April 17, 2023 The Tebelius Story

The Tebelius Story

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“The beef industry is strong. As long as we keep an open mind and get on board, we’ve got a
bright future.” – Patty Tebelius
Jon and Patty Tebelius are located near Bowdon, ND where they predominantly raise
commercial cattle but have a few registered cows to keep them busy too. They are a prime
example of what value comes from keeping an open mind and trying to continuously change and
seek improvement on a cattle operation. Patty said, “We don’t have a big story but it’s a story, I
guess.” I’d argue that they have more of a story than they let on.
Today, Tebeliuses calve in February and March so that they can wean in September and market
their calves as being backgrounded for 60 days through Superior Livestock. North Dakota
winters make calving a challenge, but they use barns to make it work and it is the best option in
the long run when sale day rolls around. They also feed out 20-25 beeves per year to sell beef to
friends and family and market some heifer calves as replacement quality heifers.
Jon and Patty got married around 16 years ago and combined their herds. Patty had Red Angus
cows that were crossed with Hereford and Jon mostly had Simmental cows but was beginning to
use Red Angus genetics. They also took advantage of the opportunity to purchase some Black
Angus cows from a neighbor as well as some Charolais – Red Angus crossed cows.
Tebeliuses knew they wanted to reduce their cow size but increase the weaning weights on their
calves. It was getting expensive to feed big cows and they wanted to reduce input costs.
Knowing they had a mixed group of cows, they also wanted to know more about how the cows
and their progeny would perform. They turned to genetics to do so. Jon and Patty put more
emphasis on using Red Angus genetics to reduce frame size and get the docile and maternal
cows they wanted. They have also been DNA testing their heifers for over 10 years to evaluate
which heifers will be kept as replacements and which will be fed out and sold as beef.
Keeping an open mind is something that matters to Patty. She said, “When you close your mind
and don’t listen to other people, that’s when you get in trouble. You can’t keep doing things the
same way. If our grandparents or great-grandparents saw what we are doing today, they’d think
we are crazy for taking a snip out of a calf’s ear to predict how they will perform. But our world
is changing.” An open mind is exactly what Tebeliuses used when they started the process of
DNA testing their heifers. They were warned that the results may shock them a little bit but to
trust the science. Patty admits that they didn’t trust the results the first year and they should’ve
because they had an increase in open heifers after the breeding season. They went back to look at
the results from the DNA test showed that the heifers were lower in their fertility traits. They
learned from this experience and decided to stick with using DNA testing to help select 40-45
replacement females that they will keep. Ultimately, this has helped them achieve their goal of
raising more moderate cows that will still wean off a 650 lb calf.
When Patty looks back at the learning curves and experiences they’ve had in the beef industry,
she encourages producers to create a strong relationship with their veterinarians and to not be
embarrassed when something goes wrong. You must admit there is a problem if you want to
solve it. Patty is excited about the new technology that is coming out in the next 5-10 years and
to see how that will impact ranching as we know it today.

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