Editor's note: This is part of a series of eight features on Minnesota cattle operations that will be part of the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association 2021 Summer Beef Tour and Trade Show, scheduled for July 13. For more information on the tour, visit https://www.mnsca.org.
ADRIAN, Minn. — Located southwest of Adrian, Mente Cattle Company owners Dave and Stacy Mente, along with their three sons — Dylan, Trevor and Justin — have spent the past two decades improving the genetics of their herd with a focus on creating quality show and breeding stock.
Today, the Mentes raise a mix of Maine Anjou, Simmental and Angus cattle, with a continual move toward three-quarter and hybrid Maine.
“The foundation of our herd got started (in 1999) with my brother showing for 4-H,” shared Stacy. “We purchased a show heifer (a maintainer Maine Anjou) for him and bred her … and then we built off of that.”
“We started buying groups of heifers from a guy I knew in Iowa,” added Dave. “We started with smaller groups and then bigger groups, and now we’re just keeping back our own heifers.”
Dave said he likes Maine cattle for their docile nature, good mothering ability and muscling.
The Mentes, who married in 1997, started out raising pregnant cull cows and “doing whatever we could to make money to buy the nucleus herd, just because we didn’t have land or pasture,” shared Dave.
“He was just out of high school and couldn’t afford it, and we had just gotten married,” Stacy said. In 1998, the young couple rented the pasture and farmland, and in 1999 they purchased the quarter section on contract for deed, with the acreage and 50 acres of pasture purchased outright.
“We are eternally grateful to them,” Stacy said.
While Stacy’s family operated a dairy, it was Dave who had experience in beef production. A native of Tipton, Iowa, he grew up showing cattle and had a 10-cow herd for producing show heifers.
“I love the cattle business and the lessons my boys have learned in the cattle business,” Dave said. “There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of goal-setting, a lot of people you meet and a lot of life lessons.”
While the Mentes made improvements on their acreage to accommodate cattle — updating dirt yards to cement, building windbreaks and installing fence line bunks — the two biggest changes included the construction of a new calving barn and show barn, and converting all of the tillable farmland into rotational grazing paddocks. The Mentes received help through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to seed the grazing land, thus eliminating the need to rent pasture while keeping the cows close to home.
The paddocks were seeded with a mix of grazing alfalfa and six grasses — big bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, intermediate wheatgrass, meadow brome and orchard grass.
“We’ve got two sections — the north wheel and the south wheel,” Dave explained. “Each wheel has six pie shapes coming out of it.”
Up to 25 cows are in a paddock at a time, and they stay for just four to seven days in one section before moving. A common water source is located in the middle of the pie, so it’s accessible no matter which paddock they are in.
“The ideal is to not let the grass get below six inches in height,” Dave said.
The cows are moved to the pasture in mid-May, after the A.I. and embryo transfer work is completed, and are taken off by Nov. 1 to graze corn stalks on land farmed by Stacy’s dad.
“They pretty much run my dad’s half section from Nov. 1 to March 15 or so,” Stacy added.
Calving begins on the Mente farm around Feb. 1 and extends through early May.
The elite calves are weaned and sold starting around Aug. 1, with the second cut calves weaned by mid-September. The remainder of the calves are sold as feeders before the big fall run.
The Mentes sell five to seven bull calves as commercial bulls each year, Dave added. Primarily, sales come from show cattle, commercial bulls, elite bred heifers and commercial heifers. They also keep some back for themselves as they strive to hold to a 100- to 110-cow herd.
With all three of the Mente’s sons owning some cattle in the herd, Stacy said the hope is they can eventually come back to the farm. Already, they have their areas of expertise. Dylan, the oldest, prefers working with the feedyard and crops. He does some of the mechanic work on the farm and provides the manpower to get things done.
Trevor likes to work with the cows and knows every cow family and their pedigree. He offers suggestions on genetics, does well with clipping and fitting cattle for the show ring and is a true salesman.
Justin, meanwhile, loves showing cattle in both 4-H and other competitions.
Ranging in age from 18 to 22, the Mente sons keep things running smoothly when Dave is on the road for his full-time job with Zoetis, an animal health company. Stacy works in scheduling for the Sanford Hospital network.