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Humble hard work pays for Bledsoe Cattle Company

Mayzie Purviance for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 September 2020
Bledsoe Cattle Company

“Hardworking” is a term often used to describe the average agriculturist – if farmers and ranchers didn’t work hard, the world population simply would not be fed or clothed.

“Humble” is a word, that although it may be used more frequently in this industry than in others, is not taken lightly. However, “humble” and “hard work” seem to be the only three words which can describe Bledsoe Cattle Company.

“We don’t do anything much differently. We just work hard at it … there’s plenty of other great operations that do things every bit as good as we do,” Bob Bledsoe, part owner of Bledsoe Cattle Company, said.

Bob Bledsoe

Bledsoe Cattle Company is located near Wray, Colorado, and is owned and operated by Bob, his son Grant and their family. Bledsoe is not the bragging type, but don’t let him fool you. Bledsoe Cattle Company is special – according to the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, anyway – as Bledsoe Cattle Company was recognized as the 2020 Feedyard of the Year by the BQA.

Grant Bledsoe

Although Bledsoe Cattle Company started as a registered Hereford operation, it has evolved over the years to be home to a 7,000-head-capacity private feedlot, farmland, and pastureland in South Dakota. Bledsoe’s business model is simple: buy calves, put them on grass for a while, feed them then sell them.

“We’re not a flashy operation because we’re private, but the business model seems to work for us,” Bledsoe said. “It’s probably because we have the program and the pasture to do it on; everything is interconnected and it just works.”

Bledsoe added that a major part of their operation, and a big reason for Bledsoe Cattle Company’s success, is animal welfare.

cattle handling

“Cattle handling is important to us; all handling we do is done humanely because our income comes from those cattle,” Bledsoe said. He added that Bledsoe cattle are loaded on trucks around five times before they’re taken to a packing plant, and they are around people every single day.

Bledsoe added that in all his years of being around cattle, he’s found that they perform best when they’re treated right and handled humanely.

“My father had this big sign in his office, and the words on this sign were just beat into me,” Bledsoe said, with a laugh. “It said: ‘The only way to move cattle fast is slowly’ … and that’s what we do here. Cattle handling is of number one importance to the animals. Welfare is extremely important to us, and it pays off in the end.”

Utilizing BQA

Bledsoe said his operation follows the guidelines laid out by the Colorado BQA program. He said the director of the Colorado BQA program from Colorado State University comes out to the feedyard and teaches their employees.

“It’s a great thing. I mean, I’m 73 years old and I learn something new from every visit she makes,” Bledsoe stated. “We follow a lot of what she says, and it’s a group effort of the safety for both the animal and our employees. Beef Quality Assurance is good for the cattle and good for us economically.”

cattle handling

Bledsoe touched on being quiet, cool and collected when handling cattle as well. He said they keep their cool when handling the cattle, so as to add a calming presence for the whole herd.

“It’s good cattle handling and also good for our bottom line,” Bledsoe continued. “We will not tolerate an individual that gets mad at an animal and takes it out on the animal. If they do that, they’re gone – we just can’t do that. But we have great employees that are willing to learn.”

Adding to his previous remarks, Bledsoe said the most rewarding part of his job is the connections made with people.

“I think with our employees and family, we have fabulous people here that work for us. A lot of them have worked for us for a while, and they’re like family,” Bledsoe said. “Everybody goes to high school football games and cheers on the kids. It’s very important to us to make sure they’re doing good, not only just the specific employees who work for us, but their families too. That not only helps our company, but the town of Wray. It’s just so fulfilling to watch our family and employees produce great beef.”

Bledsoe Cattle Company feedyard workers

He continued and stressed the importance of family ties to the operation. He said he, his wife, Becky, and their grandchildren walk the pens every Saturday morning to evaluate “what they need to be doing.” Bledsoe added that his mother is still very active in the operation and that she “comes out whenever she darn well pleases and is in on all the major decisions.”

Between Bledsoe and Grant, they seemingly have the operation under control, but Bledsoe said running Bledsoe Cattle Company is a family affair through and through. He and Becky are partners in “every sense of the word,” and his grandchildren and daughter-in-law help out in every way they can.

Bledsoe said he believes the most unique thing about Bledsoe Cattle Company is the way employees and members of the Bledsoe family are focused on the wellbeing of their cattle.

“I’ll quote my dad’s sign again and say, ‘The only way to move cattle fast is slowly.’ We live by this, and it’s paid off for us.”

Bledsoe Cattle Company is a prime example of hard work paying off. From the manner in which they handle their cattle to the importance they stress on integrity – not only integrity of character but the integrity of their operation – it’s clear to see why their operation is successful.

In closing, Bledsoe had one message for readers: “Just keep eating beef.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: Bledsoe Cattle Company is a 7,000-head feedlot near Wray, Colorado. 

PHOTO 2: Bob Bledsoe

PHOTO 3: Grant Bledsoe

PHOTO 4 & 5: Cattle handling and health protocols are a vital part of Bledsoe’s regimen.

PHOTO 6: Bledsoe Cattle Company feedyard workers and owners try to foster a family atmosphere among all circles in the work. Photos courtesy of NCBA 

Mayzie Purviance is a freelance writer based in Montana.

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