By Cheryl Kepes
Photos courtesy Chas Wheeler
Chas Wheeler lives a life beautifully balanced between his two childhood loves - auctioneering and Angus.
Chas Wheeler was just shy of being a teenager when he worked his first auction. While many people spend decades or longer searching for their ideal career path, Chas locked in his dream job during childhood. “I actually started selling with Bodine Auction Company when I was just 12 years old, and I have been doing it ever since,” Chas Wheeler explained. He received formal training at the ripe old age of 13, by attending auction school at the Worldwide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa.
Angus and Auction Roots
Chas owns Wheeler Auctions and Real Estate as well as Wheeler Angus both located in Paris, Mo. Similar to his early developed passion for auctioneering, Chas grew up with a love for Angus cattle. His grandparents, Charles and Ladonna Vitt, operated a purebred, registered Angus herd for decades. “My grandmother (Ladonna Vitt) will be 98 years old in August and she still is the head of the farm here, which is pretty amazing,” Chas said. “And she would tell you for an anniversary, Christmas, or birthday she might get a cow,” Chas added with a chuckle.
The Vitts started their Angus herd in the 1950s in Paris, Mo., managing as many as 600 momma cows at the height of their operation. “I used to go to purebred cattle sales with my grandfather, Charles, and I always had a love for the cattle and the auction business both and was always fascinated by the process,” Chas recalled.
Throughout his teenage years Chas forged ahead in the auctioneering business. At the age of 18, he bought half of a sale barn operation. In the decades to come Chas’s auction business flourished through hard work, supportive business partners, and helpful mentors. During those years with his focus so keenly on the development of the auction business, coupled with other factors, the family’s Angus cattle herd started to shrink in size. “We always had some cattle around, but they were kind of an afterthought than more of a forethought, I guess you might say,” Chas explained.
But then 10 years ago Chas’s wife, Misty, and sons, Rance and Ross, showed an interest in rebuilding the herd and adding a string of competitive show cattle. Thus, igniting a resurgence of a registered Angus herd, reminiscent of Chas’s grandparents’ operation.
Currently, the Wheeler family manages 300 registered Angus momma cows on 2,000 acres of owned and rented property in Paris, Mo., and the surrounding area. “We are primarily
going for a performance-based herd, my wife loves the show business quite a bit, and we do have some really exciting show donor dams that we have a gentleman managing for us,” Chas said. The family has already achieved much show ring success, including winning grand champion Angus female at numerous national shows.
The Wheeler family keeps the performance cattle at their family farm in Paris, Mo. The Wheelers started to rebuild their cattle operation with the acquisition of several smaller herds of registered Angus cattle. Most recently, the Wheelers purchased a group of registered Angus females from Jud Baldridge, owner of Baldridge Performance Angus. “We like the way that operation (Baldridge Performance Angus) mirrors what my grandfather used to have here – they are real world cattle. We have been very impressed with the purchase that we made there,” Chas said.
Additionally, the Wheelers are working to improve the genetics of the cattle they already own. The Wheelers are selecting matings to advance their animals’ pedigrees and dollar indexes, while simultaneously evaluating their animals based on phenotype. Wheeler Angus has also infused genetics from SITZ Angus, SydGen, and Connealy just to name a few.
The Wheelers appreciate “big-footed, good-looking cattle” with a solid number profile. “We are just trying to make cattle better here every day for what our customer base is,” Chas stated. “Our customers kind of demand cattle still have some longevity and the look and aren’t so terminal.”
The operation runs with spring and fall calving seasons. All females are AIed one time. “We AI everything on a timed protocol; we don’t have enough staff to heat detect every day, so it is what we have to do, and it has worked well for us,” Chas said. “And then we come back with as good of bulls as we can afford to buy.”
The breeding program also consists of embryo transfer work. Wheeler Angus utilizes conventional and IVF flushing. Currently, there are a dozen donor females in their donor program. The Wheelers’ goal for this year is to implant 80 to 100 embryos in recip cows. Their recip cows are purebred females from their program that miss the mark when it comes to dollar indexes, or they are cows purchased from other operations.
Lay of the Land
When the Wheelers started to grow their Angus herd back to the numbers of generations past, they incurred a temporary roadblock. To expand the herd, the Wheelers needed more pastureland. And in their neck of the woods, pastureland was in short supply.
Undeterred, the Wheeler family took an unconventional approach to acquiring fields for grazing livestock. “We took two or three farms that were row crop or CRP farms and we put them back into grass. That’s a little odd, it would have made more money to leave them the way they were,” Chas lightheartedly explained.
The predominant forage throughout Wheeler Angus’s acreage is fescue. The operation produces most of its own hay, but purchases higher-quality hay to mix with what they grow to ensure their cattle receive a nutritious product.
In addition, the Wheelers grow, chop, and store corn silage. From time to time, they produce wet hay and chop triticale, rye, or wheat. During the winter, the cattle are fed primarily a corn silage with a ration of soybean hulls, corn gluten, and other add-ins to make a balanced ration.
Wheeler Angus hosts an annual production sale the second Saturday of December at the Wheeler Angus Sale Facility in Paris, Mo. As one would probably surmise, Chas’s devotion to the auction business compels him to market his cattle through the auction process. “We get approached about selling bulls privately, but I believe in the auction business so much and price discovery that, that’s the way we are going to do a strong 90 percent of our cattle sales,” Chas added.
Wheeler Angus’s production sale showcases 65 to 70 registered females, plus commercial females, and 30 or more bulls. Their bulls are sold at 18 to 24 months of age after being managed at their bull development facility. Occasionally, Wheeler Angus offers up genetic packages at specialty consignment sales.
Chas’s childhood experiences attending cattle sales with his grandfather sparked a fire for auctioneering that burns brightly to this day. After working for auction companies, building partnerships, and securing representatives, Chas has operated his own auction business, Wheeler Auctions and Real Estate, for more than 20 years.
The company serves as a real estate, land, machinery, and equipment auction house. Chas and his team hold auctions near company headquarters in Paris, Mo., as well as in other parts of the Midwest. Wheeler Auctions and Real Estate hosts two major farm machinery sales each year. “We think the machinery sales are the largest one-day auctions in the United States. The last sale we had here had 3,400 lots,” Chas stated. Wheeler Auctions ran five sale rings that day from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The company estimates there were 5,000 to 6,000 people on site and more than 2,500 online for the one-day sale. “They have become really highly, stressful events,” Chas joked.
Each day brings new challenges and successes for Chas in both his Angus and auctioneering endeavors. Looking ahead, Chas plans to continue on a path of improving the quality of the family’s cow herd and developing the auction business. And no doubt, he’ll be moving forward every step of the way with the wisdom he gleaned from his grandparents as his guide.
Annual Production Sale:
Second Saturday in December at the Wheeler Angus sale facility, Paris, Mo.
learn more at www.wheelerauctions.com