Beef/Cattle Extension Program
Rancher Profile - Jim Hagenbarth
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
"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
"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."
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 email@example.com