By Kindra Gordon
Gary and Amy Cammack, Union Center, S.D., cite three major things they’ve focused on to make their cow-calf operation the rock solid operation it is today.
Constructing V-shaped windbreaks from used steel in lower draws. These structures have been placed near riparian areas and provide winter cover for both cattle and wildlife. Gary says they’ve helped keep cattle from abusing the riparian areas.
Planting trees. The Cammacks have planted hundreds of willows and cottonwood shoots and have devised their own water jet system to start them in wetland areas. They’ve also planted shelterbelts behind their metal V-shaped windbreaks, as well as around their farmstead and corrals to give extra protection. Gary says you give up acreage to establish trees, but he believes the return is worth it in the protection and habitat they provide for cattle, birds, deer, antelope and other wildlife.
Implementing rotational grazing. Gary calls this a “huge,” part of their ranch success. With cross-fencing and more than 50 miles of water pipeline, rotational grazing has improved their grass and beef production. As proof, he points to their weaning weights, which they have maintained even though they now calve beginning in late March rather than in early February. Gary attributes some of that to the ability to provide fresh water and fresh pastures to the cattle “I truly believe it makes a 50 lb. difference in calves, and I think that’s a conservative number,” he says. Cammack credits their use of Sim-Angus composite bulls and the heterosis that crossbreeding gives with another 50 lb. boost to their weaning weights, and believes the implants given to calves at branding time also provide a 50 lb. weight advantage to calves. All total, Cammack reports his calves can gain as much as 3 pounds a day at the end of the grazing season. He says, “In early September we weigh every cow and calf, so we know what they’ve done on grass and mom from that day into the fall – three pounds a day is possible.”
Having a good ranch system has helped make their ranch sustainable.
“We can repeat our results year-after-year,” Gary says.
Read more in the February Dakota Farmer.
– Gordon writes from Whitewood, S.D.