Bryant Vaught believes genetics and understanding of forages are keys for success
As a young cattle producer, raising beef from the pasture to the rail, and doing so in a way to continue to improve each piece of his operation, Bryant Vaught is considered a unicorn to some.
“I am a fifth-generation rancher on the same ground my great-great-grandfather started farming in the early 1900s,” Bryant explained. “I focus on beef production by practicing regenerative agriculture, including flex grazing, grazing cover crops and direct marketing our pasture beef to our local community.”
Bryant doesn’t raise the mythical creatures, unicorns, but to only be 25 years old and have such a focus and plan in place for his beef cattle farm in rural Barry County near Aurora, Mo., he does seem to be a very unique young individual.
“I have been involved with the farm my whole life,” Bryant recalled, “In 2014, I was able to buy my grandparents out and now the run the 640-acre family farm. I also lease additional land and operate the herd on about 1,000 total pasture acres.”
Bryant has about 200 head of females for his herd.
“I have some Angus-based cows, but focus more on cows that produce quality for our farm more than any specific breed,” Bryant explained. “We have used Angus, Hereford and Gelbvieh bulls in the past to produce the best crossbred we can.
“In the past, we’ve bought bulls and utilized artificial insemination, but for the past two years we have been able to use home-raised bulls. Most all of our females bred this year are bred to our bulls,” he added. Bryant completed AI school and did the AI work on all the cows when they use this option.
“I have someone else breed the heifers because they can be a little trickier,” he said with a smile.
Bryant sees his operation as an ecosystem where everything must fuel the next step to be productive.
“It starts with the soil,” he stated. “You have to know what’s in your soil and keep it healthy to grow healthy grass and cover to, in turn, grow healthy cattle.
“We plant cover crop mixes with three main things in mind. We want to keep the soil healthy and add to it what it needs; we want crops that is good for wildlife food and nutrition (with the entire family being avid hunters); and I want to help reset the paddock each time for the next cover crop I plan to plant. Of course, keeping all this in mind helps the watershed of the farm and maintains quality water for plants and cattle.
“My herd is its own smaller ecosystem in the middle. The cow/calf operation is the center of everything. It’s my Queen Bee so to speak,” he added. “We keep replacement heifers and breeding bulls for our own use and to sell some off the farm. If they don’t make the cut for this, they go in the beef enterprise, where we raise them out for beef. And, obviously, if they don’t make the meat program cut, we cull them out for the sale barn. These are generally those that have been sick or just don’t grow out for one reason or the other.”
According to Bryant they finish their calves on cover crops and supplement with grain when needed.
“The calves are never in a feedlot and we have them processed at a Missouri-inspected plant and sell sides of beef or bring it back to the farm to sell steaks and different cuts individually.”
One of the other things Bryant has worked to accomplish is a herd that doesn’t need much upkeep and maintenance.
“I have had my hand in the breeding program for a while now and have worked to produce and keep offspring that don’t need much,” he explained. “Last year, part of our herd only got a mineral booster shot, they didn’t need any other vet upkeep and not having to pay that bill helps things run smoother too.
“Generally, I am working for easy-keeping calves to produce replacement animals that don’t need as much work. I do the vet work myself, except on our replacement heifers,” he added. “I have a vet do pre-breeding inspections and test all the bulls we keep on the farm to make sure we are spending our time and money on something that can produce for us.”
A quote that Bryant likes a lot goes “if you can’t change the cards you’re dealt, then change how you play your hand.”
“Make sure your genetic code matches your zip code is how someone explained it to me and it really makes sense, he added. “Cows need to perform on the land and grass you have; they should match the resources you have, whether that is grain, hay, water or whatever your natural advantage is. For example if you have a farm full of fescue, don’t kill it out to plant something else because you don’t think your cows will grow well. Find cows that do grow well on fescue.”
According to Bryant, God has already perfected the natural cycles, so farmers and ranchers shouldn’t try to outsmart him or Mother Nature to chase things that aren’t really worth it.
“In the end, God knows how it is all going to work and we should be stewards on the land and animals, working with nature, moving forward with what already works instead of trying to change so many things.” he concluded. “The only thing that needs to be changed is the way we play the game and we should always look at what works naturally as our example to follow.”
Bryant Vaught knows what’s going on in his operation and has goals and plans for the future.
“Of course, I have big plans, but the goal is to continue to grow the operation without sacrificing quality or integrity while continuing to raise low maintenance cattle. He wants to provide the best options of beef for consumers to eat and ranchers to raise,” he commented. “If that makes me a unicorn then I guess I am. There are truly not too many young farmers in the market today.”