Strategic inputs push production

Depending on the time of year, this 2,000-acre Central Texas ranch is home to 1,000 cattle. By investing in weed control and fertilizer, the same bermudagrass also yields 2,500 to 3,000 round bales per year.

At times of the year, Tim Stallings will manage 1,000 cattle — cows, replacements and yearlings — on a 2,000-acre Central Texas ranch. The same bermudagrass also yields 2,500 to 3,000 round bales per year.

“That’s why we spend on fertilizer and weed control,” he says. “If it wasn’t for that, we’d be running a cow to 20 acres. You’ve got to be concerned about forage.”

Stallings knows the sales he needs to keep the ranch profitable and what that means in number of head and pounds. Strategic inputs help him in that equation.

“We know what we need to make per head when we sell our calves,” he says. “What changes is how many or how long we have to own them to do that. Fertilizer and fewer weeds are part of it.”

Stallings is the longtime manager for three Artesian Cattle & Farming ranches owned by Dr. Robert King, a Lubbock, Texas, surgeon. One ranch is strictly a hunting enterprise, but Stallings oversees cow herds and yearlings on the other two near Gustine and Winchell, Texas.

The Winchell ranch is a native grass operation that Stallings operates less intensively.

The 2,000-acre Gustine ranch is the bermudagrass factory that provides hay for both ranches. Irrigation helps. Six center-pivot irrigation systems water all the coastal hayfields and one patch of Tifton 85.

“We make 70 percent of our hay from the Tifton 85 hay meadow,” Stallings says. “Our Tifton 85 will outproduce our coastal 3 to 1.”

Each hayfield could yield three to four cuttings per year, but Stallings typically takes just one from the coastal fields. Then he turns in yearlings. Whether for hay or grazing, the goal is both quantity and quality.

 

FORAGE REPLACES SUPPLEMENT

“We feed a lot of hay because we don’t feed protein. The cow herd on this [Gustine] property never gets protein,” Stallings says. “We overseed with wheat, oats and rye with a no-till drill and put up the best hay we can. We like to maintain 16 percent crude protein in our hay.

“We save thousands of dollars on protein for 350 cows plus 100 to 150 replacement heifers and 450 to 500 yearlings. We can have 1,000 head here on 2,000 acres.”

Savings on supplemental protein don’t all fall to the bottom line, Stallings emphasizes. He uses it to grow the best forage he can. “We can spend money on feed or seed. I can manage it better when it’s growing out there,” he says.

Stallings takes soil samples in the hayfields every three years and fertilizes every year accordingly. He’s used both liquid and dry fertilizer.

At times, Farley Farm Supply in De Leon, Texas, applies liquid fertilizer blended with GrazonNext® HL herbicide for weed control. If he uses dry fertilizer, Stallings orders the herbicide applied in water. Either way, the application rate is GrazonNext HL at 1.5 pints per acre, usually applied in April or May. Thistles and milkweed are the primary targets.

“I’ve used GrazonNext since it came out. It’s amazing to me what that stuff can do,” Stallings says. “We spray one time, and it will carry us through the growing season.

“I try to maintain this so we can run more cattle. If there are 10 weeds in a square foot, that’s 10 grass seedlings that could be there. So we take our feed costs and spend it on other areas like weed spraying and fertilizer.”

 

GEARED TO GROW ON GRASS

In addition to growing more high-quality forage, Stallings tries to manage its grazing. Each herd is in a two- or three-pasture rotation.

“I go around every morning and look at grass,” he says. “We try to never graze more than half.”

Cattle perform well in the forage environment. The spring-calving commercial Angus cows on the Gustine ranch are bred to Akaushi bulls. About 80 percent of the calves are born in the first 30 days of the calving season.

Once weaned, the half-blood Akaushi calves go into a yearling program on the ranch. Stallings typically ships them off wheat at 800 pounds, selling them through a branded beef program. At home, though, the cattle perform well on grass, sometimes even better than Stallings expects.

“We had two sets of steers — half-blood Akaushi — that in 60 days gained 3 pounds per day on coastal. It was late summer,” he says. “I really thought I made a mistake. I weighed them twice because I didn’t believe it the first time.

“Grass is important because we sell it as beef.”

 

 

Label precautions apply to forage treated with GrazonNext HL and to manure from animals that have consumed treated forage within the last three days. Consult the label for full details.

™®Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. GrazonNext HL is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. State restrictions on the sale and use of Remedy Ultra apply. Consult the label before purchase for full details. Always read and follow label directions.