Chippewa Valley Angus Farms: Passion for Angus Cattle Endures

Management : Cow & Calf

Management : Replacement

Nutrition : Supplements

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Purina Animal Nutrition

Though Laurie Ferguson wasn’t raised on a farm, she’s always had an interest in raising animals and the rural way of life. That interest only grew when she married the late Rod Ferguson, a veterinarian who grew up on a northeast Ohio farm.

Laurie and Rod started Chippewa Valley Angus Farms in 1992 with the purchase of a small farm in Rittman, Ohio, and six heifers bought from his father’s herd, Calcutta Farms of East Liverpool, Ohio.

“When I came to the farm with Rod, I didn’t know anything about cows,” says Laurie. “I can't explain how much I have learned living here, working alongside Rod and enjoying the cows these past 30 years.”

The original Angus genetics trace back to when Rod and his father purchased a heifer for him to show in the 1950s. That Angus heifer spurred what would become a shared family passion. Laurie and Rod grew their herd by purchasing registered Angus females from Rod’s sister and niece in Kansas, which utilized genetics from the original family herd.

Today, Chippewa Valley Angus Farms is comprised of three locations and is home to approximately 180 breeding Angus females. With the help of herd manager Matt Brown and herdsman Matt Horst, Laurie has kept the operation moving forward since Rod’s unexpected passing in 2022.

“It’s a well-established seedstock operation, and we’re proud of it, so we decided to keep on going. It’s a great lifestyle, and good people are involved,” says Laurie. “Both herdsmen are starting young families and we all look forward to the next generation being involved.”

Connection to the brand

The south side of the 103-year-old barn at Chippewa Valley Angus Farms’ Smithville location sports the Certified Angus Beef branded logo to celebrate the brand’s 40th anniversary. Not only is this a sign of the farm’s quality goals for its herd, but it’s also an indication of their commitment to sharing what it takes to raise Angus cattle for beef.

For several years, Chippewa Valley Angus Farms has hosted Certified Angus Beef guests such as chefs, food distributors and retailers from around the globe on their farm. It has been a natural fit because Certified Angus Beef’s headquarters are just 7 miles down the road in Wooster, Ohio.

“It’s an enriching experience for us and the visitors that come,” says Laurie. “Most of them have not been to a beef cattle farm and are really excited to be up close with the cattle. They learn how the quality of their end product to the consumer begins with the decisions we make as seedstock producers.”

Tour groups can range from 20 to 50 people. Cattle will be pastured close by so they are easy to see while staff from Certified Angus Beef and the Chippewa Valley Angus Farms team present informational programs and field any questions.

Two and a half years ago, Rod and Laurie sold the 109-acre Smithville farm to Certified Angus Beef to create the Certified Angus Beef Educational Farm. The farm is now leased back to Chippewa Valley Angus Farms, and they continue the seedstock operation as before.

“I think visitors like that we’re approachable. We want people to come and see the farm, be part of it and ask questions while we support Certified Angus Beef’s mission,” says Laurie.

In the future, a building will be remodeled to host groups with facilities like a temperature-controlled room, restrooms and a small kitchen for preparing meals.

“It’s important to help get people educated about beef and why it’s a valuable product,” adds Laurie.I feel we have an opportunity to make a really positive impact in the beef industry just being ourselves and doing what we do, and sharing that with others who are not familiar with it.”

Focus on reproduction

Calving season starts around the first of the year with the early calving heifers, then the majority of the herd calves from mid-January through March.

“We usually calve about 80 head in January,” says Brown. “Then another 25 head tend to calve in early February, followed by the balance of the cows going through late February to March.”

The tight calving window is attributed to a reproduction program focused on artificial insemination (AI) and some embryo transfer.

“I would say we do pretty darn well with AI conception rate,” says Brown. “We shoot to get about 75% or better conception rate for first-time AI.”

Overall, the average AI conception for calves born is 90% because cows will be bred to AI two more times if they don’t breed the first time around.

“We run about half a dozen groups of cows on three different farms. A cleanup bull is turned out with each group, and we usually get about two to five calves out of each bull, at best,” says Brown.

Raising genetics

The primary goal of the operation is to raise seedstock that will work for the commercial cattle producer. Each fall, Chippewa Valley Angus Farms markets approximately 40 bred heifers and cows at the Cattlemen for Cattlemen Female Sale in Zanesville, Ohio. In the spring, approximately 35 registered Angus bulls are marketed by private treaty.

Nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring the Angus cattle sold off the farm are ready to perform.

“We grow all our calves on creep feed when they’re with the cow on pasture. That helps stretch the grass as we rotate pastures,” says Horst. “We try to shoot for an acre and a half per pair, so they’re on creep feed throughout the summer.”

The calves receive Purina® RangeLand® Calf Creep until weaning, then transition to Purina® Precon® Complete starter feed with RX3® Immune Support Technology at weaning during the fall.

For more than a decade Chippewa Valley Angus Farms has fed Precon® Complete starter feed at weaning.
“Even though it’s a stressful time for the calves, they just continue to really chow down on it,” says Brown. “It’s a great product.”

“It’s a great preconditioner, just exactly what it says it is,” adds Horst.

The bulls and heifers are then separated to be fed different rations after the initial 10-day weaning phase. Following their separation, heifers receive silage for eight months mixed with corn and Purina® Accuration® Limiter. They’ll also have free choice access to pasture and hay when they don’t have silage ready.

The bulls remain on a Precon® mix for a few weeks before transitioning to a mixture that includes Accuration® Limiter, soy hulls and corn fed through a bulk feeder. Free choice hay is made available to the bulls as well.

“Through the winter, the bulls are eating about 10 pounds of grain per head per day,” says Horst. “Having Accuration® Limiter pellets in their feed helps us know they’re regulating their consumption.”

Maximizing resources

With a stocking rate that averages 1.5 acres per cow/calf pair, Chippewa Valley Angus Farms is diligent about managing forage resources.

Pasture is a blend of orchard grass, clover, fescue and Timothy grass. Occasionally, some rye will be planted, but it is typically used for silage or hay.

“We cut a lot of our pastures for first cutting grass hay because the cows can’t quite keep up with it early in the year,” says Brown. “The second-growth grass stays more palatable for grazing.”

Corn silage is the primary forage fed across the cow herd during the winter, typically starting in January. Several dairies in the area provide access to reasonably priced alfalfa hay, which is another option to supplement the herd during winter. Some groups of females are fed Purina® RangeLand® protein tubs if they need additional nutritional support.

In the winter, all cows and bred heifers receive Purina® Wind and Rain® ProCycle® mineral tubs since their nutrient needs are so high when entering calving and preparing for rebreeding.

“We think the ProCycle® mineral tub is a pretty good product during that time,” says Horst.

Once the pastures start to green up again in the spring, Purina® Wind and Rain® Hi-Mag mineral with Altosid® (Insect Growth Regulator) is put out to help limit the risk of grass tetany while controlling the breeding of horn flies in manure.[1]

During the summer, the mineral program shifts towards Purina® Wind and Rain® mineral with Zinpro® Availa® 4 added.[2]

“We rotational graze throughout the summer,” says Horst. “It’s not real intensive, but every three to four days, we’re moving cows to different pastures.”

Chippewa Valley Angus Farms works closely with nutritionist Jeremy Barbour from their local Purina® dealer, Centerra Co-op, to develop a comprehensive nutrition plan that works across the herd.
“He’s been excellent to work with,” says Horst.

“Jeremy’s just a phone call away,” relates Brown. “He can pretty much answer all the questions or concerns we might have. Jeremy’s been a tremendous help on our end and is pretty good at guiding us through different ideas, good products to try or reminding us ‘don’t fix it unless it’s broke.’”

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[1] Altosid® is a trademark of Wellmark International.
[2] Availa® 4 is a registered trademark of Zinpro Corp.