Managing for success
Maurice and Steve Grogan live the good life: raising quality cattle and caring for the land, while enjoying easy access to fine hunting and fishing. And the father and son manage to do it all within the shadow of the suburban Twin Cities.
The opportunity arose in 1959 when Maurice was hired as manager of Kelley Land and Cattle Company near St. Croix.
“Mr. Kelley said the ranch likely would be developed within 20 years,” Maurice says. “I'm still here, 52 years later.”
James Kelley's grandsons, Kelley and Hampton O'Neill, along with Maurice, and his son, Steve, own the ranch today. Steve Grogan joined as herdsman in 1975 after graduating from the University of Minnesota with an animal science degree.
Maurice had his work cut out for him, taking over 2,670-acres sorely neglected by a previous owner. His priorities were rebuilding miles of fence and soil fertility. “The first year it took six windrows for a bale of hay,” he says.
To utilize the 1,250 acres of lakes, woods, and wetlands in the property, Maurice created a licensed shooting preserve. He added a clubhouse, and in 1965, the Maple Island Hunt Club opened.
He also constructed a 700-head feedlot, installing one of the first pollution-control nutrient management systems in the state. His overall goal was to build a registered Hereford and Red Angus herd.
Steve later used A.I. to fine-tune reproductive efficiencies. He and his wife, Maryann, and their two children exhibited heifers at 4-H and open shows. In the mid-1980s, they began capitalizing on commuter traffic with a sign advertising freezer beef. Maurice's wife, Pat, handles this enterprise and sells 35 to 50 head a year.
They opened a dog training area and now host national dog field trials. “The lakes make it a prime location,” Steve says.
Following Maurice's retirement in 1997, they converted to a commercial bred heifer business. They sold their machinery, seeded cropland to grass, and added high-tensile New Zealand fence to create an intensive rotational grazing system with 55 pastures averaging 28 acres.
“We're more efficient with large groups and multiple bulls per group than running small groups of registered cattle with one bull and DNA'ing calves,” Maurice says.
The bred heifers are sold privately or on Superior Video Auction. Recently, they added a custom grazing business.
They work closely with the U of M, hosting tours and participating in beef research projects and trials. The variety of people-oriented enterprises makes for a unique workweek.
“Things don't stay the same around here for very long,” Steve says.