Thinking “out of the box!”
Once upon a time, long, long ago in a far away land there was open country just waiting for cattle to come and graze the abundant amount of forage. Well, the Musselshell Valley near Two Dot Montana is not that far away, but back in 1873 it probably was! That was the year that fourth generation Montana rancher, Steve Moore’s great grandfather established his family’s beef production operation.
Steve and his wife, Sue, along with their two children (both Bobcats at this time) manage their 550 cow operation with
some unique management changes that have made their labor requirements smaller and their bottom line stronger. “A number of years ago we were faced with the ever looming situation of higher feed and labor costs and we had to make some kind of adjustment using the resources that we had,” Steve said, as he started explaining the issues that led to the management changes that the Moore’s eventually made. He continued by explaining how the ranch was traditionally managed, not different than most ranches throughout much of Montana had been for much of the past century. “We calved in March and sold our calves in the fall, but as labor inputs started to rise, our bottom
line was getting thinner. We decided that we would move our calving season back to May in hopes of lowering the amount of feed we fed to the cowherd. We accomplished that goal, but we lost about 50 pounds in weaning weight in the process!” Steve continued, “That was not the outcome we were looking for, but the cows did make it through the winter on less feed and in better conditions so we believed we were onto something.
We could not afford that kind of a setback on our calf sales so another approach had to be taken. We thought we could feed our best hay to our weaned calves through the winter and run the calf crop through that winter and turn them out on grass the coming spring. We would then sell a yearling the following fall at a much larger weight and use approximately
the same feed resource as before! It worked really well, and has made our ranching enterprise more profitable than in the past.”
The Moore’s now calve for 45 days starting April 20th when the feed is starting to come on and the weather is milder. “The cattle just take right off,” Steve shared, “and the health of the calves is very good.” They now wean the calves later in the year, closer to mid-November and this past year, they weaned on December 1st. Their feed intake of the cowherd has decreased from about 2-2 ½ tons per year to 1-1 ½ per year per cow. Steve continuedby sharing that, “We feed
the weaned calves through the winter with the best hay that we put up and we winter them on roughly the amount of hay we are saving through the cowherd. Our cattle have been sold to the same buyers for some time and presently the all-Natural cattle are being fed for the Whole Foods chain of super market stores, and in September we sold our yearling at 940 pounds!”
Steve and his father, Jim Moore, have been buying their bulls from VDAR for some twenty plus years now and asked what keeps them coming back; Steve replied, “It’s simple! They treat you like family; it’s easy to continue doing business with people who treat you like the Van Dykes do!” He continues, “As far as the cattle are concerned, the resulting consistency and uniformity of our cowherd and calf crop is tremendous and there simply are no cutbacks! As important as uniformity is to us, the “Cow” is the most important piece to the puzzle; we believe that if you have a great cow, then you can breed to any bull and get a good calf and that really keeps us coming back to VDAR year after year!” He then shared, “We know that if we do, we will continue to keep our base cowherd top notch and that will continue to keep our bottom line where we need it to be.”
We, at VDAR, are proud to feature the Moore family in our December issue of the VDAR Stock Report and the fact that we can play a small part in their ranching success allows us to get closer to reaching our goals. MISSION: Accomplished!