Quadrant Australia's USA Beef Tour is one of the most popular this company runs. The tour travels through the US States of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska as well as North and South Dakota, before going into Alberta Canada for the Calgary Stampede.
Generally this area is known as the High Plains States of the USA, and rainfall is not dissimilar to Australia, with ranges from 8 to 18 inches per annum. The tour starts with a visit to the Head office of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) in Denver, and there we find out a lot of details about cattle ranching in the USA. The Herd is now the lowest since 1952, and there are currently 720,000 ranchers, but they still produce the same amount of product as they did when the herd was some 20% larger. This is achieved through a combination of improvements in breeding and nutrition.
Some of the memorable visits include Leachman Cattle Company where the principle Lee Leachman explains their world renowned breeding techniques. They sell 1,000 composite bulls annually, and we inspect a lot of these in their feedlot. This is followed by a visit to JBS Kunar Feedlot, which runs 100,000 head at any one time.
Other notable visits are the "Hoodoo" Ranch in Wyoming, and "Padlock" Ranch in Montana, both of which are rated in the top 10 operations in the Country. They are intensive, yet diverse, and we learn how they live with lease country off the various Indian tribes. Many cattle breeds and crosses are seen, and it is interesting to compare their challenges to ours.
Another highlight is the visit to the Holden Hereford Stud up near the Missouri River just short of the Canadian Border. This stud surely must be one of the top in the world for this breed. They have exported semen all over the world, including some of the top studs in Australia. Their challenge of only having 100 days a year frost free is not something most of us have ever managed.
In between all of this we are able to view Americas wildlife. A herd of over 200 Bison in their natural habitat is indeed a sight to see. Understanding how American Ranchers manage wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, and bears, both blacks and grizzlies, makes living with kangaroos, emus and Dingos seem like small change.
Four notable National Parks are visited including Yellowstone (the world's first national park!), George Custer, Crazy Horse, and Mount Rushmore, where the four notable former US Presidents heads are carved into the side of the mountain. Seeing it first hand, rather than on a postcard, is special.
"The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", as the Calgary Stampede is known, is an experience all of its own. A world class Rodeo, where we have grandstand tickets for a session, along with the chuck wagon races, makes the Stampede a show I can only compare with an opening ceremony to a Commonwealth Games.
The last couple of days will be spent in Banff in the Canadian Rockies, viewing snow capped mountains and Glaciers, while keeping an eye out for Elk and other wildlife. Picture Postcard scenery everywhere!