Heart River Ranch History
Heart River Ranch originated in 1995 with the partnership of Chuck and Annette Steffan and Bud and Cecilia Obrigewitch. The name, Heart River Ranch, was chosen because the beginning of the north fork of the Heart River starts on Bud’s Federal grazing permit and the beginning of the south fork starts ½ mile from Chuck and Annette’s place. The Red Angus breed was a natural choice to raise registered cattle because Bud and Cecilia already had commercial Red Angus cattle and they liked the dispositions and performance of the mother cows. From the beginning, the goal of the ranch was to raise cattle with performance. As the ranch developed the goal expanded to raise performance cattle along with traits of a moderate, easy fleshing frame with good feet and leg structure that could survive on limited feed resources. The mother cow was always priority and the ability for the cow to do her job well every year with efficient utilization of basic ranch resources of grass and water are emphasized. These goals are still being strived for today.
Many of the first registered cows were purchased from Scott and Jeff Holden from Reed Point, Montana. These cows had sires such as Holden Hi Ho 574 and BJR Hi Ho 916. The Heart River Ranch registered herd was also complimented by the commercial herd which was operated by Bud and Cecilia and Annette’s brother, Wes Obrigewitch. Bud and Wes were recognized nationally by the Red Angus Association of America with a Grid Master award for superior carcass merits in 2011. Other Heart River Ranch bull customers have also been recognized for superior carcass merit over the years.
The first major herd bull to roam the pastures at Heart River Ranch was MLK CRK Cub 722. Cub was purchased from Milk Creek Reds in 1998 and went on to be leased by Alta Genetics in 2000. In Canada, Cub 722 was the most widely used AI bull over all breeds (including Black Angus) in 2001 and 2002. In our 1999 sale catalog, Cub was described as “a bull that moves like a cat and has exceptional feet and legs”. Phenotypically, Cub has a beautiful profile and stamped his calves with structurally correct feet and legs, length of body and a beautiful Angus head.
Another sire that had a lot to do with the development of the Heart River cow herd was Shoco Data 102. Purchased from Shoco Red Angus in 2002, "Data" became a great asset for Heart River and eventually gained national recognition as one of the breeds most sought after sires of excellent females. Data was leased by ABS Global in 2004. Data was chosen to help moderate the frame size and add fleshing ability to the cow herd. The cross between Cub and Data achieved this goal to some degree as the daughters were more moderate, easy fleshing and great udders. Daughters and granddaughters of these great sires are still sought. Data was in service for Heart River for 10 years.
Other bulls to traverse the pasture’s at Heart River Ranch were MLK CRK Knight 7153. This bull was a performance bull that was purchased with Diamond B Red Angus of Fromberg, MT. Another bull, VGW Liberty 523, was mostly used as a cleanup bull in the commercial herd and was moved to the registered herd because he combined calving ease and performance in one package.
In 2016, a search for herd bulls that fit the breeding profile of the herd brought, Ridge Traveler 5412 to the ranch. He is a Ridge Legend 2069 son that is exhibiting easy fleshing ability, fluid movement and correct structure. His maternal line is impeccable and his sire is a proven calving ease bull. In the late fall of 2016, we were fortunate to be able to purchase a semen interest in Red Flying K Max 159Y, a Canadian raised bull whose sons and daughters have been high sellers in production and special sales in the US and Canada. Max is an attractive sire of moderate frame, with generous capacity and mobility. He fits our game plan of producing sustainable functional cows and bulls.
The bulls were sold private treaty from 1997 until 2001. In 2002, a type of video sale was held at Heart River with Pat O’Brien serving as our first auctioneer. We continued to have a sale with this type of format until 2007. In 2007, Heart River Ranch teamed up with Open A Angus to hold a joint production sale. This sale was a pioneer in video production sales. It was put together with Annette and Terry Robinson working together to make this type of sale format become a reality and thus this was one of the country’s first video production sales. This public auction was held in historic Medora, North Dakota. During the sale, bulls were penned outside of the town’s community center to be available for customers to get a first-hand look at the cattle while the auction was held inside of the community center. Bids were delivered while customers watched the stock, via video, in the warm and clean comfort of the building. This relaxed and comfortable atmosphere proved to be a hit and has since been emulated by many other ranches. The sale is held annually the 2nd Wednesday of March.
Heart River Ranch has embraced the best in available cattle management technology. Performance testing, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, carcass ultrasound and HD50K genomic testing have all been utilized to help build a solid and exceptional genetic base for the cattle herd. In 2013, the decision was made to HD50K test all heifers and bulls. It was thought that the information gained from the 50K test on the females would help make more accurate breeding decisions in the future. The bulls have been tested so that our customers could make a more informative decision on their bull purchases because they are able to see a more realistic accuracy value on EPDs.
In 2008, an expansion and exchange of operation occurred at Heart River Ranch with a lease of the Short Pines Ranch in South Dakota. Heart River rented parts of this ranch and in late 2013, Chuck and Annette leased the whole ranch. The years of 2010 and 2011, were very challenging years for the family as both of Chuck’s parents (Charley and Mildred Steffan) passed away and Annette’s mother (Cecilia Obrigewitch) passing away from cancer. A bull development feedlot was built south of Belfield, North Dakota to house the both the Red and Black Angus Bulls. Also in 2011, Chuck and Annette purchased the registered cow herd from Bud.
As the years go by the profile of the Ranch is also changing. Our son, Tellan married Kayla Klein in September 2014. This added a new dimension to the operation of the ranch with Tellan and Kayla taking over the commercial herd, thus allowing the Heart River Ranch to expand it's cow numbers. In December of 2015, we were blessed with our first grandchild, Will Steffan and in November 2019, Tellan and Kayla gave us another grandson, Klane and in October 2022, grandson, Dav. Our daughter Laura married Colin Madzo in September 2020. Laura and Colin help us with at bull sale time, branding and any other time we are working cattle. They also gave us a grandson, Cooper born in January 2020 and a granddaughter, Britta in September 2021. Finally, our youngest, Quinn married Dan Schaffer in September 2016. Quinn and Dan gave us our 2nd grandchild, Luke Schaffer in January 2018 and our first grand daughter Siena in October 2019. All of our children still come home and we are grateful that they are able to help us when they can. In November 2017, we welcomed Tim and Karen Stevenson to manage the Short Pines Ranch. Tim and Karen and their children have helped with various ranch activities over the past few years and it is a pleasure to have them as part of our crew.
Heart River Ranch has expanded to over 425 head of registered mother cows and 120 head of heifers calved annually always with quality genetics built on a heritage of commitment. The ranch is continuing to grow its cow numbers and improve our genetics. The Heart River Ranch family is dedicated to providing the progressive cow man with proven genetics using all performance tools that are available. We hope that you enjoy browsing our website.
MLK CRK Cub 722
Shoco Data 102
MLK CRK Knight 7153
VGW Liberty 523
The beautiful badlands of North Dakota...
The Heart River...
The name, Heart River Ranch was chosen because the beginning of the North Fork begins on Bud's Federal Grazing Permit in the Little Missouri National Grasslands and the beginning of the South fork starts 1/2 mile from Chuck and Annette's place.
photo taken in January 2015 by our good friend, "Ken Howie".
Red Flying K Max 159Y
Ridge Traveler 5412
The Heart River arises in the prairie lands of Billings County, in the Little Missouri National Grasslands just west of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It flows SW a bit then starts flowing East through Stark County, past Belfield, then South Heart, to the Patterson Reservoir and through Dickinson. It meets up with the Green River at Gladstone North Dakota.