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 Local Cattle Pro Says His Success Is About Taking Responsibility

February 28 2007 - County and state fair visitors know that watching kids, often less than 80 pounds, prepare, direct and show livestock is an impressive sight. Many times, these animals weigh 2-10 times more than the children.

During the fair, these youngsters are found in the animal barns day and night caring for hogs, cows, sheep and other livestock. They all are vying for the Grand Champion ribbon that says their animal is the best of the show.

Mark Fort, of Fort Angus in Knightstown, Ind., believes in the benefits that young people can learn from raising and showing animals through 4-H and FFA.

“If you are a young kid starting out, there is nothing more rewarding - even if you don’t win,” Fort said. “You go to a show and your calves look good, and you hear people give you that complement. That gives a youngster a real sense of perspective; how to take care of stuff, a sense of responsibility. “Mom and Dad giving them the opportunity - whether it is a rabbit, whether it is hogs, whether it is sheep, whether it is cattle - that sense of responsibility really pays off. It is all about responsibility.”

Mark, his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Jack, have dedicated their farm to raising registered calves as show heifers for sale to 4-Hers and others. His animals are for those who show at the local level and internationally.

Fort has 62 cows on his 300 acres north of Knightstown. Those numbers are due to increase by the end of January as several cows are ready to calve soon.

Josh Everhart, a senior at Morristown (Ind.) High School, knows about the success at Fort Angus. A 10-year 4-H member, Everhart showed an Angus cow for Fort last year and will show one this year, too. In 2006, the cow Everhart exhibited won a class in the preview and was second in the state. The cow was also Reserve Champion at the Shelby County Fair. Everhart said showing livestock is a good experience and fun - besides exhaustive work.

He added that feeding and caring for a cow is time consuming.

“You meet a lot of people and interact with kids who have grown up the same as you,” explained Everhart, who has exhibited show animals since the third grade.

He recognized that it is the competition that has kept him doing it through the years. Everhart hopes to do even better this year.

Fort first purchased registered cows in 1982. In the past six years, he has concentrated on registered Angus.

“We do have a private treaty sale in the fall, and we do consign some of our top heifers to a Labor Day sale,” Fort said. “Our market is definitely the 4-H kids. All of our cattle are (artificially inseminated) by some of the top bulls in the country.”

For the treaty sale, Fort puts out the heifers that are for sale for two days so that people can come to the farm and bid on them.

“All of our cows, we try to breed them to top bulls that are going to be good in the show ring, have good quality, EPD numbers – like for yearling weight, weaning weight and milk,” Fort explained. “I like to keep things simple. I want to raise them to look good. I want them to have good numbers. I want them to be good mothers. I think our quality – even though we have a lot of cows for around here – we try to have good quality for all price ranges.

“We’ve sold calves really well. I’ve sold calves for $1,100, and I’ve sold them for $8,900. There is a big range. We happen to have a nice price for our calves for what we try to do.”

The payoff for these efforts is in the show ring, and the cows from Fort Angus have performed well. A Fort Angus cow won Grand Champion at the 2006 Indiana Angus Open Preview Show. Fort said that was special because of the level of competition.

Other awards include Reserve Grand Champion at the 2005 Atlantic National Show, Grand Champion Owned at the 2005 Indiana Female Junior Angus Preview Show, Reserve Early Junior Champion at the 2005 Preview and the 2002 Indiana Futurity and State Fair Grand Champion Heifer.


Fort credits many others for his success. He grew up on a farm, and his family has always had cattle and commercial cows.

His late grandfather and grandmother, Don and Theresa Fort, and his father, Max, farmed the land before him.

Fort has been married to his wife, Elizabeth, a registered nurse at Riley Hospital, for nine years. She wanted to live on the farm from the beginning. He said Elizabeth understands who she has married.

“You have got to have someone who definitely understands why you are leaving the house at midnight, 2 in the morning or 3 in the morning to check these cows to see if they are calving or whatever,” Fort expained.

More than family have helped him, Fort added.

“There are two people who have really helped me,” he said. “Kevin Newman, I own some cows with him, and he has been tremendous help - and Bill Wilson from Wilson Cattle Company. Both of them have been mentors. They are good people. We have good partnerships together, and it has really worked out pretty good.”

Fort admitted there are always challenges.

“The main thing I am worried about is the cost,” said Fort, who on the state board of directors for the Indiana Angus Assoc. “Already it is a pretty high price to buy the animal; first of all, for a junior, mom or dad or whoever is doing it. Then you have got to feed it. If this feed cost keeps going up, they might go to a smaller animal. They might have their kids show rabbits or hogs.”

Besides basic costs, there is the issue of property taxes.

“Here, in this area, the property taxes are killing us,” Fort lamented. “People don’t really understand about the people who own these farms. Think about it. If you have a house in town - and that is all you have - it might go up $600 or a $1,000. When the taxes first came out and went up, ours went up $5,800. We are paying almost $16,000 a year in just property taxes. The first $16,000 has to go to taxes.” Despite the challenges, Fort believes in the future and continuing his operation. He is hopeful that his son will be another generation on the family farm.

“My son is five, and when he gets ready to show, he ought to have a pretty good stock,” Fort said. “He likes coming to the barn, going to the shows, but he is not doing work, yet. We will see how that comes along.”

For now, Fort will continue the work.

“I’ve always loved it; it is pretty addicting now,” he said. “I put this together, and it has worked out pretty good.”


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