The Garrison family found what they were looking for with Limousins
Ron and Shelley Garrison have had a variety of cattle at their family farm near Osceola, Mo., but when they started their Limousin operation, they wondered why they ever had any other breed.
The path to purebred Limousins began in 2003.
“We had some Limousin cross cattle that we started with and we just liked their build, their disposition. When it came time to shop for a bull, we went to a purebred bull,” Shelley said. “We just really like their appearance to start with and they are a good muscling and weaning breed, which appealed to us. We, for a while, went to the sale barn and just bought calves to raise. We really had the biggest Heinz 57 calf crop you could find. None of the other breeds appealed to us, so we kept coming back to the Limousin.”
“We bought a bull to start to put on our commercial cows and really liked the looks of the calves and instead of buying common cows, we started buying purebred cows and have kept building from there,” Ron said.
They currently have about 40 head of Limousin cattle and focus on the production of herd sires and replacement heifers.
“The price for seedstock is a little more steady,” Shelley said. “It does fluctuate a little with the market, but you aren’t depending on sale barn prices. You also get to see who buys your cattle and you can build a relationship with that buyer, and hope they come back. We’ve had some return buyers who say they liked the bull they got from us and want to know what we have now.”
Because they are a smaller breeder, the animals they market from year to year is dependant on the previous year’s calf crop.
“We’ve got a bigger bull crop to market this year, and next year’s is even bigger,” Shelley said. “We had just two heifers out of 17 calves this year.”
While they have an abundance of bulls to offer customers the next couple of years, it will take time for those bulls to grow and develop.
“We don’t market them until they are 13, 14 months,” Ron said. “It really depends on what they look like and how they grow.”
“We won’t put them in a sale until they are 18 to 24 months,” Shelley added.
The Garrisons primarily utilize natural cover for their breeding program, but they have recently began an AI program to help introduce new genetics.
“It just gives us a different look, different bulls for different markets,” Ron said. “Not everyone is looking for the same bull type, or the same cow type. We want our customers to have a choice. We have lots of semen to choose from different bulls and I like to see what will work the best.”
“A big advantage is that you don’t have to feed and house 15 different bulls to have a diversified herd,” Shelley said.
The couple gave credit to their daughter Livie as the “number cruncher” when it comes to examining and comparing EPDs. Livie obtained her AI certification about a year ago and does some of the AI work.
They will start the next round of calving in January 2018, which is the earliest they have ever calved, in an effort to get calves bigger for spring production sales the following year. The second half of the calving season will be April and May, and calves will be held for 16 to 18 months prior to marketing as well.
Every females calves out in a pasture within walking distance of the Garrison home.
“If I have a cow that calves in a deep snow, I can pick the calf up and get it into the shed, and momma usually follows right along,” Ron said.
“We used to have to hunt over 100 acres to find them,” Shelley said. “Cows will hide in the worst places; we don’t have that problem up here.”
New genetics are not confined to the sire side of the equation. The Garrisons have purchased females, be it heifers or cows, to help them establish their breeding herd.
“The only way to improve your numbers is to bring in new bloodlines,” Shelley said. “If you just keep one bloodline, there’s no growth in your herd. If you’re at a place where you like what you’ve got, then that’s fine. We think there’s always room for improvement. We just don’t look at EPDs, we want to look at that cow. If her EPDs are really good, but she doesn’t appeal to us, there’s no reason to bring her home.”
“We like a certain body type, and hopefully be some kind of an outcross from what we’ve already got,” Ron added.
The Garrisons have purchased several animals through sales, such as the Heart of Missouri Limousin sale. They also consign bulls and heifers to the sales and utilize private treaty sales.
Since disposition is a culling factor for the Garrisons, they hand feed their animals daily, mingling among cows, heifers and bulls. Because they do have the close contact with their herd, the couple feel it allows them to closely monitor herd health.
“It’s easy to keep track of who might be limping a little, or who might have pinkeye,” Shelley said. “It also helps during calving season.”
They follow a vaccination and health protocol for all their animals, which they have established with their veterinarian.
The couple’s children, Noelle, 22, and Livie, 19, are active in the cattle operation when able, but being busy college students sometimes limits their time at home. Noelle is following the path blazed by Shelley, who has been a preschool teacher at Osceola for 16 years, by majoring in early childhood (birth through third grade), and Livie is majoring in agriculture business and animal science.
The goal of the Garrison family is to continue their seedstock operation, expanding along the way.
“In the next five years, I think our herd will be double in size, but we’ll have to buy some heifers or cows,” Ron said.
In addition to their cattle operation Ron also has a custom haying operation.
Ron’s family roots are deep in St. Clair County, and their farm is part of what the locals call Garrison Ridge or Garrison Hollow. Part of the land in which Ron and Shelley run their cattle has been in the Garrison family since the 1800s, and other family members surround their farm. Ron and Shelly have access to addition pasture and hayfield owned by family members, which they feel will help them continue to grow their herd.