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Trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle

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Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.

Darrell and Ginny Rathkamp run a registered Angus operation at Wyola, MT, on the Crow Reservation near the Montana-Wyoming border – on the highway between Billings, MT and Sheridan, WY. The ranch is 100 miles southeast of Billings and 36 miles from Sheridan.

Darrell grew up in Minnesota and when he got out of high school, he went into the Marine Corps.

“When I got out in 1960, my wife and I started in the registered Angus business – with six cows and a bull,” says Darrell. “My family had been in that area for several generations, but the population was growing, the Twin Cities were expanding and crowding out farmland. This was not a good place to sell bulls because it was mostly dairy country. So we looked for better cattle country in Montana. In 1977 we bought this place and moved our cattle operation out here. We really like it here.”

After being in the Angus breeding business for nearly 50 years, the goals of this operation are to produce trouble-free, low maintenance, good disposition cattle.

“We continue to work on the maternal side of the pedigree,” says Darrell. “We strive to produce light to moderate birthweight calves, for more trouble-free calving, and trouble-free cows. There’s not enough money in this business to be messing with them too much.”

These cattle have to take care of themselves, with less labor.

Pass Creek also wants genetics with good carcass qualities so they will do the job in the feedlot. Disposition is also important.

“We went to a meeting in Billings where they were discussing having an EPD for docility, though I haven’t seen it yet,” says Darrell. “We all need easy-to-handle cattle. Our customers are all getting older, and I can’t run, so I don’t want to be running from a cow.

“I think our breed has come a long way in this respect, though once in awhile you get a hot one,” he adds. “We try to select for docility, in our herd. We banded a young bull the other day that had an attitude we don’t want. The Angus breed is always on top of these things as much as they can be, to try to correct any problems before they get out of hand.” It’s important to keep moving the genetics of these cattle in the proper direction.

Their Montana location has been a great place to raise cattle.

“In earlier years there was lots of grass and water, but recently we’ve gone through 10 years of drought,” says Darrell. “We’ve been drilling more wells. It did rain on both sides of us this year, but we were still in a dry pocket. We run about 400 cows but could run more if it wasn’t so dry.”

Grasshoppers also took a toll this past summer.

The ranch has two hired men. “My wife’s daughter and her husband work here,” says Darrell. “I lost my first wife from cancer in 2001. Then Ginny and I got married. Her daughter and husband work here and we have another hired man.”

Their bull sale is held every second Wednesday in April, on the ranch. This will be their 36th sale. Some years they’ve had two sales. This past April the sale featured 100 yearlings, 20 fall bulls and 18 coming two-year-old bulls. The Rathkamps offer free bull delivery up to 250 miles, and unconditionally guarantee the bulls to breed.

This year they will continue to sell mostly yearlings, but also some long-yearlings from their fall calving cows.

“We really like the fall calving; I think it’s a lazy man’s way to calve,” he says. “Our climate here is pretty good; we don’t normally have any long spells of cold weather. We can get by feeding those cows some straw and poorer quality hay and they do fine; they are fatter than hogs in the fall when they calve. The only time I’ve ever had a 100 percent calf crop is with the fall calving; you can consistently do it calving that time of year. You don’t have to get up in the night and check them, and you don’t have any frozen calves. We’ve never had any scours in these calves.”

The fall-calving cows calve during September and October. The calves get a good start and a good hair coat before winter.

“We wean them in the spring about the same time as our bull sale in April. They almost always wean off 700-pound calves. When grass starts greening up, those calves really bloom,” says Darrell. They had about 100 fall calving cows this year and may have a few more next year.

“Our buyers like the bulls that are just a little older, and we don’t have to put much in them,” he says. “They grow very well on not much feed at all, and by the time the sale approaches we have to kind of hold them back rather than try to push them, or they’d get too fat. We feed all our bulls at home, and see them every day.

“We really like the fall calving because it spreads our work out. We’re branding and A.I.-ing twice a year instead of all at once. We A.I. all our fall calvers, and all the heifers and a few cows in the spring bunch. In the spring there’s so much other work we have to do, and delivering bulls, so it’s nice to do some of this in the fall instead.”

They farm a little – mostly just hay rotation, growing most of their own feed. “We buy some concentrates and sometimes a little corn,” he says. Winters are fairly open and there’s minimal winter feeding. “We just feed the cows two to three pounds of cake on winter pasture and they do fine. Some years you can’t get by doing that, but there’s usually enough grass, and lots of protection from bad weather. It depends on how good the grass is,” says Darrell. In their area they also get Chinook winds in the fall that help keep the pastures open rather than snow covered.

“Ginny and I just came back from looking at a bunch of our heifers that will start calving in February. We hope to get by through the month of December with just a little cake.” The less you hay you have to feed, the better. “There’s no comparison between feeding two or three pounds of cake per cow versus 30 pounds of hay. In this country right now, hay prices are terribly high,” he says.

The spring bunch of older cows are taken about 14 miles east of the ranch for winter grazing, and brought home just before calving in March. Rathkamps bring them home at that time only because they have to trail the cows through some neighboring places, which is more difficult if there are baby calves in the herd.

The cattle are their primary income, but as a sideline, they also do some guest ranching. “We started doing this in 1999 and have some log cabins for people to stay. We feed them in a bed and breakfast type situation. The Amish built our cabins and they are modern and very nice,” he says.

The guests can stay in the cabins, or in teepees, and there is also camping space available. The ranch also serves as a horse motel/horse boarding facility, and provides corrals and accommodations for people traveling with horses or livestock if they want to rest and have a place to unload and feed their animals.

Pass Creek Ranch provides horseback rides, wagon rides, trail rides, etc. along with some customized adventure trips. There are many things to see and enjoy in the area, including the nearby historical site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Many of the people who stay at their place have come to the area to tour the Battlefield.

“We always have a team or two, and give wagon rides in summer and sometimes winter hay ride/sleigh rides,” says Darrell. “We have guests here starting in June and run through early October. Our cabins aren’t winterized so we don’t have many winter guests.” They do provide sleigh rides around Christmastime and Valentine’s Day, however. “This is always fun. Once we had people here from Florida who had never done anything like that before,” he says.

“This past year was kind of slow because of the downturn in the economy, but the year before, we had foreigners from everywhere,” Darrell says. “I enjoy visiting with them, and giving the rancher’s side of things. We feed them steak and they always enjoy it and ask where we get it. We tell them it’s mostly our own beef. They seem to think that if a package of meat is labeled USDA, it’s U.S. beef. This gives us an opportunity to try to educate them. Some of them go home with a little different outlook.

“Some ranchers think it would be frustrating to work with ‘dudes’ but we’ve had good people and really enjoy them. It’s fun to meet different people and visit with them a little. All except one group from Italy have spoken very good English. If I went to another country I wouldn’t be able to speak their language, but most of these folks speak excellent English. It’s been very interesting to learn more about their culture and to teach them a little bit about ours.”

For more information about Pass Creek Angus Ranch, check out their website at http://www.passcreekranch.com.


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