Wagonhammer Ranch - Rooted in Innovation

Focused on innovation to produce quality cattle

You could say Alex Wolf, his dad Jay, and the employees at the Wagonhammer Ranch near Albion, Nebraska, are in the seed stock and commercial cattle business, and they are, but they’re really in the people business.

Wagonhammer Ranch cattle drive

Located in the Nebraska Sandhills town of Albion, Wagonhammer Ranch is home to four generations of Wolf cattlemen, plus Angus, Charolais, Simmental and SimAngus cattle. 

“We really place a lot of value on our employees and hiring and developing good people and retaining them,” Alex says. “That’s important to us. We have a long history of the community being good to us and us giving back to the community. We place a lot of value on our relationships with our people, our community, and our customers.”

And then, of course, there are all the people who enjoy the beef from the cattle the Wagonhammer ranch produces. People the folks at the ranch will never meet, but people every bit as important. Which brings us back to the cattle business.

“We’re able to see the impacts that our decisions have all the way through the chain and make sure we’re producing cattle that work in all phases.” – Alex Wolf

“We’re involved in all aspects of cattle production, from the conception and genetics side all the way through to the feedyard. That provides some neat benefits; we’re able to see the impacts that our decisions have all the way through the chain and make sure we’re producing cattle that work in all phases,” Alex says.

Wagonhammer Ranch feed lot

The Wolfs have implemented a carcass evaluation and collect data on cattle from conception to harvest to analyze performance across the whole supply chain.

From the dust

The Wagonhammer Ranch grew out of the Dust Bowl and the entrepreneurial spirit of Julius and Max Wolf, two brothers who immigrated from Germany in 1895. “They were 14 and 16 years old and came over with nothing,” according to Alex. They did have a relative in Boone County, Nebraska, where they settled and started trading draft horses and cattle.

“They worked up enough money to buy their first farm in 1904 here in Boone County,” Alex says. “Then they proceeded to start feeding cattle here at Albion, so they were some of the earliest cattle feeders.” As the operation expanded, the brothers bought cattle from across the West and shipped them to Albion.

Wagonhammer Ranch history images

Brothers Julius and Max Wolf immigrated to Boone County, Nebraska, from Germany in 1985, and started trading draft horses and cattle. They bought their first farm in 1904 and were some of the earliest cattle feeders in Albion.

“Once cattle got to Albion, they fed some themselves, but they also sold cattle to local farmers,” he continues. “And in many cases, they would buy the cattle back after the farmers fattened them up and would ship them to Chicago to the stockyards.”

Then came the Dust Bowl. While the extreme drought wreaked havoc on many farmers in 1930s, the Wolfs saw opportunity amidst the dust. 

“When the Dust Bowl came, a lot of farmers gave up and that’s when my great grandpa and his brother saw the value in that land for grazing cattle and they started putting the ranch together.” – Alex Wolf

Alex’ grandfather, Jim, started developing registered Angus and Charolais herds in the 1960s. “He was an early adopter of artificial insemination and performance testing,” Alex says. “And so, our seedstock herds have been built from the ’60s through the present day.”

photo of cattle in pasture

Registered Angus cattle were introduced to Wagonhammer Ranch in the 1960s. With the addition of Simmental genetics, SimAngus bulls and females are now offered to customers.

Onward and upward

The family ethics of innovation and early adoption continue a century later. “We’re doing a lot of cool, innovative things when it comes to embryo transplant and the use of blended and fresh semen, led by Joe Epperly.” 

“We’re doing a carcass evaluation where we’re tracking cattle from conception all the way to hanging on the rail at the packing plant and collecting and evaluating the data across the whole supply chain.” – Alex Wolf

In addition, they’re testing bulls for feed efficiency. “We know that’s such an important economic trait and it’s one that, to date, hasn’t had a lot of good data collected. That will be a major factor in our genetic selection going forward,” he says.

“We were also some of the early adopters of rotational grazing at the ranch, so we’ve really gained a lot of efficiencies with grazing and being able to graze more cattle on the same amount of land. We found not only is it more efficient for our operation, but the rangeland is in better shape than it used to be.”

Windmill and river with sunset

The Wolfs were early adopters of rotational grazing, and those efficiencies have resulted in rangeland that is in better shape than before.

The legacy Angus and Charolais herds lives on, and they have added Simmental and offer Sim-Angus bulls and females to their customers. The Wagonhammer annual bull sale is March 15, 2023. Additionally, a commercial herd of Angus and Charolais genetics allow for an offering of and commercial bred heifers.

Men sitting at table during auction

Wagonhammer Ranches’ upcoming annual bull sale is March 15, 2023.

Alex is the fourth generation to put down roots in the Nebraska Sandhills, but he left boot prints in the hallowed halls of Harvard before coming home.

photo of Alex Wolfe

Fourth-generation cattleman Alex Wolf returned home to manage his family’s Wagonhammer Ranch in the summer of 2022, after several years in the grain business and degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Harvard University.

After graduating from the College of Agriculture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he got a job as a business manager trainee in grain merchandising. “I did that for about three years, and then I decided to leave the work force temporarily and get an MBA. So, I did that at Harvard and graduated from there in 2015.”

He returned to grain trading and managing a grain business for several years. Then, in the summer of 2022, the road home called and he moved back to the ranch, got engaged and is looking forward to living his dream. “It was always my lifetime dream and goal to end up back here at Wagonhammer. I am very excited to be here and excited about what’s to come.”

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