Over the past few years, Oklahoma ranchers Darryl and Debbie McNair have put time and effort into refurbishing the fences on their ranch. The fences serve an important purpose to keep 400 head of the black Simmental commercial cow herd rotated through various pastures. With only two of them to work the ranch, the McNairs have come up with some timesaving methods to keep fences tight and make quick repairs. One of those tips was runner-up in the Drovers Profit Tip Contest.
Another idea they shared involved using a turnbuckle to reconnect broken fence wire. A turn-buckle is a device that usually consists of a link with screw threads at both ends that are turned to bring the ends closer together.
Different-sized turnbuckles can be used depending on the size of the wire and what you have available. Mrs. McNair says that the turnbuckles are easier to carry around on horseback than fence stretchers because they are less cumbersome.
The McNairs manage their pasture to keep the ranch self-sustained in terms of forage. Both improved and native pastures are available for the cattle to graze in the warm months and provide hay for cutting to feed to the herd in the winter. Mr. McNair overseeds with ryegrass on fescue pastures during fertilizer application in the spring. Other pastures contain Bermuda, which they cut in late summer to make 1,100 1,600-pound bales of Ber-muda hay. To keep the hay weed-free, herbicide is applied via a helicopter. On the first spray in the spring, fertilizer is mixed with the herbicide, which Mr. McNair says works well to kill out the weeds.
“We have lot of ragweed; if you don’t spray, then the weeds take over and knock your grass back,” says Mr. McNair. He says helicopter application has been feasible, costing $10.90 per acre for application. The payoff comes from the improvement in harvestable forage, he says. “We get seven times more grass because we get rid of the weeds and brush.”
Fertilizer is applied to about 500 acres in June, then again in late August or early September. “That gives us standing grass so we don’t need hay until the first of January.”
The cow herd is split into two seasons with the first group of calves arriving in late March and early April. Mr. McNair adds that they try to keep a tight calving season. This year, 84 percent of the spring herd calved in a 35-day window, while 93 percent of the fall herd calved in 30 days. To help the cow herd during breeding season, Mr. McNair says they early wean the calves — this year the spring-born calves were weaned Aug. 5. That has helped boost rebreeding rates on the cow herd.
“Early weaning gives our cows plenty of time to get in better shape,” he says. And the numbers help prove that. Over the past three years, the McNairs’ cow herd has had over a 97 percent rebreed rate.