Editor’s Note: This is the eighth article in a series highlighting significant contributions of women in the Simmental industry.
Nina Lundgren grew up in central Oregon near Powell Butte, where she spent much of her childhood on her grandmother’s ranch. In addition to developing a love for cattle, she participated in rodeo and became a passionate horsewoman. These interests took her to Cal Poly in San Luis Obisbo, where she studied Animal Husbandry and was on the livestock judging team. “That was my main interest in life. I spent time at my grandmother’s ranch, at rodeos, and just with cattle and horses, that’s what I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve continued with that my entire life,” she explains.
Lundgren’s first introduction to Simmental was during her time in Oregon, which sparked an interest that would eventually become a major part of her life. “I remember the ABS representative coming through and telling us about these Simmental cattle, and I remember I was so fascinated and I eventually took a tour to Europe to see their cattle.”
After college, Lundgren managed the 1,600-head registered herd at C&B Livestock, Hermiston, Oregon, for past ASA Board of Trustees member, Ron Baker. She was also responsible for AI and bull sales. She moved on to become a pharmaceutical representative in 1977, soon meeting her future husband, Bob, a veterinarian, who also managed a feedlot.
Upon deciding to start their own operation, they purchased several small farms near Eltopia, Washington. Bob chose to transition from managing the feedlot to running his own operation, and soon the couple was in the Simmental business.
Lundgren explains that the decision to get into the Simmental business was easy to make. “I was very strong on Simmental, and Bob just liked good cattle.”
They soon added Brahman to their plan, becoming some of the first to breed Simbrah cattle. “The industry emphasized the importance of heat tolerance. We saw half-blood Simmental-Brahman and knew the cross was good. We began incorporating Brahman blood into our program and became one of the early breeders of Simbrah cattle. We had a lot of fun traveling to Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas sourcing seedstock. We raised bulls and shipped many of them back to Texas and Mexico and to our annual bull sale in Famosa, California.” Lundgren recalls.
She was involved with the Washington Simmental Association and soon found herself on ASA’s Board of Trustees. Lundgren has carried a dedication to service throughout her career and explains that she didn’t “decide” to be on the Board. “I don’t remember it as a decision, just that it was an opportunity to be more involved. I had been involved at the state level, living in Oregon and Washington, and so it was an opportunity to learn more, to be more involved, and of course, I was very excited about that.”
Simbrah were a new idea during this time, and Lundgren soon became its voice for the Board. “I headed up the Simbrah committee, even after I was off the Board. Simbrah weren’t necessarily popular with the Board. Some people didn’t like them at all, but they felt it was important for the breed to expand, for membership numbers and registrations, and wise to keep them in there. That was where I campaigned for Simbrahs. They needed someone to stand up for them,” Lundgren recalls.
Her involvement with Simbrah cattle opened the door for her to travel across the world. She went to South Africa, Australia, and Columbia, judging and observing Simmental and Brahman in those countries, which she remembers being very high-quality.
Lundgren was also a partner to her husband in their Simmental operation, which was an early advocate for science-based decision making. “I enjoyed the matings and the calves — we did a lot of AI and Embryo Transfer — all of those processes were fascinating. It was just all very exciting to us, with the goal of producing better and better cattle. It was such a great challenge, and there hadn’t been a lot of research done. Folks were still learning what EPDs were and questioning the validity of the numbers. Now, breeders have more tools to make their breeding decisions.”
Lundgren is also a leader outside of the cattle business. In 2008, she and Bob chose to move back to operating a feedlot and left the seedstock business. During this time, cutting horses became a major part of their lives, and today, Lundgren teaches clinics, holds cuttings at their ranch, and is a well-respected leader in the industry. She was inducted into the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame in 2017. When asked about her dedication to being a leader, Lundgren says, “There are a lot of people who want to do things but don’t know how or have the energy to do the legwork. Someone needs to keep ideas alive. Cattle and horse associations need help to promote and bring in new people. If we don’t, the associations will die. Those associations are the basis for our lifestyle! Each of us needs to do something to promote, bring on new ideas and help carry the ball.”