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Bests selling cow dog puppies – and Angus heifers, bulls

Bests selling cow dog puppies – and Angus heifers, bulls

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – At Best Angus and Quarter Horses, Vawnita and Pete Best have been readying Angus commercial bred heifers and 18-month-old registered Angus bulls for the Badlands Angus Alliance sale at Stockmen’s Livestock in Dickinson, N.D.

The Bests work with two other seedstock breeders for the sale, the Talkingtons of Talkington Angus and the Strommens of Strommen Ranch.

“We’ve enjoyed the partnership with the Strommens and the Talkingtons, and it has been a lot of fun working with those two ranches,” Vawnita said.

In addition to that sale, the Bests’ Hangin’ Tree female, Rayna, had her puppies on Nov. 18. She had nine puppies – seven females and two males. The females are available for sale.

“We raise Angus cattle, Quarter Horses, and working cow dogs,” Vawnita said. “We had our first litter a couple of years ago, and it was a small one, but everybody loved them. They loved them so much that some of them called and wanted a second puppy out of Rayna and Axel.”

The Hangin’ Tree cattle dogs will be ready by Christmas, and they not only make good cow dogs, but they are great family dogs, as well, Vawnita said. For those interested in seeing the puppies, visit their website at

In addition to preparing for puppy and cattle sales, the Bests have finished weaning their calves and giving fall vaccinations.

Vawnita’s sister, Kim Murphy, and her brother-in-law, Lee, work with them on the ranch. They have two children, Jaden, 13, and Morgan, 10.

“Their children are in 4-H with our son, Kyle, and they are like siblings, showing hogs and cattle together,” she said.

The Bests also have extra help from Tracy Davis (married to Jon), who has been with them for five years.

“Ever since I went back to work, Tracy has been doing some of the day-to-day operations and she is pretty important to our operation,” Vawnita said. “We also have a local college graduate, Justin Dahl, who started his own Angus herd, Dahl Angus. He moved back home and comes out and helps us a couple of times a week. Justin will start selling with us in 2022.”

In addition, Pete’s mom, Sue, is the “camp cook,” and keeps everyone well fed, Vawnita said.

At the ranch, the Bests had already weaned calves a little early due to the drought this year.

“We weaned a little early, gave fall shots and now have everything on feed,” she said.

The Angus bull calves are at home and in their ranch feedlot.

“Starting a couple of years ago, we began developing our sale bulls at home,” Vawnita said.

The Bests have some acreage they use to raise corn silage on. Last year, they had a very good crop, and they have a lot of carryover silage from 2020.

In addition, the Bests partner with a feedlot in the Yellowstone Valley for their replacement heifers and other calves.

“We send everything else over to a custom feedlot, Pesek Farms, which is on the edge of the Yellowstone Valley between Sidney (Mont.) and Watford City,” Vawnita said. “Monte and David have been great partners of ours.”

The Bests aren’t able to grow enough feed for the amount of cattle they have due to the topography of the Badlands.

With their cowherd, the Bests have the cows on a year-long rotation for range management.

“We’re a couple months ahead of normal. We’ll be feeding hay now starting in December, but there is still some grass for grazing,” Vawnita said. “Typically, we wouldn’t need to start feeding hay until February or March, but we are just out of grass.”

The cows continue to stay out on range during the fall and winter, and the Bests supplement them as needed.

“We’ve been chopping hay and straw for the cows, along with providing some supplemental energy and protein,” she said.

Vawnita talked about what it was like for her growing up on this ranch in the rustic Badlands with her parents, Kurt and Rita Hovet.

“For me and my sister, Kim, it felt like growing up in the biggest backyard in the world – a lot of fun,” she said. “We got to do all the ranch activities, especially riding. Horses were always part of the operation, and we were frequently out riding horses with Dad.”

Vawnita has been riding horses longer than she can remember. She has a photo her Mom took of her as a preschooler riding her father’s retired roping horse.

“The photo was of my first big roundup. We run on government allotments in the Badlands and when we gather in the fall, it is nine or so ranches that run on these common allotments,” Vawnita said. “I was 3 or 4 at the time and I was riding my dad’s retired rope horse.”

As teens, the sisters helped their father work cattle on horseback, including moving cows around during calving, moving cattle through the rangeland, branding calves, and other cattle work conducted on the rough terrain.

During the 1980s, Vawnita was aware of some of the difficulties with ranching and farming in the exceptionally dry weather during those decades when it was difficult to grow grass.

The Bests, along with many North Dakota producers, experienced those same dry conditions this year.

In the back of her mind, when she was thinking about college and a career, Vawnita didn’t consider operating a ranch of her own at the time.

“It was the 1980s and there was a pretty decent drought going on at that time. There wasn’t much going on economically in western North Dakota at the time, so I think a lot of ranch kids were encouraged to just get away and get their education because ranching was a tough life financially and physically,” she said.

When Vawnita left for North Dakota State University (NDSU), she knew she wanted a career in agriculture.

“I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do in agriculture, but I was leaning toward finance, banking, and ag lending,” she said.

At the NDSU College of Agriculture, Vawnita decided to go into ag economics.

“However, there wasn’t a connection for me with economics, so I took a couple of classes in animal science, and I really enjoyed the production and science component of it,” she said.

That changed her mind and production ag was her choice for a career from that point on. Some of the studies Vawnita was drawn to included animal nutrition, genetics, and production ag.

Vawnita liked finding that niche marketing production side of agriculture, and she continues with that today on the ranch.

“We sell beef from the ranch, so we have found a production niche market,” she said.

On the ranch, as the winter season approaches, the Bests are preparing for whatever weather might occur in the upcoming months.

In addition to her on-the-farm work, Vawnita enjoys her off-the-farm job at Northern States Fishing Tools, and especially working with some nice people.

“When our son (Kyle) was young, I took some time off, but I have gone back to work for the last few years. I work for a service company for the oil industry,” she said. “We provide hands or tool supervisors (people) to troubleshoot wells that are having problems with production.”

For Thanksgiving, Vawnita’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, Lyle and Sue, who live on the Best ranch, will be hosting many of the family’s relatives for dinner.

“I get to cook the turkey, and it is probably the only time all year long that we eat fowl,” she added.

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