Jeff Born breeds his 21 beef cows to drop club calves to supply youngsters who want to be in the show ring. He does his own breeding, using sexed semen to get heifer calves.
Rich and Evie Rathke have a registered 20-head cow-calf Angus herd and have been raising and showing beef since they were teenagers. Rich also is a veteran cattle auctioneer.
Wayne Goehring has a 60-cow herd of several different breeds. He’s able to draw on the experience of several generations of his family raising beef, dating back to 1845.
Though their operations differ, all of these producers share a common interest in furthering the beef industry. Therefore, they’re all members of the Eastern Wisconsin Beef Producers and Promoters Association.
“A bunch of us got together,” says Goehring, the group’s first president. “We got help from other organizations, and it kind of grew from there.” It started in 2002 when the Rathkes were thinking that the then-Eastern Wisconsin Club Calf Sale in Ozaukee County, a sale Rich had been calling for 20 years, had run its course. There were willing sellers, but buyer numbers had fallen off, Evie says. The Rathkes and Goehring came up with the idea for an organization of beef producers. Rich calls the association “a spinoff” of the sales he and Evie ran for so long. To get started, “I sent stuff to the people on my list for the calf sale,” Evie notes, “but Wayne was the real sparkplug.”
Born, the current president, says membership reaches up and down eastern Wisconsin and takes in dozens of beef producers. Evie explains further that the organization covers up to Green Bay, down to the Mequon area and west to Barneveld.
Members raise beef for marketing, for breeding and for the show ring. There are similar organizations in northern and western Wisconsin.
FAMILY PROJECT: Evie Rathke helps her granddaughter Halle Van Horn, 12, with her Angus cattle, which are kept at the Rathke farm.
Many belong so their children are eligible for association-sponsored scholarships. Among the organization’s promotional purposes is encouraging collegiate studies in agriculture and the beef industry. It also raises funds for show support and beef promotion.
Born notes the group also supports lobbying on behalf of the industry and belongs to the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association. Continued calf sales were early fundraisers, but the group no longer holds them. Instead, its popular annual steak dinner and raffles help raise money for activities.
Meetings in Waldo
Every-other-month meetings in Waldo feature speakers, and members alternate hosting a summer field day, open to the public, on their farms. Royal Boehlke of the Random Lake area has been in charge of entertainment since the organization began; he also hosted the 2018 field day. There’s also an extensive website.
“Nobody [no operation in the group] is real big,” Evie says. “We try to have something for everybody, whether it’s club calves, breeders, feeders. The more active members tend to be about calves. Young people in the group like the club calves.”
ALL FOR SHOW: Jeff Born of Plymouth, Wis., raises club calves to sell to youth interested in showing cattle.
Born, who lives near Plymouth, says he got into beef raising when his daughter took an interest and began showing. “As she got out [of showing], I had a couple of heifers and started breeding for club calves. My biggest market is the show market.”
Now he raises 20 calves a year with sexed semen and fertilized eggs. He also does “a little on the embryo side. A few years ago I was buying eggs, eight to 12 a year, to try to build a good start. Five of my cows have a good bloodline to produce a show steer.” But, he adds, “I’m just getting started in this.” He has some purebred Charolais; the rest are mixed and crossbreeds.
Goehring has three farms in the Random Lake area and now has grandchildren in show competition. His oldest son, Ryan, is active with show cattle nationwide. He points out that grandchildren Nolan and Maliyah represent the fifth generation of showing and eighth generation raising cattle on their Silver Creek Farm. Goehring’s farms incorporate the Angus, Simmental, Maine Anjou and Charolais breeds.
He flushes top-producing cows for embryos to be placed in receipt cows, focusing on the show cattle segment of the beef industry.
The Rathkes live near Fredonia and likewise are show ring veterans who now have children and grandchildren in competition.
“We help support children for shows,” Evie says of the group, whether it’s local fairs, the Northeast Wisconsin show, Wisconsin State Fair or World Beef Expo. “We all have something in common.” After the meetings and field days “we chitchat about cattle.”
Buchholz writes from Fond du Lac, Wis.