Green grass grows valuable beef

US - During the spring months, cattle graze across the hundred valleys and hillsides of Douglas County.
calendar icon 23 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
But then just as the green grass turns to brown in late June and into July, most of the critters disappear.

What is their story? Where did they go?

Cattle are raised in the county because its grass-covered landscape is prime for raising beef.

Warm spring rain showers mixed with days of sunshine produce green forage full of valuable protein that puts weight on yearling cattle. The more pounds, the more profit at sale time.

Several thousand animals, known in the beef business as stocker cattle, dot the county’s ranch lands through the winter and spring months. They arrive in the fall as 7- to 9-month-old calves, weighing 500 to 600 pounds. They’re purchased from cow-calf operations from all over the Pacific Northwest, weaned off their mothers and are trucked in.

They become yearlings and when the grass surges in growth from March through June, so do the animals. They can average 3 to 4 pounds a day in weight gain because of the protein in the county’s clover and grass pastures.

“There’s very few places in the world with the ability to do that,” said rancher Tim Bare. “It’s just a matter of utilizing the abundance of feed we grow here. We can run one yearling per 1 1/2 acres on the improved hill pastures in Douglas County.”

Bare is the general manager of the K-Bar Ranches, an outfit which has pastures from Canyonville to Dillard. K-Bar Ranches is owned by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.

The county is “one of the best grass producing areas in the country that I know of,” said Bob Hall, owner of the Hall Ranch in the Dixonville area. “It’s ideal for raising livestock.”

“During the spring the forage here is of excellent quality,” said Shelby Filley, the livestock and forage specialist in the Roseburg office of the Oregon State University Extension Service. “It’s high protein, high energy for the ruminant animals (cattle, sheep and goats). They can convert the grasses and legumes to protein products, to meat.”

After three months of grazing, and as the grass begins to dry up, the yearlings are rounded up in late June and shipped to a feedlot. The steers will weigh about 900 pounds and the heifers about 850 pounds at that time.

At the feedlot, the cattle will be grain fed for 120 to 140 days and will gain another 400 to 450 pounds. Then they’ll be turned into hamburgers, steaks and roasts.

Cattle have become the favored animal by ranchers in Douglas County. Filley said that 2006 numbers showed 56,000 head of cattle (cows, and calves up to 15 months) in the county. Sheep numbers in 2006 were 44,000 (ewes, and lambs that go to market by 6 months old).

That’s a major change compared to the early 1940s, when there were almost 120,000 breeding ewes in Douglas County and very few cattle.

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