An operation that started six generations ago, now uses the latest feeding technology to background 3,500 calves each year.
Ranching has always been in Nacona Smith’s blood. His great, great, great grandpa came to Oklahoma from Kansas and his son began running Hereford cattle in the 1930s on the same land Nacona currently operates. When he met his wife, Neesa, who also has a family history of ranching, their dreams of cattle grew quickly.
It took a good deal of grit and determination for the generations before the Smith’s to stay in the business and many times it took off the farm jobs to keep it going. Today Nacona and Neesa are full-time ranchers who get to enjoy feeding cattle, training horses and ranch rodeo with their daughter Newly, the seventh generation to live on their land.
White Creek Ranch is a partnership of the Smith’s and Nacona’s Mom, Tammy Huffstutlar. They ran a cow-calf operation for 10 years while also backgrounding calves along the way and in 2020 sold their cows and now their operation is exclusively backgrounding.
On average they run 3,500 head each year and a portion of those go into an all-natural program where the cattle are antibiotic free.
After the calves are weaned, they come to our ranch to graze on native grasses or wheat and supplemental feed until they are ready for the feedlot. We have the cattle for at least 45 days and could have them for 90 days depending on the availability of grass or wheat. We get a summer set of calves and a fall set of calves each year.
We find a lot of joy and purpose in being able to nurture calves when they’ve just been weaned. There are certainly challenges that come our way due to the weather and environment, but that just makes sure life is never boring.
We work with a ruminant nutritionist throughout the year to make sure our feed ration is correct. We use a starter ration and supplement the calves on grass or wheat and also provide them minerals. We have scales on our truck that help us keep track of how much feed has been put out each day along with an interactive computer application to track feed intake and weight gains.
The cattle we run that go into the all-natural program are hormone and antibiotic free. We have an effective vaccination program that results in a low death-loss and leads to a high growth rate in the feedlot.
We take a low-stress approach to handling these calves training them to follow the feed truck and moving them on horseback. We use their herd instincts to keep them as settled as possible so they can adjust, grow, be healthy and thrive.
Being our own bosses and setting our own schedule. Seeing the cattle thrive and knowing they will provide a great dinner for someone’s table. Spending so much time in nature and seeing sunrises and sunsets.
The weather is certainly our biggest challenge. From drought to extreme cold we don’t get a day off and must do what’s best for the cattle. During the extreme freeze of February 2021, we had a stretch of days that we really didn’t sleep. But we got through it and will do it again when we have to.
We want to continue to improve our land by eradicating red cedars and controlling weeds. We want to add acres and infrastructure so we can provide the best forage and care for the cattle.
We want to have a sustainable operation to pass along to Newly. Sustainable to us means operating at a size that we can run the ranch, but the ranch doesn’t run us.
We really care about our animals. We get up each morning with the goal of doing everything we can to keep them healthy and properly fed. We want to make sure the beef we send to your table is safe, healthy, and high quality. We consume the same beef we grow.
Neesa likes a bacon-wrapped filet. Nacona and Tammy like a ribeye. And Newly loves any steak.
Between 6-12 months of age, cattle spend time at stocker and backgrounder farms and ranches where they graze on a variety of pastures. Here they gain weight and convert forage and grass into lean protein.