Adrian Cattle Co.

Soap Lake, WA

Backgrounding

Between 6-12 months of age, cattle spend time at stocker and backgrounder farms and ranches where they graze on a variety of pastures and are introduced to local feedstuffs in a feedyard setting. Here they gain weight and convert forage and grass into lean protein.

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"Actually we treat the cattle a lot like my 11 kids – we vaccinate them when they are young and if they get sick we take care of them. It is as simple as that."

- Mark McMillan, Adrian Cattle Co.

Rethink The Ranch: Meet The McMillans

Tell us about Adrian Cattle Co.

Mark McMillan (MM): I'm Mark, my wife Lynnette and I have 11 kids. We have five biological kids and we’ve adopted six. We just had our 11th child last week. It’s a pretty good family. Everybody does work here – it is really good place to raise a family. A small operation like ours means everybody works to help out and it's hard work, it is long work but it is what we like. At this spot right here we have about 1,000 to 1,500 head of cattle on feed which we call starters calves. We feed them a mix of local and native forages and grains until they weigh about 900 pounds and then we sell them to a larger finishing feedyard where their diet is designed to really help them put on weight and gain that muscle that becomes delicious beef. 

What do you feed the cattle at Adrian Cattle Co?

MM: Our feed ration is really simple: timothy hay, alfalfa hay, apples and corn. That could be corn silage or distillers’ corn. Most of it comes from right around here. It is a great benefit, we don’t have to truck in stuff from a long away. Its right here. Its easy and handy. We have and a partnership with Stevens Hay Farms. We use a lot of their hay by-products, things like hay kick-outs and maybe hay that isn’t top quality hay that isn’t ready for the export market. With Stevens Hay Farm, we also graze a lot on triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), corn stalks and regrowth wheat. We put a lot of stuff back into the ground that benefits Stevens Hay Farm. The native grass here around Soap Lake is a lot of sage brush with June grass, cheat grass. It’s green gold – it makes the cattle put on weight and is real healthy for them. We also graze on irrigated crop circles, maybe when a crop is going out of rotation, we will plant a cycle of triticale and turn yearling cattle out on it. The weight gains for the cattle are good on this forage when they also have the higher energy foods like grains available. It doesn't have to be expensive or complicated to delivery good nutrition to your cattle. And I think what we do here shows there's more than one way to feed cattle.

How do you keep 1,500 cattle happy?

MM: Actually we treat the cattle a lot like my 11 kids – we vaccinate them when they are young and if they get sick we take care of them. It is as simple as that. We do most of our work with the cattle from horseback. It works best for our land here and our operation, we think it’s gentler and the cattle handle better on horses, we believe. And we feed them feed that they like to eat, both in pasture and here in the feedyard. They're safe, they're fed and they're happy.

What's your secret?

MM: Well there is really no secret. This is the simple way. We have a lot of natural resources to feed our cattle: native grasses, triticale, wheat pastures, hay, corn, apples. We have a great family that loves to do this work together, even when it's hard work. We use technology to make our lives easier where we can. We take care of our cattle with medicine and the help of our vet. That's a formula for the good life right there.