The top end: Forgey/Smith breeds, shows solid cattleWritten by Christy Martinez
“In 1915 my dad, Walt Alexander, Sr., came from South Carolina and went to work for a sheep company north of town, where he eventually became the foreman and saved his money to buy a portion of this ranch, after which he started raising cattle,” says Shirley Forgey, who now operates the ranch with her daughter Cheri Smith and son-in-law Wayne Smith.
Shirley and her late husband Charlie started raising registered Angus 30 years ago, and today the ranch runs both registered and commercial cattle.
“We’ve done AI on all the cows for 30 years, because we wanted better bloodlines. We wanted to AI our cows to the most prominent bloodlines we could get for growth and weight,” says Shirley.
“We aim for structure, growth, feed efficiency and disposition,” says Cheri.
Wayne says the operation holds an annual bull sale and sells heifers.
“We had the sale ourselves for 10 years, then we went together with the Cowboy Classic Bull Sale in Buffalo,” he says.
“We cull deeply to keep the very best,” says Shirley, noting that they cull four times before taking cattle to the sale.
“We only keep the top end of the heifers that weigh a certain amount when we precondition, and we cull a few more before freeze-branding. We get rid of them if they haven’t finished out right,” says Cheri.
“This year our heifer calves way outsold our steer calves, and they have the opportunity to go to Russia,” says Shirley. “After three months the buyer chooses the cream of the crop to head to Russia, and the man who helps advertise our calves felt that 80 percent of what they sent over would be ours.”
Of their philosophy in producing bulls, Cheri says that, while many other breeders aim for low birth weights, they don’t.
“Our heifers produce 70- to 80-pound calves, and the cows produce 80-pound calves and above,” she says. “We want to be able to have our steers 640 pounds in the fall.”
“We try to ship six-weight steers at the end of September,” says Wayne.
“We keep cows with medium frames, and we stay focused on nice pelvics and functional females,” says Cheri.
“So many people are chasing the lower birthweights, but the feeders want to hit the April market with fat steers, so it’s my belief they’ll start paying a premium for six-weight steers in the fall so they can get them fat for the early spring market,” says Wayne.
Of the bulls they choose to use for AI, Wayne says, “We like to see them personally, or see a good offering of a bull’s calves before we choose him.”
“They need to travel and be functional,” says Cheri. “In our country, if they can’t walk, they don’t make it. We have a lot of rocks and mountains, and we raise the calves out in the pastures so they start out with good feet and they stay that way.”
Cheri also says that, in addition to Angus AI bulls, they also use half- and quarter-blood Simmentals to add weight to their calves for commercial buyers.
“They also have a little better milk, and a little better feet, bone and muscle,” she adds. “They keep the good dispositions, the same as our Angus, and they have the same structure and size.”
Speaking about the bulls that Cheri shows, Wayne says he halter breaks them and puts the nose rings in, and after that they’re Cheri’s project.
“It’s hard work, with the washing, rinsing, clipping and feed that goes into them,” says Cheri. “For the bulls that are going to Denver, I started preparing them in August because they need to be heavier than most of the sale bulls.”
Cheri says they show bulls at places like the National Western Stock Show for the publicity.
“We try to get to all the local shows and sell heifers and steers to juniors to get them out,” says Cheri.
Of ranching in the south country of Converse County, Wayne says he likes the good water and good mountain grass.
“We’ve done a lot of water developments, and we keep good water for the cattle,” he says. “With the hills and mountains, there’s a lot of good natural protection.”
In the end, Forgey/Smith Angus strives to produce moderate birthweight bulls with high growth and good structure.
“Our buyers come from throughout Wyoming, and we’ve picked up a handful of out-of-state customers,” says Wayne.
“We’re sticking to what we believe in,” emphasizes Cheri. “We still have some of the same bloodlines we started with, and we try keep breeding back a few cows to the bulls we used to have to keep those genetics in the herd.”
“Thirty percent of our registered cows can trace back to a cow that Charlie bought that we flushed extensively,” says Wayne. “We put her embryos into our own recip cows.”
Wayne says that cow, at 16 years old, is showing her age this year, but she’ll stay on the place until she dies.