Dale and Brenda Riley have been raising cattle for more than 40 years in Phelps County, Mo. 

Dale and Brenda Riley have been in the cattle business outside Rolla, Mo., in Phelps County for more than 40 years and are still enjoying what they do. 

“I was born about a mile and a half up the road,” Dale shared recently while reflecting over his years in agriculture. 

The Rileys started out with commercial cows and then moved into raising Gelbviehs. “For many years, we did the registered Gelbviehs, which is originally a German breed. We called them a triple threat because they were well-known in Europe as draft animals as well as for their milk and beef production.”

In the US, Gelbviehs have become a major part of the American beef market. 

“They are a really docile breed and that makes them ideal for 4-H and FFA projects. We were involved with showing with our kids, Dale Jr., and Karen, when they were growing up and now we do the same with our grandsons, Trey (who is actually Dale Riley III, which is where the nickname Trey comes from) and Caleb. Granddaughter Savannah is into high school marching band activities rather than agriculture,” he added with a chuckle.

Next year, Dale and Brenda’s 80-acre farm will become a century farm and they are pleased to be able to pass along their love of agriculture to the next generation. 

Since 1987, they have been at the Missouri State Fair, either as participants, showing their own cattle or supporting their children and grandchildren as they do the same. 

“Trey is really into the cattle,” Dale continued, the pride coming through in his voice. “With him, the cows come before anything else. Caleb does his own thing, raising Dorper sheep and crossbred sheep. Brenda and I go to watch these days and still really enjoy the showing.”

The Rileys AI all of their cows at least once, a herd that today includes 20 head of Gelbvieh, as well as some Red Angus/Balancer bulls. “We decided to add something new a couple of years ago,” he continued. “I thought the Red Angus would fit well with the Gelbviehs.”

Dale and Brenda direct market their cattle and beef to their customers. They sell bulls to commercial breeders and market heifers to FFA and 4-H youth. They have also attended Springfield’s Farm Fest each year in October for the past 20 years, which they have found to be another profitable market.

In addition to the cattle, Dale has worked for the St. James Wal-Mart distribution center for the past 18 years and Brenda has served the Phelps County Sheriff’s Department in the billing division for several years. 

Dale prefers quiet movement around cattle.

“I used to work cattle on horseback, using Border Collies,” he continued with a wistful tone to his voice. “And I still enjoy using the Border Collies on occasion. I lost my father Lloyd Riley back in February this year, so I am caring for his commercial Angus cattle as well as my own cows right now.”

Still, compared to most, Dale Riley considers himself a fortunate man. 

“I’ve moved twice in my life, from right up the road, and just a few miles away where I grew up,” he said. “Right now, while others are struggling with the restrictions involved with this CORONA virus, I can still get outside and move around with the cattle. It really helps to ease the tension with all that’s been going on in our world. And of course, the best part is watching my grandsons, the next generation, continue our family’s tradition of raising livestock and showing them.”

Dale Riley knows that’s no small thing in today’s confused and complicated world.


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