GRAND FORKS, North Dakota — Over the occasional moo of a few cows and bulls, Red River Angus owner Frank W. Matejcek leaned against a trailer load of alfalfa hay on a cool mid-September morning and talked about more than a half century of cattle and crops production.
After 55 years of farming and ranching a few miles north of Grand Forks, Matejcek and his wife, Lucy, are retiring. The couple, who are both in their 70s, held an auction this month to sell their livestock and cattle equipment.
“It’s time to move on, do something different,” Frank Matejcek said.
Matejek began raising beef cattle in 1966 when he was 17, and encouraged his father, Frank F. Matejcek, to get out of dairy farming and into beef production.
“I really didn’t want to milk cows the rest of my life,” Matejcek said. He and his dad bought a bull from Black Gold Farms, a Grand Forks County Angus ranch, and bred a few of their Holstein heifers to it to start a commercial Angus herd.
In the 1970s, Red River Angus began raising purebred Angus cattle, gradually building their total Angus numbers to about 250.
The advent of American Angus Association’s Expected Progeny Difference program, which predicts how future offspring of animals are expected to perform, relative to the offspring listed in the database, was instrumental in the development of his herds, Matejcek said. The birth weight EPD, which predicts the bull’s ability to transmit birth weight to his progeny, was especially important because it gave him and Lucy a guide they could follow when selecting bulls for their herds, he said. Meanwhile, carcass EPD, which include marbling, ribeye area and fat thickness, was a useful tool for producing quality beef.
“It really changed the way we looked at bulls,” Matejcek said.
Matejcek has been active in the North Dakota Angus Association, where he has served as president for a term, since the 1970s . He was known, not only in the state association, but also on the national level by members of the American Angus Association, said Vern Frey owner of Frey Livestock Sales and Service in Towner, North Dakota.
Besides building up herd genetics, Red River Angus also began direct marketing USDA-inspected beef during the 1970s, building up a loyal customer base. The beef sales have helped weather the volatility of the cattle market over the years, Matejcek said.
“We try to give a high quality product, and our customers are happy with it,” he said.
Matejcek’s beef was popular with customers in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, Frey said.
“He was well known as the guy you could go to and buy beef,” he said.
Along with their beef operation, the Matejceks also raised grains and row crops, including sugarbeets on 2,000 acres.
Throughout the years of farming and ranching, the Red River, for which the ranch is named, frequently challenged the couple by spilling its banks in the spring. During the historic Grand Forks Flood of 1997, the Matejceks had to load up their entire herd of 250 head to pastures and relocate them about 15 miles west of Grand Forks. Frank and Lucy Matejcek moved to Larimore, North Dakota, that spring because their house was inundated with floodwaters.
The Matejceks rebuilt their house, and by the fall of 1997, moved their cattle back to the Red River Angus farmstead and continued their business. Over the years since then, the couple gradually has reduced their herd numbers, and plan to sell their remaining cattle and bulls in the next couple of years.
“I’m going to enjoy the farm for a while instead of working on it all the time,” Matejcek said.