RAPELJE, Mont. – Cali Rooney and her husband, Tyler, are elated Mother Nature is dropping a healthy amount of moisture over south central Montana, even if that moisture does come in the form of snow – which is a bit unusual for this time of year.
“I dang near froze yesterday semen testing bulls,” Cali reported during a phone call May 12.
Cali and Tyler had 30 bulls to semen test and the whole process was quite lengthy, lasting 3-4 hours. The entire time it was raining and sleeting, but the misery imposed by the weather was worth it. All but two of the Rooney bulls passed with flying colors. Cali and Tyler did buy some bulls from Vermillion Angus and Stevenson Diamond Dot, but the young couple is also working on breeding and retaining their own bulls.
The cold moisture made cattle work a little cumbersome, but in true Montana rancher fashion, the Rooneys won’t complain because they just wrapped up their early-spring planting. Cali and Tyler planted about 800 acres in total. Some was planted into a perennial grass and legume mix with a nurse crop and they also planted some peas and triticale, which they will hay this summer and use for cattle feed in the winter.
A lot of strategy goes into deciding what forage and/or grazing mixes to plant into what fields. The country between Big Timber and Rapelje is big and open, but also often rugged. Sometimes it is just easier on man and machinery to let the cattle utilize the forage.
“We try to plant cover crops in the fields that are the least economical to farm,” Cali explained.
In addition to all of their work planting, there is still other cattle work going on. The Rooneys are wrapping up calving and were able to brand and turn out about 150 head prior to the weather front moving in. Pasture and rangeland management are big priorities for Cali and Tyler. Although their cattle are starting to trickle out to grass, the couple is mindful of the overall health of the range.
“I’ve noticed, on some days at least, the weather may be late-spring feeling, at least temperature wise, but the soil and ground are cooler. It is acting more like it is early-spring, so the grass and our cover crops are late coming this year,” she observed.
Weather is really the biggest influence on their pasture management decisions. Right now, their cattle are still receiving a little bit of hay, so they aren’t depending solely on the early, fragile grass for feed. The couple will continue to closely monitor the range as spring and summer progress to determine when pastures have been grazed to the appropriate level, and therefore, the cattle are ready to be moved to the next.
Cali and Tyler have focused more on regenerative agriculture practices, and since then they have been able to raise the number of animal units their land can hold. They practice intensive grazing, to a point, but are flexible in their pasture rest rotations.
Farming is somewhat wrapped up for the Rooneys now, but they will start planting warm season cover crops in June and then haying will quickly follow suit. In the meantime, Cali and Tyler are wrapping up branding and will look ahead to AI’ing about 80 head of first-calf heifers. Until then, they plan to sit back, listen to the rain and watch the green grass grow.