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  • Megan Silveira, associate editor

An Undeniable Truth

Angus breeders find strength in partnerships. 

There are things that just aren’t questioned in life. 

The grass is green, the sky is blue and, we all know, the sun rises each morning. 

For cattlemen who have chosen to work in tandem with a peer, there’s one other undeniable truth: successful partnerships in the Business Breed are rooted in trust. 

Partners in performance, friends in the everyday 

Fred Penick is the third generation in his family to raise Angus cattle near Hebron, Ohio. When Fred was working alongside his father, as he forged his own path in the industry, he found a fresh face in the crowd at one of his Way View Cattle Company female sales. 

At just 12 years old, Dave Felumlee bought his first Angus heifer from Penick’s family. Though he knew the $450 purchase was a good one, he had no idea it would serve to shape the rest of his life. 

Felumlee had grown up on a dairy operation with a herd of commercial beef cattle, but a change in the county fair’s rules required registration papers for animals to be exhibited. He’d heard of the Penicks through his father and a few mutual connections, and once he’d bought his heifer, he wasn’t keen on letting the relationship fizzle out. 

“I gleaned a lot of knowledge from them,” Felumlee recalls, recounting tales of visits from the family to check his progress with the heifer. “I got along really well with the Penick family, and they helped me a lot. As I got older, I actually helped them with some shows and things like that, and I got to be extremely good friends with them.”

He and Penick often ended up on opposite ends of the telephone line. 

“I kind of used him as a mentor a lot growing up and really gained a lot of knowledge from him,” Felumlee says. “Fred and I learned that we could work together pretty well — that we see cattle the same way, we could talk cattle the same way. We started trading knowledge pretty early, and that evolved from trading knowledge into, ‘hey, I found a pretty good cow. I think she’d make a heck of a good donor cow. You interested in partnering on her?’” 

Penick, 20 years Felumlee’s senior, watched as the budding cattleman found his own in the industry, forming Claylick Run Farm. Their two operations sat about 20 miles down the road from one another, and Penick says their strong relationship experienced a slight shift over the years. 

“When it started out, it was more him relying on me. Now, the generation has turned around, and I’m the older one. I rely on him,” Penick says, noting it was a smooth transition from mentor and student to equals. 

The two bought bulls and females together, offered advice on mating decisions and even shared some pasture ground. 

“We’re close enough to work together like that,” Felumlee explains, adding those past instances gave him the courage to pitch a new business venture to Penick 14 years ago. 

Despite having put a stop to his own production sales in the early 2000s, the idea of the Partners in Performance production sale intrigued the older producer. By putting their top end bulls in a single offering, they’d have a total of 60 high-quality bulls, which Felumlee describes as the perfect amount to draw local and national customers alike.  

Since the first sale, he and Penick have been tapping into a wider market and forming connections. 

Penick says there’s no set procedure when it comes to prepping for the sale. Each breeder brings their bulls for the year and they sort them together. Any lingering debates on sale order are handled by their sale manager. In the end, however, the partners always alternate their animals in the lineup. 

“You’re always scared when you put the bull sale together with another operation. How are the bulls going to match up on paper? How are the bulls going to match up phenotypically when we gather body condition [scores]?” Felumlee admits. “We always worry about that, but it’s one of those deals that we’ve worked with each other so long you get [the animals] here and you’re like ‘oh, OK.’ The bulls are peas in a pod. We pull ear tags out and you’re not going to sort them. It comes together.” 

Felumlee says there’s a comfort and familiarity that comes from working together for so many years. It’s the trust he has in Penick (and vice versa) that allows them to work so seamlessly. 

“Having [Fred as a] mentor from the get-go made for my ability to be what I feel is a respectable Angus breeder,” he adds. “But it’s also become a partnership that’s allowed both of us to expand our marketing operations, and I’m just grateful for that.” 

For Penick, there’s a mutual respect and understanding that’s allowed his partnership with Felumlee to thrive. They’ve always supported each other, and even if they choose to “agree to disagree,” Penick says he knows they’re always moving towards a common goal. 

“That’s what makes a relationship or partners, I think, actually work,” he explains. “You are not always going to agree with your partner, but there is an agreement between you — a strong relationship … we support each other and work with each other.”

Their connection extends beyond the cattle industry, too, making the relationship just a little bit more special in Felumlee’s eyes. 

“We’ve got to just be good personal friends along with the cattle business,” he says. “That makes it so much easier, because we’re long-term together. It’s not just a business thing … it’s a part of the Angus family.” 

It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared amongst Angus breeders across the country who have chosen to work together. 

Walking forward, together 

Just a few months before her wedding to Jeff Antczak, Charlotte mentioned to her fiance she enjoyed the quiet peace of country living. 

“Next thing I knew, we came home and he started putting up fence posts,” she laughs. 

Jeff says he’d always wanted to raise cattle, and when the couple took the leap in 2012, Antczak Angus was established near Chetek, Wis. 

“I believe we only had six cows to begin with,” Charlotte explains. “The idea was that it was just going to be a little hobby, and it is much more than a hobby now.” 

The 2024 herd boasts about 200 mama cows. Rapid herd growth had Jeff traveling sale to sale around the country. In September 2020, he found himself in a lunch line at a production sale next to Kevin Ruland, Hollow Point Angus, Mauston, Wis. 

Ruland followed Antczak Angus on social media, and took the opportunity to pick Jeff’s brain. The discussion couldn’t be contained to the lunch table, and after the sale concluded, the two found themselves sharing a couple drinks. 

“Jeff came back and had a new friend,” Charlotte jokes. “I guess they were soulmates.”

Jeff came home with more than a new relationship, however. He and Ruland also concocted a business plan in that one evening. 

“We had a common need in the fact that we had more bulls than we had the opportunity to market through the state bull tests and individual private treaty,” Ruland explains, noting the restrictions of the Wisconsin area both operations call home.   

The pair decided to host a production sale together. They figured the combined numbers would draw a bigger crowd, and settled on having an online sale with the first round of beverages. By the time the two called it quits for the evening, they planned  to invite customers to Antczak’s property for a live auction just a few months later.

Though there were some hectic moments given the short time Ruland and Jeff had to plan, both were so happy with the inaugural event that they’ve made it an annual tradition.

“Really, a friendship at that point kind of began,” Ruland says. “I think we pretty much talk about every day about cows in one aspect or another.” 

Jeff says they both appreciate “cool cows,” attractive animals that still perform on paper and on the rail. Ruland says they want to produce cattle that hit Prime every time and still look “like a million dollars standing in the pasture.” 

Jeff knew his old acquaintance, Steven Rooney, was trying to do the same.

Steven and his son, Jake, run Rooney Angus Ranch near Chippewa Falls, Wis., and had both bought and sold cattle under the Antczak name. So, two effortlessly became three.  

“We’re able to do that together because our programs align with one another so well,” Jake explains. “The foundation of that is morals and values … it really helps add to the story that we can do it together.” 

With every new day, Steven says their partnership and friendship continue to solidify. 

“The more time we spend together, the more things we find we have in line with one another,” he adds. 

When Jeff and Charlotte find new avenues of success, they’re quick to share. 

The couple opened Antczak Angus Meat Shop in 2020. The retail shop allowed their customers to enjoy locally raised Angus beef without having to buy a quarter or half of an animal. 

Ruland sold quarters and halves to friends and family previously, so when Jeff encouraged him to consider opening a retail shop of his own, it didn’t take much convincing. The cattleman opened High Steaks, a meat shop featuring a bar and grill, in August 2023. As that shop took off in popularity, it’s no surprise Jake’s phone rang next. 

“Jeff called me last winter, and he said there was a realtor bothering him about going to take a look at a meat processing facility that was for sale,” Jake recalls. “He wanted me to come with him and take a look at it.”

Jeff says the acquisition would offer more control of the entire beef production chain, and it was an opportunity Jake says he couldn’t pass up. Neither individual had much experience in meat processing, so Jeff also invited Brent, the owner of a local business, Almena Meat Company. 

The facility wasn’t exactly what Jeff had hoped, but at dinner, Brent threw the Angus breeders a bone. Jake says he was pleasantly surprised when the option to buy Almena was presented. 

“We’ve always been chasing the dream of farm to table,” Steven adds, noting the venture seemed perfect for Jake. “I just thought it would be a good time for [Jake and Jeff] to marry up and put this thing together. I could help them from the cattle side of things.” 

January marked the first month of business with the new business owners, and while there’s a lot to learn, Jake says their operations now have “total control” from the day calves hit the ground to the day beef is put on the dinner table. 

“Jeff and Charlotte have been direct to consumer for a while now … which was a big piece of mind for me. They’ve been successful in lots of different business ventures outside the Angus business, so that was definitely a sense of security,” he explains, adding Steven to the mix, too. “My dad’s done very well, and obviously I respect his opinions and appreciate his support and guidance in any of the questions we have. He’s definitely a good sounding board.” 

The new acquisition will support a calf buyback program for Antczak Angus, Hollow Point Angus and Rooney Angus. All three will now have access to carcass data that’ll not only prove the quality of the beef they’re selling, but also help improve future breeding decisions on their respective operations. 

It’s proof that when they work together, the Antczaks, Ruland and the Rooneys know they’ll all never settle for anything less than the best — whether it’s beef, bulls or their word as cattlemen. 

“The best product is the easiest to sell,” Jeff explains, adding it’s also, “the one that you want to stand behind.” 


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