During field days, Cole McCann, livestock operations manager for the Northern Ag Research Center (NARC), at Havre, Mont., introduced the center’s Angus commercial cow herd to producers.
NARC, once part of Ft. Assinniboine, has 300 Angus cows – half Black Angus and half of them a Simmental/Angus cross.
In addition, there is a 350-head feedlot at the center for feedlot research, along with acres of native and improved grass rangeland.
“The Angus cows spend half the year in two different locations. Around Jan. 1 to May 1, the herd is at Ft. Assinniboine on a winter ration, where they stay until they calve out in March,” McCann said.
Last month, they trailed cows home on horseback down roads to the center on Jan. 6.
From May to the end of December, the cows graze on a rotational grazing plan at a ranch in the Bear Paw Mountains.
“We strive for a moderate-framed cow and one that can wean a heavy calf. We like her to have good udders, good feet and a good disposition,” he said.
At NARC, McCann said they work at being self-sustainable with feed.
“We grow our own hay and silage to be sustainable,” he said. “In addition, we grow some of our own barley for the feedlot operation, and purchase some, as well.”
When they breed the Simmental/Angus heifers and cows, they synchronize and use artificial insemination (AI).
“AI is a very useful tool. It allows us to have a timely calving season with a beginning and an end and we’re able to finish off with an even calf crop. We are also able to select for superior genetics that way,” McCann said. “It is an economical way to own the best genetics without owning a high dollar bull.”
For the research, they are able to control and use multiple sires by a single group of cows.
It enables them to achieve their long-term projects and research in order to be consistent.
“Whatever doesn’t take (through AI), we use Charolais bulls as cleanup bulls,” he said.
In mid-September, the calves are weaned.
“We bring the calves down here to (Ft. Assinniboine) and they graze on hay meadows until they enter the feedlot,” McCann said.
Beef cattle management and nutrition are a focus of some research at the center.
In November, they begin measuring steer feed intake at the feedlot for research, using a GrowSafe feeding intake station. It takes various measurements including feed intake, average daily gain, monitoring performance and other measurements.
With the feeding intake, they track that all the way to harvest, and can collect carcass data on steers.
“We are able to monitor feed efficiency and see how that affects longevity. For the steers, we track carcass weight and data,” he said.
During calving, McCann said there is a “great opportunity to have kids in town and students at MSU-Northern (in Havre) come out and help us with various tasks.”
“Our goal is to help producers with research and insight into their own operations,” he concluded.