Beef/Cattle Extension Program
Rancher Profile: Jim and Beth Granger Ranch, Eden
By Wade Crouch, Cascade County
keys to success for this fledgling operation have
been water management and improvements, flexibility,
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.
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
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
|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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org