As we watch the Olympic Games from Rio this August, we’re reminded that in order to achieve greatness, especially in sports, it takes a lifetime of training and perseverance. Likewise, in the registered cattle industry, to achieve greatness, it takes a lifetime of training and perseverance…both of which are traits of Ryan and Freynie Lancaster. It’s not surprising, then, that the cows (and the people) of Royalty Ridge Jerseys are true Olympians of the sport of dairying, and daily “going for the gold!”
Located in the well-known coastal town of Tillamook, Oregon, Royalty Ridge is owned and operated by Ryan & Freynie, and their young family. The 30-something Olympians both come from dairy farming backgrounds, and have been showing registered dairy cattle their entire lives. They were married in 2004 and farmed on Ryan’s parent’s farm (Family Hill Jerseys) until they bought their own farm and
moved to Tillamook in May of 2011. The land where Royalty Ridge sits has been in Freynie’s family for 25 years, and sports the Oregon Coastal mountains as a backdrop. Tillamook was appealing to them not only because of the close proximity to Freynie’s family, but also because of the strong and stable milk market that Tillamook Cheese provides, a cooperative that Freynie’s family has produced milk for throughout four generations. The farm consists of 45 acres, 50 milk cows and 40 head of youngstock.
Ryan and Freynie do not employ hired help and do the daily work themselves, along with the help of their three oldest children, Logan, Tatum and Harper. The family recently added one more addition to Team Royalty Ridge, and at the time of publication, Bode will be celebrating his two-month- old birthday!
Getting ready for the Olympics takes a regimented training program, and an unwavering focus on the goal. Similarly, in dairy farming, each producer has to decide what they want to accomplish. Breeding bulls for A.I.? Showing? Producing embryos for an international market? With each goal comes a different set of “training” exercises that need to be done. In the Lancasters case, they are looking to breed cattle with an emphasis on type, production and longevity. Developing cow families that perform not only at home, but for other buyers, is the ultimate goal, whether that’s through private treaty sales of females or proving their own sires. “We’re at maximum capacity for the number of cows our facility and acreage can hold,” explained Freynie. “So we need to focus on how to make the most of the animals and cow families we have here. That includes developing new markets in the future like proving more of our homebred bulls. We’d like to collect and sell/distribute more Royalty Ridge sires in the future.”Currently, Ryan picks all the bulls they use in their breeding program, and mates each cow individually. Sires being used are 200JE384 JOEL, 29JE3756 PREMIER, 91JE5424 GENTRY and 94JE3720 SV Jade HIRED GUN.
Expanding on being land- and facility-locked, the Lancasters have had to focus more time on different types of marketing. For example, they don’t get as many “drop in” visitors since the very scenic town is off the beaten path. “Being on social media has helped with marketing our genetics,” said Freynie. “It’s also a great way to keep up with animals we have sold. For us, we’re just as excited when Royalty Ridge
genetics do well for buyers as we would be if the success was in our own barn. We’ve been fortunate enough to sell genetics all over the world, and many times, social media has helped us sell animals sight unseen because of what people saw on our Royalty Ridge Facebook page. That’s tremendously beneficial considering West Coast breeders, in general, don’t get as much ‘traffic.’ It helps give us a voice to people we’ve never met and when you’re talking the universal language of cattle, social media has a fabulous way of bringing us all closer together. In fact, in July when Eric Silva hosted the Splash in the Ocean at Sunset Canyon Sale, we used social media quite extensively to not only welcome people coming to the sale to stop by, but also to promote our consignment to the sale. We think that helped our Junior 3 Year Old earn a selling price of $16,000.”
One of the gold medal stars of the Royalty Ridge herd is the world-renowned Pleasant Nook F Prize Circus EX-97%. “One of the best marketing decisions we ever made was not selling Circus when we had the chance to,” joked Freynie. “Being a 2x National Grand Champion, Circus brought visitors to our farm, which helped other cow families gain exposure. Circus put our name on the map and she continues to
produce exciting family members!” As the cornerstone medal winner of the team, Circus not only proved her worth in the showring, but gave much deserved attention to the rest of the team, including the “F” family. And since future plans involve proving homebred bulls from these two families and more, exposure to the entire herd is a critical key to their success. Many members of both families anchor the Royalty Ridge showstring, and while it’s a challenge trucking animals to and from the west coast, it’s paid off in Olympic proportions. “We do three shows a year; the Western National Jersey Show, International Jersey Show (World Dairy Expo) and the All American Jersey Show. Two of those shows take about 48 hours (one way) for the cattle to travel. They are also during the fall, so weather conditions can get very scary, especially getting the cattle home from the All American Jersey Show during November. However, the value of going to those shows is gained in the exposure our cows get from people attending the shows. They say ‘seeing is believing’ and in our cows, these shows are sometimes the only occasion where people can see Royalty Ridge cattle in person. We have to make the effort to attend these events with our absolute best cattle representing us and our breeding program. When they are successful, the value of our genetics increases significantly,” explained Ryan. Over the years, the Lancasters have earned 9 All-American and 3 Reserve All-American awards, and since Ryan started showing at the Western National, they’ve also won 15 Premier Breeder & Exhibitor banners.
Achieving gold medal honors comes not only from the individuals stars of the Royalty Ridge herd, but the Lancasters themselves, as they spend time connecting to other producers who share their love of genetics, as well as connecting to consumers. Both Ryan and Freynie are very involved with the Tillamook Cheese outreach program connecting consumers to producers. In fact, Freynie has been an active part of the “Ask a Farmer” campaign for the cooperative, and she’s also done an article for
“Upworthy,” to show a day-in- the-life of a young mom on the farm. Capping off their milk cooperative involvement was when the farm was part of a Tillamook Cheese commercial which aired during the nationally televised Oscar Awards Ceremony, featuring Royalty Ridge and a few of their cows. “We think it’s so important to have a positive image and respectable conversations with consumers,” said Freynie.
While marketing is constantly at the forefront of their minds, Ryan and Freynie concentrate most on their family. “Although challenging, farming gives us the opportunity to spend more time with our children, and it never gets boring! Yes, it’s a tough and demanding lifestyle, but we don’t have to work at the passion part of it. We love this industry and we love being able to work at developing a great group of cows while also working from home and having our kids with us all the time! We are driven by working all year to get cattle ready to show and compete. It’s something we work at together and celebrate together. We also want to teach our kids the value of continually working at consumer relations, which is just as important to the future of this farm and industry,” said Freynie.
She continued, “Being raised on a farm, we hope our children take with them work ethic, responsibility, respect for land and animals and being able to handle whatever life throws their way. They work with our cattle on a daily basis and have a great understanding that these are valuable cattle. They know how to act around the cows and are proud that they are involved with them. Logan leads the 2015 undefeated Milking Yearling, FLM Tradition Flower from her box stall to the parlor every night. He knows that it’s a very important job and it gives him a sense of accomplishment knowing that we trust him to move her around safely! One of the things we talk to the kids about is having to work hard for everything you have. It’s important to do a great job, pay attention to detail and stay focused so you can ‘earn your spot’ in the world. We stress that things will not just be given to them. It’s very rewarding
seeing your hard work turn into success.”
The good news is this Olympic team at Royalty Ridge delivers gold medal performances within their family, their community and to breeders throughout the world on a daily basis. They are a great example for all the aspiring “athletes” that hard work in the dairy industry, with a small number of cows, in a remote location, can earn them great satisfaction and success…and even a spot on the podium!
For more information on Royalty Ridge, please visit their Facebook page @RoyaltyRidge.
This story was published in our 2016 WDE issue.