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Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Rancher Profile - Jim Hagenbarth

"The worst management is a no management."

"We're going to make a lot of changes so this outfit will have a low breakeven. It probably won't include much federal land because current restrictions don't allow us to manage the resource in an ecologically sound and responsible manner," says Jim Hagenbarth of Dillon. The bottom line, he says, is that producers can no longer just raise beef.

"We have to raise a product that value can be added to. Beef products must be developed that will satisfy the consumer's needs and can be prepared in under 30 minutes."

Hagenbarth compares what beef producers need to do to survive to other agricultural producers:

"Those that raise and sell spuds are going broke, while those that raise spuds and sell frenchfries are making it."

Hagenbarth is no stranger to change. Originally, the family ranch produced sheep. In the 70s, it changed to a cow/calf/yearling outfit managed by Jim, his brother Dave and mother Margaret. Its winter range is in southwestern Montana and summer range in southeastern Idaho.

The cow herd is evenly split and managed to calve in spring and fall. "Our goal is to produce feeder cattle that we can take as close as we can get to the feedlot with as little supplemental feed as possible. It is important to satisfy a cow's needs when they are highest by using forage that is naturally produced by the environment you are using. We try to use natural forage while breeding our cows. If she is open, we've failed.

"We have tried to adapt the fall calving program by weaning early. If you try to grow the calf using the cow in the winter, it is expensive. Once the cow is bred, her duty is done with the calf and she merely has to maintain till spring. Very little feed is required. By the time the bulls are pulled, the calves are old enough to be weaned. A 300 pound calf does not take much feed and we maintain the cow in a fashion similar to how hog producers manage bred gilts."

"You need a genetic package you can add value to. Generally, you want to develop a cow that would produce an 800 pound carcass that would fit either a select or choice market. That cow needs to be in the middle of the road, with some continental in her, and the two markets hit through terminal crossing.

"If you take the pressure off the mother cow by breeding her when there is lots of feed, you can use a female that will yield higher in regards to carcass. This will become important when the cost of gain becomes higher due to energy costs."

"Extension has helped us a lot in designing genetic packages that meet our goals at designated nutrition levels. It also has helped us become better stewards of the resources we manage and to convince federal agencies to recognize the importance of grazing to the overall health of the range resource ecology.

"The worst management is a no management."

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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