“Red cows and purple shirts; that’s the Mushrush family of Chase County.”
Busy all of the time, this week is their busiest of the year.
“It’s harvest time,” emphasized Joe Mushrush, admitting that might sound “out of season to many.”
However, one thing about the even-more-than-usual hectic workload on this Flint Hills ranch is that there would seem to be ample help.
Joe and Connie Mushrush, their six children, two daughters-in-law, two grandchildren and Joe’s folks, Bob and Oma Lou, though well past retirement age, are all pitching in getting ready for the 14th annual Mushrush Red Angus Production Sale at Elmdale.
“Our year’s work goes on the auction block Thursday (March 28) at 12:30 p.m., when we’ll reap from our Red Angus operations,” qualified Joe Mushrush, Friday morning at 6:30, before heading out to start chores, after being up past bedtime the night before setting bleachers in the on-ranch sale pavilion.
“Everybody’s involved in this operation and does their part, and sometimes more, preparing for the sale. It’s a major production in more ways than one,” Mushrush tongue-in-cheek punned.
“Is there someplace else besides K-State? Are there any other kind of cattle than Red Angus?” quizzically qualified the opening descriptive quote.
“Connie and I graduated from K-State, both of my parents did, and my grandparents attended K-State. Our oldest two sons have graduated, and our twins will this spring. We have another freshman there now, and Maddy plans to enroll after high school,” Mushrush reflected.
Yes, there’s “Purple Pride,” but how’d the “red,” become of equal significance in family portrayal?
Quickly, Mushrush summarized, “Red Angus is the blue collar breed that fits commercial cattlemen, working efficiently for all phases of the beef industry. We have a purebred herd, but our Red Angus cattle are handled like commercial operations, our seed stock buyers.”
A cattleman-at-heart from the start, Mushrush reflected, “As a kid, I was very heavily involved in day-to-day care of our commercial Hereford herd. Dad was in the bank at Cottonwood Falls, so my mother and I often had to do the farm work.”
Mushrush recalled frequently taking a truck loaded with hay for feeding cattle on the way to and from high school. “I also started renting pastures to graze yearlings, and had about 20 sows on my own,” he tallied.
Instead of spending any free time in Aggieville while at K-State, Mushrush headed back home to look after the cattle every weekend, and sometimes during the week, when class schedule permitted, although hog operations had been dispersed.
“Continental” cattle breeds were becoming prevalent for breeding. “I told my folks we had to keep up with the industry. So, we bought the ‘biggest, red-flowered’ Simmental bull there was, and proceeded to have the biggest calving wreck imaginable,” Mushrush admitted.
While studying in the K-State’s Weber Hall Library, Mushrush became intrigued when looking at the Red Angus magazine.
“It was a relatively unknown breed in the state at that time, but the commercial focus of Red Angus sure appealed to me,” Mushrush said. “So, we bought a couple of Red Angus bulls out of Oklahoma, and soon worked our way out of the calving wreck.
“We really liked the results from Red Angus bulls, which also enabled us to have red calves which we’d always preferred out of our whiteface cows,” Mushrush continued
In the meantime, Mushrush met a farm girl named Connie Eilert from Jewell, who was also majoring in animal science. The couple was married between semesters of their senior year, before graduating in the spring of 1980, and moving back to Elmdale to be family ranchers.
That year, Mushrush also got their first Red Angus bull. In 1982, they added Red Angus females when ten registered cows were purchased from the Bob Taylor estate at Council Grove.
“We wanted to raise our own Red Angus bulls,” Mushrush explained. “The first year, there were three bull calves. We saved two for our own use, and sold the other one for breeding, too.
That continued for a couple of years, with such a demand for Red Angus bulls, that the family continued adding to the registered Red Angus cow herd.
“Other cowmen appreciated the Red Angus cross, and their daughters as much as we did, and we had more demand, so we’ve grown to where we are today,” Mushrush summarized three decades of production.
With more than 550 registered Red Angus cows, Mushrush Red Angus is one of the top ten recorders of the breed in the country.
Not only did the purebred side grow, but all phases of the ranch expanded, none nearly as important as the family itself.
“We continued to lease more pastures, and now operate more than 8,000 acres for cowherd and yearling grazing, and also have an on-ranch feedlot,” Mushrush briefed.
Their children are Daniel, Casey, Cole, Laura, Chris and Madelyn. Daniel and his wife, Christine, have two daughters, Sadie and Isabella. Casey’s wife is Ericka.
With Joe’s parents, the family was recognized last year as “Stockmen of the Year” by the Kansas Livestock and Meat Industry Council.
“Our children have been involved in all phases of the ranch, active in 4-H and school functions, and leaders in junior Red Angus programs,” credited Mushrush, who recently completed a two-term presidency of the Red Angus Association of America.
“While total national cattle inventory has declined, several purebred organizations have struggled. Red Angus popularity and registrations have grown, because of their fit to the commercial beef industry,” Mushrush reiterated.
Featuring bulls, pairs and open heifers in their sale, two-year-old bulls from Beckton Red Angus, Sheridan, Wyoming, the oldest Red Angus herd in the country, have been an added attraction since 1999. “We get the yearling bulls, graze and feed them here at the ranch,” Mushrush said.
About 400 heifers, sourced from commercial customers using Mushrush genetics, are developed, bred and sold every year.
Heifers and bulls, not meeting breeding quality, are coupled with Mushrush Red Angus-sired steers purchased from customers, and finished in the feedlot to be sold on a value-base grid to U.S. Premium Beef, with complete carcass data collected.
“It is most flattering and quite scary at the same time, when all six of our children have contended they want to come back and be a part of the ranch after college,” Mushrush related.
“We insist that they must work away from the ranch for at least some outside experience before returning, but we are in a continual expansion mode in an effort to have them all involved,” he said.
While drought has affected Mushrush Red Angus like other cattlemen, Joe Mushrush predicted, “When this weather gets straightened out, and cattle numbers start back up, I expect the cow-calf business to be the best it’s ever been. Red Angus cattle are going to be a more dominant part of the entire industry.”