At C&C Grazing, the focus has changed somewhat: it used to be on bringing in mostly light calves, because they “could put the cheap gain on them,” Chad Currie says. But it proved too difficult to put together the numbers he and his father needed to keep their operation stocked, so they decided to branch out and buy some bigger calves. “Right now, my dad and I are buying our own calves locally,” Mr. Currie says. “We buy 250 up to 600 pounders. Our main focus is the 3 and 3 ½ weights.”
Making the switch to buying their own cattle has helped the Curries control the health issues that can come with lighter calves. “We had been with a buyer who was getting them in northeast Texas, 75 to 150 a week no matter what,” Mr. Currie says. “So when you have a blow up, it’s big.” Now they are able to keep better track of what comes from where and what gets sick. “We keep records on each individual calf, and the sale barn it came from, the date it came in, all their doctoring records,” Mr. Currie says.
With he and his father, Dwight, being the only help on the place, there’s not much time to deal with sickness. “If we have to doctor a calf more than two times, he won’t go back into the herd,” Mr. Currie says. After three times, they are eartagged differently, separated and eventually sold at the local auction barns. The rest of their cattle get sold on Superior Video. “We tell them before they sell, there’s no third time or chronic calves on there.” One way or the other, everything goes; the Curries exercise no retained ownership, because “there’s enough risk involved already.”
With such a wide variety of sizes of calves on the place, there’s lots of sorting. The calves may get sorted eight to 10 times while they are there, for size and weight, to help eliminate competition at the trough. The Curries feed six days a week; on Sunday, only the new cattle, those that have been there less than a month, get fed — an 18 to 20 percent ratio at 6 pounds per head each day. That gets lowered down to 2 to 3 pounds per day when the grass comes.
At C&C Grazing, there’s no such thing as creep feeding and no hay at all. “Hay is the most expensive feed,” Mr. Currie explains. The cattle graze on ryegrass and Bermuda grass and a little bit of fescue in some pastures. Grass season on their 2,300 acres is from about April 1 to whenever the first frost comes, usually around Thanksgiving.
The calves that come in on the lighter end, at around 225–250 pounds, will usually stay for 12 months; everything goes out as 850-875 pounds. “That is our goal — to stay in year-round,” Mr. Currie says. “We are trying to buy and sell on the same market. Come June and July, a majority of our cattle will be gone. If you’ve got land leased, you hope to have enough cattle to stock it.”
When it comes to buying calves, the Curries focus on buying top-quality steers and heifers. “We tried to buy cattle off the Superior Video, but most of the time, the good ones bring enough premium, we can’t afford them,” Mr. Currie says. They have gone back to buying locally.
After selling cattle on the video for the past nine years, the Curries have some repeat buyers, and they know what those buyers want and what works for them. “We try to buy our cattle with just a little bit of ear,” Mr. Currie says. “We try to lean toward the good black cattle. Most of our cattle go up north, all the way to North Dakota; hardly any go to the Texas panhandle. To have any kind of ear, the buyers don’t want them that far up north. If the cattle have a quarter to three-eights, we try to leave them alone. We try to buy the best quality, number one calves that we can put together locally.”