Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
By: Roseanne McKee
The Osage County Cattlemen’s Association annual ranch tour is a treasured tradition in Osage County. It’s an opportunity for ranchers to showcase their cattle operations. Interviews with the ranchers or ranch representatives are broadcast by the local AM 1500 radio station. The interviews are played at each stop. For the 2018 OCCA Ranch Tour, the following ranches were visited in this order: Thatcher Drummond, Alred Ranch, Lazy K Cattle, Bluestem LLC, Buford Ranch and Turkey Trak Ranch. In my previous column, I wrote about Thatcher Drummond’s Wagyu beef cattle operation. This week’s column focuses on three of the other ranches on the tour. Next week’s column will highlight Buford Ranch.
Melissa Alred spoke for the Alred Ranch, which featured two- and three-year olds.
“The Alred Ranch has always been a cow-calf operation. We breed and keep our own replacement heifers.
My husband’s grandfather came to the Osage in 1902 and established the Bar-6 Ranch in 1907. After his death, Ruth took over. She and her nephew, Charles, worked side-by-side,” Alred said.
“Ruth was inducted into the OCCA Hall of Fame. After Ruth’s passing, Charlie and the rest of the family continued on to operate the ranch with the help of our foreman, Brian Clark. The ranch will continue on for future generations.”
Jim Morris spoke for the Lazy K Cattle Ranch.
“I want to thank the Osage Tribe because they helped us on our lease with the Osage,” Morris said.
“We got into this business less than two years ago. We knew there would be ups and downs — probably didn’t know how much there would be. I mean we’ve dealt with everything from pasture fires, to contaminated water streams caused by leaking salt-water injection wells, to lower commodity prices … but like anything else, the thing that really ultimately makes the difference is people you work with.
“I wouldn’t say that cattle is our most profitable business, but I would absolutely say it is our most enjoyable business. Anybody that likes livestock, likes being outdoors, likes making a difference to improve the land, would have to like this business. We’ve been fortunate in many ways. We are certainly hoping that over the next several years, we’ll be able to continue to build the quality of our herd, and make sure that we truly have one of the highest quality herds of red Angus in this region.
“We have certainly found that the really good people in this business are willing to help each other. We’ve met a lot of great people, worked with a lot of great people and we really look forward to the future in this business,” Morris said.
The third stop on the ranch tour was at Bluestem LLC, which was purchased by the Osage Nation in 2016.
On the radio-broadcast interview, a Bluestem ranch representative shared that a board of directors had begun managing ranch operations in May 2017. Bluestem leases the grazing rights to approximately half of the ranch while utilizing the remaining acres for approximately 1,200 head of its own cattle.
In October 2017, the Osage Nation received its first herd of bison. In coordination with the Osage Nation, Bluestem Ranch has plans to establish a bison preserve on the ranch, the representative said.
“We have two cowboys working for us, Lee Chambers and Austin Holloway,” Ranch foreman Mike Alexander said. “We are a cow-calf operation” — spring and fall herd.
Alexander said that the cattle shown on the tour were a commercial Angus herd, purchased in Nebraska.
“This is their third [set of] calves. These calves are out of Buford bulls. The remaining herd is Angus and cross-bred cattle, and we are using Angus and Hereford bulls,” Alexander explained.
The last ranch tour stop was at Turkey Trak Ranch. Berry Keeler spoke for the ranch.
“My wife, Sharon and I would like to thank everybody for stopping by,” Keeler said. “We bought this place back in 1989. We originally bought a piece of land to kind of get away and we kept adding to it … here at the show barn we used to have a registered cattle operation. We did that for several years … [then] we converted to a commercial program, and we went with Angus cattle. We have about 1,200 cattle. About 800 are black Angus and about 400 are red Angus. Of course, people always ask why we got into red.
Their calving area, which has barns, was part of the tour.
“We calved 240 heifers. Both sons, Brandon and Matthew work there, and they both have their own cattle operations too. Brandon works full time and Matthew works part time. Brandon basically takes care of the farming and the south end of the ranch, and Matthew takes care of our ranch up at Burbank. … When they work cattle, they do it together. … I’m not allowed to do a whole lot, and I don’t think they need me anyway.
There is also a farming operation on Turkey Trak Ranch.
“I was raised on a farm and so I like it,” Keeler said. “It’s a tough business. You have to be about half mechanic to be a farmer. I think right now we’re farming about 1,300 acres, and we usually put in some crops to make us a little bit of money so we can survive from one season to the next — soybeans or wheat or something like that or wheat for winter pasture. The last several years, we’ve been converting some of it to Bermuda grass. We have 2,500 to 3,000 acres of Bermuda grass.
“We’re trying to farm for the cattle and not just farm per se. And so far that’s worked better for us. You know if you try to do everything, you can’t do nothin’ very good. … So, we’ve cut back on our farming. We have irrigation circles, that way the crops aren’t stressed. We have a lot of hay, alfalfa, millet for hay.
“It’s been an interesting 30 years, but I love the cattle,” he said.
On the tour were “some replacement heifers we’ve raised. We have them down here where we don’t have too many cattle — just enough not to have to mow it.”
Then on the second pasture: “some five-year olds and some babies … you’ll notice what you see is red Angus, but we have more black Angus than red.
“Hopefully, we can make a dollar or two and maybe we’ll all be rich,” he said jokingly at the conclusion of his narration.
Farm Credit provided the meal after the tour.
“Be sure to thank them,” Keeler said.
Next week’s column will focus on the Buford Ranch near Hominy, the fourth stop on the ranch tour.