Commitment runs deep for cattle family

The Dethlefs family: (front row, from left) Aliesha (Dethlefs) Meusch, Kacey Dethlefs and Laurie Dethlefs; (back row) Kenneth “Dutch” Dethlefs, Marian Dethlefs, Emily Dethlefs and Craig Dethlefs.

It has been about far more than cattle for the Dethlefs family. It’s a way of life — one that demonstrates their commitment to the cattle industry and their descendants’ understanding of its importance.

Their commitment runs so deep that even when Craig Dethlefs had a brain tumor in 2014 and was told to stay home by the doctor, he still attended the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic to watch one of his three daughters win the Supreme Champion Bull.

“I was supposed to stay home and not do anything. But I went, thinking Aliesha was going to win, and I wasn’t going to miss that,” Craig said.

When you visit the area at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic where the Dethlefs family’s Angus cattle are resting during the show, you will find the entire family there: Grandpa Kenneth “Dutch,” Grandma Marian, Craig and his wife, Laurie, along with their daughters, Aliesha, Emily and Kacey.

Dutch is proud of them all — he and his father, Carl, started Carl Dethlefs & Sons in 1950 near Rockville, Nebraska, with registered Black Angus cattle, and they’ve shown those cattle at the NCC since it started 29 years ago.

“We have seen a lot of changes in the type of cattle during that time period and been able to meet a lot of really good people,” Dutch said. “That’s the great part, meeting the other breeders.”

Dethlefs Angus Ranch is currently the registered name used by the Dutch Dethlefs family for their venture. Dutch said Dethlefs Angus Ranch began in 1965 when they moved to the Henry Ranch south of Poole, Nebraska. They now live across the South Loup River from that first ranch after acquiring the Tillson Ranch, located near Ravenna. Dutch and Marian had six children and celebrate 16 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

“Branding time is the big family gathering,” Dutch added. “We have all just been very enthusiastic about the cattle industry.”

In 2016, Craig and his family moved back to Ravenna after he retired as a veterinarian due to his health. They are currently helping at the ranch full time. Dutch, Marian, Craig and Laurie have thoroughly enjoyed watching their descendants be associated with cattle in some fashion throughout their lives.

Aliesha has pursued the livestock industry as her entire career.

“I started showing cattle when I was four years old and have never looked back,” Aliesha said. “My dad, Craig, got my sisters and I into it after Grandpa Dutch got him into showing in 4-H, FFA and the National Junior Angus Association. Dad was involved with Grandpa Dutch on the local, state and national level. It has always been a family affair.”

After graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a major in agricultural communications and animal science, Aliesha continues to devote her career to the ag industry in her role at Nebraska Extension in Platte County where she works with their 4-H program, focusing on livestock.

At Extension, Aliesha works with livestock youth in Platte County, performing weigh-ins for shows, preparing projects for the county fair and visiting the local school to work with kindergarten through fourth-graders on ag literacy.

“I give a lot of credit to the National Junior Angus Association and Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic for shaping who I am today,” Aliesha said. “We have had a representative at the Classic every year from our family. My sisters and I started selling through the show sale and took part in the junior show on the weekend. The Classic is a place where our hard work pays off. It’s a good way to market cattle and has allowed us to have some success and really get our name out there.”

Aliesha continues to watch her sisters show and is also involved with the new Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic Young Cattlemen board, a program that Classic director, Ronette K. Bush-Heinrich, had the vision to bring together.

She said they formed the Youth Cattlemen’s Board with Bush-Heinrich this past fall. Filled with members from different parts of the cattle industry from production to feedlot, the Board is a place where younger cattlemen and women can share their perspectives. They hope the younger generations will help shape the Classic into a better event each year.

Laurie and Craig are excited to see their daughter part of leading the next generation.

“It’s just something that we all embraced,” Laurie said about the cattle industry. “The Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic and other cattle shows became our annual ‘showcations.’”

“It’s our family’s passion,” Craig added.

Aliesha agreed, as her sisters smiled next to the cattle behind her, that there is a future in the cattle industry if you are willing to work for it.

“If it is something you really want to do, you can find a way to do it,” she said. “Find a way to build your herd and your passion.”

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Kerry Hoffschneider can be reached at