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Hot topics, On the ranch, On the road
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Like father, (not necessarily) like son

I look young for my age.

Always have, hopefully always will, so when it comes to spending time with most cattlemen, I naturally slip into the role of student.

And it’s a good thing. There’s so much to learn, so many tales to tell.

Listening does a life well, I say, particularly when you’re young.

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At Oklahoma State University, Tom studied agricultural economics with a minor in marketing. Cattle weren’t in his plans until a job offer was on the table.

I was on a whirlwind tour of California when I stopped by to visit a coworker’s brother near La Grange. In addition to an extensive stocker operation, I knew their family had run commercial cattle for years.

What I didn’t know was how they run them – on shared land, oftentimes with shared management – but the cattle, they don’t mix.

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The Hourets typically breed their cows to registered Angus bulls purchased from seedstock ranches in Montana, with a few from California. Those bulls are expected to throw calves that perform with little assistance and grow into cows that rebreed.

“Our motto has always been that we don’t want to fail because of someone else’s miscalculations,” Paul Houret explains.

It’s over the phone because the man who started it all, the head of Houret Cattle Company, doesn’t live in California anymore. He took his motto and not only applied it, he lives by it.

Paul moved to Lakeview, Ore., and runs the northern unit. It’s actually his son, Tom, who takes care of its southern sister.

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Tom likes numbers almost as much as he likes making his own calls. “I get to live and die by my own decisions. I choose,” he says. “Either make the best out of every decision or the worst. I think that brings out the best in people.”

But Tom does more than care for it. He buys his own bulls, he pays his own help. The decisions, they’re all his to make.

So that’s what got me thinking about the young thing. I’d like to say it’s more common to step onto a ranch and see someone as young as Tom making all the calls. I will say it’s refreshing and motivating and made me look in the mirror, if only figuratively.

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“His learning curve’s been straight up,” Paul says. “I never expected him to come work on the ranch so it’s been the most amazing thing.”

So here’s how it works: Paul and Tom, each with their own Angus herds, calve on irrigated land in the late summer, yielding a 250-pound (lb.) suckling calf in time for California’s winter rain. Instead of weaning come May, the pairs will ship to Paul in Oregon for the summer grass and wean in July before calving starts again, weighing nearly 800 lb., going on feed 45 to 60 days later.

The point is to maximize natural feed resources and grow a big calf. In California, a calf by its mother’s side will gain 2.5 to 3 lb. a day before the green grass dries, another 3 to 3.5 lb. daily in the north.

“There’s very little supplement. We’ll feed a little hay in the fall and maybe some liquid protein but, as a rule, we don’t mix feed,” Tom says. No cake or creep. “They make a living just on the grass.”

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Regardless of where the cattle market falls, “it’s important to deliver a consistent and high-quality product,” Tom says. “As consumers are asked to pay more for protein, we need to make sure we’re providing our best for them.”

As for Tom and Paul, they make a living on the Angus cattle. Together and separate.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

PS – Be on the lookout for a full story on Tom and Paul in an upcoming edition of the Angus Journal.

blackinklaura Visit Website
Born and raised in the Sunshine State, I grew up surrounded by more livestock than people on my family’s working cattle ranch. A willingness to address a crowd and an eagerness to ask questions led to my passion for spreading the word of agriculture. A lover of words, cattle and those who produce them, I couldn't ask for a better job. A Gator grad, blessed by years of learning and Tebow football, I’m a firm believer that people should be honest, lyrics should be moving and tea should be sweet. I love music, my family, my God, and of course writing for CAB.
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