Beef/Cattle Extension Program
Rancher Profile: Veseth & Veseth Livestock Co.
try to reduce costs through a winter grazing/protein
Marko Manoukian, Phillips County Extension Agent, interviewing
Describe your operation...
Our ranch is located 50 miles south of Malta. The ranch
is run by my parents, Fred and Jackie Veseth, and myself,
Dale, and my wife, Janet. My grandparents, Mons and
Clara Veseth, moved permanently to this location in
1941. Veseths have been ranching in this area since
average annual precipitation is 12.5 inches, with a
range of 8.5 to 22 inches.
In the mid 1980s, 50 percent of the ranch's income
came from grain sale receipts. Due to high production
costs and low wheat prices, we shifted our production
to a larger beef enterprise. Today we run 550 mother
cows and background their calves. The ranch uses a rotational
cross-breeding system producing a 3/4 English blood
x 1/4 Continental blood feeder and brood cow. This type
of cow fits our limited resources. The cows are grazed
year-round. In a typical year, cows are fed hay 45 days
prior to calving. Heifers start calving March 10 and
cows start March 25, with breeding seasons of 35 and
50 days respectively. We incorporate artificial insemination
in two estrous synchronization systems to breed 120
head per year.
We use a time control grazing system during the fast
growth stage from mid-April through early July, We try
to move the cattle every 14 days or less during this
time. After forage has matured, we use a deferred rotation
system for the rest of the year. We maintain a moderate
stocking rate of 40 acres per animal unit. Most of our
new cross fencing is permanent two-wire electric fence.
The cost differential between conventional fence and
the electric for materials and labor is a 70 percent
How does your ranch differ from others in your
We have retained ownership through the finishing phase
on our feeder cattle since 1992. The ranch has been
pleased with the feedlot performance, and I believe
most of my Montana neighbors would also be pleased with
their cattle performance. However, cattle feeding is
a very competitive industry, and factors such as time
of marketing and feeder/fed price differentials seem
to have as much to do with profitability as feedlot
performance. The fed cattle are traditionally sold on
a live basis. We did two limited tests selling on a
carcass basis and they didn't increase profitability
over a live basis sale.
What has been your most effective management
strategy in recent times?
We try to reduce costs through a winter grazing/protein
supplementation program. We sort cows into three groups
at weaning time based on body condition scores (bcs)
and age. They are rotated through a series of winter
pastures and crop aftermath. We utilize riparian pastures
in this winter rotation. These pastures are usually
grazed for a short period of time prior to the end of
May and rested through the summer months. The cows are
rotated into these riparian pastures again in the fall
I formulated a 55% protein, canola meal based supplement
with a trace mineral package. The target is .75 lbs/day
of protein to make up for the dormant forage protein
deficit. The cost per cow for a 105-day feeding period
varies between $8 and $13 per head, depending on feed
markets. The potential problem is that adequate forage
must be available for the cow's intake requirement,
and severe weather like deep snow or cold temperatures
impacts grazing behavior, so cows will need hay and/or
What marketing and management strategies have
you tried that were NOT successful?
The biggest mistake we continually make is not making
a cost/benefit analysis on every enterprise every year.
Historically, what was profitable might not be anymore.
And, we are often too busy to make good management decisions.
The first scenario that comes to mind is early weaning.
It is hard to get those calves weaned by Oct. 1. Even
though we know that, in a normal year, our breakeven
price per pound of calf for the cow/calf enterprise
runs in the upper $.60/lb and our average feedlot cost
of gain is $.46/lb, for our situation it is cheaper
to feed on those pounds. Added to that, weaning those
calves reduces the nutritional requirements of the cow
herd, and those big calves eat! So we save our forage
resources in these dry years and improve the body condition
scores on the cows, which is the cheapest way to add
flesh for winter to the cow herd. Plus, weaning early
gets those calves on feed and moves up our marketing
dates, which usually means more dollars per pound in
the spring fed cattle market. Early weaning pays our
operation four different ways, but we still have a hard
time weaning by Oct. 1.
What is your biggest challenge?
Over time, the biggest challenge to our operation is
the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Ranchers have dealt
with drought, disaster and poor prices since the beginning
of time. But just in my lifetime, government regulation
and political strife have multiplied several times.
One endangered species crossed our fence, several fly
over every year, and four live on the ranch. All are
in various stages of listing by the ESA. The bottom
line is that ranches are businesses, and one of the
cornerstones to sustainability is profitability in the
long run. I think this is why there are more ranches
for sale in my area than any time in memory.
What do you think are the biggest challenges
to the livestock industry?
Here again there are several governmental regulation
like the Clean Water Act and others. Regarding the Endangered
Species Act, as of September 2000, 1,295 species were
listed on ESA with several hundred more petitioned for
listing. After nearly 30 years of ESA, I do not know
of any success stories. This is where an endangered
species is listed, managed and then delisted as a recovered
species to local/state management. Given the time, high
number of species listed and the high cost of management,
everyone must consider if there is a better way to manage
these species. While lawyers and environmental organizations
became wealthy litigating the ESA, the people most involved
(i.e., landowners) are economically devastated. The
cost of saving an endangered species is currently the
burden of just a few people in direct contact with that
species. Until this situation is rectified through incentive-based
programs for people directly affected by ESA, I think
we will continue to see ESA as an ineffective tool in
the management of our rarest species and not only resource
industries, but ultimately the United States will feel
the economic destruction caused by this act.
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