After a career managing other producers’ cattle, Jason Bates begins his own Red Angus venture

When Jason Bates says he’s been on some of the nation’s biggest ranches, from Florida to Oregon, that’s not an exaggeration.

Jason, a native of New York state, grew up in the Thoroughbred horse business and came to the Ozarks as a college freshman at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Okla., and the relationships he developed in the Ozarks kept him coming back.

Jason has worked for cattle fitters, helped manage show barns, managed the herds of producers around the Ozarks and North Carolina, as well as working for Beefmaster Breeders United and the International Brangus Breeders Association, but it was the desire to have his own herd that prompted him to make yet another move; a move to Red Angus production.

Jason and his wife Brittni stared Elephant Walk Ranch four years ago. The ranch got it’s name after Jason was thumbing through old photos and came across a race horse his parents owned named Elephant Walk.

“Brittni (a Texas Tech University graduate with an agriculture marketing background) said there was so much to do with that in advertising and marketing. She came up with a logo and we went with it.

“I hope the horse was good; I don’t remember,” Jason said.

“He was,” Jon said, who was in Missouri visiting from New York to meet his new grandson, 2-month-old Briggs.

Having an extensive background in the Bos Indicus breeds, Jason appreciates their attributes, but Red Angus fits his goals.

“It’s very easy to tell the ability of cows to adapt to the heat and humidity based on hide color,” Jason said. “At the time, the Red Angus breed was climbing a hill. Red Angus cattle aren’t bred to be large framed. They are easy calving cattle and have all the great carcass traits, as far as cutability and quality grade, that the black Angus do, yet I think they are just a tick more tolerant when it comes to the heat. Past that, I like seeing red cattle on green grass.”

The focus at Elephant Walk Ranch is producing the most efficient, productive cattle possible.

“Ours goal for this program are not to be big, but to be able to market a handful of high-quality, useful, functional females, as well as bulls that have longevity to them,” Jason said.

After only a couple of years in the Red Angus industry, their work is paying off.

“The first year, we were very successful,” Jason said. “We marketed some bulls through Green Springs (Bull Test in Nevada, Mo.), where they were developed. I’m a strong believer in feed efficiency; collecting RFI (residual feed intake) data is important, and that data is available through using the GrowSafe system.”

They may be well on their way to achieving their production goals, but there have been some learning curves along the way, even for an experienced cattleman.

“Building our herd, they are going to have our prefix on them, and I want to make sure those cattle are functional. These cattle haven’t had a drop of grain all year,” Jason said. “We’re in a very lush grass season, but even in the drought, they were not supplemented. I would rather be able to differentiate the good cattle from the outliers. The cows are pretty fleshy right now, and the calves could be bigger if they were on a creep feeder, but I’m focused on making them work for themselves.

“I don’t care about ribbons or trophies; I want an animal that is going to survive in the winter on as little inputs as possible, raise a good calf and breed back every year, that’s it. In terms of conformation and uniformity, I want them to be sound, but if they have a great deal of longevity, fertility and breed back, most likely that conformation is already built into that animal.”

Despite last year’s drought, the calf crop weighed between 670 and 735 when weaned at 205 days of age. Jason expects weaning weights to be even higher this year.

“I know what I can make one look like by doing other things, but I want my cowherd to be as economical as possible,” Jason said. “The economics can be hard when available pasture land is limited close to home and input costs are constantly on the rise, so its  important for us to have a foundation herd that is efficient even though it may take a little longer to reach our goals in terms of scale.

“I want these cattle to be efficient when it comes to feed, which is why I believe in the GrowSafe system and RFI. If someone buys a bull from me, he’s going to be efficient, easy fleshing and structurally sound.”

Elephant Walk Ranch strives for a 45- to 60-day calving window each spring. Females are bred once via AI, followed by a cleanup bull. The farm is currently retaining their heifers, but all heifers must meet Jason’s strict criteria.

The breeding program allows for expanded genetic options, which Jason said, is critical for all cattle producers.

“If you’re not using new genetics, and I emphasize new genetics because your genetics should improve every year, you’re throwing money out the window,” he said. “If you do a little homework, the data and technology is out there to use. Genetics isn’t hard; find the trait that you’re lacking in and find out the inheritability of that trait. Someone once told me, ‘Figure out what you’re not good at and don’t do it.’ It’s the same with the cows; figure out what the need is and find it.”

Cattle are vaccinated twice a year, and IGR is added to mineral year-round to aid in fly control.

The Bateses could have started their cattle operation anywhere, but Jason said Southwest Missouri is a “hidden secret.”

“There’s no better place in the country, in my estimation, to be a seedstock producer,” he said. “Yes, you have to maintain forages and we have to be good grass stewards, but the quality is there.”

To help maintain forage quality on his ranch, Jason said pastures are soil tested regularly and fertilized according to test recommendations.

A rotational grazing system allows the farm to stockpile some forages, and any hay offered to the herd is purchased.

“I’ve never fed a bale of hay before the middle of January on this place,” Jason said. “Last summer was a little trying, but we, fortunately, never had to feed hay in the summer.”

Jason Bates may be on a new road at Elephant Walk Ranch, but he’s enjoying the ride.

“I enjoy the cattle industry more now than I ever have,” Jason said. “The trends and technology change and advance but the one thing that never changes is our passion for what we do.”


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