By Sarah Hill
Photos courtesy Bear Mountain Angus
The Stoller Family has built a herd of moderate, yet high-performing bulls and females that make other Angus breeders take notice.
Some of the best cattle operations started out as 4-H projects, and Bear Mountain Angus, Palisade, Neb., falls into that category. Brian Stoller showed Hereford and Limousin steers for his first year of 4-H in California, launching a passion for the cattle industry that has lasted a lifetime.
During Brian’s second year of 4-H, his dad, Gary, bought him two Angus heifers from the Thomas Angus Ranch in Oregon, and his interest in the Angus breed was cultivated. “The ranch we lived on at the time was called Bear Mountain Ranch, and so we called my operation Bear Mountain Angus,” Brian Stoller said. “I grew up showing and got involved with the California Junior Angus Association, including going to the National Junior Angus Show and being active on a national level.”
By the time Brian left for junior college at San Joaquin Delta College, the operation had grown to a herd of about 100 Angus cows. While finishing his degree at Fresno State University, Gary and his wife, Davy, held a dispersal sale, only keeping a few of their best cows.
The relationships the Stoller family had built during Brian’s show career paid off. In 2001, the family bought a ranch from friends near Melba, Idaho, adding their dozen best cows to a herd of 400. “We stepped in and with guidance from the previous owners and their employees, kept that operation going, hosting a bull sale and making a few changes as needed,” he said.
Five years later, the Stollers sold the land to developers. After originally being told they could stay for a decade, a year and a half after the sale, the family was informed they needed to move in six months.
Once again, show ring relationships saved the day. Gary talked to someone at the National Western Stock Show who introduced them to a realtor. The realtor helped the family purchase their new, 3,700-acre ranch in Nebraska in 2008. The Stollers took 150 cows from their Idaho ranch and made the move. After that change, Brian’s parents retired, and he took over day-to-day operation of the ranch.
Tragically, Gary died in a plane crash in 2012. Davy now resides in California.
Not Chasing Extremes
The Bear Mountain Angus herd has been built back to 350 cows. “It’s a more maternal breed that still has good carcasses and grows well,” Brian said. “They do a lot of things right.”
Brian manages breeding in the herd by either artificially inseminating the cows or implanting them with embryos. He often uses bulls the operation has sent to stud, but also uses outside sires. About 270 cows calve in the spring, with the other 80 calving in the fall. “We want to help our customers by producing bulls and females that will work for our environment,” he said.
The operation hosts an annual bull sale in February, selling about 120 bulls, and a female sale in the fall. Another 30 to 50 bulls are sold through private treaty. At the 2023 annual sale, Bear Mountain North Star was the highest-selling bull, going to Genex for $67,500. The high-selling bull at the 2022 sale, Bear Mountain Pilot, sold for $40,000 to Sitz Angus and Ellingson Angus. Bear Mountain Justice is also in stud with Alta, sired by Bear Mountain Justify.
“We breed most of our females to North Star, Pilot, Justice, and Justify,” Brian said. “Outside of our own genetics, we use Sitz Domain, Ellingson Prolific, and Woodhill Reality.”
After breeding in May, the herd is turned out on grass, supplemented with salt and mineral. During dry conditions, Brian feeds a liquid supplement called Mix30. The herd grazes on cornstalks in the fall as available.
Calves are weaned in late August or September, and females begin calving in January. After calving, females receive a high-roughage, non-starch diet. Bulls are developed without corn; a practice Brian says makes them more adaptable during breeding season. “The bulls seem to hold up better and last longer for customers when they’re not fed corn,” he said.
Brian and his wife, Tiffany, have two daughters. Reagan is currently pursuing a Master’s in Agricultural Communications at Oklahoma State University, and McKinley is 12. The family shows at the National Junior Angus Show, the Nebraska Angus state show, the Nebraska State Fair, and Aksarben.
Spending more time as a family has led the Stollers to host a major cow herd reduction sale this fall. “It’s hard to find help, and we’d like to downsize so we can enjoy life a little more,” Brian said.
Major Herd Reduction Sale:
October 27-28, 2023
At the ranch, Palisade, Neb.
learn more at www.bearmountainangus.com