Harter Cattle Company started with a single cow in 2015 

Nick and Saleena Harter, of Harter Cattle Company, aren’t typical ranchers, primarily because it’s unusual to find a family with a beef herd living within the confines of a small residential neighborhood, even in the small town of Billings, Mo.

“We’re not in debt, though,” Nick disclosed, a status worth a lot in the present economy.

For Nick, getting into the cattle business without taking out a loan had long been a personal goal. 

Although he was raised in town, he became interested in farming while helping his older brother with an FFA project when the two boys were young.

“We brought home a couple of Holstein calves to bottle-feed in our back yard, then later put them on my uncle’s dairy farm,” Nick related. “Since dairy farming wouldn’t have been practical for me, I’ve been planning the best way to raise my own beef herd ever since.”

Nick confessed he’s spent many hours watching the popular Youtube videos of Greg Judy, a central Missouri rancher who Nick has learned much from.

“Judy’s plan for rotational grazing really caught my attention,” Nick said. “It looked like a way to graze cattle through the winter without providing supplemental grain and hay. In other words, it looked inexpensive. Healthy, too, for both the cattle and the people who eat the beef.”

Harter and his wife Saleena purchased their first cow, a Jersey heifer who they named “Oatmeal,” in 2015, with cash earned through his day-job as a route sales manager for a grocery distributor. Oatmeal grazed on land leased from Nick’s uncle, Pat Harter. They’ve since increased their herd and pasture size.

“We now have 30 head of cattle – a mix of Jersey, Angus, Hereford and South Poll – that we graze on about 60 leased acres, minus the few acres where we have a calf-weaning facility,” Nick explained. “And we’ve managed to do all of it without going into debt.”

Nick said part of the key is in rotational grazing.

“We don’t let the cattle graze on all the land at one time,” he explained. “We use the system learned from Greg Judy. Our goal was to raise grass-fed beef, from start to finish, then sell USDA-inspected, packaged product directly from our freezer to the public without going in debt.”

The plan is working.

In the summer, he seeds pastures with sorghum-Sudangrass; in the winter, he broadcasts a mix of at least 50 percent red and white clover directly onto pastures, allowing melting frosts to help with the seeding. With reels of electrical fencing wire, posts and a portable charger, he creates fenced paddocks, and turns the cattle into one portion of the pasture at a time.

“I have my cattle on a 35-day grazing rotation,” Nick explained. “My main two pastures – one 35 acres, and the other, 25 acres – are in different locations, so for part of the year, I partition one pasture into different paddocks, by moving my fencing over at 35-day intervals to follow the pattern of the un-grazed grass. It gives the cattle fresh grass to graze on, and gives the grazed pasture time to rest and renew. About twice a year, I move all of the cattle from my 35-acre pasture to the 25 acres, and start the whole process over.

“I have green grass for the cattle, year-round, something not everyone can claim. I don’t have much investment either, other than my labor, grass seed and portable fencing materials. And the cattle, too, of course.”

The Harters recently purchased a South Poll bull, which they anticipate will be a valuable asset for their herd. South Polls are bred to be heat-tolerant and to thrive without needing additional grain in their diet, according to Harter.

The Harters will have about 2,000 pounds of USDA-inspected, wrapped, grass-fed beef available for sale, beginning in May.

“With the increase in the size of our herd, we’ll have about twice that quantity available in the fall,” Nick Harter said. “Our prices are comparable to those of grocery retailers because our expenses are minimal.”

“We have plans, too, to begin making appearances at farmers markets,” Nick continued. “We like being able to introduce ourselves as the producers of the beef people are putting on their tables. That’s important these days.”


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