Capitalizing on calving in fall
Central Wyoming agricultural producer Gordon Medow was pondering whether he should sell his mother cows so he could focus on growing crops.
“The farming that needed to be done during the spring and summer didn’t mix well with my spring calving program,” Medow says. “I didn’t feel I could continue doing right to both worlds without hiring additional labor. Some manage to do this well, but I just didn’t have the manpower to get the two to work together.”
Since Medow enjoys raising both crops and calves, he searched for alternatives. What about calving in the fall? This bucks Wyoming tradition, but would it work?
• Calving during busy farming season poses challenges.
• Wyoming producer opts for calving during the fall.
• The change opens up new marketing opportunities for the ranch.
“I started looking at different times to market calves and feeder cattle to try and capture a different market, and I determined on paper that fall calving made sense. That it had more positives than negatives, at least for my operation,” says Medow, who runs Medow & Sons farm and ranch, north of Riverton, with wife Bonny and son Mark.
Medow took the plunge in the early 2000s and has since spent a great deal of time developing his fall-calving program, one of the few such programs in Wyoming and surrounding states.
The Medows have a production herd of 500 mostly Black Angus cows. All of the calves are backgrounded through winter, and the family purchases an additional 800 to 1,000 calves to background.
Working the land
The family owns 600 acres of irrigated farmland. About 50% is in corn for silage and grain, 40% in alfalfa, and 10% in spring wheat.
Medow says that the wheat was added in 2008 as a rotation crop. “I’m still on a learning curve as to how well it will produce and play into the rotation, but I’m optimistic it will work for my operation. I feel I will get better weed control and nutrition management.”
Wheat is sold on the open market, but all of the corn and alfalfa are fed to their cattle.
“We still have to purchase feedstuffs to complement our corn silage and alfalfa,” Medow says.
Mother cows stay all year
The mother cows stay on their farmland year-round as well. “They are fed throughout the year, which is pretty unusual around here,” he says.
When Medow was deciding whether to get out of the calving business, math convinced him otherwise.
“I determined we could make more money marketing our crops through our cattle,” he says. “We look at typically marketing the cattle in midsummer. That’s when we make a decision to either market the calves or retain ownership and have them finished at a commercial feedlot.”
Medow says he has no regrets in switching over to fall calving.
“It allows me to continue calving, something I enjoy very much, and it allows me to concentrate my efforts on farming in the spring and summer,” he says.
Waggener writes from Laramie, Wyo.
This article published in the October, 2011 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.