There’s more to raising and breeding cattle than meets the eye
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
May is National Beef Month and Minnesota is right on the top of sales when it comes to the red meat.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture writes that beef is a $2 billion industry in the state and that Minnesota raises more than one million of the animals. It has about 25,000 ranches, ranks 10th in the nation for the number of cattle and calves it raises and sixth in the nation for red meat production.
Clint Kathrein, Randall, has one of the ranches which raises beef cattle. He also grew up on a beef ranch, run by his parents, Steve and Judy.
“I purchased my farm in 1994, with my wife Roxanne,” he said. “I now have two daughters, Kaylee and Kendra, who are a big part of my operation.”
Kathrein has 35 cows, an average number for cattle ranches in Minnesota. But he doesn’t raise his animals for slaughter. He sells breeding stock.
His ranch raises purebred Charolais, a breed known for its fast and efficient growth. When crossbred, the outcome creates a more efficient growing feeder calf.
The cattle on Kathrein’s ranch are artificially inseminated. “Depending on their quality, I will sell the bulls the third week in April, after a weaning and yearling check and if they meet the criteria for breeding. If they don’t, the bulls are sold as feeder cattle,” he said. The higher quality heifer calves are kept for replacement cows in Kathrein’s herd and the rest are sold as feeder calves.
Kathrein’s 35 cows produce about 30 calves annually. Some are lost to death, some of the cows don’t get pregnant.
“Most of the calves are born in the winter months, when nursing takes a toll on the mother. Nutrition is a huge part in rebreeding and growth,” he said.
To keep each animal on a birthing schedule, Kathrein needs to reinseminate the mothers 45 – 60 days after they give birth. That way, a calf will be born annually for each animal.
Kathrein said that artificially inseminating a cow will ensure that genetics will continue to improve. He also said it is the fastest way to keep production up.
“I purchase the embryos from quality breeders who have cows with known pedigrees and have them implanted in surrogate mothers,” he said. “It ensures the breed remains pure while upgrading the genetics.”
Several years ago, Kathrein produced a cow from an embryo transplant and named her KC Savvyanna. She is a high-quality Charolais and now produces embryos for Kathrein’s farm.
“It has taken me since my father purchased his farm in 1979, to get such a top-quality cow,” he said.
Kathrein stimulates egg production in ovulating cows to produce multiple eggs. Seven days after the cow is bred, the embryos are harvested and the hardiest of them are frozen to be used later.
Those eggs that may not be able to withstand the freezing and thawing process, as ascertained by a trained veterinarian, are implanted in a surrogate mother that same day.
If there is not a cow who has gone through estrus seven days prior to the implantation date, the embryos are destroyed.
Those eggs that are frozen may stay in that state for one day or 100 years.
“I have six cows in my herd which are crossbred to take embryos,” said Kathrein. “The others are pure Charolais and I artificially breed them through insemination.”
The Kathreins own 80 acres of land, rent another 100 acres for cropland and rent another 200 acres for pasture.
“I would like to build my herd, but to not more than 50 head,” he said. “It’s a lot of work keeping track of breeding the Charolais.”
Besides working full time at Federated Co-op in Little Falls during the winter months, Kathrein was previously on the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Board, is now the president of the Minnesota/Wisconsin State Charolais Association, president of the Morrison County Fair Board and treasurer of the Mississippi Valley Cattlemen’s Association. He also volunteers in local 4-H, where his daughters are active, judges beef shows and is on the planning committee for the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Tour in July.
“I also show my cattle,” said Kathrein. “When I was a kid in 4-H, I showed cattle. When my father began raising sheep instead, I bought some of his cattle, but got out of showing them. Now that Kaylee and Kendra are part of it in 4-H, I have gotten back into it.”