Kraye Angus Ranch
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The Kraye Angus Ranch is located in the heart of the awesome Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills provide a very unique environment, and many ranching practices that work well in other parts of the country, are not possible in this region due to the fragility of the soil. Cattle raised in the Sandhills have to be able to adapt to the harsh weather conditions that can range from extreme cold to high heat and humidity. Primarily a cow/calf operation, Kraye ranch runs approximately 700 registered Angus cows.

Since their wedding in 1984, John and Julie have been the primary care takers of the cow herd, and have lived right on the ranch. John and Julie and their children, David and Helen, bought the ranch from John’s parents, Fred and Theresa Kraye, in 2001. After graduating from high school, David went to college for a while, then came home to the ranch in 2005. He has his own house and he has been a part of the daily routine and the decision making on the ranch since then. Fred and Theresa retired from the cattle business with a dispersal sale in the fall of 2000, followed by an equipment sale in the fall of 2001, and for several years after that Fred continued to be involved in the production of hay on the ranch. Approximately 800 acres of irrigated alfalfa makes the ranch a haying operation during the summer months.

The Kraye ranch was formed when John's grandfather, Ernst Kraye, bought a portion of the ranch in the 1920's and added adjoining acres, over the years, as they became available. Fred Kraye was born and raised on the ranch and in 1953 bought his first Angus cows, to be able to keep his cattle separate from his dad's Herefords. Angus cows have been a major part of the ranch, ever since.

Kraye Angus Ranch Home SiteOver the years Kraye Angus has participated in the AHIR program, thru the American Angus Association, and kept thorough records on all of the cows and calves. They have used EPD's to develop more marketable calves, while maintaining a balanced cow herd. An intense culling process is used for production and profitability, while adhering to the guidelines of the Angus breed. Through the use of AHIR and the AIMS software, extensive records have been kept on every cow and any cow not producing her fair share is culled from the herd. A large percentage of the heifer calves will stay on the ranch, as replacement heifers.

It has been a Kraye policy to synchronize and artificially inseminate the yearling heifers and the early calving mature cows, which has diversified the genetic makeup of the Kraye Angus cow herd. We still have many cows in the herd whose pedigrees read like the “Who’s Who” of the Angus breed with sires including EXT, Focus, VRD, Krugerrand, Sitz Alliance, Traveler 044, 1407 and On Target. Then there are the younger cows that are the progeny of Image Maker, Net Worth, 095, In Focus, 338, Upward, Grid Maker, Reflection, Bextor, Gridiron and Final Answer. It is a continuing challenge to match up the genetic traits of our cows with the genetics of the leading sires of the breed.

In the past we had given up on getting our first calf heifers artificially inseminated. Due to quiet heats we were missing too many heat cycles and we were hindering more than helping, so for several years we turned the first calf heifers out with the cleanup bulls just as soon as possible. We had pretty good luck with that. Then new technology came along and we had some other options. We had used a fertility enhancer, called a CIDR, on some of our later calving cows and we were able to move them up a cycle or two. Pleased with those results we decided to try the CIDR’s on our first calf heifers. For the first couple of years we had really good results, but then for a couple of years the results were marginal at best, so we had to reevaluate our breeding program for these young cows.

For the last several years we have synchronized the older mature cows before working with the first and second calf heifers. That gives the young cows some extra time to recover and be ready to cycle, and for the most part that has been working better for us.

Using MGA, we synchronized 182 heifer calves and all but 3 of them cycled. Between David and I, we can average about 20 heifers an hour and we bred 145 the first day and picked up 24 more in the next couple of days.

When we preg tested the heifers on the 4th of August, we had 19 open heifers, about 10%. More open heifers than we’d like to see and maybe not our best results, but it is what it is, and we need to remind ourselves that heifers don’t always settle for various reasons, not just human error!

Before getting started breeding on the heifers we put CIDR’s in 128 running age cows, so they were ready to be bred right after the heifers were done. The weather was our typical AIing weather, with everything from wet and cold to heat and wind. We had quite a bit or rain and snow during May, so the corrals were sloppy, and we spent time cleaning the corrals but for the most part, our big breeding days were decent, and we were satisfied with how the cows cycled.

Along with the heifer calves, we synchronized four groups of cows and natural heat detected on the rest of the cows and we ended up getting 602 cows bred with artificial insemination, which is about normal for us.

The cows were inseminated to SAV Abundance 6117, SAV Heritage 6295, Connealy Spur, SAV Raindance 6848, Seedstock, SAV Quarter Back 7933, Sitz Dollar Up, and Flying V Transformer. The heifer calves were bred to OCC Ultimate Answer 118, KG Justified 3022, Ellingson Homestead 6030, and LD Capitalist 316.

We had a busy month and put in a lot of hours, but everything went very well. Our nephew, Brad Wright, has worked on the ranch since high school and has been a full-time ranch hand since graduating from college. We all have our jobs and we all know what to do, and we have a system that works for us. Brad keeps cows in the alley, never putting in more than 4 cows and sometimes just 2, so the cows can stand quietly and comfortably, while they wait. This allows David and I to concentrate on breeding the cows. While the three of us are busy in the corrals, it’s John’s job to run the ranch and most days all of the ranch chores fall to him. This year, we were very lucky and Brad’s brother, Brian, was between jobs and was able to help on the ranch thru the months of April and May, and that helped all of us and we actually got some of our spring work done during this busy time. Some years when the and the haying overlap, it puts quite a strain on all of us and our resources are stretched about as far as they can go.

2018 seemed to be the year of the never-ending winter. If we had an abnormal amount of snow thru the winter months, I must not have recorded it, but in looking back it seems like the whole winter was cold. We had an old-fashioned blizzard on the 13 of April. The official tally was a foot of snow, but with winds steady at 35 and gusting higher, the drifts this snow made were very impressive. We had drifts in places over 11 feet deep and then bare ground in other places. It was hard on cattle and hard on ranchers. John and David were only able to get around using 4-wheel drive tractors, and we were grateful to have them to use. David actually herded cows and calves with his tractor, like an ultra-expensive ATV.

The wind driven snow covered all the windows of the house, making it a little odd not being able to look out in any direction. The only access in and out of the house was thru the garage, and since the garage door had been left open, the snow drifts inside the garage were about 3 feet deep.

The moisture continued thru the summer months. We had around 5 and ½ inches of rain in May. 3.73 inches in June and then 2.37 in July and ¾ of an inch in August and even 3.61 inches in September. By October we were back into snow again, along with almost an inch of rain. In November we ended up with half an inch of rain and 6 inches of snow. On the 2nd of December we had a foot of heavy wet snow, and we were afraid that it would still be on the ground in March, but we had some very nice weather days in December and most of the snow except for the bigger drifts, melted away.

With the pastures being in good condition, we did our fall cattle work this year at a more traditional time.  We preconditioned the bull calves on the 15th of August, and we weaned them on the 4th of September. David and Brad had been pasture sorting the bull calves and had already sorted off 83 bulls and banded them to make them steers. We weaned 152 bull calves at an average weight of 635.25 pounds.

We weaned 257 heifer calves and the 83 steer calves on the 26th of September, and they had an average weaning weight of 597.4 pounds and 562.4 pounds respectfully.

We weaned all the calves in the pastures.  We use a portable corral and we sort the cows and calves. All  the calves get worked thru the chute and get their final weaning shots and we get individual weights on them all. The calves get turned back into the pasture they were in with their moms, but the cows are all hauled to the corrals at the house. The calves go back to grazing and since they don’t know where to look for their cows, they just don’t. The cows are much better equipped to stand in the corral for 3 days than the calves are. It is the best stress-free way we have found to wean the calves.

The bull calves were left in their pastures for a few days, then we gathered them together and put them into a smaller pasture and we started bunk feeding them every day. From the little pasture the bulls were moved to the pivot up here at the house where they were able to graze on the millet regrowth and the newly planted rye grass and we still bunk fed them every day. Before the weather got too cold and hunting season arrived, the bulls were moved into one of the larger lots close to the house and then on the 11th of December, we sorted, weighed and put Lot tags in the bull calves and put them into the bull pens, where they will stay until they move to town just prior to the bull sale.

Granted the bulls are a lot of work, but we all thoroughly enjoy spending time with them. They all have very different personalities and some of them are real jokesters! We are all in the pens with the bulls at least two or three times a day, and most afternoons will find John or David out wandering in the pens with the bulls.
The heifer mates to the bull calves are every bit as impressive as the bulls are.  They are calm and gentle and a pleasure to be around. We have saved 189 heifer calves and they make a striking group. We are extremely proud of the type of cows these girls will grow up to be. We are undoubtedly proud of our bulls and it is very satisfying to watch them go on to improve other cow herds, but the heifer calves are the true heart of our cattle program and it is a real thrill and a pleasure to see them every day. These females represent a dedicated effort to the improvement our own cow herd because it is the proven, productive cow families that are the foundation of our cattle program, and they are the roots that allow us to stand strong in the winds of industry change.

Toward the end of January, we will get the heifers in and get individual yearling weights and put in permanent tags. These heifers have a beautiful hair coat, thick, black and shiny. Some old timers will say that’s a sign that we are in for some serious winter…guess time will tell.

We have 174 bred heifers that will come home, at the end of January. We usually have just a few calves in January, but we will be calving strong thru the month of February. We are extremely fortunate and have a lot of barn space, and although we interfere as little as possible, we can protect the new moms and their young babies, long enough for the calves to get dry. In our business it is important to save the ears.

Four years ago, we started a fall calving herd. We had a large fall calving herd quite a few years back, and personally I wasn’t real excited to start up another one. But our fall herd has grown to over 80 cows now and we have been them in the fall, and getting some very nice fall calves. At this year’s sale we will have 21 of the 2017 fall bulls. This will be an opportunity to get some bulls that are 18 months old, and that will be a little more mature than the yearlings. These bulls have been close to the ranch, since they were born, and they are extremely calm and completely used to seeing people every day.

Over the years we have had our faith and optimism tested and we have learned some very valuable lessons. We have learned that we have to be able to adapt and we have to be flexible enough in our management practices to fit all of the different conditions that Mother Nature can throw at us.

Life is a series of learning experiences and as cattle ranchers we try and learn from past mistakes and we try to anticipate the challenges of the future. We are not always successful, but we try to stay focused and raise the best cattle we possibly can. All of our cattle…bulls, heifers, and cows are all honest, hard-working cattle that must pay their own way, just as a herd of commercial cattle would be expected to do.

This coming sale will be our 28th annual production sale and it will take place on the 6th of April, 2019, the first Saturday of the month, and we will keep our fingers crossed for a beautiful weather day. We will be selling 110 performance bred, registered yearling Angus bulls, along with 20 – 2017 Fall born bulls. There will also be 20 purebred commercial yearling heifers for sale. We are proud of these bulls and heifers. They are modern, deep-bodied cattle that are heavily muscled with strong bones and correct conformation, along with being calm and having gentle dispositions.

At Kraye Angus cattle is what we do. Our cattle are our livelihood, our hobby, our recreation and our passion. With the exception of a few cows that David has bought over the years, all of our cows are home-raised.
We enjoy visiting about our cattle and our cattle program. We will gladly try to answer any and all of your questions.

We are proud of our cattle and we are committed to the improvement of our herd. We appreciate your interest in our cattle.

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