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Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska

Rancher Profile - Dale Spencer

February 18, 2013Beef

One hundred and twenty six years of ranching doesn’t happen by chance.  Enduring and proposing through natural disasters and economic upheavals is certain to provide knowledge that can be drawn upon in helping lead an association of your peers.  Also, sustaining and evolving a business through more than a century of challenges says a lot about a family’s skills and character. Such is Dale Spencer’s background – a registered Hereford breeder located seven miles east of Brewster; between Broken Bow and Ainsworth.

Spencer Herefords has existed since Dale’s great-great grandparents Fred and Alvira Spencer homesteaded the ranch in 1886. Alvira’s parents and her brothers and their families homesteaded adjoining land. They all came here from Iowa, bringing with them their cattle of Durham and Shorthorn base.  Fred purchased his first registered Hereford bull in 1897, liked them and purchased nothing but registered Hereford bulls after that for his herd.  Spencer Ranch commercial cattle were sold as yearling and highly sought after and respected by Iowa feedlots and cattle feeders. This practice continued with Fred’s son Roy Spencer who took over the operation. After the passing of Roy, his sons Don, Jerry and Ted continued with the ranching operation and would often go back to Iowa and visit the cattle feeders that were feeding their cattle. The three operated the ranch together until it was divided in the early 1970s.  Don and his wife Doris had three sons, Mike, Dale and Dan. Mike lives and works in Lincoln, but is partnered with Dale in the operation in Brewster, Dan passed away in 2005 and Dale returned to the operation after graduating from the University of Nebraska.  Dale enjoys all aspects of ranching, especially the marketing. “People ask why we provide free delivery of our bulls. We do this for the opportunity to see their operation. We also like to attend auction market sales to see how the genetics are working.  My kids say that when I go to high school sporting events I spend half the time on the opponents’ side.  There’s some truth to that I guess because I like to visit with people whenever there’s an opportunity to.”

Dale says his parents were progressive and adopted rotational grazing in the 1960s. Today, Dale says, “We only ranch. We turned two pivots from crops back to grass about 10 years ago, introducing cool season grass to complement production when Sandhills grass is dormant. We also stopped haying and we moved our calving to April. We use some day labor, but do the rest ourselves.

In addition to raising cattle, the Spencer’s have provided beef on the retail.  They were partners in Doc Middleton’s Steakhouse in Brewster from 1987 to 1993.  That experience led to Dale serving on the Nebraska Beef Council from 1999 to 2007, serving as chair from 2001 to 2003.  He has also been very involved in the industry by serving as vice chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Cattlemen Beef Board Joint Adverting Committee, as a member of the NCBA Executive Committee and NCBA –CBB Joint Evaluation Committee. Dale was also director on the American Hereford Association Board.

As Dale approaches the start of his term as Nebraska Cattlemen President, he says he is both proud and humbled to serve such an organization.  “Nebraska Cattlemen has established a record of stepping up to the plate and offering solutions to many issues in the industry.  I want to help communicate that. I also want to promote unity within the beef industry.  We all have passion for this industry and want to leave a viable business for the next generation. I intend to spend some of my tenure as Nebraska Cattlemen President being an advocate for unity and promoting our beef producers.”