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> Department > Home > Beef > Beef/Cattle > Profiles
Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Rancher Profile: Jim and Beth Granger Ranch, Eden

By Wade Crouch, Cascade County Extension Agent

"Three keys to success for this fledgling operation have been water management and improvements, flexibility, and marketing."

Describe the operation.

This first generation family- owned cattle operation is located on the north edge of the Little Belt mountains, about 30 miles south of Great Falls. It is owned and run by Jim and Beth Granger, who purchased the property in 1980. Jim was raised in Fort Benton, and started working on his grandfather's ranch as a youngster. Beth, daughter of Don and Alma Roehm, was raised on her family ranch in the Smith River country.The Grangers have two children: Forrest, a freshman at MSU, and Rachel, a 6th grader at Centerville.

Their mid-sized Black Angus herd runs entirely on deeded land, with some additional hay acres leased. The land runs down off Cameron (baldy) Butte, across Rocky Coulee, and through the rolling hills of Boston Coulee Creek, so flat spots for haying and calving are few and far between. This excellent grass country will run a cow on just over 12 acres per year. Approximately half of the cows in this modern beef herd are registered, with the rest commercial purebred. Jim and Beth market their production as commercial bull calves, bred heifers, stock cows, steers and meat on the rail. The quality of the cow herd is constantly improved with the use of AI and embryo transfer. A few bull calves go to Midland Bull test and Treasure test each year. Because of the AI and ET programs in place, the Grangers feed later in the spring than they would if they were just turning out with the bulls.

How does the ranch differ from others in the area?

While most area ranches are operated by third and fourth generations or were purchased by out-of-state money, Jim and Beth purchased their place outright, and are the first Grangers in the community. It is a "local folks make good" story. With little level ground, farming is out of the question, so this is strictly a cow outfit. Jim and Beth separate their herd by age and condition, and feed four or five groups during the winter to meet each cow's nutritional needs as closely as possible.

Photo: Flat spots for haying and calving are few and far between at the Granger Ranch near Eden.

Perhaps the biggest difference and one that greatly affects all aspects of their operation is how they market their cattle. Steers are not their primary product! Bulls, bred heifers, heifers and stock cows all take priority over the steers. In addition, many of the steers are marketed on the rail rather than as calves or fats. Because of the varied marketing objectives, and the AI/ET program, breeding and weaning times are much busier and more spread out. Jim has fed as much as 10 months a year. The Grangers also participate in the Beefability program, facilitated by the MSU Extension Service. This gives them an opportunity to closely watch their feeder cattle in a local lot, and find out how they perform in the lot and on the rail. This program has also stimulated their interest in niche markets for their beef.

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

Three keys to success for this fledgling operation have been water management and improvements, flexibility, and marketing. Water is a big deal in this area, and distribution of cows on summer pastures was greatly affected by the last four, dry years. The Grangers have done "tons" of water improvement projects and cross-fencing to help utilize what grass was available. They feel that the ability to move fast and be flexible has helped through the drought. Pasture, water, and hay management decisions all had to be made quickly to stay ahead of potential problems. And last but not least, having a variety of higher value markets has allowed them to put more resources into improving the ranch.

What is your biggest challenge?

"Like everyone else in our area, the drought has created lots of stress and problems, but because of a historically conservative stocking rate, our grass has held up fairly well," said the Grangers. "The recovery time for grass regrowth is a concern during both the dry years and the first few years coming out of the dry spell. A growing problem on our ranch is underutilization of some pastures due to predator pressure. While the healthy bear population doesn't seem to bother the cows, the lions and increasing wolf population make them unwilling to graze key areas of the summer pasture."

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the livestock industry?

Our major challenge is the direction of the US beef industry in general; packer concentration, captive supply and increasing imports. While our costs of production and living keep going up, (especially insurance and taxes), how do we compete with low cost production in other countries? The other concern is the effort by "environmentalists" to direct how the producer raises cattle, and how the industry as a whole operates.

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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