Name: Brad Bellah
Location: Throckmorton, TX
Segment: Cow/Calf, Stocker, Feedyard
FactsAboutBeef: What does sustainability mean to you?
Brad Bellah: Sustainability means responsibly and efficiently producing beef. That includes managing resources both for today and tomorrow. One way we do this is through rotational grazing, which helps to utilize native grasses as efficiently as possible by intensively grazing one pasture for a short period of time then providing a long-term rest period. This is based on season and forage availability. Essentially, I want to ensure that future generations of my family will be able to feed future generations of America.
FAB: Why did you decide to move back to the farm after college?
BB: I always knew I would move home eventually but thought it would be after I had done something else for five or 10 years. Despite my plans, I moved home right after college. My dad needed help, and I needed a job. It has worked out really well, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else over the past few years.
FAB: What is a “typical” day like for you?
BB: My work schedule is seasonal. Right now, we’re preparing to receive a shipment of cattle at the ranch, in addition to our home-raised calves. The first couple weeks of September, weather permitting, we’ll be planting wheat for our cattle to graze.
FAB: How important is animal welfare on your ranch?
BB: Animal welfare is an integral part of what we focus on every day. As an animal caretaker, it’s second nature and a priority for me to make sure our cattle aren’t stressed or uncomfortable. We’re constantly looking to professionals for advice and best practices, including our veterinarian and cattle nutritionist as well as animal handling experts like Temple Grandin and the late Bud Williams.
FAB: How do you use technology on your ranch?
BB: What we do has changed so much because of technology. From checking markets on my iPhone when I’m in the middle of a pasture to keeping detailed inventories of cattle on the iPad while chute-side, we generally use some form of technology in everything we do. Technology has also greatly impacted research within animal genetics, health and nutrition. Cattlemen and women now have more data and resources available to them to ensure herd health.
FAB: You raise both “conventional” and “natural” cattle—what does that mean and how does that work?
BB: Essentially the all-natural cattle are marketed differently than our conventional calves. At birth cattle are designated for the all-natural or the conventional herd. The only real difference is that neither antibiotics nor growth promotants are used in the all-natural herd. There are specific guidelines put in place by the program, and if a calf gets sick and requires antibiotics, they have to be moved out of the all-natural program and do not return. This doesn’t mean that growth promotants and antibiotics are always used in our conventional herds, but we haven’t enrolled those cattle in the program so we can leave our options open.
FAB: How are you working to build on your dad’s legacy on your family’s operation?
BB: My ultimate goal is to not only maintain but also improve and grow what my father and grandfather have built. I’m constantly striving to do better.
FAB: What does it mean to you to be raising your twins on your family farm?
BB: The one room school that my Pop and his nine siblings attended sat on a ranch my dad now runs. I can’t put into words how I feel when my dad and I ride past those school steps, and I can’t wait for the day that the twins are riding alongside us. Raising my kids where so many generations of my family grew up and raised their own families adds an element to life that few people today get to experience and that I do not take for granted.
FAB: What is your favorite type of beef and how do you like it prepared?
BB: Nothing in this world compares to a medium-rare ribeye on the grill.
Editor’s Note: Brad is featured in a documentary that focuses on the next generation of farming and ranching, Farmland. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. For more information, visit www.farmlandfilm.com.