Ranchers on horseback rounding up cattle

Dubois, Idaho
Table Butte Cattle 

For local Idaho rancher Sid Brown, Jr., and his family, Table Butte Cattle is a labor of love to reinstate ranching on land that was originally homesteaded in 1917 by his grandparents.

For the last 25 years the family has been growing their ranching acreage by acquiring parcels on the land that was lost after the deaths of his grandfather, Earl, and his father, Sid, Sr., in a traffic accident in 1950.

Now, aided by his son Spencer and son-in-law Joe, the ranchers work to provide the highest quality meat to the consumer.

Each year this ranch produces around 300 head of cattle. Their herd typically ranges between 425 to 450 cow calf pairs. The cattle are free to room more than 10,000 acres of combined private and public land. Ranchers and scientists confirm that cattle do better when raised in open pasture.

Spencer says that “Cattle are more comfortable,” this way and, “they do much better on grass,” as opposed to animals that are only raised in feed lots. The animals are happier and healthier too.

Spencer and Joe, along with their ranching families, check on the cattle two to three times a week during the summer. Spencer reports amidst this natural environment, the cattle flourish.

Joe, who was raised on a large ranch in Nevada, handles the genetic side of the business. His 50 head of registered Angus cows are always being incorporated into the herd. Joe and Spencer agree that if you aren’t working hard to improve the genetics of the herd, the quality and health of the herd will remain stagnate or drop.

At the ranch, each able member of the family has a weekday job. This is true for many ranchers who help feed America, but especially for those ranchers who strive for the health and quality of their cattle over quantity alone.

Spencer wishes that the public understood more of what the ranchers do to get great- tasting and healthy beef into the market. He says there’s a lot of misinformation on the use of public grazing.

“Many people think we’re getting a free ride when we use public lands,” he says. “In all reality, it benefits us both by being able to provide quality beef to the public. It takes all of us to have a full-time job elsewhere to keep the ranch going. We do it more for the love of it than the money.

The industry, Spencer and Joe agree, isn’t one where you can just sit still. Being involved requires a constant attention to changes happening within the industry. Part of Table Butte’s grazing strategy is in the land rotation.

“We strive to leave plenty of feed for the wildlife,” Joe says. “These are all things that ranches in the past may not have considered. We want to make sure there’s plenty of feed left for the wildlife we share the land with.”
Ultimately, it comes back to family.

“This is a tradition we’d like to carry on,” says Joe. “Our kids will be the fourth generation to run the ranch.” We’re very family oriented. We struggle sometimes, but we’re very proud that we can work as a family to build the ranch we have today.”