Giorgis family produces popular club calves in Bridger ValleyWritten by Christy Hemken
“My kids were in 4-H and we were raising and showing our own calves and we weren’t competitive, but we wanted to be, so we went to buying them, then raising them,” says Ernie of how Giorgis Show Cattle began. “By the time they got out of 4-H we were raising good calves so we started selling them. We’d been AI-ing for 30 years, and we hated to just quit.”
Ernie says his four kids still live in the area, are all teachers in the local school system and all help part time on the ranch. “My youngest daughter wasn’t going to be a teacher, but after trying other things now she is,” says Ernie.
Ernie himself was told by his doctor some time ago that he better not plan on being a rancher because of his hay fever. “Staying in the area wasn’t planned – it just worked out that way because my dad needed help when I got out of college,” he says. Of the hay fever, he says it still bothers him when they first start haying, but not like it used to.
“We have three breeds in our cattle, which are Maine Anjou, Angus and Simmental,” says Ernie.
He cites the biggest challenge to the area as trichomoniasis in cattle. “We test all the bulls and open cattle to prevent it.”
“Managing the club calves is not a lot different than our commercial calves, although sometimes we begin marketing them in April and May, because everybody wants to be first,” he says. “Generally, if the calves are a month old and they look pretty good, they probably will be.”
He says sometimes the better calves fall behind in the fall and don’t look as good, but they tend to come around.
Marketing is done through a website, three sales and advertisement in livestock and local publications.
“We get a lot of hits on the website, and phone calls from California to Florida,” says Ernie. “We sell 20 to 40 club calves in a year, and our sales stay pretty constant, selling 14 through the sales and the rest through private treaty.”
Although Giorgis club calves took six grand champion honors last year – three in Wyoming, two in Utah and one in Idaho – Ernie says it was still an off year for sales. “We had more phone calls than ever, but sold less calves than we have in quite a while. Some people have started to think we’re so successful they won’t be able to afford our calves.”
The biggest win by a Giorgis club calf was one that went to a county fair in Colorado, won there and moved on to win the Tri-State Royal in Kansas, which accepts county fair champions from Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas.
Ernie says several things affect the club calf market, including the beef cattle market. “Even though it has nothing to do with it,” he notes, “seventy-five percent of the kids who show livestock aren’t in the livestock industry, but their parents have an idea of the cattle market even though it’s totally unrelated.”
In addition to the family’s cow/calf operation and club calf sales, Ernie has operated a Ranchway Feeds dealership for 25 or 30 years. He’s also delivered Nutralix for 15 years. “The feed goes mostly to 4-H show calves, horses, pigs and rabbits, although the majority is show feed for club calves,” he says.
Of changes to the Bridger Valley since he was younger, he says there’s more traffic on their local highway now than there used to be on Highway 30. “There’s a lot more people now. There were about 20 people in my class going through school in Fort Bridger and Mountain View, and we were one of the bigger classes.”
He says a positive change has been the construction of two reservoirs in the valley. “There’s a lot more water than there used to be, and water supplies have been really good this year.”
Ernie weans his club calves in late August after getting them started on creep feed. “We’ll start halter breaking them once they’re weaned, which used to be my job, but now my grandkids are getting old enough they do a lot of it,” he says. “We put a halter on them and let them drag it, then start tying them up and blowing them out, and they go pretty fast. If you start right after they’re weaned they settle down pretty good.”
Of his family’s involvement, Ernie says one set of his grandkids shows now, although, “It’d be better for me if they didn’t, because I’m pretty competitive,” he notes.
Moving into the future, Ernie says he’ll continue raising club calves. “It’s getting pretty good for us, and it keeps us surviving,” he says. Giorgis club calves have been sold into Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Washington.