CORRECTIONVILLE, Iowa — Jessica Wilson raised her first bucket calf in 1988. She probably didn’t realize it would be the first of many calves she would have a hand in developing on her family’s western Iowa farm.
“She has always been very good at taking care of cattle,” says her father, Craig Utesch.
Raising that first calf was the beginning of their father-daughter partnership. Today, Jessica and her husband Cody are partners in Triple U Ranch with her parents, Craig and Elaine, as well as her uncle and his wife, Kirk and Barbara Utesch.
The ranch, which raises primarily Simmental and Angus cattle, was started by Craig’s parents and grandparents in 1946.
Craig and his brothers, Kirk and Brad, were partners on the farm, which also includes a feedlot and row crops. Brad passed away in 2017, and Jessica and Cody bought into the partnership. Cody manages the feedlot operation, while Jessica and Craig work together on the cow-calf side. Kirk oversees the grain operation.
After receiving a degree in animal science from Iowa State University, and spending a semester working on her master’s degree, Jessica returned to the farm after the death of her grandfather.
“Dad went in the role that Grandpa had, and I went into the role Dad used to do,” she says. “I had intended to go to veterinary school, but this is something I wanted to do.”
Craig says it seemed natural that when Jessica returned to the farm, she would work closely with the cows.
“It seems like every calf she raised would have a lot of daughters. She probably owned a fourth of the cows we have,” Craig says. “When they bought into the farm, she had to give up some of her share, which I’m sure was tough for her.”
Jessica say she had a lot of ideas on how to improve the seedstock operation when she first came home.
“We made some changes, but now I find we are circling back to doing some of the things the way we used to do them,” she says. “You have to stay flexible.”
In addition to using more artificial insemination, Jessica has also started working with embryo transfers. Along with preserving herd genetics, Craig says the embryos may be used to produce cattle for Jessica’s children to show in the future.
She says the size of the cow herd was over 200 head at one time.
“We have cut back on numbers. With the kids now, I just don’t have the time I once had, and that’s OK,” Jessica says.
Feedlot numbers have grown recently after the family purchased another location.
The family is also passionate about the environment and ensuring the land remains in great shape as more generations become involved.
They were honored in 2000 as the Environmental Stewardship Award winners by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Craig says bringing Jessica and Cody into the operation has worked out well, and he says working with his daughter has been rewarding.
“I think the key is communication and listening to everyone,” he says. “During calving season, we will talk several times a day. We have a family business meeting every month.
“It’s important to have everyone on the same page. That’s what makes it all work.”