The Madrids raise cattle in the mountain valleys of southwest Montana where picturesque landscapes, snow and happy calves abound. 

HARRISON, Mont. – Chris and Jena Madrid possess two undeniable qualities: they are extremely hard working and they tend to be optimists, especially when it comes to the weather. The two have been in production agriculture long enough to know the weather could always be worse.

For the most part, weather has been pretty nice for calving. It would snow occasionally, but the cooler nights were often paired with relatively warm sunny days. Of course the mixture of snow and sun leads to mud.

“We got about 4-5 inches of new snow last night and right now it’s 45 degrees out, so it’s getting pretty soupy,” Chris said during a phone call on the last day of March.

Chris was raised on the deserts of New Mexico where moisture was essentially non-existent and sweltering heat was the norm. Needless to say, upon moving to Montana, Chris quickly learned that moisture is always a blessing, even if it comes at inconvenient times.

“I got to work at 4:30 a.m., and I was just grinning like a school boy at all that heavy, wet moisture,” chuckled Chris during his report.

As is typical, the last few weeks of the Madrid’s calving season seem to be trudging along at a snail’s pace. Calving season can be intense when calves are coming at a steady rate, but conversely, when the calving rate goes nearly idle, it often feels like those last few head may actually never give birth.

Chris isn’t so sure his calving rate hasn’t come to stand still, at least it certainly feels that way.

“I think the last time I talked to you I said we had like 60 head left to calve and it feels like we still have 60 head left to calve,” he said.

In reality though, the calves are still coming, so Chris and Jena can be relieved to know there is in fact a life after calving season.

As soon as calving season wraps up for the Madrids, they will jump right into breeding season. In fact, the two seasons overlap slightly. During the last week of March, Chris and Jena put CIDRS in 90 replacement heifers. The CIDRS will be removed after 14 days and the heifers will be left alone for 16 days. After the 16-day break, the heifers will be given a shot of Esturmate and then be AI’ed about three days later.

In the days leading up to breeding season, the Madrids changed up their feed ration. Immediately following parturition, the Madrid’s cattle enjoy a diet of mostly grass hay. That way the feed is not too hot, and therefore doesn’t make the milk too rich for the baby calves.

About 30-40 days postpartum, the cattle start to have more and more alfalfa mixed into their ration to increase protein intake, so the cattle will end up gaining about a half a body score or better. Cattle ovulate the most successfully if they are fleshy and healthy. It is natural instinct, if a cow is fat and happy she believes she is safe, and therefore it is a good time to reproduce.

“You have to have an increasing plane of nutrition prior to breeding,” Chris pointed out.

Between the replacement heifers and embryo cows, the Madrids will be busy in some stage of the breeding process until the first part of June. In true Madrid fashion, however, there is several other tasks that must be completed at the same time, as well. There are custom fence jobs to start and irrigation projects to have completed before water can be turned on. There are plenty of calves to brand and haying equipment that must undergo maintenance, too.

The cycles of ranch life continue, and like most agriculturalists, the Madrids aren’t in the cattle business for the money. Instead, the couple is just happy to take care of their land and their animals as they live the life they love.

The Prairie Star would like to thank Chris and Jena Madrid for allowing us to follow along with them over the winter months and tell their ranching story. We wish them nothing but the best in the future!