LICKING FAMILY ARCHIVE
Riley and Missy Licking
with children Mary and
Grit (standing in front)
and Julie (held by Riley).
horseback. Going the long way, by
road, it’s about 45 miles,” grins Jake.
Together, Jake and Riley plan a general
course for the ranch, including
further expansion. They have already
bought some adjacent acreage bringing
their deeded land to a total of
5,200 acres. Riley manages day-to-day
operations and locates additional forage
“We’ve leased additional summer
grass all along. When we can, we
also rent after-growth (grass that has
regrown after a cutting of hay has
been harvested) to graze in the fall.
And we rent cornstalks for winter,”
tells Riley, explaining how mature
cows are trucked to stalk fields located
some 165 miles to the east, near
Central City, Nebraska.
“We have a good relationship with
a farmer there. He raises seed corn in
some fields, which are harvested earlier
and then planted to cover crops
that make good fall and winter grazing,”
First-calvers and replacement heifers
are wintered at home, on dormant
grass and protein supplement. Any
hay they may receive is purchased.
Riley doesn’t harvest any homegrown
“Two reasons,” he explains. “One is
that we don’t have any wet meadows.
The other is that we don’t feed much
hay anyway. So we buy hay and try
to feed very little of it – just when we
have to; when weather dictates. That
means we don’t need much equipment
either. We’ve got a feed pickup,
a skid steer, and a telehandler (loader),
and I’m thinking maybe we ought to
sell the telehandler.”
The emphasis on year-round grazing
requires that cattle be well-adapted
to the production environment. The
selection for well-adapted females
starts with an extensive heifer development
program. While steer calves
are marketed not long after weaning,
all heifers are kept through their first
winter and exposed to artificial insemination
plus 30 days with clean-up
bulls during the following spring.
Replacements are chosen from those
found to be pregnant. The ‘opens’ are
sold along with any bred heifers not
retained. According to Riley, cows are
exposed to natural service for 60 days
and any females that weren’t bred in
the first two cycles are sold.
FERTILITY IS KING
Fertility is considered the most
important trait. The Licking outfit’s
cows are largely Angus and Red Angus,
with some Continental influence
resulting from the use of SimAngus
sires. More recently, however, the use
of Irish Black bulls has increased, with
daughters earning their place in the
breeding herd. Riley was first attracted
to the American-developed breed
derived from specific Angus bloodlines
to which Irish Beef Friesian genetics
were added. As a result of careful
linebreeding, the breed promised high
fertility and longevity, as well as a balance
of growth traits and carcass merit
in animals of moderate size.
The cattle seem to fit the environment
and management applied to
the Licking herd. Riley is particularly
impressed with their fertility and longevity.
In Riley’s experience, the bulls
are aggressive breeders. One particular
bull remained so throughout a
career that ended at 11 years of age.
“I’ve used a breeding ratio of one
bull to 50 cows and had over 90 percent
of the cows settled in a 60-day
breeding period. About 70 percent
calve in the first 21 days of the calving
season,” says Riley, noting that
some half-Irish females have earned
their way into the breeding herd too.
“I also bought some registered Black
Irish cows, so we’re raising some bulls
for our own use,” he adds.
BE THEIR GUEST
An interesting feature that came
with the ranch has enabled the
56 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2020