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Tradition of testing: MJB Ranch continues as longest-running consignor at Midland Bull Test

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Lodge Grass, Mont. – The Brown family made its way to Montana from Texas in the early 1900s, and Jim Brown says, “My granddad started this place in 1926.”

The ranch sits 10 miles southeast of Lodge Grass, Mont. on Owl Creek.

“We started out just like everyone else in the Hereford business,” he comments. “We still have Hereford cattle, but we have Salers, Angus and South Devons, too.”

“We also run some crossbred cattle that Leachmans call Stabilizers,” Brown adds. “The Stabilizer cattle are a four-breed cross that includes Angus, South Devon, Simmental and Gelbvieh or another red breed.”

The ranch strives to produce high-performing bulls that increase profitability for their customers.

Ranch evolution

MJB started selling Hereford bulls when they entered the seedstock industry.

“Bulls like DR Achiever and MJB Blazer 1000ET are two of the bulls that were heavily used as MJB,” says Brown. “We sold semen through Select Sires and ABS Global across the country.”

In 1984, they added Salers, and South Devon cattle were introduced to the ranch in 1988.

“We live in snow country, so we dealt with sunburned udders in the Herefords,” he explains. “We had to add some pigment to the udders, so we brought in the Salers and South Devon cattle.”

Most recently, they added Angus cattle to provide another option for use in crossbreeding programs.

Brown comments, “When Leachmans dispersed from Montana, we bought some of their Angus cows and started an Angus herd.”

They continued to grow and developed their operation through the years, and performance testing has been an integral part of their business model.

Testing bulls

Brown began performance testing the bulls on the operation when he graduated from college.

“We started testing our bulls at Midland then, and we started measuring the efficiency of our bulls,” he explains. “We think that efficiency is a key to profitability.”

MJB Ranch is the longest continuous consigner to the Midland Bull Test, with 47 years of bull testing underneath their belt.

He continues, “Today, we select our bulls and heifers out of efficient sires.”

As they look at cattle, Brown notes that efficiency – or pounds of feed required for a pound of gain – is important.

“Residual feed intake, or RFI, is another important trait,” Brown comments. “Cattle with low feed intake that still perform are very profitable. However, if we have low feed intake and no performance, that’s not good.”

“We have to balance everything,” he explains.

GrowSafe data

The GrowSafe systems at Midland Bull Test allow the ranch to determine how many pounds of feed are required for a pound of gain.

“The system is constantly sending data about the weight of the feed that is consumed by cattle to a computer,” Brown says. “When a bull steps up to the feed bunk, it records how much feed he ate.”

Similar technology can be used for water intake, Brown comments.

The data is important enough for MJB Ranch that Brown takes cattle to the facility year-round.

“It takes about 70 days to test cattle,” he says. “They can do four or five bunches in a year, so we take our cattle to the Midland Bull Test, but we also take them during the rest of the year.”

Brown says, “We are working to identify and utilize genetics that excel in feed efficiency.”

Efficiency traits

As the beef industry continues to make improvements in efficiency, MJB hopes to stay at the top of the curve to enhance profitability for their customers.

“It is important for our cattle to be efficient not only on our rangelands and in a reproductive sense, but we want them to work in the feedlot, as well,” Brown explains. “We believe – and the data is beginning to show – that those animals that test efficiently using the GrowSafe bunks are also efficient as cows on grass.”

The incentive for high-quality, efficient cattle extends beyond just this generation and a high-performing cattle herd today.

“We don’t know where it will lead, but I don’t think it’s not going to be long before efficiency is going to impact the market,” Brown explains. “I think that the market will start to discount producers who don’t have feed efficiency data on their cattle.”

He continues, “If we can tell a feeder buyer that we have performance-tested and efficiency-tested cattle, I think we’ll have a leg up.”

Family business

Brown and his wife Mary run the operation with their son Matt and his wife Jenna. Daughter Sherry Doubet and her husband Jim are also involved in the operation.

“Sherry is the CEO of the American Salers Association, which is headquartered in Parker, Colo.,” says Brown.

Brown notes that the beef industry isn’t always easy, but it’s a life that he enjoys.

“Ranching is a struggle all the time, it seems like,” he says. “It’s been a pleasurable learning experience working with the McDonnell family over the years.”

He comments, “I’m going to keep raising good cattle just as long as I can.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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