I’m Elaine Utesch, a cattle farmer from northwest Iowa. My family raises cattle, corn and soybeans on our farm called Triple U Ranch. We’re a family farming corporation which involves my husband Craig, his two brothers Brad and Kirk, Kirk’s wife Barbara, our daughter Jessica and her husband Cody Wilson, and usually a hired man or two, depending upon the season. Each of the brothers have a specific area of responsibility and expertise. Brad manages the cattle feedlot. Kirk manages the crop production. My husband Craig manages the cow/calf herd and I work in the office. I am also the “on call” person for whatever needs to be done—watching gates, helping get stray cattle in, tending grandchildren, or fixing a meal for the men at harvest time. Our daughter Jessica is our cow herd breeding specialist and her husband Cody helps out wherever he can when he’s not at work in Stuart, NE where he is the manager of Cottonwood Feeders. Kirk’s wife Barbara works at our local medical clinic as a medical laboratory technologist but helps out here on the ranch whenever she can.
Triple U Ranch began in the 1920’s with Craig’s grandfather, William R. Utesch buying some land in northern Woodbury and southern Cherokee counties in Iowa. When William retired in the mid 1950’s, Craig’s dad Bill Utesch purchased the land and continued feeding cattle while raising a family of 4 children with his wife Mary. As the boys grew up, they knew that they wanted to continue farming, and worked together with their parents to form Triple U Ranch. What began as a partnership is now a Chapter S corporation, and includes a feed yard that annually finishes out approximately 5,000 head of cattle, markets corn to the local ethanol plants as well as feeding it to the cattle, markets soybeans, sells purebred Simmental and Angus, and commercial cows, bulls, and steers, and provides a living for four families.
Feeding cattle is a year-round job, so there is no “down” time for that part of the enterprise. The cow herd starts to have baby calves in March and finishes up by the end of April. We will have 160 new baby calves out on our pastures with their mothers for the summer and fall grazing season shortly thereafter. Maintaining fences and suitable water for these animals keeps Craig and Jessica busy as we have many paddocks of fence to repair or rebuild after the winter. Kirk is gearing up for planting season and, as the plans were made just after harvest last fall, things are progressing as smoothly as the weather will allow.
Our business is cattle. There are many hurdles to overcome daily in this business—fluctuating market prices, governmental regulations, fuel prices, and most of all, weather. A year and a half ago we sustained near-devastating damage to our feed yard and facilities in a tornado which came through on the evening of October 4, 2013. With the help of family, friends, and neighbors, we cleaned up our mess and rebuilt our business facilities. We were fortunate that none of our cattle were killed in the storm, and we were able to get feed and water to them immediately the next morning. Our own home was damaged but we were able to sleep there that night. The challenges of weather are probably the most critical to our business.
As a former high school Family and Consumer Science teacher, my interest in our cattle involves having our Ranch produce safe, nutritious beef for consumers in an environmentally positive manner. We feel we accomplish this every day. Our family farming business was awarded the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award in 2000. Raising cattle on feed that is produced on our farm, using the animals’ manure to fertilize our crops, and seeing our calves through their life cycle from birth to weaning to feeding and to harvest at surrounding harvest facilities is what set us apart from others. Sustaining four families from one established family business is important to us.