Carson Valley Rancher Nick Uhart has been named the No. 1 breeder in Nevada by the American Angus Association, an organization dedicated to producing a consistent, quality product for America's dinner tables.
"I'm a seed stock producer," he said. "I raise bulls to sell to commercial cattlemen, all breeding stock.
"I collect the numbers, so the customer can pick the bull for his program."
On a cold January morning, Uhart stands near the barn of the Van Sickle Ranch, watching his herd below as he talks. A few of his cows have dropped their calves, which are taking their first wobbly steps. A pickup and trailer filled with hay waits nearby and three dogs, two border collies and a lab, watch from the back of the truck.
A fourth-generation rancher in Carson Valley, Uhart said he's had sheep and cattle since he was 4 years old. He started this business 22 years ago with a herd of 12 heifers (A heifer is a young cow that has never had a calf).
Some of the bulls are sold at nearby auctions in Yerington and Fallon, but Uhart prefers to work one-on-one with his clients, to find the right product for each.
At least 75 percent of his clients are repeat customers, Uhart said.
His business is primarily in the Western states, except for one bull, No. 6106, whose semen has been sold to customers as far away as Argentina. For this project, he partners with Genex Corp. who processes the semen and sends him a quarterly dividend.
"It took about 10 years to get this business going," he said. "They say if you can make it through the first seven years in this business, you're OK."
The key is consistent offspring that produce the right product, the right-sized prime rib from a calf that was the right size for easy birthing and the right amount of marbling in the meat. There are innumerable qualities experts are breeding for and the right genetics are key.
When it comes to breeding, the American Angus Association is the most advanced, sophisticated association in world, Uhart said.
"They've isolated genes that coincide with palatability," he said.
Uhart owns four bulls listed in the 2007 Spring Sire Evaluation Report published by the American Angus Association.
"The report provides both Angus breeders and commercial cattle producers using Angus genetics with accurate, predictable selection tools for improving their herd," says Bill Bowman, American Angus Association director of performance programs.
When asked where he would like to take his program from here, Uhart said he only wants more repeat customers.
"They make me happy," he said.
• Contact reporter Susie Vasquez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 211.
For your information:
Founded in Chicago in 1883, the American Angus Association records more cattle than any other beef breed association, making it the largest beef breed registry association in the world, according to Wikipedia.