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Wyoming People

Forbes joins Saddle and Sirloin Club

Written by Jennifer Womack
Sheridan – A portrait of Sally Forbes will soon hang in the Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Gallery at the home of the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Ky.
    Mrs. Forbes, now 89 years old, lives on her family’s Beckton Stock Farms near Sheridan. The Red Angus breed was founded on the ranch and Mrs. Forbes and her late husband Waldo Forbes were instrumental in creation of the Red Angus Association of America (RAAA) in 1954 and many advancements in the nation’s cattle industry since that time.
    Mrs. Forbe’s portrait will be the 342nd to join the gallery featuring men who have been cattle industry leaders. She will be the first woman featured in the gallery as well as the first honoree from the RAAA. During a Sept. 7 interview Mrs. Forbes told the Roundup that she would make the trip to Louisville to be recognized at a mid-November banquet.
    “Beckton Red Angus has been synonymous with performance testing with a goal of providing predictable genetics since the very beginning,” says University of Wyoming Animal Science Department Head Doug Hixon in a letter of support that accompanied Mrs. Forbes’ nomination. “They were far ahead of their time by developing a herd of ‘Regus,’ Red Angus x Hereford composite cattle in the 1950s. Beckton promoted the use of Red Angus genetics in their customers’ crossbreeding programs at a time when the purebred industry felt threatened by such practices. Again, Sally Forbes was a leader whose ideas were accepted as common practice some 25 to 50 years later.  This would have been before any other seedstock producer ever considered assisting their commercial range customers in capturing the benefits of heterosis in this manner. This is truly the definition of a visionary.”
    Born and raised in the New England states, Forbes moved to Wyoming in January 1940 with her new husband Waldo Forbes. Taking to ranch life quickly, Mrs. Forbes says she appreciated the West’s more democratic ways where people were judged for what they could do. Working alongside Waldo during the couple’s early years, Mrs. Forbes grasped countless opportunities, created others and set the course for many advancements American cattlemen and women benefit from to this day.
    After launching the ARAA Mrs. Forbes served as Executive Secretary until Waldo’s untimely death in 1956 when she took over management of the family’s 1,000-cow operation and set out to ensure Waldo’s dream was fulfilled. Creation of the breed took its roots in science-based measuring and the avoidance of cattle industry fads. The Forbes family’s early adoption of performance testing didn’t come without critics and challenges, but Mrs. Forbes had the foresight to continue pursuing her goals.
    In an article compiled by the ARAA, Mrs. Forbes is quoted on advice she offered she and Waldo’s seven children. “…I’ve told my kids, no matter what you do, very few people are going to agree with you. Even less people are going to compliment you sincerely, though they may do it politely. You’ve got to stand on your own feet with whatever principles and standards and goals you set for your own life. If you are actually accomplishing anything worthwhile and trying aggressively to effect needed change, you are probably not going to get much approval, because you might be a little ahead of your time. Your efforts might not even be recognized until later as improvement.”
    “They’re a good, solid breed,” says Mrs. Forbes of the Red Angus. It’s something she knows because of the attention to detail and measurements that accompany Red Angus.
    Measuring efficiency has long been important to Mrs. Forbes as evidenced by a 1967 letter credited as the founding document of the Beef Improvement Federation. “The industry is beginning to recognize the importance of measuring and not just focusing on pretty cattle,” says Mrs. Forbes.
    Mrs. Forbes passed her beliefs in measuring cattle traits onto the next generation with formation of the Red Angus Young Stock Growers Contest at the National Western Stock Show. “They had to raise their own cattle and measure their performance,” says Mrs. Forbes. From 1943 to 2003 she never missed a National Western Stock Show, often attending to exhibit cattle.
    “The kids had to demonstrate they were livestock people, not just that they knew how to show a fat steer,” adds her son Spike Forbes.
    As for the future of the Red Angus breed and the American cattle industry, Mrs. Forbes says she hopes producers will continue measuring their cattle’s performance. After all, as she says it, it’s about a lot more than raising pretty cattle.
    A full copy of Sally Forbe’s nomination biography, telling the story of a dynamic and successful woman, can be found on-line at www.wylr.net. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..