Here at Brown’s Ranch our focus is on using livestock as a tool to improve the resources. We raise moderate-sized, easy-fleshing, fertile, and efficient cattle that work for us in our environment. The biggest expense to the cow-calf producer today is that of feed costs. And yet, much of the emphasis is placed on high growth which ultimately reflects in the size and efficiency of the cow herd. A large-framed cow is one that requires a higher intake level for maintenance alone. As input costs continue to increase, it is very important to look at the cost of production and try to reduce this number as much as possible. This is where low-maintenance, efficient cattle that can maintain on forage alone fit in. We don’t pamper our cattle: they are built and bred to work for us. This is essential because on a typical year we will graze a minimum of nine months. Throw in our harsh northern environment, and the cows that deserve to be here will have worked for it every step of the way. Our average cow weight is currently around 1200# and dropping. Yet, their weaning efficiency is over 50 percent. We currently run about 350 pairs of red and black cattle and between 200 and 600 yearlings, depending on the year. With managing for the “Whole” we have dramatically increased the production of our perennial pastures.
Our herdsires are moderate-framed, easy-fleshing, thick, and structurally sound. The genetics we have selected go back to or are directly influenced by genetics that have proven to excel on grass. Just like the cows, they have to take care of themselves. No pampered cattle here. We invite you to stop and inspect them anytime.
In 2009 we decided to make a change in our operation and switch our calving date from March to mid-May/June. This is likely one of the best decisions we have ever made. Many positive benefits come along when you calve your herd in sync with nature. No: blizzards, snow, mud, ice, sick calves (scours, pneumonia, over-eating, etc.), dirty udders, laid on calves, frozen ears, cattle in confinement, stressed cattle, stressed people, bedding corrals, babysitting, and bragging how hard you work, just to name a few. Instead of being labor-intensive, calving has now become nearly labor-free and is very enjoyable. Quality of life is a high priority on our operation, and switching the calving date has greatly contributed to achieving this.
In order to enhance progression towards our holistic goal, we are adding additional species of livestock to our operation. In 2011 we incorporated poultry (laying hens and broilers). We run the chickens behind the cattle because they do an excellent job of sanitizing the land and provide our family with nutritious eggs and meat. The laying hens lay in a portable eggmobile that is moved a few times a week and are able to free-range. The broilers are contained within a broilermobile that is moved daily so they can pick for insects and forage. Anytime another species is added, it opens the door for greater diversity in the ecosystem and provide many direct and indirect benefits.
We have added Katahdin hair sheep to the operation and are integrating them directly with the cattle. They have been known to help aid in parasite control with cattle because they act as a dead-end host for parasites specific to cattle and vice-versa. This will be very beneficial to our land base because cattle and sheep harvest a different level of energy, so the utilization efficiency on our land will increase. We are also adding pasture hogs to the operation. They will also be utilized to turn our compost piles. This would be a relatively low cost solution to keep the compost piles active and from overheating and would diminish the high cost of having to use fossil fuels to accomplish this task.
The cattle and sheep we raise are 100% forage raised. Our poultry and hogs are raised on pasture and are never fed any GMO grain.