Courtney Herefords are raising the rancher kind | TSLN.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Courtney Herefords are raising the rancher kind

Photo courtesy Jody CourtneyJim Courtney brands another generation of good cattle.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.



Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.



The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.

Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.

The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.

Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.

The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.

Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.

The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.

Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.

The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.

The light wind blows a slithering, smoke-like veil of snow across the trail through the pasture, and the bright sun belies the actual warmth of the day. Coming through the snow are bright-faced two year old heifers with snow on their backs and snow around their muzzles from grazing. Their breath makes frosty clouds as they break into a trot in anticipation of the cake in the feeder in the pickup.

Bucking and playing in the cold air, they trot in behind the pickup and line up on the cubes trailing out onto the snowy ground. The heifers, all having raised their first calf, are in excellent flesh, with thick, shiny hair. The dark red of their Hereford hides contrasts vividly against the background of open prairie and distant buttes. This group of coming three year olds are enjoying their last season of “special treatment,” as they get fed separately from the older cows. They aren’t fed any different, having to live on cake and grass with a little hay when it’s too miserable to get out and hustle for feed, just like their older sisters and mothers in the main cowherd.

Hustle is a great word for describing the Hereford cattle on the southeastern Montana ranch of the Courtneys. With a Belle Fourche, SD address, they are located near Capital, MT, which isn’t near anywhere. The first Courtney moved to the ranch in the 1930’s and there have been Courtneys there for 80 plus years. The toughness of those early ranchers hasn’t been diluted out any, and they still depend on cattle and sheep for their living, and handle them with horses.

Running the ranch today are Tom and Jody and their son Adam, 25, and his wife Jaimi. Also an important part of the operation is Tom’s dad, Jim, who at 78 still comes to the ranch nearly every day to help get the work done. He is also very busy as a Carter County commissioner. Jim married the former Della Crago. She and her late husband Walt were also longtime Hereford breeders northwest of Belle Fourche.

Adam and Jaimi have a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Hazel, named after Tom’s late mother, who is the fourth generation on the ranch. Also still at home on the ranch is youngest son Joseph, 17, who is home schooled and helps when he is done with schoolwork.

The Courtneys have three other grown kids as well. Seth is 19 and a student at BHSU in Spearfish, SD; Grace is 23 and married to Matt Moore and lives and works in Belle Fourche; and John is 21 and lives and works in Rapid City, SD.

Driving down the feed alley between the bunks, the heads of the weaned calves pop up to look at the pickup. Bright eyed and healthy, most are Hereford, though there are some fine looking black baldies mixed in. Three of the big pens are steer calves that Courtneys bought from their bull customers. Tom stated, “We don’t buy them just because they buy our bulls, but because those calves really work as yearlings here. I wouldn’t buy them if they didn’t.”

“This year the yearling steers went onto summer grass in May weighing 778 pounds, then sold the last day of July to a feedlot at 992 pounds. They were on feed for 107 days, gained 4.35 lbs/day and went out at 1,458 pounds,” says Courtney. “That’s pretty good, I think.”

Along those same bunks are the replacement heifer calves and the bull calves. Uniformity is the standard, and the calves are as alike as peas in a pod. The heifers are feminine with good hair, long backed and structurally correct. The bull calves are good headed and masculine, with the same good hair, and with long bodies and depth.

The coming two-year-old bulls, which were sold in November at a year-and-a-half, are in several pens, though many have already gone to their new homes. The young bulls are uniform as well, with long, broad backs, masculine heads and necks that smooth into the shoulders. Strong over the loin, they tie into the hindquarters and have great length from the hip to the round. The hindquarters are broad and deep, and tie in low onto the hocks. They also have structurally sound legs and feet.

The bull calves are left intact until spring and then most of the May born bull calves are castrated. There is another cut made later when more bulls are cut. “Any we question, we let grow up a little more to see what happens. We’re not afraid to cut one though,” says Tom.

The cattle in the pens are all fed a ration that is predominately ground native grass hay. Mixed in will be some distillers grain for added protein. The calves will get a little corn in theirs as well, but not much. According to Tom, “We just add a little for the energy when it’s cold.”

The bred heifers are on pasture, but are fed the same ground hay as the young bulls. “We’ve done this for two years. We already had the big troughs in this pasture for the bulls in the fall, so we started using them to feed the ground hay to the heifers,” says Tom, adding, “They just don’t waste any this way, so we like how it works.”

The cake that Courtneys feed is an alfalfa based cube with 18 percent protein. An all natural cake, they feed it at a rate of 1-2 lbs/day per head. “I like to cake because I want to see everything every day,” says Tom.

“We graze all winter. Usually we hay starting the end of January then hay for about 45 days. The cake is fed all winter, and we will feed some hay when it’s too miserable for them to graze,” says Courtney.

The heifer calves are all kept, then bred to calf in a 30 day period starting March 15. After that, they are culled heavily. A heifer needs to be able to have her calf on her own, get it up and nursed, and then raise it while keeping herself in condition to rebreed and then wean that calf at a good weight in the fall. If she doesn’t do that, she won’t stay on the ranch.

“You can’t tell just by looking at a heifer calf whether she is going to make a cow or not. Sometimes you get those really cute heifers that are fat and shiny, but they just don’t have what it takes,” says Tom. “On the other hand, you might have a heifer that isn’t as nice looking that will be a great producer. That’s why we cull after they’ve calved.”

The Courtney mother cows are the very picture of what a Hereford cow ought to look like. They are big enough to buck the deep snow, easy fleshing, and matronly. They have long, deep bodies with deep flanks and volume, and plenty of muscle down the hindquarter. Their feet are well shaped and neat and able to walk the miles they need to just to make a living. The cows are dehorned as calves, making them easier to work in the corrals and in bunches, since they aren’t constantly horning one another when crowded.

Tom quips, “Besides, it’s hard enough keeping horn weights on the bulls, much less having to do all the heifers.”

The Courtneys have culled the cowherd mercilessly in the effort to constantly improve them. “About 75 percent of our cows are first, second and third calvers. If you see an old cow in our bunch, you can figure she is really something,” says Courtney. “We feel that each set of heifers ought to be better than the ones before, so keep rotating the older cows out to make room for the ones coming into the herd.”

A standout feature on the Courtney cattle is the amount of pigmentation around the eyes and face, with some having big patches of red hair around each eye. “The traditional Hereford guys don’t like all that pigment as much, but the ones using them on black cows sure do,” says Tom. “We have to watch that we don’t overdo it though. We try to keep raising some without as much for the people that don’t want it.” With the eye pigment, pinkeye is less of a problem for the cattle.

Soundness in general is very important to the Courtneys. They have also bred out the prolapses and long toes. Aside from the occasional backwards or leg-back calf, calving problems are minimal too.

“We calve out in the pastures and they need to be able to get along on their own,” says Tom. “We tag and weigh new calves during calving and that’s really all the attention they get.” They are bred to calve in 30 days, starting April 15.

“This is basically a sheep ranch and our cows are run like sheep. They can get along in this country,” says Tom, adding “This environment doesn’t allow for any faults.

“I’ve looked at registered herds other places and they aren’t run like ours. They run in optimal environments and are never stressed. They feed them constantly and the cattle never have to do for themselves,” he continues. “That doesn’t fit our program. This is a cake and grass outfit, and every cow has to do for herself. Ours are like a different breed of cattle from other registered Hereford herds.

“These cows are the most profitable thing we can run here,” says Courtney. The big ridges, deep draws and windswept flats have made the cattle stronger and they thrive under what some would deem harsh conditions.

The bulls have proven that they can go to any environment and prosper, whether cold, northern ranches, or humid, southern country.

“Our bulls aren’t overfed and can go out on pasture and get fat,” says Tom. Courtney bulls have been sold into 42 states and Canadian provinces, but he really raises them for the more local cattlemen. “I like to see these bulls go to people in this region. Repeat customers are what keep us going,” says Courtney.

The Courtneys have cut down on the A.I.ing and only A.I.ed for 10 days this year, then the bulls were turned out with the cows in sire groups. They use large sire groups for comparisons of the offspring. “If I A.I. a handful of cows to one bull, I really don’t know what I have with such a small sample of calves. I would rather breed a lot more cows to the same bull to see what he’s really siring,” says Tom. “We own most of the bulls we A.I. to, and the ones we don’t came from our program a generation or two back, so we know pretty well what they will do.” He continues, “About a third of our calves are by our main herd sire.

“I don’t pay much attention to EPDs and such. We prefer actual results. Our customers sell cattle by the pound and that’s what we watch. We line breed and know what the cattle can do here without having to look at the numbers,” says Courtney.

“Our fertility improves every year and our bull longevity is very good, but that has its drawbacks,” say Courtney with a chuckle. “They last so long that they only come around every five or six years for more bulls.” He has some customers that are running bulls that are eight years old and still active and sound. Obviously they last longer and therefore cost less in the long run.

That longevity stems from the way they are fed and the environment they are raised in. The bull calves go out on pasture as yearlings in bunches of 30 to 35 head. “We have lots of electric fence!” laughs Courtney. They grow out on native grass and cover the country, keeping themselves fit and sound. By the time the bulls are back in the pens, photographed and cataloged for the sale in November, they are really looking mature.

The Courtney herd bulls are an impressive lot as well. Out in a pasture with big ridges and deep draws, the bulls are fit and sound. They have structurally sound legs with good feet, and they are in excellent condition. The snow on them accents the breadth of their backs, and they are fleshy and vibrantly healthy. The gentle giants prove hard to photograph until Tom throws a little cake out on the ground and they become distracted by it and quit trying to lick the camera. Disposition is also important to the Courtneys and another quality they strive for.

“Our target is the commercial bull trade and our best advertising is the bulls themselves. We raise them for ranchers,” says Courtney. “We’re selling more bulls to use on black cows every year, too.” He continues, “Economics are driving the switch to Hereford bulls on black cows. You get hybrid vigor and a heavier weaning weight. More pounds are more dollars for the calves. The black baldie calf is a great feeder or a super cow and more people are going back to that.”

The Courtneys sell their bulls at St. Onge Livestock in St. Onge, SD in mid-November every year. They have a little different way of selling their bulls, as they will take half the purchase price for the bull at the time of the sale and the other half on April 1. If you haul your bull home on sale day, you are rebated $100 per head. If you prefer, the Courtneys will deliver your bull to the surrounding states for free and further for cost.

This great customer relationship has gone on for years and some cattlemen have used nothing but Courtney bulls for decades and wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Some families have even been using the Courtney bulls for several generations of cattlemen, too.

Trouble free cattle that can thrive in an adverse environment are something to look for, for sure. Dealing with honest, respected people is a bonus.

The December day is waning and the wind is still moving a little snow, but the two-year-old heifers are out exploring their big pasture and grazing. They are traveling easy and some move off into the road ditch as the car passes them, frolicking and playing as only healthy, contented cattle will do. They are in their element and are equipped to deal with whatever Montana’s winter dishes out, just like they’ve been doing for countless generations and will for years to come.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User