HAZELTON, N.D. – Winter snow and bitter cold continued to hang on at Black Leg Ranch - along with a bout of freezing rain - in late January. The weather continued to be challenging, but there was promise in the forecast for warmer conditions ahead in early February.
“The weather struck us with another cold snap, though it doesn’t seem like it’ll last very long. It was 31 degrees below zero with the wind chill when I woke up this morning (Jan 29), but in seven days it is supposed to be 37 degrees above,” said Jayce Doan, who ranches with his wife, Kassy. “It’s been a bit of a roller coaster. Nothing has really melted, and we did get another shot of snow, about 4 inches. That was after a nice freezing rain made everything super icy.”
Meanwhile, with the snow not melting yet, hay supplementation continues at the ranch. The high-quality hay supplies are continuing to drop, and the Doans are hopeful they can stretch out the current bales until warmer temperatures expose the grasses underneath.
“Feeding is ongoing. We thought we had a large stockpile of excess hay and feed, but we also didn’t expect to have to start feeding it early November,” Jayce said. “It’s sure dwindling, but fingers crossed that the hay will last us until we get a break.”
Until that break arrived, they had to make do without all the tractors they needed for feeding.
“Our tractors that are in town getting fixed are still sitting at the implement dealers untouched. Apparently, everyone is either way too busy or way too short-staffed to get things done in a timely manner,” he said. “Every time we call them, we get pushed back a few more days until the tractors can be looked at. It would sure be nice to have them back sooner than later.”
At the ranch, Jayce was finally able to wean the buffalo calves, which was one project he hoped to finish in spite of the cold temperatures.
“We finally got the buffalo calves weaned. Weaning went really well with no real huge hiccups,” he said.
Half of the weaned buffalo calves will go to a feedlot to be fed a hot ration, to be finished, and sent to a large packer.
“Those animals, of course, won’t be sold under our meat label as we sell solely grass-fed and grass-finished animals,” he said.
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The Doans continue to find ways to run a profitable regenerative ag operation, utilizing as many markets as they can, including conventional markets.
“Both of the processes are just another outlet to try to be diversified and be profitable,” Jayce said.
They planned to haul out half of the calves in early February, while keeping replacements and animals for their grass beef program.
“The other half we will keep and have replacement heifers and butcher animals for our Black Leg Ranch Meat program,” he said.
For the time being, the buffalo bull and heifer calves will be run together.
Jayce would like to get rid of the open beef cows on the ranch soon.
“If we could get rid of some open cows, it would at least cut back on the number of cows that are grazing vital cover crops or eating expensive hay,” he said. “My dad does all the palpating himself (to check for pregnancy) and he’s not getting any younger, so if we can split it up between a few days or a few different herds, it’ll give him a chance to rest his arm as it gets awfully tired reaching into all of those cows.”
A new intern arrived on the ranch, and he is experienced working with cows. He will be able to pitch in and help out without too much training.
“He comes from a very large dairy farm in Wisconsin and will be here for the duration of 2023,” Jayce said. “He should be a great asset to the ranch this year as we could sure use the help. Our other interns won't arrive for a few months yet.”
Jayce is looking forward to spring and some warmer weather, as well. It has been a long, cold winter so far.
“It has been pretty repetitious lately with feeding and more feeding. We are just waiting for warmer weather to come along,” he added.
On the home front, Jayce and Kassy, as well as grandparents and other family members in both states, are anxiously waiting for the twins to arrive – just a few more weeks – and then things will get a lot busier – but in a happy way.