Commercial cattle make up the bulk of most North American cattle operations that have a core cowherd which raises calves destined for the feeding and slaughter part of the beef business. Our commercial herd consists of mostly Hereford and Hereford-influenced cows so most of them carry the distinguishing white face common to the Hereford breed. Our herds are made up of grade cows which are either purebred or crossbred but are not necessarily pedigreed breeding cattle.
Our cows have the ability to consistently raise good healthy calves with a substantial weaning weight. We also expect our cows to maintain themselves, to exhibit longevity and to be athletic enough to travel and graze mountain rangelands and expansive summer grazing lands, right up to the winter months. Temperament is also a key factor in the cows that we keep. Cows are herd animals so all it takes is one nervous, flighty animal to influence the rest of the herd. We also select for good udders across the board. Non-functional udders and bad attitudes are our top reasons for culling cattle out of the herd.
We handle our cattle calmly and our cattle get used to our routines and practices to the extent that they can exist day-to-day in relatively stress-free environments, particularly where they spend their winter months at ranch headquarters.
Our mostly red-white-faced herd produces a nice uniform calf crop of red and black baldie calves in the 500-700-pound weight range at weaning. A Simmental bull is used on the primarily Hereford groups to increase heterosis (genetic diversity), which adds to the overall health, vitality and growth of our calves. The heavier muscling of the Simmental breed also adds pounds and dimension to our market calves destined for slaughter.
The commercial cowherd is bred to herd bulls in the spring to calve from mid-January to April. Cow-calf pairs graze spring pastures and mountain rangelands until mid-October when calves are weaned and brought back to ranch headquarters where we give them a chance to adapt to weaning on lush pastures. A couple weeks later they are sorted and some heifers are kept as replacement females for the herd while others are kept to feed at home for freezer beef and the rest are trucked to a local sales barn to be auctioned off to local feeder cattle buyers who background the cattle for feedlots or feed them right through to slaughter weight, at about 1.5 years of age. Our pregnant cows stay out on pastures until the snow is too deep at which time they are gathered and brought home to ranch headquarters and fed forages for the rest of the winter months when they begin their annual cycle anew.