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Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Producer Profile: The Genereux family (gen-er-rue)

"It is time to unite and move forward."

A trip to the end of the Coal Mine Road east of Big Sandy in northeastern Chouteau County lands you square in the middle of the Genereux ranch home buildings. Austin Genereux is the fifth generation in his family to run cattle in this part of Montana.

His parents, Roger and Gaye purchased the ranch in 1976 and have lived there ever since. They grew up together in the area, both having great-grandparents who traveled from Nebraska to settle in the Big Sandy area around the turn of the century. Rustin, the youngest of their three children, is a junior at Big Sandy High School and is very active in helping on the ranch. He has a herd of this own and is anticipating returning to the ranch when he finishes his college education. Leah, their daughter, is a real estate agent in New Mexico, but comes back home to get away form the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Austin, the eldest, started his own herd at the age of 15 and began working full time on the ranch when he graduated in 1992. He is happy with the decision to stay on the ranch to this day. His wife, Raelynn, comes from an agricultural upbringing near Loma and their sons, Riley and Bayley (ages 4 and 2) love to spend the day on the ranch with their dad.

Judee Wargo, MSU Extension Agent in Chouteau County, visited with Austin this spring.

The following are his words.

Q: Tell us about the Genereux ranch

The Genereux ranch home buildings lie nestled in the Bears Paw Mountains 17.5 miles east of Big Sandy. The home place is made up mostly of native range, hay meadows that have recently been planted back to introduced grasses, and some timber ground. The elevation of the home place is around 3900 feet. Roger and Gaye live on this part of the place and all of our calving facilities and main corrals are located there. In the past this part of the place produced about 90% of the hay we needed to get the cows through the winter and was our April/May and November/December pasture. Now, however, with the costs and time associated with raising and putting up hay we’ve decided to purchase our hay on contract and have planted the hay fields back to grass.

The Genereux lower place lies right in between the Bears Paw and the prairie land to the east of Big Sandy at an elevation of 3100 feet. It is six and a half miles east of Big Sandy and 12 miles by road from the upper place. The lower place is the jack of all trades part of the ranch in that it has dry land hay ground, irrigated hay ground, improved grass range, native range, and CRP. We purchased the lower place in 1992 and farmed about 800 acres of it in a wheat and summer fallow rotation until 1998 when we seeded half of it to CRP and the other half to alfalfa for hay. There is also a 60 acre irrigated alfalfa field and a large reservoir to provide water for the irrigating.

We rely on the rest of the place to provide 1100 AUMs of pasture on a graze every other year rotation program. We put our two and three year old cow/calf pairs there to graze CRP from April 20th to May 14th. When we seeded the CRP we were very careful to seed varieties that the cattle would eat throughout the year. We graze one of the three CRP pastures every year on a rotation based on compliance with the NRCS. The CPR program has gotten
a lot of flack in recent years, but if used wisely, can be an important tool in helping to relieve stress on native pastures in drought years while still maintaining cattle numbers. We graze the two and three year olds on the improved and native pasture from the 15th of May until the 15th of July when the bulls are taken out after a 50 day breeding cycle. We also give the calves of these cows their first round of modified live vaccine at this time. From there the twos and threes are hauled to the upper place and put in deeded and rented mountain ground until a modified live booster is given to the calves in the fall before weaning. When shipping is done and the cattle have been processed through the chute, the three year olds are hauled to the lower place and put on fall pasture. The two year old cows are put in a dry lot on the upper place and fed high quality hay through the winter to put as much weight on them as possible. A high quality, chelated mineral formulated by Cenex Harvest States is also used to maximize breeding efficiency and keep the cattle healthy.

Replacement heifers on the Genereux ranch are singled out as baby calves when they receive a special white tag with a number on it that lets us know that they are a replacement prospect. They are again checked for their physical attributes at branding and culled or kept again at weaning. They are fed high quality hay and pellets and chelated mineral from weaning through spring and turned out on native pasture at the upper place around the 20th of April.

As soon as the grass starts growing the older cows on the Genereux ranch are shipped to rented pasture near Loma, Montana about 50 miles southwest of the lower place and are kept there through breeding. The pasture was once a CRP farm that didn’t get bid back in and lies on almost completely flat terrain. We used electric fence to cross fence the property into nine separate pastures. Five of the pastures can be separated by the other pastures to split the herds for isolated breeding. We drop between two and three exact semi loads of pairs in each pasture and breed those cattle to the exact same bulls for a few years. Putting exact loads in the pastures enables us to haul the cattle back home without having to sort the groups into mothered pairs. We know we can get two loads of each hauled in one day, so we simply get there in the morning haul the cows home, put them in an enclosed corral, and bring the calves home later in the day. The whole process is extremely efficient and allows us to breed the right cows with the right bulls.

Having separate breeding pastures with only one piped water source enables us to run many more cows per bull than we could in the mountains. It also enables us to precisely control our cross breeding program. The Genereux ranch utilizes a Black Angus/Gelbvieh cross that maximizes hybrid vigor and maternal traits with a larger framed animal to produce a 650 pound calf in the fall or a fed animal that weighs 1250 pounds and is killed by 13 months of age. We do this by getting bulls that are as genetically similar as possible and breeding them to the same cows throughout their reproductive life.

We are now experimenting with embryo bulls. We will take 12 “recip” cows and have them implanted with embryos from the eggs of a single cow and the sperm from a single bull to produce progeny that are as genetically similar as we can get. The four to six bulls that we get from this process are culled to three and are kept together to breed the same cattle year after year. This process will be done with both the Black Angus and Gelbvieh sides of our cross. The calves produced from our cows with our Black Angus bulls are bred to our Gelbvieh bulls. The calves produced from those Gelbvieh bulls are bred to a genetically new, but similar carcass trait, group of Angus bulls and vice versa with the Gelbvieh. This ensures that we have a genetically similar herd while staying away from any potential problems associated with inbreeding.

Q: Tell us about your marketing strategy.

Getting the most for a quality product: We try very hard to produce a quality product. We try just as hard to receive a price worthy of that product. We believe the best way to accomplish that task is to build good relationships with the people that can help to get you the best price. Some people may choose to do this by selling their calves to an order buyer. Some may choose to feed their cattle at a feed yard and sell them live. Some may choose to sell them over a video auction. We believe any of these options are viable for nearly every producer. However, if you spend a great deal of time and energy producing a product that is superior to the average of what is out there then you must capitalize on what you’ve done or someone else will.

If you’ve been buying the best bulls and believe you have good carcass characteristics, and you have given the right shots at the right time then you deserve to see the fruits of your labor. That is why for the past three years we have retained ownership on at least 25% of our calf crop and received individual carcass data on nearly all the rest. We don’t do the same thing every year. Every year is different. But we make sure we know the individual groups that make up our herd and market them accordingly.

Usually we feed the calves from our heifers at the feedlot and retain 25% ownership on them. This is done because we breed our heifers to lighter weight heifer bulls for ease of calving and these calves are usually weaned before the rest. Therefore, the calves are usually about 50 lbs. lighter. It is more cost effective to feed the calves to get the extra 50 lbs. back than it is to accept that you gave up 50 lbs. of calf at $1.20 per lb. This group also symbolizes the newest examples of our genetic base and will yield good carcass results and valuable carcass data.

Heifer calves that don’t meet our replacement herd criteria are the next best group to go to a feedlot. When you sell heifers, either to an order buyer or the feedlot, a 5 cent dock is applied to them verses the steers. If you retain 100% ownership on that group of heifers they are sold simply as live cattle and bring the same cents per pound as a steer. The heifers we raise convert feed just as well or sometimes better than our steers, and they are usually ready to kill at the same time. There is less risk associated with feeding heifers, on the financial side simply because you have 5 more cents per pound to work with on a break even scenario. Just watch that the quality of your remaining heifers after culling for replacements is still good enough to help insure success.

If you can get $1.20 or more for your 650 lb. Steer calves then sell them. Try selling them to your feedlot of choice first so you can get carcass data back on them, but don’t rule out selling them to an order buyer. If you have a good relationship with your feeder and your cattle are good, then chances are they will buy your calves anyway. Last year our feedlot did.

We found the feedlot we do business with by going on a feedlot tour sponsored by Cenex Harvest States. It was an eye opening experience and a very profitable trip. If you get the chance to go on one of these trips do it! Your pocketbook with thank you.

Q: What other sources bring income to the operation?

Every acre must pay – Additional income on the Genereux Ranch: The ranch has worked with an outfitter for the past four years to better manage the hunting and to provide another source of income. The agreement that we have has worked very well and the experience has been financially rewarding. We believe that every acre on the ranch must pay – especially a resource that was previously untapped on those acres. The elk and deer that were previously grazing the grass and breaking the fences on the Genereux ranch are now at least paying their keep just like the cows.

Another source of additional income, or a savings of income depending on how you look at it, that we have employed involves our own semi truck. Not only do we use our truck for hauling our cattle from place to place on the various pastures on the ranch, but we haul our own calves to the feed yard. Whether they are sold to an order buyer, directly to the feedlot or partially retained by us at the feed yard, we ship our own calves. Either way you look at it when a load of calves leaves our ranch we get paid the going rate to haul the calves off the ranch. Instead of agreeing on the price and letting the buyer or the feedlot pay another trucker to haul them away, we do it ourselves and make every dollar on those calves possible. On the other side of the coin, if we retain all or part of the ownership on a load of cattle we save having to pay someone else to haul them and we know how the cattle have been treated when they get to their destination. Last year alone we either made or saved around $10,000 by hauling our calves for our order buyer and hauling our retained calves to the feed yard. That figure doesn’t include hauling our own hay and livestock within the boundaries of the Genereux ranch.

Q: What changes are in store for the Genereux Ranch?

Retirement and quality of life: Gaye has been teaching and doing the ranch bookwork for the past 30 years. Both of these professions have gotten a lot more challenging and stressful over the past few years and she is thinking about retiring from teaching and spending more time helping on the ranch. Roger is also thinking about slowing down a little but definitely not retiring. Rustin is thinking seriously about staying on the ranch when he graduates from college. Every family member has agreed to make sacrifices to help him pursue that opportunity. Austin and Raelynn look forward to spending time with Riley and Bayley on and off the ranch. Raelynn plans on teaching at Box elder until she retires. The added income and especially the health insurance and retirement benefits make that a necessity.

Roger and Gaye have lived in a house that is older than their combined ages and they would like to build something new. The home will also be a necessity when Rustin gets out of school and needs a place of his own to hang his hat.

The Genereux ranch is always looking to expand and Austin and Raelynn have made that a top priority. Purchasing some of the property that they already rent and have made improvements on is at the top of the list. Rented property can be nice to have but until you own it you don’t know if you’ll have it 15 years down the road. We don’t have any BLM ground and only a section of state ground and privately rented ground just keeps getting more expensive. We can run 650 head plus replacements right now and still get the work done efficiently, so just buying some of the rented property we have now would be ideal.

Q: What industry challenges do the Genereuxs see ahead?

Industry challenges as seen by the Genereuxs: The greatest challenge the Genereuxs see facing the livestock industry is the constant disagreement between the various cattle organizations that represent us here at home and in Washington, DC. The bitter battle between R-Calf and NCBA is deeply disturbing. I get mailings from each organization and am tired of all of the negative print. How are we supposed to take on trade, product safety, public land, and environmental issues when we can’t agree on the issue of how to get along with one another? The beef check off, animal ID and verification, country of origin labeling, and the Canadian border are all issues that must be represented in Washington, DC with a united front by the cattle industry. There are also issues that must be resolved quickly so that the beef industry can become uniform and start moving forward in a positive direction.

We don’t mind paying $1 per head to advertise our product. We are already in a source verified ID program with our feed yard, and it has been effortless. I believe that it would be nice to have country of origin labeling. However, who is going to pay for the program, and will the American people actually pay more for our product. It’s time to quit bickering and go ahead and try it on a limited basis to see if it works. The government mandated it, now its time to all get together, go to Washington, D.C. and lobby hard to get the funding. The Canadians are bringing in more boxed beef then they ever brought in boxed or live before. The USDA already has what it wanted, and the price is still good with the results.

It is time to unite and move forward.

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 beefcncl@mt.net

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