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Chippewa Valley Angus Farms LLC
Ohio Angus Breeders prepare for October female sale

Chippewa Valley Angus Farms LLC, based in Rittman, Ohio, is a registered Angus operation with a great history and a bright future. Owned and managed by Rod Ferguson and his wife Laurie, the goal at Chippewa Valley Angus Farms is to produce quality seedstock to better the cattle industry and the Angus breed.

The Legacy of Chippewa Valley Angus Farms
Rod grew up on a farm in northeastern Ohio. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the family raised cattle, but not registered animals. When Rod was 13 years old, he and his father, Harold Ferguson, decided to go together and purchase one purebred Angus heifer. “I had saved $150, which wasn’t enough to buy one myself, so my Dad put in the rest. For about $300, we started our registered herd,” Rod says with a smile.

Rod gives his Dad all the credit for recognizing the beauty and potential in that first heifer. She had been on the farm for about three months, when Harold realized that she looked a lot better than the rest. He said, “She’s a lot better quality, and it costs the same amount to feed a good one as it does a bad one!” Dad then said, “We should go out and find some more like her.”

Like most agricultural ventures, an investment must start with capital. Rod remembers that he and his father went to the banker to borrow “what seemed like a fortune” at that time. The Fergusons bought six more heifers and one bull for less than they had borrowed. “I remember Dad returning the left-over money to the banker after we purchased the cattle” Rod says. “That was a good financial lesson for me – integrity, honesty and responsibility with money.”

The offspring of those first cattle were successfully shown in 4-H by Rod and one of his sisters, Jan. They were named champions at the Columbiana County Fair. Those steers, and many after, helped enable Rod to attend Ohio State University where he graduated with a degree in veterinary medicine in 1967.

“I was away from the day-to-day raising and caring for cattle when I was in vet school and after, but I always missed it,” Rod says. “And, I was still taking care of other animals; a desire that I am sure grew out of taking care of those first Angus cattle on the farm.”

Rod was awarded a large animal residency at Texas A & M University, and then worked in a private practice in Cridersville and E. Liverpool, Ohio. He went back into university life, training as a small animal surgical resident at Colorado State University. He earned his masters and PhD, focusing on cancer research in animals at CSU. In 1979, Rod became the head of small animal surgery at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

A desire to be in his own practice and back in Ohio led him to where he is today. He established a surgical specialty referral practice and then, in 1996, built a multi-specialty referral hospital, Akron Veterinary Referral and Emergency Center. Today, he divides his time between the veterinary practice and his Angus cattle business.

While Rod was pursuing his veterinary career, two of his sisters were developing well respected Angus herds of their own. Jan and her family own and operate Lyons Angus Ranch in Manhattan Kansas, and Mary Ferguson-Colvin and her husband, own and operate Wolf Creek Angus Ranch in Luray, Kansas. Along with the daily operations of their ranches, the women also contribute in other professional capacities to the Angus breed. Jan is a past president of the Kansas Livestock Association and a past president of National Cattleman’s Beef Association. She remains active in both associations along with her daughters. Mary was National Junior Angus Showmanship Champion in her youth and after her graduation from Kansas State University was part of the Certified Angus Beef program as a professional during the program’s developmental years.

The Ferguson family’s love of Angus cattle that began with the purchase of one purebred Angus heifer back in 1956, has provided a variety of opportunities for success and involvement from the small community level through to national participation and recognition in the cattle industry.

CVAF – The Beginning
“When I met Laurie in 1988, we both discussed our hopes and dreams and realized we shared a love for farm life and animals,” Rod said.

“I wasn’t raised on a farm,” Laurie said, “but when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a farm girl so badly that I used to pretend that I was!” Prior to meeting Rod, Laurie worked many years as a personal and business banker which prepared her for handling the financial aspects of both the veterinary clinic and the Angus operation. Working from home allows her to be with the cattle and horses every day. “I feel very fortunate,” shares Laurie.

Rod and Laurie began acquiring cows with known, proven, Angus genetics both from Rod’s dad Harold, owner of Calcutta Farms in E. Liverpool, Ohio and Rod’s sister, Jan Lyons owner of Lyons Angus Ranch in Manhattan, Kansas. “It was important to me to have our herd begin with genetics from my family’s cattle. It was the perfect way to build a foundation,” Rod said.

The breeding program at Chippewa Valley Angus began with strong herd-building sires like Bando, Traveler, and 6807. The program continues to move forward utilizing AI and embryo transfer, as well as the highest-quality natural service sires to finish the breeding season. Rod and Laurie market their cattle primarily at the April bull sale and the October female sale held each year at the Smithville farm. However, there always remains an opportunity to purchase cattle by private treaty as well.

Over the past 15 years, Rod and Laurie have linked three different homesteads, each about seven miles from the other, in a triangle, to make up the entity of Chippewa Valley Angus Farms LLC. Each of the locations has its own purpose: The Rittman farm is the original home site and where rotational grazing of cow/calf pairs occurs during the summer months. The Smithville farm is where the cows are wintered and calved and the two annual production sales are held. The Canaan Center farm is primarily used for hay and rotational grazing of grass pastures.

Scott Lehman serves as the Herdsman for CVAF and has been with the operation for over 3 years. He graduated from Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. He is instrumental in the day-to-day care of the herd, preparation for the annual spring bull sale and the annual fall female sale. Rod praises Scott, who grew up in northwestern Ohio, for being extremely hard working, dependable and capable. “He is always responsible and proactive in organizing the daily tasks that need to be accomplished for a smooth operation. He is one of those fellows that I don’t have to worry about. If something needs done, he gets it done for us.”

The Future
Rod and Laurie’s vision for Chippewa Valley Angus Farms is to produce quality seedstock with outstanding carcass characteristics that will go on to produce consistent, well balanced working bulls and cows for their customers. His goal is within sight as demonstrated by the strong EPD’s of the CVAF 2006 spring bull sale. The average EPD’s of all the bulls presented in the sale were in the top 15% of the Angus Breed EPD’s. Rod continues to study Angus characteristics and purchases heifers and natural service sires, along with developing a strong AI program each year that will upgrade and keep the herd at Chippewa Valley Angus Farms up to date with what customers are demanding in their cattle.

Like Rod’s father did for him, the Fergusons are working hard to ensure that the legacy they leave is a strong and dependable one. Laurie’s daughter and Rod’s sons are raising the next generation. Laurie says that all seven of their grandchildren love to visit the farm. They anticipate the newest arrival, due this year, will enjoy it as well. “One of our grandsons -- who is just learning how to talk -- calls me ‘Pa-Pa’ then he follows it with, ‘Cows’ and ‘MOOOO’.” Rod smiles, “He’s got that all figured out.”


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