Shoshoni FFA member competes with beef, ranch projectsWritten by Christy Hemken
“I got into raising cattle when I was younger, when my dad talked me into buying my first cow. That’s how the whole thing got started, and I kept breeding and adding to my herd until I reached my current herd of 30 head of cattle,” says Steele, who says he was nine years old when he purchased that first cow.
“We needed to pay Steele for irrigating and raking hay when he was young, and I suggested he use the money to get a heifer and start a herd, whether he wanted a red one or a black one,” says Steele’s father, Bob Pingetzer. “We thought he should start to build some cows so when he got to college he’d have some income to support his schooling, and it’s grown from there.”
In addition to managing his cowherd, Steele also works for his family’s 6 Iron Ranch, which is co-owned by his parents, Bob and Paige, and his grandparents.
Both the cowherd and the ranch work have earned Steele recognition within FFA, and this year he takes them to State FFA Convention as entries in Beef Production Entrepreneurship, which is the cowherd, and Beef Production Placement, which is his ranch work.
“What I do with my cowherd is research the bulls I want to use and figure out which bull I want to use to breed my cattle. Any calves that I don’t like are fattened and sold to a Wheatland feedlot, while I keep the bull calves I like and sell them in the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association sale. The heifers I like I keep to breed in a couple years to keep expanding my herd,” explains Steele.
In 2009 Steele’s bulls ranked in the middle of 45, but in 2008 he placed in the top 10. “He was right in the top end of things last year,” says Bob. “This year his calf was bred a little different than last.”
Steele is a senior this year at the Shoshoni high school, and next year plans to attend Central Wyoming College. He’ll study there for two years to obtain a pre-engineering degree, after which he’ll transfer to the University of Wyoming to earn a mechanical engineering degree.
“I’ll probably also minor in rangeland management and take some ag classes,” says Steele, adding that he’d really like to return to the family operation following school.
“In the summer with 6 Iron I do a lot of haying, helping with most of the swathing and the baling. I help out as a hired hand on the farm during the summer, and the last few months we’ve been calving,” says Steele.
“For the ranch he’s put in over 200 hours of time each of the last four summers cutting hay,” says Bob. “He helps set water, move cows, plant corn and work fields. He’s very capable with any job on the ranch.”
In the future, Steele says he’ll continue growing his cowherd, looking at different bulls and the potential to AI some of his cattle. “I’d like to try some AI instead of using bulls that are available because they’re close by to access a greater variety of cattle,” he says.
“Steele has a great work ethic, and he works really hard and spends a lot of time on his projects,” says Shoshoni FFA Advisor Crystal Woehlecke, adding she expects him to be very strong at State in Beef Placement, with as many hours as he’s put in. “He’s got well over the maximum amount of hours they need to compete.”
Steele estimates that over the five years the application covers he has several thousand hours on the ranch between the 6 Iron and his cowherd. “That’s what I do and how I make my money,” he says.
“I’ve worked with Steele the last four years, and I know he puts in the time on his family’s ranch and I’m very proud of his accomplishments,” says Crystal.