Diversification to optimize resources, Marcy family bull production with yearlings to utilize resources
Hay Springs, Neb. – In 1888, the Marcy family moved from Rowley, Iowa to the edge of the Nebraska Sandhills just south of Hay Springs. They homesteaded the ranch in 1887 and moved West for the opportunity the land offered.
“We still use the original quarter my great-grandparents homesteaded,” Tom Marcy, fourth generation on the ranch, says.
Today, the Marcy family runs a diverse operation, seeking to utilize their extensive feed resources the best way possible.
“Our ranch is a little unbalanced in that we’re very long in feed but short of grass,” Marcy says. “We’re surrounded on three sides by farm ground. To expand our pasture, the only way we can go is east.”
The family has purchased hay and pasture land, and they separate the ranch into three different enterprises – farming, registered cattle and yearlings.
The farming aspect of the operation originates from the very beginning of the ranch, and Marcy says, “The farm has changed a lot in the last 60 years.”
With irrigated and dryland acres, the family is able to produce more than enough feed to sustain their cattle operation throughout the year.
They plant corn, alfalfa and triticale, which is a rye-wheat hybrid. They also plant small grains, depending on water availability that year.
“We started using triticale in 2017, and we’ll harvest enough to have seed and sell some seed,” Marcy says, explaining triticale is more aggressive than wheat and is a better feed than rye, making it a nice cross. “We plant the seed behind corn silage or irrigated alfalfa.”
The majority of the farm ground is either irrigated corn or irrigated alfalfa.
They also hire the bulk of the farm work out, allowing them to focus on the cattle operation.
“We also have enough pasture to run our purebred cows and registered heifers on deeded ground,” Marcy explains.
At the heart
With the farmland as the land base, Marcy Cattle Company, owned by Tom and his wife Kim, and Tom’s brother George, who owns Marcy Livestock Company, have hosted a bull sale for 57 years.
George served as an American Angus Association regional manager in Wyoming and Montana and, during that time, really learned the Angus business. He now lives in Fort Collins, Colo. and manages registered Angus sales. George also brings years of experience in Angus sales to help the joint purebred operation. The Marcy brothers breed their cattle to the same bulls to ensure continuity in their herds. After weaning, the cattle are run together, and bulls from both herds sell in the late January sale.
The brothers work together in nearly every aspect of the purebred operation, capturing each other’s strengths to benefit both businesses.
“We’ve always sold bulls. Our sale is the fourth Thursday in January, and we take the bulls to Gordon, Neb. for the sale,” Marcy says. “We sell about 150 yearling bulls and 35 two-year-olds.”
“We really look at the bulls as a by-product, though,” he explains. “Ultimately, we’re trying to raise the very best female we can.”
Their registered Black Angus herd of cows consists of deep, easy-fleshing cattle that are top in terms of performance.
“For a lot of our customers, the Angus bull is a terminal cross, so they want size and growth,” Marcy says. “We don’t focus on birthweight, but we keep it reasonable.”
Each year, the Marcys sell two-year-old bulls in their sale to hit a specific group of customers.
“We keep about 60 bulls every year to run over to twos,” he says. “Then, we’ll sort off 25 to sell private treaty, cull or keep for ourselves. It’s tough to find a herd bull in June if something happens to one of our bulls, so we keep a few extra just in case. We want to always have a bull that can advance our herd.”
“The registered cattle get a lot of ink and a lot of work, but we run yearlings, too,” Marcy says. “The advantage of being surrounded by farm ground is, we have a lot of calves out on cornstalks.”
Four years ago, Marcy also added a backgrounding yard to the operation to continue to utilize their extra feed even more efficiently.
“We needed to sell feed, and my goal is everything we grow would walk off the ranch in the form of beef,” Marcy explains. “We still sell some cash corn, though.”
“We bring in steers, and many of them are our bull customer’s cattle,” he says, adding the steers are fed to 1,000 pounds before being sold.
Along with the feed grown on the ranch, they buy dried distillers’ grains to supplement the cattle.
“We can’t grow as much alfalfa as we’d like when it’s dry, so we truck in protein,” Marcy says. “We want to see good growth on the yearlings, but we also want to leave something for the next guy to put on. It makes them easier to sell.”
To bring in yearlings, Marcy spends a lot of time in sale barns starting in early October purchasing cattle.
“I started out buying yearlings for us, and then I started buying for some neighbors,” Marcy says. “I thought, this is a good deal, so now I buy for two or three large feedyards and 15 or 20 area operators.”
He continues, “To get the deal on yearlings, we have to be at the sale barn, so I go to sales Monday through Friday.”
Embracing the challenges
Today, Marcy Cattle Company’s cowherd is smaller than it has been in the past, though they’re working to build it back.
“When Kim was diagnosed with cancer, we sold half of our females, and we sold every heifer that was carrying a heifer calf,” Marcy says. “She’s cancer-free today, and we’re building back a bit.”
Using embryo transfer, the Marcys are able to quickly rebuild using proven genetics.
“I have embryos in the tank we can put in and know we’re getting great calves,” he says.
However, Marcy also acknowledges the future is “murky.”
With his oldest son living in North Platte, Neb. where he and his wife both have good jobs, Marcy isn’t sure who will take over the ranch.
“I don’t see the family ever selling the place, even if we end up leasing it long-term,” he says. “Production agriculture is the greatest job in the world, but it’s the worst job for someone who’s passion doesn’t lie in raising cattle.”
“We’ll continue raising cattle for at least another five years, and then we’ll see where we go next,” Marcy emphasizes. “I love raising cattle.”
Learn more about Marcy Cattle Company at marcycattlecompany.com.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.