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Toole County ranchers stay busy during calving season - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Toole County ranchers stay busy during calving season

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By early March they begin calving, which goes through mid-May. By early March they begin calving, which goes through mid-May.
Butch and Doreen Gillespie, owners of Gillespie Show Cattle, have been cattle ranching on ‘Revolution Ranch’ near Kevin for 40 years. Butch and Doreen Gillespie, owners of Gillespie Show Cattle, have been cattle ranching on ‘Revolution Ranch’ near Kevin for 40 years.
The Gillespies usually produce around 190 head of calves each year. The Gillespies usually produce around 190 head of calves each year.

(NEAR KEVIN) For many cattle ranchers, the month of March marks the beginning of calving season.

Butch and Doreen Gillespie, owners of Gillespie Show Cattle, have been cattle ranching on Revolution Ranch in Toole County northwest of Shelby for 40 years.

The Gillespies raised two children, and hosted many work-study students from all around the world on their ranch through the years.

Doreen noted, "You learn what life is all about when you’re dealing with a ranch because you see the birth, you see the death, you see what happens in life generally.”

The Gillespies are active in their industry. Butch develops and distributes mineral-vitamin-protein supplements to other ranchers. Noreen works with the American Breeders Service to refine bull-genetics.

Both sit on the advisory committee for the Animal & Range Science Department at Montana State University.

Butch said, "We’re proud to be a part of agriculture. It’s such a dynamic, moving industry. You really have to be up on your toes to stay up with things, we compete with people all over the world.”

The Gillespies conduct artificial insemination in June. They were some of the earliest cattle-ranchers in Montana to employ artificial insemination and embryo-transfer. 

By early March they begin calving, which goes through mid-May. In early March this year, when temperatures were hovering around zero, their work was much more time-intensive. Every night they would have to make several treks outside to check on their herd.  

Doreen said, "We’re like doctors on call when we’re calving. The only difference is our cattle don’t call us, we gotta call on them.”

A crucial aspect of their job is rotating their herd to different pastures throughout the year to conserve the natural grass-range habitat. They say that the ideal amount of pastures is eight for a herd of 200 head of cattle.

In the wintertime they graze their cows in a pasture north Kevin that is at a low elevation and has more natural wind guards such as coolers and valleys. 

Butch said, "There’s a lot of fiber in the grass especially probably nine months out of the year, so these are pretty amazing animals to be able to convert all of this fiber, that really doesn't have much value anywhere else, to some of the highest quality protein.”

The Gillespies usually produce around 190 head of calves each year.

In November, the Gillespies will send 100 to 105 to a feedlot in Cozad, Nebraska, where they’ll retain ownership of the calves while the calves reach maturity and eventually get processed. 

Between 40 and 50 calves will serve as replacement heifers for the Gillespie's herd. 

And about 15 to 20 calves will be held to grow more, and eventually be sold at the Western Livestock Auction in Great Falls

A large focus of their business is show or club calves, hence the name of their company, "Gillespie Show Cattle."

In October, they take their six best calves to the Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings to see how their genetics compare with other ranchers' product.

Between 20 and 30 calves are privately sold as show-calves around the U.S. and Canada to young-farmers-in-training, and clubs such as FFA and 4-H.

The Gillespies are supporters of the next generation of ranchers, and they vigilantly stay informed of new developments in the industry.

Doreen recalled, “I took flying lessons once, and the instructor said, if you ever think you know everything about flying a plane don’t ever get back into it. So, when we’re making the revolution, we’re continuing to move, we’re not ever gonna stop, because we don’t ever want to get stagnant. We want to continue to get better!”

The Gillespies continue making revolutions-of-progress in terms of genetics, nutrition, environment, and health.

The Gillespies say a growing concern among ranchers in rural America is the increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians. It's less lucrative than being a small-animal veterinarian, but the Gillespies say ranchers need large-animal veterans to be there in case of emergencies like a heifer having labor problems and needing a C-section. 

Fortunately, Doreen’s relative Steven Hjartarson recently moved back to Montana and began practicing as a large-animal veteran in nearby Cut Bank.

The Gillespies say they're considering shifting their calving-season to later in the Spring in the coming years. The warmer temperatures, and greener grass, will make their work less time-intensive. The reason they begin calving in March is to have their show-calves ready for the marker earlier in the year.

To learn more about Gillespie Show Cattle, go to their website at: http://bit.ly/2nsI9Vw.

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