“A lot of these guys have worked hard to put together a nice cow herd, and one drought can ruin the native pasture, and then they have to sell the herd, it's a sad thing because it's a labor of love.”
It’s a harsh reality for ranchers out west, that the threat of drought can derail decades of hard work. For these cattle farms to last year after an unpredictable year, they need to equip themselves with solutions that provide consistency. Steve Beattie of Curtis & Curtis Seed, a seed supplier and consultant, works with ranches to solve problems like one many face in the summer months: drought.
“It’s all about getting the most net gain out of each acreage of irrigation,” Beattie said. “The water needs to lead to profit.”
And he’s found success in the Stockmaster forage grass from Barenbrug USA, specifically at the Four Sixes Ranch in Frisco Creek, Texas. “It has a lot longer of a season than most grasses. And it responds really well to water. When you don’t have enough water, it just goes dormant and the cattle can still graze on the dry matter, but then when you bring back the water, it greens back up. It just waits on the water.”
Four Sixes are currently grazing 11 pivots of Stockmaster, but the first two circles were planted in 2011 after droughts continued to challenge their staff and cattle and more pivots have been added each year since. Their wells also have been drying up over the years, and they need to be more strategic with their water. They wanted something that would provide some consistency and stability. And of course, they wanted to keep the cattle fed.
“It’s a year-round grazing product, especially compared to wheat. And its higher quality, so you get more gains from Stockmaster, and the cattle put on weight,” Beattie explained. “And other grasses like wheat tend to get too rich and run through the cattle, so they don’t retain the nutrients.”
Increased yield and profits are always music to the ears of ranchers, but Beattie says that it runs deeper than just profit. Some businesses hang in the balance when droughts come through, because they can’t support their cattle.
“Providing Stockmaster to graze when native grass is struggling because of drought makes a big the difference! Stockmaster has added a lot of consistency, and when ranchers can get the gains they need, they don’t have to sell off their cattle.”
In the midst of uncertainty when it comes to drought, Beattie says that there’s hope, and the options are getting better: “I’ve been using Barenbrug products for 15 years, and they’re getting better and better,” Beattie said. “We're on the cutting edge with the Barenbrug company, and we need the kinds of grasses that they're producing.”
Beattie is also looking to the future, knowing that these issues won’t go away, and livelihoods are on the line. He adds, “My heart being with forage, my overall intent is to bring the gains that a person needs to be profitable. We're doing all we can do to end that scenario where they feel forced to sell off their herd.”
In a time full of tough decisions, making one of them a lot easier can make a big difference.