When a reporter from the Denver Gazette contacted Walter Angus to interview them about their just-received Colorado Cattlemen’s Association award, manager Ty Walter replied, “I’m cleaning the pens right now. The weather isn’t helping.”
This was on Wednesday, as the state was hit by a snowstorm that shut down most government operations and schools. Walter Angus is located in Hudson, east of Fort Lupton in northeastern Colorado. That area of the state was hit hard, with I-76 and I-70 closed.
But there are no snow days off in the ranching industry.
“Agriculture is a very difficult industry,” he said. “It’s not a lot of money and it’s very capital intensive. It’s actually a terrible business. The only reason we exist is because we love our livestock.”
Walter Angus is known for producing super mountain cows that can handle the Colorado elevation – each summer the herd is moved to summer pastures near Silverton and Granby.
“It’s complicated, but not all cattle can go to the heights of the mountains. We keep a closed female herd until we deal with it better. That’s where we stand. … We haven’t bought a female in 20 years.”
All in the quest to create the perfect cow.
The association had just announced that Walter Angus was awarded “Seed Producer of the Year” at the Midwinter Meeting held Tuesday in Denver in conjunction with the 117th year of the National Western Stock Show.
“We make bulls and calves for commercial ranchers to buy for their livestock,” he said. “Our mission is to improve the breed and its genetics.”
They sell about 150 bulls per year, of which each can produce about 25 cows per year.
It is no exaggeration to say that they have come to a realization.
“People in Denver have no idea how much technology we have in farming,” he said. “We use it to create efficient and sustainable animals. This creates a better product.”
Ty hasn’t joined his older brother Trevor—who’s hitchhiking to Denver for the Cattleman’s meeting—because it’s a busy time of year for ranchers. The company’s big bull sale is the third week of February. Their father, Terry, is the owner of the company. Walter’s family has been farming since Ty’s great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Europe.
This technology is comparable to companies like 23 and Me or Ancestory.com.
“We are able to buy semen, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, from bulls to raise cows. We use artificial insemination for all our sons (animal father). The field of IVF (IVF) is insane in terms of how far you can go in producing embryos to get cows pregnant.”
They can test the calf’s DNA within two days of birth and “you can tell us everything we want to know about the calf, from expected weight onwards,” he said.
Each animal has what is called an EPD (Expected Offspring Differences). Walter compares it to a baseball player’s stats, such as RBIs.
“The DNA is stored at Angus Society (Colorado) as EPD and you can check the sire and the dam (mother of the calf) to see if it is correct. Ten percent of the DNA returns error,” he said. “So when I say we are making a more efficient cow I am not full of foolishness. Efficient cattle eat less grass and finish up faster in forage pens.
“We either help or hurt or hurt customers. There’s not much in between. That’s why our jobs are so important to get it right, to be honest.”
Walter said they appreciated the improvements to the Western National Fairgrounds, especially the outdoor pens that have hot water and electricity readily available.
“I will say one thing: Denver has done a really great job of listening to the producers’ concerns and doing things to help us,” he said. “This was really a first-rate rebuild” of the Stock Show’s fairgrounds.