Beef/Cattle Extension Program
Rancher Profile: The Griffin Ranch, Custer County
Kent Williams, Custer County Extension Agent
Describe your operation.
goal is to produce a feeder calf that will be
ready for slaughter in the April market."
Located east of Miles City along the Powder River,
the Griffin Ranch is owned and operated by Buford and
Phyllis Griffin and their sons Bill and Don. Bill is
married to Ronda, and they have one daughter, Amy. Don
is married to Pam, and they have three daughters, Nicole,
Brooke and Callie. The families work well together.
The home place was purchased in 1967 and they have
added land to their holdings four times since then.
The ranch currently consists of 23,040 acres of deeded
land and 12,800 acres of BLM and state leases. Soon
after purchasing the original place, work began with
diking and leveling ground along the river to expand
their feed base with irrigation. In 1977 the Griffins
planted corn for silage for the first time. The ranch
now has 500 acres under irrigation, which is planted
to corn and alfalfa.
In 1977 the weaned steer calves weighed 469 pounds
and the heifers 429. The next year they began warming
up their calves with home grown feeds and selling them
in April at 650 pounds. The current program is weaning
calves early, getting them on feed and selling 900-pound
calves in January. All calves are sold in mid-January
with the heavy steers delivered immediately and the
lighter steers and heifers delivered the first of February.
They are able to do this with their mostly English/Continental
cross cattle. Breeding is Angus and Simmental, and care
is given to select bulls for low birth weight and high
yearling weight EPD's. The ranch currently runs around
800 pairs and 100 replacement females.
How does your ranch differ from others in your
The Griffins feel that a major difference between their
ranch and many in southeastern Montana is the irrigated
feed base. Good quality alfalfa and corn silage have
allowed them to sell backgrounded heavy feeder cattle
in a seasonally higher market. Their goal is to produce
a feeder calf that will be ready for slaughter in the
What has been your most effective management
strategy in recent times?
While technology has done a great deal for everyone
in agriculture, there is no substitute for hard work
and doing as good a job as possible with the basics.
Doing the right things at the right time is critical
to the success of their ranch. Timing is everything
when it comes to planting, irrigating and weaning calves.
They need to be there picking up calves when they are
dropped into the snow with -25o conditions.
This management style can lead to times of high intensity,
but family members deal well with it as long as it doesn't
last too long.
What is the biggest challenge to your operation?
Water quality and quantity in the Powder River are
critical to successfully grow the crops for their feed
base. This tends to be an annual battle for the ranch
and they always need to be ready to irrigate when the
opportunity presents itself. The Griffins also struggle
with having enough labor to get work done properly and
What do you think are the biggest challenges
to the livestock industry?
The Griffins are very concerned about the amount of
animosity within the livestock industry and feel it
is full of conflicting viewpoints that have hurt the
unity of the industry. Two issues of concern are the
potential loss of the Beef Checkoff and the Johnson
Amendment banning packer ownership of cattle. While
this may sound good on the surface, it is their opinion
that it may backfire. In the Griffins' situation, for
the last several years, buyers from two major packers
have bid against each other in an in-house video setting
at the local sale barn and bid several dollars per hundredweight
above the going market for their source-verified, non-implanted,
and BQA certified feeder heifers. The buyers take these
cattle and finish them to fit their needs in the hope
that a high percentage of them qualify for high-end
labeled products. A packer ban would end some of these
labeled programs just as they appear to be taking off
and creating an increase in beef demand. This ban would
also eliminate buyers for everyone at the sale barn.
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