Backgrounding Calves - From the Ground Up

There are two different types of beef cattle operations, and both are found here in the Brazos Valley. One is supported by a cow herd is that is bred to produce calves that will ultimately become beef. The other takes up where the cow leaves off when her calf is weaned and grows that calf to get it ready to go to a feed yard. Shel Winkley has more in this week’s From The Ground Up.

“We do things so much different than they do on a cow/calf ranch that just turns a set of cows out, you breed the cows, you raise the calves, and sell the calves off of them.”

Pete Scarmardo runs what people in the cattle business refer to as a backgrounding operation.

“We’re continually bringing fresh cattle in, and fresh cattle being calves that have just been weaned off the cows, and bring them in, process them, get them straight, and then keep them here for 60 to 120 days, and then they’re off to another location again.”

Like cow/calf producers, Scarmardo depends on the land to feed his cattle.

“ We fertilize our grasses. We spray our weeds. We try to do whatever to manage the grass and grow as much feed and forage here on the ranch as possible.”

Scarmardo also has the ability to put out feed for his cattle.

“There’s about 30 different pastures here on the ranch, and each pasture has feed bunks in them so we can feed every pasture on this ranch and we can gather any pasture on this ranch, and they all come into lanes and rows that go to the main pens, and we can keep cattle segregated. We can feed them that way. We can manage how we feed them, how our health problems and risks are.”

Operations like this are becoming more common in our area, with calves that are raised and weaned here being backgrounded here before they are moved into the finishing process, but it all starts with the cow/calf producer.

“I need somebody out there raising the cows and producing the calves and keeping those cattle out there, so we have something to keep the rest of the chain going, not just through me, but all the way to the feed yards and the packing entities, so there’ll be beef on the table.”

I’m Shel Winkley, tracing the journey our food makes from the ranch to our tables, From The Ground Up.

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