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Wide-open spaces fuel cowboy dreams

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At the Solid Rock Red Angus ranch in Limon, Colorado, Jared Forgey marveled at the sight of 1,200 head of cattle stretching out as far as he could see. Ahead of him were 22,000 acres of ranchland — a world away from the small farm where he grew up.

“I was in awe of what was ahead of me,” Forgey said. “We don’t have views like this in Indiana.”

Forgey, a senior animal sciences: animal agribusiness major from Flora, Indiana, found his passion while working on the wide open spaces of cattle ranches in the West. He was raised on a small cattle operation, so he already loved working with livestock, but several summer internships out West pointed to what he now feels is his calling. For starters, Forgey said his internships showed him that ranching out West is more of a career or full lifestyle than what he experienced in Indiana.

“We are dealing with large numbers of cattle and huge amounts of acres,” Forgey said. “This isn’t just a farm in your backyard with 40 cows and a small, fenced-in pasture.”

In the summer before his junior year, Forgey lived the full ranching lifestyle in Colorado. From the crack of dawn to very late into the night, Forgey said that every day presented a different experience.

“With 22,000 acres, we are spending hours and traveling miles looking for where our herd even ended up to check on them,” Forgey said.

In Colorado, the rancher and his family were solely responsible for their herd’s well-being, Forgey said. The cattle are their main focus and source of income. Unlike the small farm back home, this family didn’t have an off-farm job to bring in income. This gave Forgey a heightened sense of responsibility.

“The ranch is your whole life, not just something you come home to after your other job, and that is what makes me love it,” Forgey said. “You get to invest your whole heart and energy into these animals.”

After his Colorado experience, Forgey invested more of his own energy into ranching, this time at Five Rivers Cattle Feeding in Dalhart, Texas. Forgey said their 70,000 head of cattle and different business operation also taught him a lot.

“Five Rivers taught me more about the business side of cattle because here everyone had their own job responsibilities and areas,” Forgey said. “In Colorado, you are responsible for every aspect of the cows’ life, but here, everyone had their own job responsibility.”

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Photo by Carley Myers
Jared Forgey, a senior animal sciences major, stands next to a pasture with cattle at a farm near campus. This operation is quite different from the sprawling ranches he interned for over his summers.

The massive Texas operation was divided into four parts, which opened Forgey’s eyes to agribusiness. Forgey enjoyed seeing the combination of the animal care and business worlds in action.

“Spending time in all areas allowed me to learn how it’s possible to care properly for tens of thousands of animals,” he said. “You have to work as a team, because there is no way one person can be in charge of everything.”

Underneath it all, Forgey fell in love with how every day on a ranch is different. Reflecting upon his freshman-year self, Forgey laughed at how back then he never would have of guessed he would find himself on a ranch with thousands of cattle and wide-open ranges. He credits this newfound love to his willingness to step out of his comfort zone.

“I had no idea these opportunities existed before taking a chance one summer,” Forgey said.

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