Workforce Spotlight: Shane Jurgensen

Couser Cattle Company’s cattle manager, Shane Jurgensen, is a unique kind of ag professional.

“I’m not a farmer,” he said. “My brother’s a farmer. Farmers do row crops. My focus is cattle, and there’s not a lot of ag people who have their only thing as working with cattle.”
Shane has been working for Couser Cattle Company, located north of Nevada along S-14, since September of 2011. He and his wife, Amber, and their two daughters, Harley, 3, and Temperance, 2 months, live on site in the old Couser farmhouse.

Shane, 33, was born and raised at Denison, and is a 2008 graduate of Denison High School. He played football, and participated in 4-H and then FFA when he reached high school.
“I was on the 2007 National Landscaping Team (in FFA), and we placed 23rd in the nation. I was huge into meats judging and livestock judging. I showed cattle (through FFA) until I was 21. I’ve shown in just about every jackpot show, AKSARBEN, the state fair, Beef Expo… I’ve even gone to Nebraska and Missouri for shows.”

Growing up, he took part in the Crawford County Fair, which at one time, he said, was one of the largest fairs in Iowa for showing. “It wasn’t uncommon to have 360 head of hogs, 200 head of beef cattle, and 200 head of sheep.”

Shane even had a special assignment when he was a senior in high school. He was allowed to do a student internship helping teach high school agriculture. “Our ag advisor put me to work.”
He enrolled at Kirkwood College with the ambition of becoming an ag advisor/ag teacher. He later attended DMACC to minor in ag business. He began working for Bill Couser during afternoons and weekends until he decided to give up classes and work for Couser full-time.

He loves his work as cattle manager. “I’m in charge of the cattle and in charge of animal health and wellbeing. I call feed, score bunks, and go off that to decide how much they’re going to get fed each day,” he said.

“I start at 6 in the morning … and look at every single bunk.” Shane explained that it is important to determine how much feed each animal needs, so that feed isn’t going to “go bad” sitting in a bunk. He also uses a micro machine, which adds different products to the ration for gut health. “I make sure that’s good to go, and then I fill out our food book, so when the workers get here for the day, they know which pens need to be fed and how much.”

Along with Shane, Couser Cattle Company employs two cattle workers, utilizing the South African H2A Visa program. “A lot of them work 10 months and go home every year. It just depends on how long they want to be here. They can be here 10 months, or up to three years,” Shane explained. He has generally enjoyed these workers. Bill Couser also is at the company every day, when he’s not traveling or attending meetings with his many involvements in the agriculture industry.

Shane and his wife, Amber, who is a veterinary technician in Polk City, also run their own business, Hard Headed Simmentals, which has a 50-head herd.
“We wanted more to do at night – I don’t like sitting still,” Shane said. He is thankful that Bill Couser gives him a yard to keep his cows in. “This is the second cow herd I’ve built in my life. He was in business with his father and brother, but being far enough away now, he wanted to start his own business.
“We are very busy in seed stock production, raising bulls to sell to other farmers for breeding, and selling heifers.
The Jurgensens also halter break all of their heifers and bulls. “My dad buys all his bulls from us, and he calls me every time he’s out and a bull comes up and starts rubbing on him because it wants to be petted,” Shane said with a laugh. “Some people think I’m crazy for putting a halter on an 800-pound bull and leading them around, but that’s what you want – a docile, calm animal.”
Shane and his wife also enjoy raising chickens. “We do about 50 broilers that we butcher and process ourselves. We sell some, but the rest are for us. We try to be self sufficient.”

Shane said the best thing about being in Story County is its resources, especially when it comes to knowledgeable people.
“Being here is more about the people I’ve met and the knowledge that I’ve gained. You know, when you’re 20 years old, you think you know everything, so it’s humbling coming out here and getting my head knocked in… there’s a heck of a lot more than you thought to learn,” he said. He noted he is thankful for the friendships he has made with veterinarians at Iowa State and other people in the area.
As for hills – he misses the hills from where he grew up. “When you hit a hill here it’s like a speed bump,” he joked.

• When asked if he likes any other animals besides cattle, his response: “I tolerate pigs.” Turns out his family raised pigs too. “We spent three to four hours of our day scooping manure and bedding hogs in our small finishing barn.” He also likes dogs, and gets along well with Couser’s two Blue Heelers that live on the farm.
• Up until he got busy with his own business, Shane’s favorite pastime was hunting. “I was a huge hunter… archery, shotgun, pheasant, turkey, deer, everything…” In fact, he admitted, “People give me a bad time, but for our honeymoon we went on a Guided Mule Deer Hunt in Wyoming.” Amber nods that he’s telling the truth. “I’m told our next vacation is going to be somewhere with a beach,” he noted. “So a bunch of people are going to see me in Wranglers out on the beach. I don’t want to blind anybody.”
• “Yellowstone” is one of his favorite shows to watch. He just doesn’t like when they do or say things on the show that aren’t accurate concerning cattle.
• What is it he enjoys most about cattle? “Being with them outside. I’m not stuck in an office. This is all I’ve known my whole life, and I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I get a sense of pride and accomplishment when I can determine a sick calf early and diagnose and treat them in a timely manner and then see them come out of it. I feel I’ve done a lot of different things to minimize a lot of risk and stress for the animals to lower injuries.”
–Written by Marlys Barker, City of Nevada