Stomprud Angus of western South Dakota
Navigating grass, genetics and generations
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 7:19 AM
It's not uncommon for cattle ranches in western South Dakota to be owned generations deep by the same family. What might be uncommon though, is the number of those generations that ventured into other careers before settling into ranching.
Larry Stomprud and his family run an Angus cattle ranch near Mud Butte, S.D.
Stomprud Angus Ranch, off Highway 212, near Mud Butte is a four-generation ranch that has at least two generations of non-traditional operators. Larry, who is third generation, was raised on the cattle ranch his grandfather Ollie had settled in 1909. He attended South Dakota State University graduating with a B.S. in Wildlife Management, which he put to good use as a game warden in South Dakota for a time. Following nine years with Game, Fish and Parks and the South Dakota Army National Guard, he spent another 15 years on Active Duty. He, his wife, Eileen and their children, Jay and Lisa, were stationed at various locations throughout the world. Upon retirement as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1995 Larry and Eileen returned to South Dakota and took up ranching with Larry's parents, Calvin and Mable.
Larry had always desired to ranch, but the military had offered him an opportunity he could not pass up.
"It was never my intention to have a military career, but opportunities kept presenting themselves. The experiences and the skills I learned in the Army have been valuable in transitioning to and running the ranch."
He returned with a basic understanding from his youth of the ranch, but he acknowledges he had catching up to do. A life-long learner he quickly dove into reading trade publications, attending seminars and establishing local mentors - among them Hugh Ingalls, John Sletten and Lyle Weiss.
Larry continued on the tradition of managing the ranch's resources, which included water, wildlife, grass and cattle. By implementing his military background skills of strategic thinking, data collection and operational planning he strives to be the best steward of the land he can.
The 6,600-acre ranch has undergone several physical changes under Larry's guidance. Rotational grazing was implemented, shelterbelts were planted, dams were constructed and a new 3,700-foot deep well was established through joint effort with a neighbor and nearly 10 miles of pipeline laid to numerous tanks.
Larry also placed focus on the ranch's cattle herd. Through the use of AI, EPDs and carcass data, Stompruds have continually improved their Angus herd's genetic makeup by placing emphasis on balanced EPD's with emphasis on carcass and growth traits. Next spring will mark the family's 9th anniversary bull sale at Faith Livestock Commission.
"We are in the business of harvesting sunlight. We have chosen to use Angus cattle to do the harvesting for us. I grew up with Herefords as a kid, but when we got here in 1995, the market place pointed us to the Angus breed, and my passion for the Angus breed has only grown."
A New Generation Arrives
Son Jay, his wife, Jenn and their three kids now also call the Stomprud Ranch home. Jay, who was not raised on the ranch, spent his childhood living where his father's military career took him - which included Germany and Hawaii, where he met Jenn.
The couple was into their early thirties living in Montana, and starting a family when they decided to get involved in ranching. Jay recalls it was after a South Dakota Christmas spent with his parents that he and Jenn made the decision to move.
"We began talking about it as we pulled out of the ranch driveway and by the mailbox we had made the decision to make the move," says Jay.
There were a variety of factors that helped them make the decision so quickly. First, the couple is candid about the fact that they were not making ends meet with their living and job situation in Montana; secondly, Eileen was wanting to be closer to the grandkids and Larry was beginning to tire from the hard ranch work; third and maybe the most motivating, Larry had shared with them a letter he had received from someone interested in owning/operating the ranch if Larry was looking to get out of the business.
"We firmly believe that our decision to move out to the ranch was inspired and cultivated by the Spirit of God. We had no agriculture background and in fact, I didn't even like being around cattle," says Jay. "I tend to avoid uncertainty, but Jenn and I found a strange peace with the idea of this rather radical life change. We had already started to make the move and our house sold in Montana after being on the market for only 3 weeks. After all was said and done, we came out to the ranch with virtually no debt and an awesome future ahead!"
Larry and Eileen were shocked but excited about the news. For Larry, there was great satisfaction in knowing the next generation of Stomprud ranchers was being established. He took it on as an obligation to get Jay started, just as an earlier generation had helped him.
"Eileen and I wouldn't be here without my Mom and Dad tailing us up. They helped us and I felt an obligation to do the same for Jay," says Larry.
Calvin and Mable bought a small herd of quality registered Angus bred heifers from Hugh Ingalls to make up Jay and Jenn's foundation herd. Those cattle are now marketed either through the annual production sale or other means.
Dreams for the Ranch
Jenn, who is a native of Hawaii, has embraced the ranching lifestyle and community that she is now a part of. The couple has become active in area activities and agricultural groups that cater to younger farmers. Jenn has been part of Annie's Project, designed to help further educate women about farm/ranch business and both she and Jay are current members of the beefSD group.
"It has been amazing to me how many opportunities there are to learn about everything," says Jenn about the groups and seminars they have taken part in. "You just have to start looking."
Larry and Eileen have enjoyed hearing of Jay and Jenn's experiences with beefSD, and the knowledge they have gained for the ranch because of it.
"The combination of open mindedness, different backgrounds and being life long learners is what has made this transition work for us," says Eileen.
Now the family is busy daydreaming about the future of the ranch. Larry is focusing on his bull battery and annual sale hoping to continue to make both better with each year.
"In five years I would like Stomprud Angus to be more established as a seedstock producer. We feel we have some of the best genetics for this country, at reasonable prices," says Larry.
Jay, who does all of the ranch's night calving and is a follower of Temple Grandin's work, would like to update their working facilities, desiring to enclosing them in the next few years. He is also an avid hunter and would like to expand the paid hunting the ranch already conducts.
With hospitality plus coursing through her veins, Jenn has put thought into hosting ranch retreats, knowing that the South Dakota prairie has a capacity to heal and inspire. And Eileen plans to continue her work on the ranch's bull sale catalogs, website and lovin' on the grandkids.
So at the Stomprud Ranch you will find both traditional and non-traditional elements, but they are in a proper mix, helping move the centennial ranch into the next 100 years.