The following article appeared in Angus The Magazine
Marketing efforts have a family focus on Jim and Marie Kast’s 101 Ranch in southern Idaho.
By Kindra Gordon
Ask Idaho Angus breeder Jim Kast why he hosts an annual production sale, and he’ll jokingly tell you that it’s a chance to show off his two adorable granddaughters. Given that his first granddaughter, Alleigha, was born in 1995, and the first 101 Ranch bull sale was held shortly thereafter in 1996, that answer may have a grain of truth to it. But all joking aside, Jim and his wife Marie, who began raising registered Angus in 1990, admit that their annual bull sale came about because their herd had grown large enough that they had nearly 100 top-quality, Angus bulls to market annually.
“Prior to 1996 we’d been selling bulls private treaty,” reports Marie. “But it got to the point that we were marketing almost 100 bulls and it was spread out across six months,” she adds.
So, the decision was made to begin holding an annual production sale at their ranch near King Hill, Idaho. A quonset on the ranch has been converted to a sale facility, and the sale is held each year in early December. The majority of the bulls on offer are from the 101 Ranch, but they also showcase Angus cattle from two guest consignors. Graham Hooper, who is Jim’s cousin, owns TLC Angus with his family at Bliss, ID, and they consign about 20 high-growth, Angus bulls. Danny and Kathleen Thomason of J & E Farms, Inc., consign about 50 commercial females that are bred to 101 Ranch bulls. Of this arrangement, Jim says, “The three programs compliment each other and add to the attractiveness of the sale for any volume buyers.” He adds, “We require that our consignors stand behind their cattle just as we would.”
The December time-frame was chosen for the 101 Ranch sale date because it fits nicely between the Kast’s fall calving program and spring field work. It also allows them a unique marketing niche to sell 18-month-old bulls. “When we bought our first herd of Angus cows in 1990, they were fall calvers, and we’ve just kept them that way,” Jim says. “It’s turned out to be a good marketing tool because most of Idaho and our customers are spring calvers. With our fall calving program, they can buy older bulls that may perform better.”
Today the Kast’s herd numbers nearly 500 head of Angus cow-calf pairs, and the entire Kast family has gotten involved in the marketing efforts of the 101 Ranch’s Angus genetics.
“Part of our marketing includes being a family operation and working on the ranch with the kids involved. Family is really important to us. We are a family ranch and try to do things fair, right and just,” Jim says. The 101 Ranch includes Jim, Marie and son Ross working directly on the ranch. Jim and herdsman Dale Jensen oversee much of the cattle activities, while Ross, besides working with the cattle, is involved with the day-to-day farming which includes 1,100 acres of pivot irrigated crops. They raise sweet corn, alfalfa, silage, grain, irrigated pasture and potatoes. Daughter Cherrynn and her husband Brian Bizik live at Pocatello with their daughters Alleigha and Annaliese, who the Kasts fondly refer to as the “101 Angus princesses.” Despite living off the ranch, the Biziks all help out with the sale and year-round promotion efforts as well. In addition to traditional advertising, two of the 101 Ranch’s unique marketing tools include a website and annual newsletter. The website, at www.101ranch.com, includes background information about the Kast family and their philosophy on Angus cattle. They also post photos of featured herd sires and bulls in the sale offering on the site. There’s even an advice area for beginners in the Angus business. The site is maintained by their son-in-law Brian. An annual newsletter is also sent out in the fall to keep 101 Ranch top of mind with customers, says Marie. “The purpose of the newsletter is to remind people we’re out there, update our mailing list before sending out the catalog and just share some of our philosophy. You can’t do that as much with the catalog,” she adds. Marie also contributes recipe information to the newsletter, and Brian, who has a background in nutrition and is attending school to become a physician assistant, contributes beef nutrition information. “We think these things just help reinforce that beef is a good product,” Marie says. Jim says they’ve developed their web site and newsletter to help boost customer service and simply help provide information to other breeders. Of these efforts, he says, “We have sold some bulls and have gotten a lot of exposure. We also offer some advice to people, especially beginners in the cattle business, and they really seem to appreciate that.”
To further educate and inform bull-buying customers, the Kast’s have begun providing 2-3 speakers the morning of their sale that discuss various beef industry topics. Jim says, “I don’t know how much these things help, but they can’t hurt.” And, throughout their newsletter and website, the importance of family is evident with photos and updates on the grandkids. “Even in the newsletter we let people know what’s going on with family,” Jim says. The Kast’s family-oriented approach is also evident on sale day with family and friends pitching in to make everyone feel welcome. Marie says, “I like to make special provisions so people can come, relax and have a wonderful time.” One of those special touches includes western décor in the sale barn. “It feels like a barn, but we also want it to feel like we were planning on having you,” Marie says.
Lastly, the 101 Ranch hospitality spills over into a post-sale appreciation night for friends, customers and crew that pitched in to make the sale a success. The Kasts host this appreciation day party for their entire community on the Saturday night before Superbowl Sunday. The event- that they refer to as Superbull Saturday- is held at their sale facility and a band is hired. Jim says, “No bulls are sold that night, but a lot is spread.”
While it’s been six years since they held their first sale, both Jim and Marie admit it’s still a nerve wrenching day. Jim says, “It’s stressful. You put a lot on the line for that one day. You are at God’s graces. But it’s part of our livelihood, and we just try to plan and prepare for it.” What they do enjoy about sale day is the camaraderie with friends and family, getting feedback from customers, and of course showing off those Angus princesses – their granddaughters Alleigha and Annalise, now 6 and 3. “People come to see the girls each year,” Marie says. Of the sale, Marie adds, “It has gotten easier since the first one, but each year we grow as a family and learn a lot.” Jim adds, “It is the effort of the whole family that has made it a success.” Last year’s sale averages were their second highest ever – and it came on a day that was a terrible blizzard. Their averages included $1902 on 102 bulls and $845 on 50 commercial heifers. Looking to the future, the Kasts say they’ll continue to hold their sale in December because that time frame fits so well with their total ranching and farming operation. They’ve nearly reached their ranch’s carrying capacity of 500 cows, so they anticipate selling more females in the next few years. “We’ve been in building mode with our herd for the past 10 years,” Jim says. “But we’ve reached our carrying capacity and plan to start selling some of our top pairs and heifers. They’ll make some awful good cows.”
Jim’s advice to others who hold an annual production sale is simple, “Be honest, truthful and fair in your dealings. A good reputation and good word of mouth are the best forms of advertising,” he says. He adds, “That’s a big part of our program- letting people know we’re willing to bend over backwards to keep them happy.” For more about the Kast family and their Angus cattle visit them on the web at www.101ranch.com.
101 Ranch Philosophy
In 1990, the Kast’s separated from Kast C.K. Cattle Co. Inc. which was owned by Jim’s father and formed the 101 Ranch Inc. They purchased their first registered Angus cattle from the Jim and Jean Brooks’ herd at Hazelton, ID. Breeding goals on the 101 Ranch start with a medium framed Angus female. They believe this size cow produces choice carcasses at 12-15 months of age. “We strive to use sires that have good carcass traits that increase growth without giving up calving ease,” Jim says.
In selecting sires, Jim says, “We use curve bender bulls with low birth, good growth, and sound carcass EPD’s which emphasize marbling. To make this equation more complex, these sires must have the reputation of producing good udder traits as well as good dispositions in their daughters.” He adds, “The Brooks herd was loaded with calving ease and great maternal traits, but was never enrolled in the AHIR program. This is why the growth in our herd appears to be below breed average. But, our cattle compete with the best of them.” “Our customers tell us that our bulls hold up very well. This is because we condition them on large pastures and hold the grain ration low. Building muscle instead of fat is our goal,” Jim concludes.
Looking back on developing their Angus herd, Jim says one of the things that helped earn them some recognition with other Angus breeders was the bull Tehema 5204 Traveler 641, who was number one in the breed for marbling for a year. They bought the bull from Graham Hooper of TLC Angus who had bought him as a calf at his mother’s side from Tehama Angus. Through progeny testing the bulls marbling data just kept getting better and better until he went number one in the breed for marbling after the Kast’s bought him. “That helped put us on the map,” Jim says.
He says, “I once told Marie we really got lucky to have that bull, and she said, ‘No, we were just really blessed.’ ”
The following appeared in the October 2007 the
Idaho Cattle Association’s Line Rider Publication
Stewards of Land and Livestock. One Idaho Angus Ranch focuses not only on breeding sound, reproductive cattle for commercial cattlemen, but also on improving the environment for the long-term sustainability of the area around them.
Story by Maggie J. Malson
Photos provided by Brian Bizik
Many Idaho residents know of the 101 Ranch located East of King Hill for a variety of reasons. It could be because of their high quality Angus cattle or their gravity pressure sprinkler irrigation system. Others think of the 101 Ranch as the Idaho “Home of the Jolly Green Giant”. And, others know it because the Stinker Station sign on their land that reads, “Petrified Watermelons, Take One Home to Your Mother-In-Law. Now, people are beginning know it because of its owners, the Jim and Marie Kast families environmental efforts. Last winter a construction project was completed on the 101 Ranch that stops all return stream flow to the Snake River from two irrigation canals.
Y and Y-9 Drain Elimination Project:
For the past 10 years, Jim, Marie and their son Ross brainstormed with Larry Pennington of the North Side Canal Company to find a way to prevent canal water from returning to the Snake River. Jim Kast said, “We received letters of support for this project from many government and private entities including the Idaho Cattle Association.” Some of the funding came from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Over the past two winters, the canal company completed the construction, while the 101 Ranch made significant financial contributions and gave up some irrigated land to put the new system in place.
“Our water, which comes from storage and diversion reservoirs on the Snake River is mostly winter runoff from Wyoming and Eastern Idaho,” Kast says. “As it runs across the rangeland and flows through the canal system it picks up waste water containing sediments, chemicals, fertilizer, and even cow feces.”
The project consists of a 2-acre sediment settling pond, an 8-acre lake (Virginia Lake) a 3-acre dissipation pond and three filtration areas. Virginia Lake, which is named after Kast’s mother, is for water regulation, storage and to direct water into the ranch’s original irrigation system. Neighbor, Sean Powers’ irrigation system is also tied into the lake. Through this series of ponds and pipelines the excess water is diverted from returning to the Snake River and is filtered into the ground.
“The number one reason the project went through was to stop pollutants from entering the Snake River,” Kast says, “But, there have been many other positive results. We were able to eliminate about 2 miles of canals that previously ran through our fields. Our water availability is much better now. Before, sometimes the canals would dry up and at other times, more than 10 cubic feet per second returned to the river. Fish, water foul and water vegetation are thriving.”
Evolution of 101 Ranch Irrigation:
In 1961, when the 101 Ranch was originally purchased by Jim Kasts’ parents, Charles and Virginia, there were about 600 acres of flood irrigated land. When pivots sprinklers came of age in 1974, the family installed a gravity pressure irrigation system. “This was a vision of my dad’s,” Kast says. “He loved to develop dry ground into productive irrigated land.” The original system consisted of 6 pivots and several wheel and hand lines. Today it has evolved to11 pivot sprinklers and 20 big guns which irrigate over 1100 acres without the use of a single pump!
Because the irrigation canal runs across the hill above the 101 Ranch, a gravity pressured irrigation system was a natural. From a small pond, water enters a 24-inch pipeline and is distributed all over the property. Water pressures range from 50 to 120 pounds.
Raising cattle for the next generation:
Jim and Marie’s son, Ross, and his wife, Melissa, are also active in the ranch’s operations. Their three-year-old son, Kylar and soon to be born son Kasdan, will be the fourth generation to run cattle on the land, if they so choose. Therefore, preserving the area, along with making solid breeding decisions is important to the Kasts.
“We market our cattle to commercial cattlemen in the western United States,” Kast says. “We try to pick curve bender bulls that offer low birth weights, but do not sacrifice growth. We want to be known as the place to come for calving ease and good carcass qualities.”
Because of the intense farming operation, the 101 Ranch herd is calved out in the fall beginning in August and is finished by about the middle of October. Their first 40 head of fall calving Registered Angus Cows came from the Jim and Jean Brooks of Hazelton. Kast says, “Since we hold our annual sale the second Saturday of December, we are able to market a bull that is 18-20 months old at spring turn out. Our buyers have more confidence in a little older bull.”
“As a registered breeder, we cull heavily on lots of traits, including udder quality, teat size, performance, and disposition,” Kast says. “In the last 11 years, we’ve improved the temperament of our cattle. They are really easy to handle.” He attributes this to his wife Marie. He says, “She runs the chute most of the time and is a lot more patient than most men. She made us get rid of the hot shots.” Marie said, “You know, we’re a family operation and the last thing we want to happen is have one of the grandkids get hurt by a wild cow. Grandson Kylar and granddaughters, Alleigha and Annalise Bizik have been affectionately nicknamed the prince and princesses of the101 Ranch. What better reason is there to preserve the environment and the cattle than for the next generation?
While they are members of other organizations, Kast says his membership in the Idaho Cattle Association is the most valuable. “The reason we’re members is we feel it’s the main state organization that gets out and works for us on the issues important to us as cattle people,” he explains. “They are the watchdogs for the industry when we can’t or don’t have time to be.”
The Kasts joined the association in 1990 just as they were beginning to raise Angus cattle. In the past they have attended conventions and tried to be active by voicing their concerns and ideas to the general membership.
“I think ICA keeps us informed about rules and regulations affecting our industry,” he says. “I look to them more than anyone to make sure we’re in compliance. They do a good job representing the cattle industry as a whole.”