Juggling cattle operation with family a balancing act

Purebred and commercial herd | Couple sees pros and cons of expansion

PONTEIX, Sask. — It’s a busy time for Ross and Tara Davidson of Lonesome Dove Ranch. Calves are born daily, catalogues are in the mail for their March 2 bull sale and finishing touches on the new sale barn are keeping Ross up at night.

Arms are also full on the home front. Twin boys Cameron and Ash are turning three and daughter Jaime arrived two months ago.

Balancing tasks is nothing new for the husband and wife ranching duo, who married in 2005 and celebrated in the old barn on their newly purchased farm.

“Our moms and grandmas scrubbed and vacuumed the loft. You could lick the floor,” said Ross.

“We got married at my parent’s farm and then crammed 350 of our closest friends upstairs in the barn loft. It was fun. The barn was shaking that night,” said Tara.

“That’s why we moved here was because of the barn,” said Tara of the 1927 barn.

After adding red and green tin to the barn and securing water and power, the couple moved a house onto the property.

They began building corrals for a burgeoning cattle herd and later planted a shelter belt of trees around the yard site.

They chose Lonesome Dove as a ranch name because of a much loved book read by Tara during her agriculture studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

“We get a lot of comments that it’s a real distinctive name and it’s easy to remember,” she said.

Building a herd in the mid-2000s in the midst of the BSE crisis and deflated cattle prices proved both a challenge and opportunity for the 22-year-old newlyweds.

“We were starting but it took a lot of guts because lenders aren’t exactly wanting to give you money,” said Tara.

“You need to have a strategy and a business plan. We grew but we grew gradually. We built momentum as we went. The more we grow, the easier it is to get financial backing from our lenders,” said Ross.

Off-farm jobs helped them increase their savings and qualify for bank loans.

“We both worked stupid long hours at our off-farm jobs. Everybody (loan managers) wanted to see an off-farm income,” said Tara.

Today, they manage about 350 head. They say Gelbvieh cows are maternal, which complements any breed and their growing commercial herd.

“We’ll be calving out over 300 head, roughly 200 Gelbvieh commercial and 100 purebred Gelbviehs,” said Ross.

During the March bull sale, they will sell their yearling bulls to a host of buyers from across North America. For the sale, they team up with Ross’s parents, Eileen and Vernon, at Davidson Gelbviehs.

Although he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of grain farming one day, Ross conceded their plate is full with the cattle.

“It’s hard to focus and do a good job for ourselves and be in both. Right now, we’re trying to do a good job on both ends, the purebred and commercial. We’re splitting our time there,” he said.

Both are hesitant to expand too quickly.

“Right now, I want to expand my land base more, but it has to be feasible. It has to work somehow so you just can’t go out and do it just because that’s the thing to be doing.… A little less sky juice (rain) and interest rates going up and it’ll change this country in a hurry,” he said.

Tara said the pair strikes a good balance.

“Our friends kind of giggle because I’m the brakes of our operation and Ross is more of the throttle of our operation. We kind of balance each other out quite well.

“We’re lucky to be doing what we do. We love ranching and we’re just really lucky to have a job that we can be together at and raise our kids at. They love to be outside and when they’re not outside doing ranch stuff, they’re inside playing ranch stuff.”