Demand drives year-round calving
Calving will soon be over for many ranchers in the Dakotas, but not for Jessy and Stephanie Meyer of Shields, N.D. They calve year-round. It’s part of a business strategy that calls for them to have calves available throughout the year to sell to a premium veal program in the U.S.; to hormone-free, antibiotic-free markets in Europe and the U.S.; and to feedlot operators in the U.S.
The Meyers sell their cattle where they fit best and where they can make the most money.
“It ain’t cowboyin’ anymore; it’s business,” says Jessy, 32.
• North Dakota couple calve and market cattle year-round.
• The Meyers are selling to veal, natural and other top-end markets.
• Their crossbreeding program has given them entry to special markets.
Jessy and Stephanie run their cows in four groups. Two large groups calve in the spring and fall, and two small groups calve in the summer and winter. All the cattle are ultra-sounded to determine whether or not they are pregnant; then they are split into groups and pastures accordingly. This allows the Meyers to spread out the calving workload. Bulls are rotated among the groups.
“We can buy better-quality bulls, but we don’t need as many,” Jessy says.
The Meyers currently buy Limousin bulls from Wulf Cattle of Morris, Minn. This relationship has enabled them to sell calves back to Wulf Cattle and has opened up the opportunity to background cattle at KCC Feeders of Minden, Neb.
Using Limousin bulls has also created the opportunity to sell calves to Strauss Brands Inc., a 75-year-old Wisconsin-based family company that buys half-blood Limousin calves that are at least 5 months of age and weigh about 400 pounds. The meat is marketed through Strauss’ “Free Raised” and “Meadow Reserve” veal brands.
“They want the calves to be as natural as can be,” Jessy says. It requires shipping the calves “from mama’s milk” right to a processing plant in Milwaukee.
“It reduces the stress on the calves. There is no branding, castrating or shots. It lowers input and labor costs,” Jessy says.
The Meyers’ cattle are also source- and age-verified each year using IMI Global’s verification system. As Verified Naturals, the cattle qualify for the non-hormone-treated market, which enables the Meyers to sell them to European Union companies, and to wholesalers and retailers participating in the Global Animal Partnership program. These markets are open only to cattle that have never been implanted or treated with antibiotics. Other standards of humane care must be met, too.
Jessy and Stephanie works closely with Jessy’s four younger brothers and their spouses — Chris and Laci, Brandon and Courtney, Josh and Tasheena, and Casey and Kelsey — and his parents, Dave and Brenda Meyer. All own cow herds in southwest North Dakota and northwest South Dakota. Although each sibling has his own cows and land, they work together when haying, and branding and weaning calves. Because they share labor, the families don’t have to hire much outside help.
“We are very family-oriented and I couldn’t think of a better way to raise my children,” Meyer says.
Jessy and Stephanie have four children: McKenzie, Jordan, Aubree and Cinch. The oldest is 5 and the youngest is a newborn infant.
The older girls follow Jessy and Stephanie around the ranch and help with chores. “I hope that they will want to continue in the cattle industry when they are older,” Jessy says.
Year-round calving and their access to unique markets may help the Meyers achieve their goal.
Gordon is from Whitewood, S.D.
This article published in the May, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.
Beef Herd Management