We’ve just finished planting season on the ranch; we’re a little behind where we normally are because we’re on Mother Nature’s schedule and she always keeps us on our toes. We had a very dry spring and then surprise snow in Colorado on May 20th. Because of those cold temps and the dry ground, we were later getting the corn into the ground. We’re not even a little bit worried though, as the recent rain and abundant sunshine will have it caught up in no time at all.
We talk a lot about the corn finishing that gives our beef its delicious flavor on our website and through our social media channels, but not as much about the variety of crops we grow on the ranch. We thought in the spirit of education we’d give a description of each:
Our primary crop makes up 57% of our planted fields. We begin planting in May and start harvesting corn silage in September. We finish with ear corn harvest at the end of September into early October. This feed is used primarily for the finishing of the beef before it goes to market, although we do also feed it to the cows for extra energy.
We plant this beginning in late March and moving into April, depending on the weather. Alfalfa is a quick growing crop, so it’s harvested multiple times, in May, early July and late August. Alfalfa farmers do a final fourth cutting later in the fall, but we leave the last cutting in the field for winter graze for the cattle. We are about two weeks behind our normal harvest schedule this year due to the winter-like weather in late May. Alfalfa accounts for 23% of our crops.
Oats make up 15% of our planted fields. They are planted in April and grow really fast, so they’re harvested before the grain heads ripen and while it’s still green, typically in early June. Oats create nutrient dense silage for the cows.
After oat harvest in June, we go back into some of those fields and plant sorghum. It is a fast growing forage crop that will be ready to harvest in the fall. It is also used for cow feed but makes up only 5% of our field crops.
We cut our irrigated grass fields in mid to late June. It grows so fast that the cattle can’t eat it fast enough and it grows leggy with seed stalks and less leaf, which isn’t as appealing to the cattle.
The expansive acreage on the ranch allows plenty of room for the cattle to graze and roam on natural grass before being finished on this corn-based diet to ensure the delicious flavor our beef delivers.