Brock McDonald is our Ranch Manager at the 701x Ranch, which is located in the Badlands of North Dakota. He has a strong passion for ranching as he has been involved with ranching ever since he can remember - nearly 30 years now!
McDonald grew up in Southern California and moved across the country to Oklahoma with his family during his freshman year of high school. He has had an extensive amount of experience with ranching which is attributed to how he is so successful. “I grew up training horses, roping, and raising cattle. I did junior rodeo while living in California, I took a break for a couple of years, and then once we moved to Oklahoma, I got more involved with open rodeos where I’d rope with semi-professionals and professionals. My family members were very highly involved in rodeo roping and they always pushed me to do better and to achieve my goals,” said McDonald.
“There was nothing that ever really inspired me to become a rancher. It’s always been a normal and natural thing to me that I’ve always loved and had a passion for.” Most kids and teenagers may enjoy spending their vacation away from school at the beach, or at an amusement park, but not Brock! “I never found that much excitement in doing what most kids my age spent their time doing. I found excitement in spending time with my dad and helping him out as much as I could by training horses and roping cattle,” said McDonald.
Working with 701x has been a great opportunity for Brock to apply his ranching skills and supplemental knowledge. He has never managed a cattle herd completely by himself until now, but he was ready for the challenge! Before moving out to Western North Dakota to work with 701x, he worked for a cow/calf operation in Montana. Brock was referred to the ranch manager position by a friend shortly after 701x was started and has been with us ever since!
“701x’s herd is the first herd I’ve ever managed solely on my own. Before this herd, there has always been more than one person to help manage and look over the herd as well. I’ve helped with anywhere from 3,000 cow-calf to 3,000+ stockers.”
The four types of beef cattle operations are cow-calf, backgrounder, feedlot, and seedstock.
Cow-calf operation is a method of raising beef cattle where a permanent herd of cattle is maintained to produce young beef cattle that later get sold to other operation types (generally backgrounders or feedlots).
Backgrounder, also known as ‘stocker’ or ‘grower’, represents a great opportunity for ranchers to turn forages into profit. After weaning the calf from its mother, stocker calves are turned out to graze on pastures to enhance their growth and promote weight gain before being finished at the feedlot.
Feedlot operations work to efficiently help livestock animals reach a certain weight before the final stage of production.
Seedstock operations or ‘breeders’ are focused more on genetic improvement. This type of operation provides genetics to build market calves for harvest.
All cattle ranches have different purposes and needs depending on location, operation type, and preferences. As our ranch manager, Brock is responsible for overseeing the herd and ensuring that all 294 of our livestock animals are safe, healthy, and happy. Moving cattle from pasture to pasture, performing various maintenance tasks, checking water sources daily, and maintaining crop production operations are just a few examples of his duties.
“The responsibilities that come with a ranch are endless. Keeping the herd healthy, keeping track of cattle, and maintaining records of everything that goes on is of the utmost importance,” said McDonald.
Ranchers face a handful of different obstacles and challenges within their ranching operations every day. McDonald has found that knowing where all the cattle are is one of the biggest obstacles that he faces. With high hills and deep valleys in the Badlands, it can be tough to pinpoint exactly where all of our 294 head of cattle are. Our GPS ear tag and software application has been extremely helpful for McDonald while he's been working on the 701x ranch.
When he’s moving the cattle to different pastures, he can monitor their movement to ensure they are headed in the right direction. Also, if they are not where they are supposed to be, he can quickly check the software application to see their whereabouts. He can immediately go and find them to get them moved to the correct location and ensure that they do not get lost or stolen.
Since the ranch is across the state from our headquarters, it is important for Brock to provide clear and direct feedback on what he notices when using our cattle management system on the ranch. “The benefits from the GPS ear tags and software application are over the top. The GPS is very helpful and the database is very beneficial for keeping everything organized. It has everything you might need in one place. And, you can look at it anytime and anyplace you want,” said McDonald. He has been extremely helpful with keeping the 701x team updated, finding bugs, and giving suggestions for improvement.
TIPS FROM BROCK
“You have to have the experience, you have to be able to read a cow, know when they’re feeling unwell, what they need, what they don’t need, where they want to go, or even where they don’t want to go. There are so many aspects that go into the entire ranching process. It’s not all about the animals. You don’t necessarily have to know a lot about it, you just have to know what to do in different situations or seasons. You have to be able to put the work in to learn and succeed. It’s an endless cycle,” said McDonald.
Wise words from Brock: "Keep your head up, work hard, and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do it!"