Mitchell Scheer has worked with cattle his whole life, from his family’s farm in Kansas to the ranches of Colorado. He came to North Carolina in 1998 to work in the purebred cattle industry, and in 2006 became the manager at Blue Q Ranch.
Located miles down the back roads of Troy, North Carolina, Blue Q Ranch has sprawling hills and valleys where cattle graze in open fields or under the trees. Mitchell took us over the farm in an ATV: from the flat fields at the bottom of the driveway where cattle munched on a pile of hay in a muddy field, to the large red barn atop an open hill in the middle of the property, to the best view at the far side of the land, where we saw tiny black cattle grazing on grass across the ranch. We stopped to get a closer look at the hay bales stockpiled for the winter, and at a calf born the night before, nestled in the grassy ditch alongside the road with his mother standing guard over him.
Blue Q Ranch has about 300 cattle and 700 acres of pasture. (The ranch also has 880 acres of timber.) Some of the pasture is used for grazing cattle on fescue, Bermuda grass, crab grass, higher-protein matua grass, clover, or fall grasses like wheat, rye, and barley. Other pastures grow the hay that is baled for later consumption. In the winter, the cattle’s diet is supplemented with grain that Mitchell buys and blends: hominy, dry distiller’s grain blend, and cottonseed hulls.
Mitchell aims to cut the hay for baling before it produces a grain head; this is when it has the most nutrient value. In May, he plants sorghum that he harvests at the end of summer. In October, he plants wheat, barley, triticale, and crimson clover, which like cool weather and are ready-to-cut in the spring. He partially dries the hay and then wraps the bales in plastic to eliminate oxygen and promote fermentation of the contents. The result is a sweet-smelling ferment that’s healthy for the cattle and tastes great. “They’ll lick the ground where the bale sat!” Mitchell told us.
Blue Q Ranch has two calvings a year, in early spring and fall. Calves stay with their mothers until they are 6 to 7 months old. (Dairy calves are often removed from their mothers to protect the mother’s udders, which are so critical for continuous milk production.) Some of the cows are mothers over and over, for up to twelve years; when they retire, their meat is no longer good enough for steaks so they are used for hamburger or dog food. Cattle receive no growth hormones or implants, and the cattle Weaver Street Market buys from Blue Q have had no antibiotics.
Mitchell works with two full-time employees, as well as the part-time help of neighbors when needed. He enjoys being outside, around the cattle and other livestock, and the flexibility of his schedule. “There’s always something different and new to do.”
Read more about Blue Q Ranch on their website. Watch a video of our visit to Blue Q . Watch more videos about local producers on our Youtube channel .