimes our bulls light the world on fire, and sometimes they don’t. Taking bulls, however, gives us an idea of what they will do.” 

Vejraska adds it is also profitable because they have the information available when selling bulls. 

The best bulls

When Vejraska is selecting bulls, he uses Basin Payweight 107 as the model.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to own what I consider the perfect bull,” he says. “I bought Basin Payweight 107, and he left a lot of wonderful daughters in our cowherd.”

With good milking ability and strong growth traits, Vejraska says his steers also finish well in the feedlot. 

He adds, “Basin Payweight is the best bull I’ve ever owned, and he has a strong influence in our herd.” 

On the ranch

Back in Washington, Vejraska says a good bull is important, and as a range operation, they need efficient sires that go to work. 

“We’re a real range operation, and our cows run on 400,000 acres of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and private ground,” he explains. “They have to be range-worthy.” 

Every year, calving begins in early January, and they aim to get all the cows bred in the first 30 cycle. Ideally, calving will wrap up before February snowstorms hit. 

“For the summer months, the cattle are turned out onto rangelands, where they stay until mid-September,” Vejraska says. “We start riding our range ground to gather cows the second week of September, and we hope to have them all home by Christmas.” 

Everyone helps ride to gather cows, and Vejraska says three generations help on the ranch today. 

Passion for ag

Ranching runs deep in the Vejraska family, and today, Todd and Scott work alongside their father to run the operation.

“Todd manages the ranch now,” explains Vejraska. “He’s our geneticist and selects which cows get bred which way.” 

He continues, “Scott’s the keep-everything-running guy. He also does a lot of feeding and rides with us, but that’s where they like to be.” 

In addition to the cattle, Sunny Okanogan Angus raises alfalfa hay and triticale hay, as well as corn silage.

The Vejraska family has also owned and operate Okanogan Livestock Market since 1980. Though they don’t host a regular sale today, the sale barn is open for bull sales and several sales each year. 

He looks at his history ranching and raising cattle and says ranching is all he ever wanted to do.

“This is what Vejraskas do – raise bulls,” Vejraska comments. “When families sit down at Christmas or Easter dinner, a lot of people end up talking about the weather. We talk about cows. Raising bulls is just a part of who we are and what we do.”

“We’ve been at it for 50-some years now, and near as I know, we intend to keep doing it,” he says.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

            Starting their operation five years ago, Duane Maddock and his wife Cindy have tirelessly worked to improve their small alfalfa and beef farm.

            “It was kind of run down, overgrazed and needed some attention,” says Maddock about the condition of the farm when they purchased it. “It’s been a productive five years bringing it back to life.”

Roots

            Maddock was first exposed to agriculture growing up on his family’s ranch. He received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business and economics from Utah State University.

While he was in college, Maddock’s father became ill, prompting the family to sell the ranch.

“When I was in college, my father became sick with cancer, and we ended up selling everything,” explains Maddock.

He continued to stay involved with agriculture throughout his life, leading him to purchase his operation in Thermopolis.

“I always kept in touch with agriculture, and then I had the opportunity to buy a place here in Thermopolis,” says Maddock.

One of Maddock’s brothers owns land close to his own and is also involved in agriculture.

“We’re kind of hobby farmers, but it’s a lifestyle we enjoy,” he says.

Current operation

            Maddock currently operates 17 irrigated acres, along with 13 acres of native meadows.

            “I worked a nine-acre field, so it would irrigate well then seeded it down to alfalfa. I’ll be producing hay on that,” says Maddock.

            He recently finished construction on an irrigation system for the remaining eight acres to convert them to grass pasture.

            “I’m going to do a cover crop double crop each year with some cool season grasses and then warm season grasses to stimulate the topsoil,” continues Maddock. “Right now, it’s covered in cheatgrass. I get some benefit from that in the spring, but I need more than that.”

            Maddock currently runs 14 head of Angus cattle on his land.

            “I’ve tried to bring in some good genetics. Black Angus is prevalent here, and we have some good bloodlines in the area,” explains Maddock. “I was just out looking at my calf crop and how even they look. It’s been fun to see.”

Oil and gas

            In addition to his involvement in agriculture, Maddock continues to be involved in the oil and gas industry.

            “I’ve been fortunate to have a career in the oil and gas industry,” says Maddock.

            In a unique situation, Maddock and three of his brothers manage an oilfield service company.

            “Myself and three other brothers are involved in an oilfield service company, and we work together to run the company. It’s been a great opportunity to work with them in that industry as well, with the four of us,” he continues. “It’s a unique situation. I don’t know of another family who’s done this.”

Family

            Like many involved in the agricultural industry, Maddock highly values his family and their involvement in the operation.

            “My kids have learned how to take care of animals and be responsible. We have some of those traditions that family comes first, and we take care of each other – a lot of the things that we see in agriculture life,” explains Maddock.

            Duane and Cindy have five children and three grandchildren. Their two youngest are attending high school in Thermopolis and help at the family farm.

            The Maddock family has instilled the value of work and craftsmanship into each of their children.

            Maddock illustrates with an irrigation project that his children were actively involved with at the farm.

            “We put in 1,700 feet of underground pipe as part of the irrigation system, and we had to lay it on grade. More than 1,700 feet on grade took a lot of work on my kids’ part,” says Maddock. “We would get it close and then hand dig. It was hard, but they did it right.”

Improvements

            After five years of work, Maddock is encouraged by the improvements that can be seen in his land.

“Improving the land and making things better than it was before has been really rewarding to me,” comments Maddock.

He notes that the farm was in poor condition when he purchased it.

            “When I purchased this place, it was overgrazed. I looked around, and the pastures around me had grass growing tall and lush, while my place was growing nothing but weeds,” says Maddock.

            Using resources from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Maddock was able to improve irrigation and control many of the present weeds.

            “I had a serious goathead problem that got brought under control. Cheatgrass is the next weed that I will eliminate as I start to farm the next seven to eight acres,” he says.

Future plans

            Maddock also plans to expand his beef cattle herd in the coming years.

            “There are some possibilities of leasing pasture nearby, and I’m hoping to pick up some of those leases and continue to increase the herd size of the cows,” says Maddock.

            He also plans to continue improving his facilities for cattle work, such as fences and facilities.

            Maddock explains that the area that he lives in is invaded with Russian olive trees.

            “I’ve seen some aerial photos of this place in the 50s, and it was some very productive farm ground. When we look at it now, it’s completely invaded with Russian olive trees,” continues Maddock.

            As efforts are made to control the trees, Maddock hopes to be involved.

“I would really like to be part of bringing that under control,” he says.

            Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shoshoni – With top Angus, Red Angus and Hereford bulls from around the region, the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association (WBCIA) Bull Test is preparing for their 32nd annual sale on March 15. 

The sale is set for March 15 at 1 p.m. It will be held at Pingetzer’s Bull and Heifer Development Center between Shoshoni and Riverton. During the sale, 86 high-quality lots will be offered, including Angus, Red Angus and a Hereford bull.

The 45-day report, released on Jan. 10, showed a strong set of bulls that were performing well, despite the cold, snowy weather in Fremont County. 

The remainder of the test brought more snowy, cold weather, but bull performance was consistent with previous years.

Bull numbers have been steady this year, but Bob Pingetzer, who run the test, says the trend has been toward more Red Angus and fewer Black Angus on test. 

“We have a really good polled Hereford calf here this, year, as well,” Pingetzer comments.

“We have a great selection of bulls this year, from trusted and tried consignors,” he says. “These consignors bring quality bulls year in and year out, and this year is no exception.”

In preparing for 2019’s sale, Pingetzer notes there is one major change. 

“This year, none of the bulls will go through the ring on sale day,” he says. “We have recorded videos of all the cattle, and the video will be played while they are auctioned off.” 

“Labor is getting harder and harder to find,” Pingetzer says. “We’ve had trouble finding good help to bring the bulls through timely and calmly, so we decided to go with video this year.” 

Additionally, the video provides an opportunity for buyers to spend more time inspecting the bull offerings prior to the sale.

While the sale won’t be live-streamed, Pingetzer explains a conference call line will be available for those buyers who are not able to make the sale, and videos of all the bulls are available online at billpelton.com/cattlesale/wyoming-bull-test-wbcia.

Four- and five-star calving ease designations have been given for the bulls with top-calving ease, and DNA testing is provided for better accuracy.

For buyers, a $50 discount is provided if bulls leave on sale day, or bulls will be wintered until April 1 at no charge. Bulls can be fed longer at the buyer’s expense for $2.50 per head per day.

A handful of the consignors from this year’s WBCIA Bull Test and Sale are advertising their offerings in the sale. Look in this week’s edition of the Roundup to find offerings from Booth’s Cherry Creek, Pingetzer’s 6 Iron Ranch, Jim and Robert Buline and Klein Angus. 

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..