Certified Piedmontese Rancher Spotlight: Allen & Zenda Haase
Visit Allen and Zenda Haase’s ranch between Winner, South Dakota, and Valentine, Nebraska, and you’ll hear the soft lowing of cattle and the eclectic barnyard noises of sheep and goats—herds they’ve been growing for decades. In some ways, Allen and Zenda’s ranch is just as idyllic as the childhood classic “Old MacDonald”. Beyond rows of trees that surround the quaint farmyard, the sun sparkles off lush prairie grass that waves in the wind for as far as the eye can see. But amid the serene sounds and scenery is the demanding work Allen and Zenda put in daily to keep their livestock healthy and thriving.
Allen and Zenda have four children--Dustin, Carissa, Nick, and Trent--and they credit them with much of the ranch's success. "The kids were a vital part of getting everything done around here," says Zenda. Now that they have families of their own, they still get back to help as much as they can, but Zenda and Allen handle the day-to-day demands of their herds. “Allen is the hardest-working person I know, and I try to keep up with him on most days,” laughs Zenda. “This place is hands-on,” Allen adds. “If Zenda or I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.” It’s this no-nonsense attitude that ensures the animals are well-cared for, no matter the season.
Season To Season
Summer months on the ranch are spent cutting and baling hay for the cattle to eat during the winter months, tending to the cattle while they’re grazing, and rotating them from pasture to pasture to prevent overgrazing—a practice that keeps the pastures lush. The Haase’s meticulous land management, combined with plentiful rains, ensures there’s plenty of grass to go around. “This year,” says Zenda, “the cattle have been belly-deep in grass.”
Toward the end of summer, calving starts, and Allen and Zenda move the animals closer to home where they can keep a close eye on them. In the event a cow has difficulty birthing her calf, Allen and Zenda are there to help. It’s imperative for a newborn calf to receive colostrum—the first milk of the mother cow that contains antibodies the calf needs to stay healthy and withstand harsh winter conditions. Colostrum is especially vital when raising antibiotic-free cattle, which is why Allen and Zenda make sure each and every one of their calves receive it at birth, even if they have to hand-guide the calves to it. “Without the colostrum, their immune systems are much weaker,” says Zenda, “so we get them up and make sure they find Mom.”
During the winter months, the cows are nursing their calves, so they need their fair share of nutrients. “We spend all summer haying to make feed, and then we spend all winter feeding it to the cows,” explains Allen. The cows are protected by rows of trees that act as a windbreak, and Allen and Zenda even roll out hay for the cows and calves to lay on. “We feed them and we bed them real well,” says Allen. “When I come in the house at night, I go to sleep in a warm bed. That’s what we want for our cattle. All animals should be taken care of by that standard.”
Raising Certified Piedmontese
As part of the Certified Piedmontese bull-lease program, the Haases lease top Piedmontese sires for the duration of the breeding season. This allows them to eliminate the costs of purchasing high-quality sires and maintaining them outside the season, and it guarantees the calves they raise will have the naturally superior genetic profile of the unique Piedmontese breed, which is the ideal start for raising high-quality, healthy cattle.
Allen and Zenda’s approach to animal husbandry aligns with the Certified Piedmontese program, and they’re proud to meet its rigorous demands. The cattle are never given antibiotics, steroids, or growth hormones of any kind. Calves rarely get sick on the Haase ranch, but if they do, they’re given the medicine they need to return to health. Allen and Zenda still care for them, but they’re removed from the Certified Piedmontese program.
Every single calf on the Haase ranch is also DNA-tested to ensure the presence of the Piedmontese gene, a quality standard that guarantees lean and tender beef that is 100% farm-to-fork traceable. Calves are tagged with an EID (electronic identification) tag, which logs important information about their health and well-being.
Certified Piedmontese has made transparency a priority from the very beginning, and the program is Where Food Comes From-certified by IMI Global, an independent third party that conducts regular ranch audits. “They check to make sure we’re meeting nutritional requirements, maintaining our antibiotic-free status, using EID tags, and DNA-certifying each of the calves,” says Zenda. “It’s sort of a nerve-racking process, but we don’t cut corners—we do things the way they should be done. And we get plenty of support from the Certified Piedmontese team.”
An Enduring Passion
With a growing herd nearing 400 cattle, the Haases can’t help but reflect on their humble beginnings. “When we started this, we didn’t even own a tractor,” says Zenda. “There were times when we knew it was sink or swim, and we’ve done a lot of swimming.” The Haases credit joining the Certified Piedmontese program with helping them grow their ranch, and they’re looking forward to raising more Certified Piedmontese cattle in the future. Allen and Zenda have even passed their passion for animal husbandry on to their children; Dustin, Carissa, Nick, and Trent are all involved in farming and ranching, so the Haases’ passion for raising animals the right way will endure for years to come.