Cattle at the Shovel Dot Ranch—about 30 miles south of Bassett, Neb.—evolved to English crossbreds by design. They gain less than the English X Continental crossbreds the Buells tried for a few years—using Charolias bulls as a terminal cross. But, the genetic profile of the English crossbreds—heavily demanded at the Bassett Livestock Auction—and the ability to hit a July-August marketing window make them more profitable at Shovel Dot.
Along with seas of grass for summer grazing, the Shovel Dot Ranch is blessed with sub-irrigated hay flats that yield their winter feed.
Shovel Dot Ranch cows calve starting May 1. Calves are weaned in September and October. They run on hay flats fenced with hot wire until about the first of November, gaining about a pound a day. Then, the calves head into the Buell’s backgrounding program after being divvied up into three groups: heavy steers, light steers and heavy heifers, light heifers.
This one-room school on the Shovel Dot Ranch was where Homer and Larry Buell received their primary education—along with other kids in the community.
Homer and Larry Buell’s grandparents used teams of horses to build this lake at the Shovel Dot Ranch. The cabin in the upper right is the site for lots of Buell gatherings.
“Our father and grandfather sold 2-year-old steers. Each generation has taken that part of the business and refined it and done it differently,” explains Homer Buell (right), who has managed the Shovel Dot Ranch with his brother Larry (left) for 40 years. For them, doing it differently encompasses everything from intensive grazing management to targeting specific market weights and times.
Here in the Nebraska Sandhills, you see a veritable ocean of grass in all directions. It was a love of the land and eye for potential that captivated Homer and Larry Buell's great grandparents who homesteaded here in the 1880s on the site of what would become the Shovel Dot Ranch. Today, the fifth generation of Buells directs ranching operations.