IX Ranch; Winner of the 2020 Beef Quality Assurance Cow-Calf Award


February 12, 2020

Dedication to Improving Cattle Handling and Understanding of the Cattle Industry Earns IX Ranch 2020 BQA Cow-Calf Award

Over the last century, countless innovations have shaped modern ranching, such as new research, faster transportation, better equipment, and greater access to telephones and internet. But no matter the changes that affect the industry, there’s one principle that guides everyone from the owners to summer interns at IX Ranch: “Remember, the important thing is the cattle.”

The IX brand was first registered in Montana in 1877, with the ranch established not long after to the southeast of Big Sandy, a small town in the north central part of the state. The current owners, including Steven Roth, president and Richard Roth, vice president, are now the third generation of Roth’s to work the ranch.

Throughout its history, IX Ranch has remained committed to raising high quality cattle, continually adopting new innovations to improve its operations and sharing stories and experiences with both the beef industry and consumers. For all of these attributes, and more, the ranch was nominated and chosen for the 2020 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Cow-Calf Award.

Implementing BQA made sense with the ranch’s existing goal to have a ‘blue-ribbon operation,’ as the Roth family calls it. BQA guidelines combine common sense husbandry techniques with scientific knowledge to raise better quality cattle. The guidelines are designed to make sure all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry.

Applying BQA practices has further improved the ranch’s operations. IX Ranch has seen increases in attention to animal care, more awareness of employee safety and improved low-stress animal handling techniques.

“For us to be assured that we’re doing a good job, we have to do the little things and we have to do them correctly,” said Richard Roth.

As crews are brought to work on the ranch, BQA training is included in the on-boarding process. All full-time employees are required to be BQA-certified. The ranch has also hosted interns from colleges and universities across the United States since 2003, and all are encouraged to take BQA’s online certification courses. At times when the ranch brings on additional help, such as brandings, each person is now instructed about BQA practices for handling cattle, administering vaccines, and record keeping.

Additionally, IX Ranch’s two chief operating officers, Michael “Rusty” Sparks and Todd Amsbaugh, have worked there for more than 30 years. Through their efforts, the ranch has hired exceptional employees and continually offers numerous opportunities for professional development. Quarterly safety training seminars cover topics from wildland fires to equipment and animal handling. Employees can also learn horse care and handling, and managers take yearly trips to other ranches, universities, experiment stations and industry seminars to remain at the forefront of ranch management.

“The IX Ranch is a beacon when it comes to best management practices and their positive beef storytelling ability,” said Chaley Harney, executive director with the Montana Beef Council. “Starting with the ranch owners and passing it down to their managers and employees, they are excellent at transparency on the ranch to help a consumer feel confident in the quality beef they produce.”

Because of IX Ranch’s performance and standards, Harney frequently uses the ranch as an example in industry and consumer outreach. She said the Roths not only communicate stories from their experiences, but that they tell them in a way that connects with all audiences.

The Roths have spoken at industry events and are active in a number of industry organizations such as the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the Montana Stockgrowers Association. They also participate in their local government to stay on top of issues concerning policy, water and land rights, and the environment. In fact, 30,000 of the ranch’s 126,000 acres are leased from the state of Montana and the ranch promotes a healthy population of elk, mule and whitetail deer, antelope, mountain lions and upland game birds for both research and recreational opportunities.

The ranch is frequently featured in industry outreach to consumers, as well. Stories and videos of life and experiences on the ranch are posted to its Facebook page to reach both consumers and new employees. Most recently, a crew from BBC London toured the ranch for a series on Western ranching which aired in Europe in November 2019, and the ranch will be featured in the film “Cowboys Without Borders.”

“We are in a world today where there’s a lot of people who don’t really understand ranching or farming very well, and when people are asking questions about what we do or why we do it the way we do, it’s a really nice thing to fall back on that we’re certified BQA producers,” Richard Roth said. “It shows that we take the livelihood of our animals, and our employees, and our environment very seriously.”

No matter what the coming years bring to the industry, whether opportunities or challenges, IX Ranch will continue to hold on to its principles in providing the best care for its cattle.

“What I love the most is the challenge of taking the ranch and turning a natural resource into something that feeds the world,” Richard Roth said.

The BQA Cow-Calf Award is funded in part by the Beef Checkoff with additional support from Cargill. For more information on IX Ranch and other 2020 BQA Award winners, visit http://www.bqa.org/about/bqa-awards.

About Beef Quality Assurance

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program funded by the Beef Checkoff that provides U.S. beef producers guidelines and certification drawn from common sense husbandry techniques and accepted scientific knowledge on how to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA reflects a positive public image and instills consumer confidence in the beef industry. When producers implement the best management practices of a BQA program, they assure their cattle are the best they can be. For more information on BQA, visit http://www.bqa.org.


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