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Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Rancher Profile: Jake Callantine, Timber Line Ranch, Belgrade

by Ron Carlstrom, Gallatin County Extension Agent

"Trying to run a ranch operation in an ever-increasing urban environment."

Describe your operation

The ranch is located 23 miles north of Bozeman at the foot of Flathead Pass in the Bridger Mountains. My grandfather's brother Felix Callantine homesteaded the ranch in 1882. The beauty of the valley lured Felix from working the railroad grade of the Northern Pacific Railroad around Bozeman. Later my grandfather purchased the ranch from Felix. I am the fourth generation of Callantines on this ranch. I live on the ranch with my wife, Jane, daughters Catherine and Krista and mother, Kay.

Average annual precipitation is 20 inches, with about five months of snow. We have had very dry weather the past few years.

In 1963, my father, Chuck, purchased a ranch in the Bozeman Pass area with four other area ranchers. They formed the Green Mountain Grazing Association. This became our principal summer range. The Green Mountain operation consists of improved pastures, utilizing a rotational grazing system.

Photo: Jake Callantine feeds cattle Nov. 17, 2000, on the Green Mountain Grazing Association's ranch near Jackson Creek Road. Photo courtesy of Thomas Lee, Bozeman Daily Chronicle.


Today we run 230 head of purebred Black Angus mother cows and sell commercial and registered bulls and heifers. I start feeding in November and some years need to feed through April. I feed an average of 3 tons of hay and straw per cow. Calving season starts in mid-March. With the late spring we get at 5257 feet, I do not dare to move our calving season earlier.

I use artificial insemination on two-thirds of the cows for one heat cycle and synchronize the heifers. The grazing system at Green Mountain works well for this breeding program.

I background the heifers and bull calves on the ranch. Typically selling steer calves and excess heifers in November. Normal weaning weight for bulls and steers average 600 pounds. During the past few years our excess heifers have been sold to commercial cattlemen. My bull buyers are typically commercial cattlemen and most of them have been repeat buyers for years.

How does your ranch differ from others in your area?

On this ranch we have a gravity flow irrigation system that was designed in 1975. This system helps me produce more tons of hay per acre. Costs for the system are relatively low with no costs for fuel or electricity. The ranch usually receives 20 inches of precipitation each year, but quite a bit of that comes in the form of snow. This irrigation system allows me a good second cutting and enough re-growth for fall grazing.

I keep individual cow production records and started with the Angus Herd Improvement in 1995. I collect carcass data when possible; this is sometimes difficult as calves are sold in November.

For the last two seasons we have put up the bulk of our hay production in the form of haylage.

What has been the most effective management strategy in recent times?

Introduction of the haylage operation has allowed me to put up more and better hay. The system I use wraps round bales end to end with plastic wrap. The hay is put up at 55% moisture. This process has improved hay palatability.

With the introduction of the haylage operation, I have shifted from combining grains to putting them up as haylage. The greatest drawback to grain hay is the chance of high levels of nitrates. The haylage ensiling process is supposed to lower the nitrate levels in grain hay. I am working with Dr. Paul Vendrell of the University of Georgia and our local Extension agent on a study to determine if nitrates are reduced using the haylage operation.

So far we have not had elk get into the wrapped haylage like they do when we were putting up dry hay. Hopefully this will continue to work.

What is your biggest challenge?

Trying to run a ranch operation in an ever-increasing urban environment. We have people knocking on our door ten months a year. We have the fall hunting season, spring bear season and summer recreation enthusiasts. While we strive to share this beautiful area with all who ask, the increase in traffic takes its toll.

Beef: Questions & Answers is a joint project between MSU Extension and the Montana Beef Council. This column informs producers about current consumer education, promotion and research projects funded through the $1 per head checkoff. For more information, contact the Montana Beef Council at (406) 442-5111 or at

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 08/14/2009
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