HARRISON, Mont. – Southwestern Montana is known for its skiing, proximity to Yellowstone National Park, and of course, its stunning mountain views. The big towering peaks tower over the valley below and the scenic value they produce is unmatched.
On a bright, sunny January morning, Chris and Jena Madrid stand under the gaze of the mountains and look out over their cow herd. With hard work and determination, the young couple has built a ranching empire basically from scratch. Being business and cow savvy is only half the battle – luck plays into it too.
“You know what they say, the harder you work, the luckier you get,” Chris says with a chuckle.
And boy do the Madrids work hard.
With calving quickly approaching, the Madrid’s older cows are now receiving about 25 pounds of feed per day. The heifer calves, which were trailed closer to home on Jan. 10, are on a full feed ration, and Chris says they are doing well.
Chris and Jena took a day in January and combed through their bull herd, culling some of the ones they no longer felt fit their program. The Madrids used to raise some seedstock, so their bull herd is really top-notch, but they are in the process of shifting their program a little bit. The bulls culled by the Madrid are still nice, usable bulls with years of work left in them.
On Jan. 20, Chris reported he was taking the sale bulls to get Trich tested before they head down the road to their new home and new job.
It’s out with the old and in with the new on the Madrid operation, however. Chris and Jena culled some Black Angus bulls and in exchange, bought some Hereford bulls from a seedstock breeder over in Idaho. There are many benefits to hybrid vigor and the Madrids are looking forward to the change.
“I get kind of bored sometimes and I end up making big changes like that,” Chris jokes.
The Madrids used Hereford bulls to clean-up their fall bred heifers, and after they got to thinking, it was decided they would start implementing some Hereford genetics into their main herd. And right now, baldy heifers are looked at as a premium on the market.
“If I can put 20-30 more pounds on my steer calves and get a steer price for my heifers, then I feel it’s worth my while,” Chris said.
The Madrids ended up purchasing seven bulls, and they arrived in Harrison the middle of January. The boys will hang out for a few months before they will be called into action in late spring.
In addition to adding a new string of bulls to the crew, Chris and Jena picked up about 60 more lease cows. The extra boost to their cow herd is appreciated and Chris and Jena look forward to adding even more to the herd as time goes on.
Trucking has finally started to slow down for Chris, so he took the opportunity and is having his truck worked on. Chris said the truck was in need of an overhaul and although the repair bill will be hefty, Chris explained that it is well worth it. That truck has been, and will continue to be, a great source of income for the couple.
After the truck is all repaired, Chris estimates he only has a handful of local hay trucking jobs to wrap up before it’s time to settle in and calve some cows.
There are a few last-minute projects that need to be wrapped up before calving, as well. In their spare time, Chris and Jena are cleaning out the calving shed, hanging gates and just doing some general tidying up work around the place.
On paper, it still appears that Chris and Jena are going about 100 miles per hour in different directions, but Chris explains that right now is actually their quite time.
“We are always busy, it’s just sometimes we do it at a more leisurely pace,” Chris stated.
Leisurely pace or not, Chris and Jena continue to prove that young people can in fact get a start in agriculture today, and be successful nonetheless.