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Producing Excellence

Ryan and Steve Brooks

Bowman, ND

Chalky Butte Ranch

Products Raised or Grown: Cattle, wheat, beans and feed

Size of Operation: 700 head, 4,000 acres

In Business Since: 1983

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit Services of Mandan

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1983

The first Saturday in April is perhaps the most important day of the year for Chalky Butte Ranch: it’s the day that Ryan and Steve Brooks hold their annual cattle auction in nearby Bowman, North Dakota, a decades-long tradition that attracts ranchers from across the country.

Back in 1975, their father started the auction with just 14 bulls, and hosted it with another area rancher. Since then, Ryan and Steve have consistently grown both their herd and their acreage, which provides feed for the herd as well as a separate income stream from wheat and peas. In turn, this has enabled them to expand their auction significantly: last year, they auctioned 225 of their own pure-bred Angus bulls plus 1,400 commercial heifers from other ranchers, all of whom are current or past customers invited to sell their cattle through the Brooks’ auction. The bulls are sold and shipped largely throughout the Midwest, though some travel as far away as Hawaii.

Steve, who has primary responsibility for the cattle while Ryan manages the crop land, personally delivers most all of the bulls, driving upwards of 15,000 miles in a year to do so. This level of attention is part of their focus on customer service, a focus that has built strong customer loyalty with 80% of their auction business coming from repeat customers. “Some of our customers have bought bulls from us for 30 years,” Steve says. Of course, the quality of the Brooks’ bulls and the calves they produce helps. “Producers come from all over the country because the Brooks have established themselves as experts in the business who raise quality bulls,” says Bailee Murnion, their Farm Credit relationship manager. “When a rancher finds a rancher who raises bulls that produce good, heavy calves, they stick with them.”

The Brooks anticipate a strong cattle market in the near future, largely because cattle numbers are low in the U.S. as a result of a variety of forces, including last year’s drought in the southern U.S. that forced many ranchers to sell off their cows. “I think the cattle market is going to be tremendous for the next four or five years,” Steve says. “It’s going to take a long time for ranchers to get stocked up again.” The opportunity is not lost on the Brooks, whose bulls will continue to be in demand to propagate much of this resurgence.

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