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Animal & Range Sciences Extension Service
P.O. Box 172900
Bozeman, MT
59717-2900
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Doug Steele, Vice Provost & Director
406-994-6647
> Department > Home > Beef > Beef/Cattle > Profiles
Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Kevin & Shirley Halverson Ranch, Big Timber

by Marc King, Sweet Grass County Extension agent

"I also believe that source verification and beef quality assurance need to be practiced by every rancher, if for no other reason than to protect themselves."

Q. Give a brief description of your ranch.

A. We own 5,200 acres of range and crop ground and lease 3,000 acres of mainly summer range ground. Of the owned ground, roughly 2/3 is rangeland and the balance is a mix of irrigated and dryland crop ground that we use to put up hay and very limited grain production (mainly barley). We run approximately 250 head of commercial Angus mother cows and 300 head of commercial ewes. The ranch is operated by my family, which includes my wife, daughter, son and myself, with extra help during busy times from my sister and brother-in-law.

Q. What technologies are you using to monitor or improve your cow herd? Why?

A. We use 205-day weights to monitor growth in our calves, along with a nursing ratio to help cull unproductive females from our herd. We also ultrasound all yearling bulls that are purchased so that we know what these bulls will actually provide to our cow base in terms of carcass merit. We also use artificial insemination so that we can use proven genetics as much as possible, and it helps to minimize our bull costs. Further, we have been using the electronic ID tags through the Montana Beef Network for the past two years to monitor our carcass data on all calves that we have shipped. Finally, we test all our winter feeds for nutritional quality and utilize our county agent and Dr. John Paterson to help us feed our cows a balanced diet that meets their needs during the winter without over feeding certain nutrients.

Q. Why do you run sheep?

A. We run sheep on the ranch for a variety of reasons. My family has had sheep on the ranch for over 100 years, and I feel that it is important to remain diversified. Most importantly, the sheep are a management tool that save the ranch a significant amount of money every year in weed control costs. The sheep have cut our spray bill for leafy spurge control in half, and we couple them with biological control agents to maximize control of our spurge. The sheep have also added income for the ranch as we run them on other properties for weed control purposes with the landowner paying us for the weed control.

Q. What has the drought done to your ranch and management practices?

A. The drought has caused us to cut our cow numbers by 1/3. We also have not saved many replacement females over this period as we have not had the forage or water to run them. As for grazing practices, we are currently evaluating the potential of early weaning our calves to save grass and maintain our weaning weights. We have paid closer attention to our cow and calf nutritional programs, focusing on maintaining adequate mineral levels in our cattle as well as feeding the cows to meet requirements based on their stage of the biological cycle. We have also used least-cost ingredients in our diets during this time, using corn, barley and wheat midds as alternatives to high-priced hay.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your operation?

A. Our main challenges are maintaining and lowering our cost of production and improvements. Another challenge is estate planning, taxes and the value of our land. The land values make it hard to continue to operate a ranch.

Q. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the livestock industry?

A. The main challenge facing the industry is maintaining our high quality of food safety. With all of the disease risk from foreign countries it will be imperative that we maintain control of all animals and products entering our borders. Country-of-origin labeling needs to be passed and implemented to help consumers remain confident in the safety of the food that they are purchasing. I also believe that source verification and beef quality assurance need to be practiced by every rancher, if for no other reason than to protect themselves. Branded products will become a bigger segment of our industry and those that know how their cattle fit into each program will be able to take advantage of any premiums that are offered by marketing their cattle into programs that fit each calf's genetic potential, thus maximizing returns for each group or type of animal produced on the ranch.

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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