In a backgrounding operation where cattle are fed year-round, you'd expect to find pens and plenty of bare ground. At G-Three Cattle Company, though, the cattle always have forage beneath their feet, even if that means drilling wheat in 10-acre receiving traps.

Gale George and his younger brother, Darrel, explain it has to do with controlling runoff and limiting dust. Equally important, they say it helps reduce health problems.

Cattle arrive and leave G-Three, near Uniontown, KS, year-round. Buying and selling on the same market is one of the risk-management tools the Georges employ. These are typically bulls or steers weighing 500-550 lbs., eventually sold at 800-850 lbs.

Though cattle receive a total mixed ration (TMR), they run in 40- to 80-acre fescue pastures after receiving. From there, depending on the time of year, cattle might move to cornstalks drilled with winter wheat or larger fescue pastures.

The TMR is mostly home grown: corn, corn silage sorghum and the like. They also make heavy use of byproducts such as wet distillers' grain and corn gluten. They've been able to expand over time with contiguous acres to the point that their operation provides for two families.

“Our cost of gain varies, but we try to keep it below 50¢,” Gale says. “The goal is to put on 2.0-2.5 lbs./day by combining available forage with corn, ethanol by-products and silage, in addition to free-choice hay.”

PI-testing is reducing pulls

A health wreck a few years ago — 25% mortality and 25% chronics — underscored the vagaries of chance. That's when they started testing all incoming cattle for persistently infected (PI) bovine viral diarrhea (BVD); it's one more risk they can try to avoid. “It's not a cure-all, just another tool we can use,” Darrel explains. Though there's never a true apples-to-apples comparison in the stocker business, the brothers say PI-testing has reduced the percentage of pulls and increased the percentage of those responding to treatment.

These days, most cattle flowing through G-Three come from a southern cattle-buying service that brands, deworms, vaccinates and PI-tests the cattle prior to shipment. Until a few years ago, cattle were procured closer to the operation by a local order buyer.

The brothers explain switching procurement strategies had to do with availability more than anything. It was getting tougher to put together loads of quality cattle at the weights and prices they needed, in the short amount of time they had to assemble them.

On the marketing end, they'll forward-contract some when the market is right, utilize video sales, sell direct and utilize the Fort Scott Livestock Market. They prefer not to feed out cattle they purchase, but always feed their home-raised cattle: primarily Angus calves they can qualify for source and age verification as well at Certified Angus Beef®.

Gale and Darrel focus on the fact they're raising food rather than cattle. At the same time, Gale says, “We have to put as many pounds on them as cheaply as we can.”