Red Angus: Naturally grown, never pampered

RICHARDTON, N.D. -- Anything that lasts 50 years is worth celebrating, and Forster Red Angus Ranch of Richardton, N.D., will have something to cheer about in 2017. The ranch will hold its 50th year being in the Red Angus breed. They'll hold their...

First-calf cows stroll through a pasture at the Forster Red Angus ranch of Richardton, N.D. The family celebrates 50 years in the Red Angus purebred business with a bull sale on Feb. 14, 2017. Photo courtesy of Forster Red Angus. (Courtesy of Forster Red Angus)

RICHARDTON, N.D. - Anything that lasts 50 years is worth celebrating, and Forster Red Angus Ranch of Richardton, N.D., will have something to cheer about in 2017.

The ranch will hold its 50th year being in the Red Angus breed. They'll hold their anniversary production sale at 1 p.m., Feb. 14, 2017, at the new Wicks Sale Facility in Richardton. The ranch will sell 75, "grown-out" two-year-old bulls. To commemorate their milestone, they'll also offer five heifer calves for sale. In a rare opportunity, the highest bidder can pick any 2016-born heifer from the sale, or from the ranch.

The Forsters do business under the theme, "Our cattle are part of who we are, not just what we do."

Forster Red Angus had been using Red Angus bulls for several years in the 1960s but officially started raising registered Red Angus in 1967. They started with private-treaty, off-the-ranch bull sales and began production sales in the late 1980s.

"We are truly blessed to live the ag lifestyle," says Ken Forster, 55, who runs the operation today in conjunction with his children, all of whom live in the area.



The Forsters start calving in May and wean in November without creep feed. They put calves on a high-roughage diet until spring when they are turned out to pasture, as though they were summer yearlings.

"Prior to the sale, we supplement them some to get ready for sale day," Forster says. "The bulls are grown out and not finished out," meaning they're not fattening them. "They're not on a diet of high concentrates," he says.

The regimen is designed to ensure a better breeding bull that will require less maintenance. "These bulls are more trouble-free, they'll just go out and do their job," Forster says. "They've never been overfed, so they're hardier, like an athlete." With the cattle in better condition, they have proven to be less susceptible to foot rot, less likely to lose weight rapidly and more likely to stay in condition longer for a longer servicing career."

He adds, "We have a lot of customers that continue to compliment us on how well our bulls stand up and how they last a long time." Average bulls can last three to five years, but Forster wants his bulls to last five years, and some to 10 years.

Life of choice

The operation is a family affair. All of Ken's grown children range from 25 to 30, and all live in the area, helping on the ranch when available. His son Zane trucks and hauls cattle, and his son Seth and son-in-law Tate work in the oilfields. His daughter Kaitlyn is full time on the ranch and is starting her own herd, while his daughter Libby lives in Dickinson and helps on the ranch, too.

"Everybody helps out in the busy time, I guess you could say," Ken says.


Ken is living the life he's chosen, and following a proud heritage in a community of cattlemen he's lived among his whole life. Following his parents' lead, he started investing in registered red Angus in the mid-1970s. "Right off the bat, I was kind of hooked on them," he says.

He graduated from New Salem High School in 1980 and pursued a two-year degree at Bismarck State University, with a degree in agriculture and farm and ranch management. He's been on the ranch ever since.

Forsters, of German descent, have been in the Richardton area since the 1880s. They are among a half-dozen red Angus breeders around the country who have been in business as long, continually. Only the fabled Beckton Stock Farm of Sheridan, Wyo., and the Pederson Broken Heart Ranch near Firesteel, S.D., are others in the region with as long a history.

Heroes of the breed were Waldo and Sally Forbes of Sheridan started the breed by buying red calves from 18 leading registered black Angus herds across the U.S. The Red Angus Association started in 1954, and Waldo served as its first president with "Sal" its first secretary. Beckton today runs 1,050 mother cows, 350 replacement females and more than 100 bulls.

"Red Angus is such a universal breed," Ken says, with pride. "You can cross them with any other breed and keep a more uniform color." He quotes studies that indicate Red Angus offer a greater return on investment than other breeds. The red color is more heat-tolerant than black, and the females make good mother cows. "At the same time, they work very hard in the feedlot," and the carcasses are desirable.

The Red Angus community means a lot. In 2014, Ken was injured in a four-wheeler accident. He broke 18 ribs and a collarbone and was in an induced coma for three weeks. His considers his recovery a miracle, and he says he got huge support from his family, community and his cattle breed. One benefit brought in $70,000. It was overwhelming.

"There's a lot of good people connected to Ted Angus - kind of like a second family," Ken says. "People we work with are just tremendous, is what I'm trying to say."


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