Running Red Angus, Carnine Ranch finds opportunity in working with nature
Angora, Neb. – Dan Carnine of Carnine Ranch outside of Angora, Neb. says he didn’t always love the agriculture lifestyle – until he left home.
“My grandpa homesteaded the home portion of this place in the early 1900s,” he says. “I didn’t appreciate agriculture when I was younger, but when I got out of high school and went to college, I knew I wanted to come back.”
After receiving his degree in ag business, Carnine returned to the ranch to work with his father, taking over the management of operation about 10 years ago.
Red Angus herd
“My dad had a Red Angus and mixed herd, but used mainly Hereford and Red Angus,” Carnine says. “Since I’ve been home, we’ve used all Red Angus bulls for our seedstock.”
“We still have a few white faces out there, but our herd is pretty much red,” he says. “We’re the only Red Angus around.”
Carnine jokes, “Everyone else has black cattle around us, so it’s easy to find our cattle if they get out.”
On a more serious note, Carnine adds, “When everyone went black, we kept the Red Angus. We’ve always been rewarded for having Red Angus.”
Carnine Ranch builds flexibility into the operation by retaining their heifers and steers.
Yearlings provide flexibility because the ranch is able to sell cattle when the market is at its peak.
“We generally sell our yearlings on the open market if prices look good,” he explains.
“If prices are off or the markets are going up, we can put them in the feedlot and retain ownership.”
“We background everything through the winter,” Carnine explains. “We can keep them and fatten them through the summer, if we want, or we can sell in the spring. What we do depends on the market.”
During the winter months, cattle are put in a large lot, where they are fed an all-forage ration that prepares them to survive and produce on the range as cows.
Carnine emphasizes, “We want to retain our heifers, and we want them to be cows that survive on the groceries they get without supplements. They aren’t fed a finishing ration.”
The steers and heifers are kept together until February or March, when the heifers start cycling.
“In February, the heifers go out on the range, where they get a little supplement,” Carnine says. “They’re on a different nutritional plane, so we make sure they have enough to eat.”
During breeding, Carnine Ranch utilizes strictly natural service breeding.
“Artificial insemination was a big time constraint,” Carnine explains. “We don’t synchronize our heifers because we don’t need to.”
“The heifers aren’t bred in a feedlot. They’re bred on the range,” he says, adding, “Bulls are only kept in for a 21-day breeding period. At calving the heifers run with the cows on open range.”
As a result, the ranch is able to brand their calves 30 days after their due date because nearly all the calves are born within a short timeframe.
“We could spend days trying to guess which heifers we’re going to keep as replacements, but we don’t know what’s what until the bull does his thing,” Carnine says. “The heifers that aren’t bred on the first cycle are either finished in the feedlot or sold. We further streamline our breeders by culling any cow or heifer that doesn’t wean a calf.”
Late spring calving
In addition to retaining ownership of his cattle, Carnine chooses to calve in late May to synchronize his cattle with the natural cycles in the environment.
“I calve in May with a t-shirt on now,” he says light-heartedly. “Calves are born with a summer coat. They’re not born ready for winter, so it makes sense to calve in May.”
He explains a later spring calving season also aligns well with nature.
“In the wintertime, the bell curve of available grass doesn’t match the bell curve of the cow’s nutritional requirements,” he says. “I’m trying to get those curves to overlap, so we calve later.”
Later calving also eliminates 50 to 75 percent of the challenges they faced when calving at the beginning of the year.
“We don’t have to live with our cows while they’re calving, and we don’t have to stuff a bunch of feed into them or worry as much about weather,” Carnine says. “We’re not fighting nature, and it works well.”
Carnine Ranch primarily grows alfalfa on center pivot-irrigated ground, which is baled in large squares.
“My dad used to put up loose hay, but we bale it in big squares now,” Carnine says. “We keep and use the lower quality hay, and the best hay is sold all over the place.”
They also raise corn, wheat and other cash crops.
Edge of the Sandhills
The location of Carnine Ranch at the western tip of the Sandhills is advantageous for raising a family.
“There are good, friendly people around here, and we enjoy all four seasons,” Carnine says.
While he enjoys larger population centers from time to time, Carnine comments, “I like to be close to a population, but I don’t want to live there. I want to travel there. Rural life is good.”
He also enjoys living and operating a diversified agriculture operation.
“I think I’d be bored if I just ran cattle or farmed,” he says. “I like the diversity of our ranch. It is overwhelming at times because there is so much to do, but I like the challenge of juggling several operations.”
As he looks toward the future, Carnine continues to see value in flexibility.
“Things on the ranch and in agriculture are always changing,” he says. “Just because we do things one way now doesn’t mean we’re going to do it that way forever. We make changes to benefit the ranch and ensure we can continue operating and living this lifestyle.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.