Take a hard look at the loads of solid black and solid red, 9-weight steers prowling the August grass at Gracie Creek Ranch north of Burwell, NE. You’d be forgiven for assuming such uniformity is the result of a single breeding program.

That would have been true until 2004-2005, when cows roamed these pastures, building calves to stock a Colorado yearling operation owned by Bob Price and his family. Now, these are what Price refers to as his tail-enders, about a week from marketing through the Bassett Livestock Auction.

These calves, most of them preconditioned, came from multiple sources within about 200 miles. They’re procured from sale barns in places like Bassett and Valentine, direct and via video.

“We look at our market and see what fits our area,” Price says of his genetic preference. “A higher percentage English calf seems to fit our market best.”

The ranch is in midst of a drought Price says is the testiest summer he can remember since his folks bought the ranch in the mid 1970s. But these heavy feeder cattle are in top condition, with plenty of grazing left in this storied Nebraska Sandhills country. That excess grass and some of the heaviest yearling weights in the ranch’s history underscore Gracie Creek’s evolution, and some would say the management revolution, that occurred here in recent years.