Last updated on April 7th, 2022 at 02:48 pm


hayden ranch finds its ace in the hole

cow condition, heifer breed-up excelled in the face of desperately dry conditions


Baker, Montana

There are a lot of things a beef producer can say about 2021. Of those, goodbye may be the kindest.

It was indeed a year of challenges—markets down then up; too hot and too dry in many places; wet enough but maybe not quite enough in others. In times like those, you have to do a little thinking outside the normal groove.

Chase Hayden Square
Dave Hayden

That’s what Chase & Dave Hayden did, and while the payoff wasn’t yet in the bank when Chase visited with Riomax® about their operation, his optimism was evident. Here’s what he did to help keep the ranch in business.

“We were just so dry up here,” he said of his ranch in eastern Montana, close to the North Dakota border. “We really didn’t have much feed, so we sent the cows and calves down to Nebraska” to graze on corn and milo stalks.

Typically, the Haydens can run their herd on pasture year ‘round. But 2021 brought not only ongoing and desperately dry weather, but a grasshopper infestation to boot. There was little in the pastures for the cattle to eat and even less after the hoppers got through munching their way across the dried-out land.

So it was a choice between buying a winter’s worth of expensive hay or putting wheels under the cows and calves. The wheels won out.

Grazing stalks is a very viable option for wintering cattle and has been for a long time. Typically, however, it doesn’t pay to haul cattle very far to stalks because the feed value is so low. But Hayden didn’t have many options. Plus, he had his ace in the hole to help offset the freight.

The advantage? Riomax® tubs.

The Hayden Ranch had been on the tubs for around a year and a half when he made the decision to ship his cattle south to stalks. So he had a pretty good idea how much the supplement would help his cattle get all the nutrition possible out of the dry feed.

Making Notable Herd Progress

Where they saw the biggest improvement was in his 2021 breed-up with his first-calf heifers. “The last few years we’ve had about 30 percent open on the heifers and (for the 2021 calf crop) we had about 15% open.”

While cutting their open rate in half was improvement a’plenty, it happened under tougher conditions. On top of the ongoing drought, the Haydens cut their breeding season from 58 days to 45 days. “It was hot and dry, lots of grasshoppers, so there wasn’t a lot of good feed out there for them, but they bred better,” he said.

Prior to putting out Riomax® tubs, which the Haydens use year ‘round, their cattle were on a loose mineral. They weren’t interested in changing, and particularly not changing to a mineral supplement that many perceive as expensive.

Then a Riomax® sales rep stopped by. “After listening to him and hearing some of the results, I realized that we just had to try it, and we like it so far.”

Beyond a better first-year breed-up on the first-calf heifers, the Haydens saw improvement in calf health. “We haven’t had very many sick calves since we’ve been on it.”

What’s more, the body condition of their cows is holding steady as winter progresses from 2021 into 2022. He says most of the cows are showing a body condition score of 5 with some 6s and are content in their winter home. That’s after coming off dried-out, grasshopper-infested summer pasture with Riomax® tubs.

As this was written, the Haydens hadn’t sold their 2021 calves, so they didn’t have any year-to-year comparisons on payweight. But casting a practiced eye, he says the calves look better and bigger than past calf crops.

What Will 2022 Bring?

As the Hayden Ranch rolls into 2022, weather uncertainty remains top of mind. The cows will come home in March. The Hayden Ranch saw a heavy, wet snow in October 2021, so there’s enough moisture in the soil to get green-up going. Since then, however, with pastures bare of anything to stop and hold the snow, what little that’s come accumulated in the tree rows and ditches.

Time will tell what 2022 has in store for Chase & Dave Hayden and their fellow beef producers across the country. But with their ace in the hole, the Haydens are ready to take it on.

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