Sussex in the United States – The Great Beef Breed

Morton Frewen imported 50 Sussex bulls from England to the US by ship to Oregon City, OR; from there they were trailed to the Powder River in Wyoming in the area around Kaycee, WY in the early 1880’s. These bulls were turned with the range cattle to improve the quality of their offspring for future beef sales. In the winter of 1886-1887 there were huge losses due to a severe winter. Frewen trailed the remaining herd to Canada and then on to Lake Superior where they were fattened, harvested and then shipped as meat to England.

The next mention of Sussex was when John Overton Lea (1846-1912), imported Sussex from England to his “Lealand” property near Nashville, TN. He had retired, started his herd in 1884 and also has “America Sussex Registar” which was active from 1889-1906.

In 1898 Tobias Decantillon Wood (1851-1916), who became known for his Sussex Cattle, got a start from an unknown Sussex breeder in Tennessee. Tobias, better known as Tobe, was a banker, cow man and business man from Refugio, TX.

In the late 1980’s Giles W. Pritchard-Gordon, founder of The PeeGee Herd in Sussex, England and the The PeeGee Ranch in Avvada, WY found that a James Lawerence Wood of Refugio, TX had Sussex. Mr. Wood had founded “The Sussex Cattle Association of America.” PeeGee Ranch was able to bring a small hand-full of mature cows and young bulls to Wyoming in the early 1990’s as Mr. Wood’s herd was fading. PeeGee Ranch was started in 1989, importation of PeeGee Keyston 1th semen started the re-birth of Sussex cattle in the US.

PeeGee Ranch History

The initial purchase of the land to start PeeGee Ranch was from the Kendrick Cattle Co. was started by John B. Kendrick (1857-1933) who came up the trail from Texas in 1879 at the age of 22. By hard and good business he was able to purchase the remnants of the Converse Cattle Co. after the disastrous winter of 1886-1887. It is interesting to note that this took place on the northern end of Frewen’s range he had just left. Mr. Kendrick, was able to amass a large amount of grazing land in Wyoming and Montana, on the Badger, Hanging Woman Creeks and Powder River. Powder River contained rough pasture – land and a considerable amount of good land suitable for crops. Kendrick built a dam and canal system that enabled the ranch operation to grow a hay base for winter-feeding. This unit on Powder River was the base property PeeGee Ranch purchased.

Today PeeGee Ranch is an integrated Sussex cow/calf, bull production and testing, replacement heifer production and testing, yearling to go back to grass or to a second party fattening lot and a commercial cow/calf operation. All Sussex cattle on the ranch have complete record to track all purebred bloodlines that have been introduced as semen into the herd from the PeeGee Herd in England. From these records they can compare the performance of the cattle in the various operation with one another.

Both grass cattle an fat cattle have been sold. Cull cows that have been fattened for 61 days had a dry conversion of 5.06 for a daily gain of 6.19 lbs. per day with a cost of gain of $0.51 including all expenses in 2010 when feed costs were higher than usual. A pen of 45 steers were fed 139 days with a daily gain of 4.87 lbs. per day with a dry conversion of 6.11 at a cost of gain of $0.54 cents per pound of gain.  In 2007, 61 head of steers and 14 heifers were put in a feedlot at an average of 961 lbs. and were harvested in March 2008 at an average of 1,444 lbs., of these 4% were prime, 86.7% were choice, 9.3% select and 0% standard.

Since 1996, 2,300+ head of cattle have been fed out and the information shows that a cattleman that uses retained ownership in his operation to improve his bottom line should look at Sussex or Sussex cross cattle. These cattle are moderate framed with an average hot carcass weight of 672 pounds, 12.36 sq. in. ribeye, 2.04 internal fat, with .5 inch back gat and fit the packers’ box. A comment about backfat is some breeds today don’t have this back fat and therefore in the cold north, cattle without this back fat are harder to keep in good condition throughout the winter.  These calves have not been shown in the ring in the US, but some have been sold as club calves for the local fair. Some heifers were showcased in Denver, CO. at the National Western Stock Show in the commercial heifer competition.




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