Our ranch is nestled in the rugged badlands of eastern Montana. Here at the Nielsen ranch and feedlot, we strive to produce Irish Black and Red Cattle that possess top performance traits that are demanded by our location and fluctuating temperatures.
Where It All Began
In 2008, Terry and Eileen Nielsen the founders of Nielsen Irish Blacks and Reds, were continuing their lifetime search of the perfect cross of cattle. Terry just wasn’t satisfied with the direction of his herd at the time, which was primarily made up of commercial Angus cattle. In the past, Terry had run Herford, Charolais, and Angus crosses and saw the value in the hybrid vigor of crossing cattle breeds, but he was disappointed in the lack of consistency and uniformity in his herd. In addition to this, he was never completely satisfied in his replacement heifer program. This is when he stumbled across an article written about Irish Black and Red Cattle. He immediately was drawn to the philosophy behind the breed, created by Maurice Boney. In the article it quotes Maurice saying, ” the U.S. cow herd is too diverse, comprised of too many breeds and too many gene-trait combinations, to ever produce consistently high-quality products for consumers.” And Terry could definitely testify to that, as that had been his experience as well throughout the years. Below, we’ve attached the entire article that Terry read that immediately sparked his interest in the herd. We’ve also quoted several paragraphs from the article, that give excellent detail on Irish Blacks and Reds.
LITTLE-KNOWN BREED GAINING INDUSTRY ATTENTION
by: Dr. Rod Harris
Maurice Boney is worried about the beef business. He says the U.S. cow herd is too diverse, comprised of too many breeds and too many gene-trait combinations, to ever produce consistently high-quality products for consumers.
So he’s spent much of his life trying to do something about it. Boney, who ranches near Johnstown, Colo., has been developing a linebred breed of cattle called Irish Blacks and Irish Reds for nearly 40 years. The breed, trademarked by Boney and marketed under an exclusive contractual agreement to a select but growing group of producers in 22 states, is gaining attention from cattle feeders, packers and restaurateurs as an answer to many of the industry’s most pressing concerns. Derived primarily from Friesian genetics and a small amount of Black Angus genetics (35 years ago) from the old “Revolution” line, the breed has been close-herd line-bred for built-in genetic predictability to transmit quality genetics for fertility, production attributes and superior beef quality.
“The genetic make-up of a large portion of today’s beef herds is highly heterozygous,” explains Boney. “Because most cattle in the U.S. cow herd are heterozygous – instead of homozygous — for important production and carcass traits, they’ve lost their ability to transmit desirable genetics for carcass quality and fertility to their offspring.” The result of all this heterozygosity, explains Boney, is genetic instability, inconsistency and diminishing beef quality.
“The extremely broad and ever-expanding gene pools of today’s cow herds will only ensure beef’s quality continues to decline,” he says. “That’s why we have concentrated on producing a highly concentrated, small genetic pool of cattle for correcting many of the problems the industry faces today. Less than two percent of cattle attain the Prime quality grade. The percentage of Choice-quality carcasses falls every year. Our program is built on correcting those problems by producing cattle with heightened predictability to transmit superior, proven genes to their offspring.” Boney’s efforts trace back to 1971 when he began implementing a linebreeding program built on the teachings of Dr. Jay Lush, a professor at Iowa State University and world-renowned geneticist.
In doing so, Boney bred a 18 heifers back to their sire. He then bred 16 more of the same heifers to a son of their sire (sister X sib matings). By breeding related animals to each other, he was able to ensure his foundation genetics were pure, free of genetic defects and diseases. During the ensuing four decades, he’s stayed with the same bloodlines and the same breeding philosophy. And with each generation — layer upon layer, year after year — he’s concentrated the union of genetically identical genes of his genetics for traits like fertility, marbling, muscling, and built in greater genetic predictability for all of these traits by doing so.
Back to Our Story
After reading the article, Terry decided to take a trip down to Colorado to visit with Guy Gould, a business associate of Maurice Boney’s. Terry’s son, Will, also went with him. After seeing the cattle for themselves, Terry was immediately sold on the breed, and Will ended up purchasing the first Irish Black Bull for the Nielsen Ranch. After the first breeding season, Terry could immediately see the difference in the calves that came from their Irish Black Bull. In 2009, the Nielsens implanted frozen embryos from Maurice’s herd to develop a purebred herd of their own. In 2013, Terry and his sons, Wade and Will, were able to grow their Irish Black Cattle herd enough to market their own purebred Irish Black Bulls to outside customers. Throughout the years, the Nielsens have been able to work alongside Terry Todd, owner of No Creek Ranch — an Irish Black operations located near Twin Bridges, Montana. Eventually, Terry Todd moved his entire purebred herd to the Nielsen ranch. This included Maurice Boney’s foundation herd, that Terry Todd had purchased. Together they merchandise their calves and bulls each year.
In 2017, Terry Nielsen passed away, but his legacy and love for the Irish Black Cattle breed lives on through his sons Will and Wade, who continue to pursue and perfect their Irish Black and Red cattle herds.
We truly love what we do, and are blessed to be able to call eastern Montana our home! Ranching and raising quality beef is our passion. Give us a call today. We’d love to talk about our cattle and show you around our operation.