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Grass is northeast Oklahoma’s biggest advantage

Joy Hendrix for Progressive Cattleman Published on 18 January 2019
Jeff Owen, ranch manager of Spur Ranch

Location, location, location. The saying applies to more than just the real estate business, and for Oklahoma, it is a key factor in producing beef.

In 2017, Oklahoma ranked third in beef production for the U.S. with over 2 million head of cattle being produced, many of those cattle coming from the northeast corner of the state and a large percentage being out of Osage County.

Progressive Cattle Country: OklahomaOklahoma agricultural statistics define the northeast corner as the following counties: Pawnee, Osage, Tulsa, Washington, Nowata, Rogers, Wagoner, Mayes, Craig, Delaware and Ottawa.

Kent Trentman, a Pawhuska, Oklahoma, cattle producer and northeast district vice president for the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, makes a living raising stocker cattle in the area.

“We are pretty consistent about growing grass,” says Trentman. “Above all, predictable moisture is probably our biggest advantage in this area.”

Northeast Oklahoma receives around 40 inches in annual rainfall and has an average temperature in the mid-60s.

While most producers in the area have a long family history, there is a draw to the area for others to come escape a drier arid climate.

“I think of our area as an extension of the Kansas Flint Hills,” Trentman says. “As one of the better places [to raise cattle], there is a lot of competition for it.”

“We run a lot of cattle out of the Southeast,” Trentman says. “It’s a perfect stop going from here to western Kansas to the feedlot industry.”

The possibility to be vertically integrated into the feedlot industry is what drew Trentman to locate himself in the northeast part of the state around 25 years ago.

Osage County

Osage County is known for being one of the largest cattle-producing counties in the state and is home to several nationally known ranches, including the famous Drummond Ranch. In 2017, the county was solely responsible for the production of over 67,000 head of beef cattle and continues to grow with more than 100,000 cows in the county.

Seventy-five miles east of Pawhuska is the Spur Ranch, where cattle have been raised since the mid-’30s. Near Vinita, Oklahoma, Jeff Owen raises Angus cattle on the Spur Ranch year-round.

Registered Angus heifers raised on the Spur Ranch

Spur Ranch is an Angus seedstock-producing ranch with around 1,000 head of registered Angus cows and about 1,400 commercial Angus cows. Their focus is to specialize in cattle targeted for commercial operators that do well at weaning but are also at the top of the grid when they hit the feedyard, Owen says.

“The rainfall we normally get in a year is what gives us an advantage,” Owen says. “We have quite a bit of forage for the cows to eat, and the stocking rates are probably better than most due to the rainfall and grass, making it superb cow-calf country.”

Owen says the stocking rate is around one cow-calf pair for every 6 acres. The grass he relies on is a bluestem pasture grass.

The average yearly rainfall in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma provides plenty of grass for grazing

Generally, Owen says he does not have the need to feed any additional hay because of the amount of forage available, with the exception of extreme weather situations such as ice. This can be a challenge for the area because the land is used for grazing cattle supplemental feed which can be difficult to find.

“Corn silage is tough to come by,” Owen says. “It also means we have to drive a bit farther to the packing houses in western Kansas or the panhandle of Texas.”

For the Spur Ranch, using this land to the best of their ability and producing quality beef that will please the consumer is still the number one goal.

“As far as cows per unit grazed, we can handle more units than probably just about anywhere in the country,” says Owen.

Quality is never sacrificed for quantity on the Spur Ranch, says Owen. Selecting cattle for growth, gain and grade has given them a reputation for quality. Owen says the ranch has performance cattle with the data and experience to back it up.

“We have been able to prove that in some niche markets on some quality steers,” Owen says.

Owens says around 88 percent of his home-raised cattle qualify for the Certified Angus Beef program, and less than 1 percent of that is graded Select.

“Producing bulls and quality cattle that will go out and do well in the feedyard and will grade well,” says Owen. “Something that the consumer will enjoy and be pleased with is our goal.”

In addition to ranking third in beef production nationally, Oklahoma is also known for its ability to produce a wide variety of different agricultural products.

Jeremy Kinder, a producer from Faxon, Oklahoma, says the state has an advantage because of the variety of crops grown in the state. The climate makes it an ideal location to grow wheat and graze cattle.

Kinder says this luxury allows him to transform steers from four-weight steers to eight-weight steers for a relatively low cost.

Like many people in the cattle industry, both Trentman and Owen emphasized they enjoy the people in the area in which they live just as much as the benefits for their cattle.

“This part of the world, I can’t say enough good things about,” says Trentman. He says he was inspired to serve as vice president of the district for the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association because of the other people serving and the ways they are contributing to the future of the cattle industry.

“I believe we have one of the better organizations,” says Trentman. “I feel fortunate we have such an organization, and the people involved are as professional as I’ve ever seen.”

Trentman says the biggest factor of where he planted his roots is because of how great of a place it is to raise a family.

While the beef industry in Oklahoma is very diverse, and cattle can be found throughout the state, the plentiful grass and ideal temperatures of the northeast corner make it an ideal location to raise cattle, and producers have been doing so since the land was first settled.  end mark

PHOTO 1: Jeff Owen, ranch manager of Spur Ranch, raises Angus cattle near Vinita.

PHOTO 2: These are registered Angus heifers raised on the Spur Ranch that were sold in 2017. 

PHOTO 3: The average yearly rainfall in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma provides plenty of grass for grazing for the cattle of Spur Ranch. Photos provided by Cyndi Owen.