This was the first year the Rooneys incorporated sunflowers into a cover crop mix. Not only do the cows seem to like it, but Cali says once the flowers bloomed they are absolutely beautiful.

RAPLEJE, Mont. – After mid- to late-August experienced a heat wave that drove temps into the mid- to upper-90s and beyond, a cool front swept across much of Montana the last day of August. Tyler and Cali Rooney of the 406 Rooney Ranch, located in the south central portion of the state, are enjoying the break from the heat.

“The cool weather will really help things out. I’m very thankful for it,” Cali expressed during a phone interview on Aug. 31.

The cooler weather is a good indication that fall is fast approaching. The Rooneys have an incredibly busy next couple of months in front of them and somehow Cali will juggle her duties on the ranch while she also teaches full-time. Cali says her first week back at school was busy, but she is now settling in to a routine.

“The cool part about ranching and teaching agriculture education is I can use a lot of the stuff I do on the ranch as a learning opportunity for my students,” Cali expressed.

On the ranch, the Rooneys have been focusing a lot on their calves, specifically their steers. The steer calves are on their final push before pre-conditioning and eventually, weaning. Right now it is all about keeping their stress low so they can gain as much weight as possible.

“Our steer calf pairs are on their home-run cover crop. It is a warm-season mix of sorghum sudangrass, millet, sunflowers and mung bean,” Cali explained.

Keeping the steer calves on the best, most luscious feed possible is a top priority for Tyler and Cali. The couple is set to give the steer calves their pre-conditioning shots the middle of September. At that time they will also receive a pour-on to help with any late-season flies and lice. This year the Rooneys enrolled their steer calves in a non-hormone treated cattle (NHTC) third party verified program. Because of that, the Rooneys will also have to place an EID tag in the ear of every steer at the same time they get their pre-conditioning shots.

The Rooney’s heifer calves are not under as much immediate pressure since the Rooneys plan to retain all of their heifer calves for a least a little while. They will decide which to sell and which to keep at a later date. For now, the heifer calves and their moms are to be moved onto a re-growth cover crop field. It is a field the Rooneys grazed back in May, but due to their strict grazing management practices, enough forage was left in the field to promote re-growth, so the cow/calf pairs can enjoy one more run at the cool-season cover crop mix before cold weather sets in.

“We keep getting little shots of rain. It has been just enough to really help those cover crops out,” Cali said.

In addition to all of the cattle fall work that must be accomplished in a timely manner, the Rooneys must now start thinking about their grazing rotations for next year and what crops they want to plant where. The Rooneys have learned this is a task that is better to accomplish early, rather than waiting until the last minute.

“We have learned that the earlier you can buy your cover crop seeds, the better. Sometimes, in like January, there will be big discounts,” Cali pointed out.

To adhere to their regenerative agriculture goals, the Rooneys never replant fields into the same crop. Cali and Tyler will work really closely with an agronomist going forward in order to achieve the grazing and land management goals they desire. Communication with an agronomist is key, Cali adds. Planting and utilizing cover crops is kind of been an ongoing experiment for the Rooneys, but it is one the couple thoroughly enjoys.

“I really like the saying, ‘You can do anything for a year.’ We can try any cover crop mix at least once and then we can change it for next year if we have to,” Cali noted.

September will be a busy month for the young ranching couple, but with cooler weather happening and fall moisture hopefully on the horizon, the Rooneys are looking forward to the event filled fall ranching season.