First, do you want to own a ranch or do you just want to be in the cattle business? Did you know that you can enter the cattle business without owning either land or cattle?
“Waiting for a Chinnook” Also known as “Last of the 5000”
You are already thinking, “This guy has lost his mind!” But seriously, you can. You can lease land and take in pasture cattle–i.e. you can pasture someone else’s cattle on leased land for a monthly per head fee. Once you get a reputation for paying your bills and taking good care of other peoples land, ranch lease opportunities will come to you. You won’t have to look for them.
This is an excellent way for young prospective ranchers to get into the business without having to…
Conventional wisdom from cattle management experts as well as those in the Ag University system insists that to properly develop future cows for a profitable cow herd young females (replacement heifers) need to calve by the time they are 2 years old. The main idea is to identify those females which are the most fertile and to select for early maturation. But is that really the way to do so? And is early maturity a desirable trait? Consider that most producers (in cattle) are expecting those young females to give birth by what is a comparable human age of 14, gestate, and raise a baby every year thereafter. Whereas, the 3 year old compares to 18. Animal Age Calculator
There is also the ‘belief’ (because i’ve never seen any data to support this) that a cow calving as a 2 year old raises one more calf in her lifetime than the older heifers. I cannot speak to this with my own data since i’ve not been at it long enough to gather data, but i also don’t plan to do the research and have another herd that calves as 2 year olds. However, I’ve spoken with a few producers who have been doing this for a long time and they are just as convinced that allowing their heifers to be physically mature before calving them allows them to live longer and more productive lives.
My heifers are not exposed to a bull until they are at least 2 years old – actually most are born in May of a year and not exposed until mid-July two years later, so they are actually 2 years and 2 months old and they will calve when they are right at 3 years old the following May.
Outside the obvious lifestyle benefits for producer/rancher and the comfort and animal welfare of the livestock, I’ve put together some financial figures which will apply to my ranch and indicate to me that I’ve made the right decision for my operation.
Heifer Development Costs
2 year old
3 year old
Value of Weaned Calf
Value of 2 year old
Pasture Year 1
Pasture Year 2
2nd calf conception
Manage growing, breeding, gestating, calving heifers as one mob with cows
Older Heifers are physically and mentally mature with no special feed requirements
Observing older cows calving seems to teach the heifers what to do
Less than 1 % calf death loss
Calves at least 50 lbs heavier at weaning and can be weaned with the cows’ calves
No special treatment
*PPI – post partum interval – the number of days it takes for the female to recover from calving and becoming pregnant again.
The calving assistance and pregnancy rates are taken from various University research data over decades of record keeping. Most research heifers are developed with considerable grain and feed inputs which incurs more costs including labor. However, my comparisons are grass and forage only. Therefore it is likely that the grass managed 2 year olds could be significantly higher open (not bred) percentages than what is illustrated here. Whereas the 3 year old development percentages are actual from my ranch. My grass managed 2 year olds were only 10% bred! Ouch!
WOTB – Working on the Business – tweaking the plan to discover a bit more opportunity for profitability in ranching. Margins are too thin for my hobby level of ranching, but trying to do my best.
Sometimes a stumbled upon recipe in a catalogue or magazine or flyer really resonates with your family and it becomes part of the regular menu lineup. This casserole is one such that i found probably 20 years ago. The beauty of it, is that it is easily modified to accommodate your own tastes and whatever you have on hand (within reason of course!)
The original recipe is pictured way below, but the one i made yesterday included my home raised green beans and home grown grass finished ground beef. For chopping the vegetables i use a mini food chopper and even chop the green beans if i’m preparing for Sunday’s meal with Allen’s 98-year-old Aunt June. She has lost her teeth and can’t keep track of dentures – so it is what it is.
Family sized version:
2 lbs grass-finished ground beef
1 medium sized onion – chopped
3 medium sized carrots – chopped
1-2 cups Asian long pole green beans – chopped
1 24 oz jar of Eden Organic tomatoes (normally i use my home raised tomatoes, but i’ve already run out!) Eden’s brand is excellent, but, honestly, to open them, i either need my stout son, Dallas, to do it, or i go get my long handled Channel Lock pliers. It’s really ridiculous.
2 cups of your favourite cheese, divided – 1 1/2 cups to stir into veggie/beef mix, 1/2 cup to top off the casserole. Or stir in 2 cups of cheese to melt – whatever your choice!
Brown the ground beef in a 4 quart pot and add all the vegetables, including the tomato sauce, throw in maybe a tablespoon of salt (check your tomato sauce – it may already have salt in it – i try to use straight tomatoes) and a teaspoon of black pepper -whatever suits ya, and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add 1 1/2 cups of your favourite cheese and stir to melt.
Once the mix is ready, pour into a 9×13 inch pan, level it off, then top with biscuits. I make my own, but you can buy some to use. Then sprinkle about a cup of shredded cheese on top. Then add a sprinkling of parsley, basil, or oregano if you like.
Bake in a preheated oven of 375 F for about 28 minutes until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden brown. This makes 6-8 servings. Takes about an hour to make and bake, but if there are leftovers, it’s still a time saver. What does it cost? that will totally depend on the quality of ingredients you purchase.
Research results published November 30, 2017 by Sarah Kenyon, PhD, University of Missouri once again illustrate how grazing the non-native, invasive toxic-endophyte (E+) fescue plant causes health problems in cattle and other livestock, including horses. Other studies show the effects on the soil microbial populations and wildlife. E+ Fescue is pervasive, persistent, and poisonous.
Short grazing of E+ fescue in the last fall/early winter before a killing frost has been used by us and others to manage the spring growth of the plant by shortening the root system which slows spring growth, allowing more desirable grasses and legumes to get a foot hold. This is effective, but a relentless endeavor since it must be done every fall/winter to control the fescue and quite simply, there is no way to manage ALL the fescue at once everywhere on the farm.
I’m thankful for professors and agricultural leaders bucking the status quo and revealing this long-known information to a modern generation and offering solutions to not only mitigate the health issues associated with the toxin, but also ideas on eradicating it. Time will tell if changes will work – it’s expensive to renovate and manage pastures and fields – – and farming and ranching does not lend itself to wide margins of profits to plough back into improvements.
Follow along with Levi Prince and gang in this Book 2 on their fantastical adventures at camp. This series is geared towards young adults, but i had a blast reading along. Easy read, fast-paced, excellent story line, and message. Print and kindle copies available at several venues. Click through on Goodreads.
One of the main projects i had planned for this year was to spray brush. Truly had hoped to cover the entire farm, but there is just so much that between regular work and windy or rainy days – well, i did get quite a lot done actually and i’m pleased. My focus did switch to completely covering (spot spraying) the west 160 and that was accomplished by July 1. It is important to keep track of that date because three years from then, the farm can be used to grow certified organic crops. Weed and brush management from now on will have to be by brush hogging and intensive grazing. One of the ironies of ‘certified’ organic is that i can’t chemically treat individual plants even once for three years, but i could burn all the fossil fuel i want mowing them down. But rules are rules.
So to finish the project also means to clean up and put away the tools used. My 30 gallon spray tank and pump were purchased new at Orscheln’s this year and i hope to get several more years’ use out of it. Their brand name is Country Tuff and it has worked flawlessly all season. I did switch out the coiled hose for a straight one we already had – i just didn’t like the coiled one.
For the chemical, the easiest and most effective in my opinion is Crossbow. i buy it by the case (4 gallons) at a cost of $200.46 at Butterfield & Associates Grain in Meadville, MO. Mix half gallon to 30 gallons of water and you are ready to go. This spring and summer, I sprayed about 1200 gallons of mixed spray. That’s about 45 hours worth of spot spraying.