Don Adams of the Cross L Ranch runs 1,800 mother cows in the short grass country of New Mexico and Colorado. The cowherd consists of black and red baldies bred to Red and Black Angus bulls.

Adams retains ownership on all calves and sells on a packer grid, estimating that the Cross L receives a $4-5 premium marketing calves this way.

Adams purchases all replacement heifers from Heartland Cattle Co., McCook, NE. He purchases rather than develops his replacements for several reasons. One is to get easier calving females. The second reason concerns their grazing system.

The Cross L Ranch uses an intensive cell grazing system to efficiently utilize its land resource. Raising replacements didn't fit the grazing scheme.

Adams estimates he pays about $100/heifer over market price. To buy his replacements, Adams places an order that meets his biological criteria (i.e., frame of 5-5.5; mature weight of 1,050 lbs.; and "easy-doing").

Heartland finds the heifers, develops them, breeds them and sends them to the ranch. A feedback system is in place where Adams communicates to Heartland the "type" of heifer of those sent that works best for his given production environment. Thus, a source of heifers that tends to fit his operation can be more easily identified.

Adams feels the benefits outweigh the added cost. A longer productive life overshadows the extra time it takes for a heifer to adapt to the Cross L Ranch. Plus, the rebreeding rate among two-year olds is up from previous years by as much as 6%.

Since making the decision to buy rather than raise, the Cross L Ranch has simplified its management. The first-calf heifers calve unassisted before mature cows and within a 2- to 3-week time span. Adams believes his decision to purchase 100% of the replacements has been worth every bit of extra expense.