Harrison family continues long Midland traditions
Boyd, Mont. – “Harrison Angus Ranch was started by my father, George Harrison, in 1958,” says Doug Harrison. “We’ve been raising Angus cattle ever since.”
With his son Jason, Doug runs Angus cattle on the operation, which sits 20 miles north of Red Lodge, Mont.
The operation focuses on the female, working towards an easy fleshing, sound, heavy milking cow that breeds back each year.
“We really emphasize on the cowherd,” says Jason. “We think that the cow/calf man makes his money and his best profits with the females.”
“We also try to get good performing cows with good udders,” adds Doug.
The cows never receive any grain or concentrate of any type, but rather are on grass or hay and lick tubs, as needed, year around.
Docility is a trait that Doug emphasizes in the operation.
“Docility is very important here,” says Doug. “I believe that the more docile cows gain easier and keep their flesh during the winter.”
“When they go to the feedlot, they also perform better,” he continues. “I think that is one of the reasons we have done well at Midland is because of the docility.”
In their bulls, Harrison Ranch strives to maintain low birth weights.
Feed efficiency is also a trait that they focus on and plan to continue to develop further.
“In the last 10 years, we have been focusing on feed efficiency,” says Jason, noting that the focus leads them to consign bulls to the Midland Bull Test. “The GrowSafe systems that they have at Midland have given us a lot of feed efficiency data on the herd.”
They have worked to identify lines of females that are able to pass the feed efficiency on to their offspring.
“It seems to be paying of really well,” Jason explains. “In the future, feed efficiency is going to be where the biggest profit will be.”
Because feed prices are high, and he doesn’t predict that they will drop much, Jason says the ability of a cattleman to raise the same pounds of beef with less intake will be important.
“Feed efficiency is one of our biggest traits that we are going to continue to work on and maximize as much as we can,” he says.
On their operation, Doug says that they begin calving heifers in January, but the main cowherd starts in February.
After breeding from the end of April through May, Jason notes the cows are kicked out on grass.
“We have varying types of pastures that our cattle go on,” says Jason, mentioning that the herd runs on pastures ranging from irrigated grass to mountain pastures. “My herd summers at 7,000 to 8,000 feet.”
The herd is genetically predisposed to do well at high altitude, and they haven’t seen any problems with high altitude disease.
After weaning in mid-October, Jason develops the heifers on hay and protein lick tubs.
Along with Midland, Doug notes that he also takes bulls to the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association (WBCIA) test and sells at the WBCIA sale.
He also sells bulls private treaty from the ranch.
For his bred heifers, Doug notes that they have seen some opportunity in selling to Asian markets.
“A lot of our bred heifers have been going on contract to the countries around Russia,” says Doug. “There were some local buyers who got us interested in selling there, and last year was the second year we sent bred heifers.”
Enjoyment of ranching
Doug continues ranching for a lot of reasons, but he says that he likes being around the animals.
“I enjoy being out in the country and being around animals,” he says, also noting that he enjoys calving season. “Seeing the young calves come along and watching them grow and develop is something I enjoy.”
He also adds that ranching is more than raising animals, it keeps his brain constantly working.
“It is quite interesting,” he says. “Ranching keeps changing, and we have to change with it. It really makes your mind work.”
For Jason, being outdoors and making connections has been rewarding.
“We have made a lot of good friends out there, and there are a lot of good people around the country,” he says.
“It is also a great lifestyle,” says Jason. “I also came back to the ranch because I wanted to raise my kids out here.”
Doug also notes that the rest of the family is involved in the operation, too.
Doug’s wife Gladys and Jason’s wife Annette support the efforts of Harrison Angus, and Jason and Annette also have two children in high school who help out as well.
Doug’s other son Brandon also runs Angus cows on the Rocking Horse Angus ranch between Boyd and Red Lodge, Mont.
“I like having my kids in the business,” adds Doug. “They really teach me a lot.”
The father-son team plans to continue to work together on the operation doing the things that have worked so well for them and continuing to improve their herd.
“In the ag industry, everyone can’t be doing the same thing or it wouldn’t work,” Jason comments. “We have some people that use a similar strategy as us, and other that do different things, but that is the way the whole industry works.”
Harrison Ranch has been sending bulls to the Midland Bull Test for over 40 years and has seen incredible success.
“We have done well at Midland,” says Doug. “We go to Midland for the enjoyment of the competing with other cattle producers.”
“It is interesting to see how different sires work against each other,” he adds. “It’s a competition, so you have to see how different things work and how different cowherds work.”
Doug also notes that he appreciates seeing the people there each year and meeting new people.
Selling at the Midland Sale each year is an added benefit. After their success this year, Harrison Angus will be selling 24 bulls at the sale.
Jason also notes that their work through the years has paid off in the sale, and they raised the top selling bull for three years – in 2003 with HARB Windy 702 JH, in 2009 with HARB Rick O’Shay 838 JH and in 2012 with HARB Stur-D 191 JH.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Jason comments.