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Breeding champs

By Staff | May 23, 2012

Gene Knop and his son Dan stand next to a few of their heifers on the Knop Angus Farm property, just north of Ida Grove. They have been turning out seed-stock Angus for 71 years, beginning with Gene’s father Fred in 1941. “We have consistently searched for sires that excel with the genetic capability to produce sound, functional, high-maternal cattle that are also superior for carcass traits,” Gene Knop siad.

By DOUG CLOUGH

Farm News staff writer

IDA GROVE – For 71 years, Knop Angus Farms, a family owned seed-stock operation, has been producing champion Angus cattle.

The breeders were presented in January with the Historic Angus Herd Award.

The award is presented to Angus breeders who have been in continuous production of registered Angus cattle for 50 years or more.

Gene Knop reviews trophies his family has earned during its tenure in the Angus business.

“We’ve worked to provide cattle that can show well at state and regional levels, which translates into great advertising,” said Gene Knop, who owns and operates Knop Angus Farms along with his son, Dan. “Our bulls and heifers perform just as well as they show. It’s a rare and successful combination we call ‘performance plus’.”

Knop Angus Farm began in 1941 with a 4-H purebred heifer project. The first heads of cattle, bought in Nebraska and Iowa, began a long line of show ring success for Fred Knop’s humble beginnings. Knop was traditionally a hog farmer until his livestock developed atrophic rhinitis – chronic nasal inflammation – when he felt the need to change his business model by purchasing cattle.

“For 71 years we have been breeding cattle for the big picture,” Knop said. “We have consistently searched for sires that excel with the genetic capability to produce sound, functional, high-maternal cattle that are also superior for carcass traits.”

Gene and Colleen Knop took ownership of Fred’s Angus farm in 1969, the same year that his herd found a permanent 46-acre residence on the north side of Ida Grove. The family exhibited cattle at many shows and earned a lot of purple – the color of grand champions – along the way. Knop Angus Farms showed the junior champion bull and the reserve grand champion heifer at the 1974 Diamond Jubilee International Livestock Show in Chicago, Ill.

The Knops’ daughter, Sheryl, received the top showmanship title and son Dennis showed the grand champion heifer at the 1981 National Junior Angus Show in Nashville, Tenn. A year later, Knop Angus Farms garnered a grand champion bred and owned heifer at the 1982 National Junior Livestock Show in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Knop Angus Farm’s pride-and-joy is the progeny of Jetliner 707 that lived from 1972 to 1986. The photo was taken in 1974

Gene Knop, 76, a lifelong cattleman, still finds challenges in his work.

“The largest effort comes in meeting today’s demands,” Knop said. “Expectations include calving ease, carcass quality, feedlot performance and consumer acceptability.

“You can’t do well with just a performance bull, you must have an excellent female base also. You’ve got to remember that the commercial breeder is our bread-and-butter.”

Knop acknowledges that his profession has more tools than ever before, including DNA testing and the ability to outfit cattle with tags that tie into an electronic system that meters the exact daily feed that cattle need for optimum growth.

“These advances, in themselves, put a bit more pressure on a cowboy,” Knop said, whose farm always has breeding stock for sale.

These challenges are also the reason Knop stays in the Angus business. “I keep looking for that next grand champion,” said Knop. “I’ve tried to retire a number of times – was even down to three cows in 2006 – but now I’m back up to 40.

“My goal is to have enough female stock for a production sale every year.”

The Knops have their own sale barn and plan the next sale for February 2013.

Knop’s pride-and-joy is the progeny of Jetliner 707, a bull that lived from 1972 to 1986. Jetliner has a lineage that is still active through semen ampoules frozen in 1976. This bull gave the family Angus farm many honors, and Knop still talks about him with a gleam in his eye.

“We still have great memories of him,” said Knop. “The Angus seed-stock producers of today have breeding goals very similar to the ones we accomplished in the ’70s and ’80s from the progeny of the Jetliner lineage.”

Knop acknowledges that his Angus farm could not have accomplished all it has without it being a family business.

He had held a variety of banking positions since 1969 and has relied on wife Colleen’s ability at being a “good cattle person,” performing artificial insemination, heat detection and getting ready to show the cattle on the road.

The Knops’ son, Dan, after spending many years in Georgia managing a cow herd, has returned to help manage the family operation. He spends evenings and weekends at his namesake’s Angus farm in addition to working for a local manufacturer.

Dennis, the couple’s youngest son, resides in Blair, Neb., and also maintains a small herd of Angus cows under the name of Circle K Angus.

“Dan and Dennis are excellent cowboys,” said their father. “Like most of us, they’ve learned the trade through the school of hard knocks.”

Along with use of bulls n the past, Knop Angus Farm boasts of the best genetics available today, both through artificial insemination and embryo-transfer.

Aside from the Angus Herd Award, Knop’s family has also been selected by the Iowa Angus Association as the 2012 seed-stock producer of the year.

Contact Doug Clough at douglasclough@gmail.com.

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