Esteemed Charolais genetics: Domek family stumbles upon purebred operation, now boasts top Charolais genetics
Raising purebred Charolais bulls in eastern Montana wasn’t Duane Domek’s original plan. But, after stumbling upon an operation in need of an owner while visiting his brother, Duane and following generations of the Domek family have produced some of the top Charolais seedstock and genetics in the nation, including the notable herd sires LT Authority 7229 PLD, LT Affinity 6221 PLD and LT Ledger 0332 P, to name a few.
“I started ranching and farming in North Dakota back in 1978,” says Duane. “We had predominately Hereford and black baldy cows, and we used Charolais bulls to increase the weaning weights of our calves.”
Duane explains although he liked raising his three-way crossed cattle, he was getting tired of the low grain prices and high cost of machinery to keep farming.
“I went to visit my brother in Helena, Mont., and we started looking at some property,” he says. “I happened to come across a purebred Charolais operation owned by a guy who was ready to retire but his children didn’t want anything to do with the ranch, and he had no one to take it over.”
Excited about the opportunity, Duane purchased the operation in the fall of 1990, and the Domek family has been raising purebred Charolais ever since.
Domek family history and Box P brand
Today, Duane and his wife Jill and their two sons Seth and Austin (AJ) are involved in the operation.
“My oldest son Seth is married to Sarah, and they have three children – Ethan, Madeline and Hannah,” Duane says. “Seth ranches with me under the name Domek Charolais.”
Duane explains AJ, who is a large animal vet, along with his wife Jennie and their children Hallie, Si and Thor operate Blue Mountain Veterinary Service and run around 40 commercial Red Angus cattle.
“We are separate entities, but we own everything together as a family,” Duane says.
Duane further notes the Domek family brands all of their registered Charolais with the Box P.
“The Box P was handed down to me from my grandfather, Harry Parfit, who bought the rights back in the 1930s,” says Duane. “It’s an old family brand from my mother’s side, and we’re glad we’ve been able to keep it in the family.”
Running cattle in two states
While the main operation is headquartered in the rolling hills of Wibaux, Mont., the Domek family also utilizes a second location in Ypsilanti, N.D.
“All of our bull calves are raised here in Montana, and we summer our heifer calf pairs in North Dakota,” Duane explains. “We like to think of it as our drought protection plan, because usually if one of our locations is dry, the other is getting some moisture.”
“We do not winter any cattle in North Dakota,” he adds. “We keep everything in Montana from the first of November to the first of June.”
Duane further explains the Domek family begins calving their heifers, nearly 40 to 50 head, around Feb. 22.
“We synchronize and breed all of our heifers via artificial insemination (AI). They are then turned out with bulls through the first of July,” Duane says. “We also AI about 100 head of our cows in two groups a week apart.”
Duane says the first bunch of cows is AI’d the first three days in June and the second bunch is AI’d a week later. This is done to lessen the workload of the Domeks bulls if some of the cows don’t catch with AI.
For cows not bred AI, Duane says Domek Charolais utilizes multiple sire pastures, a different breeding strategy than most purebred operations.
“We run our cows in multiple pastures with about three bulls per pasture,” he explains. “We DNA test all of our calves so we know who they are sired by. This strategy has shortened our calving intervals, and we don’t have to deal with the headache of keeping track of which bulls are breeding which cows.”
In the spring, Duane says Domek Charolais practices intensive rotational grazing by using high-tensile crossfencing around 160 to 200 acre pastures.
“We will hit a pasture for a certain period of time, then move out in an effort to improve our grass,” says Duane. “We like to give our pastures rest so we don’t do any season-long grazing. We have found with rotational grazing we can run a lot more cattle on the same amount of land, all while keeping our pastures in much better condition.”
Sound, moderate, easy-handling cattle
According to Duane, the breeding philosophy at Domek Charolais is focused on moderate-framed, docile animals with sound feet and legs.
“The average cow size on our ranch is a moderate 1,250 to 1,350 pounds,” Duane says. “We also stress conformation and sound feet and legs. In fact, we guarantee the feet and legs of our bulls from yearlings to three years of age.”
Additionally, Duane says docility and easy handling are an emphasis at Domek Charolais.
“We have a reputation for easy-handling cattle. We get them used to being handled on foot, with horses, with fourwheelers and with dogs because we have a variety of customers,” he explains. “If an animal is huffy or high headed, they don’t stay at our ranch. We want all of our cows and bulls to be very docile.”
Unique “cowboy” auction
The Domek family markets their esteemed Charolais genetics every third Saturday in February at the ranch through what they call a “cowboy” auction.
“It’s different than a regular auction,” Duane says. “We set a base price on our bulls and open them up through a silent auction until 1:30 p.m. We then open the sale up for in-person and over the phone bidding in $100 increments. It’s a low-pressure system, and it doesn’t take long. Our customers really seem to like it.”
Duane notes through the sale Domek Charolais bulls are sold to a wide variety of customers hailing from Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. However, Domek Charolais bulls have also been sent as far east as North Carolina, as far west as Utah and as far south as Texas.
For more information, visit domekcharolais.com.
Hannah Bugas is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.