Editor’s Note: This is the fourteenth article in a series highlighting significant contributions of women in the Simmental industry.
Maureen Mai owns and operates Rymo Cattle Company in Northern Idaho, alongside her husband and son, and has been a leader, organizer, and advocate for the Simmental breed for the majority of her life.
Maureen Mai is a rancher, leader, and lifelong member of the Simmental community. She grew up with the breed, with her parents first AI’ing some of their commercial cows to Simmental sires. Alongside her husband, Ryan, she now runs a registered Simmental and SimAngus cow herd, sells bulls and females, helps youth in the AJSA, manages a bull sale, and helps with three state Simmental associations, among many other tasks.
Mai's parents, Merle and Kathy, ranched on the family place near Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in the north Idaho panhandle. Her parents purchased 10 bred Simmental cows from Lou Chestnut, who was a former ASA President from the Spokane area. A few years later, they were able to lease the rest of Chestnut’s herd, and since then, Mai has been fully immersed in the breed. She was an active member of 4-H and attended her first AJSA Classic in 1992 when a friend convinced her to get a heifer and make the trip to Bozeman.
Her cow herd helped pay for her studies in animal science, ag business, and public relations at the University of Idaho, and later became the foundation for what is now Rymo Cattle Company. She met Ryan in college, and together they jumped into the cattle business full-time at her parents’ place. They have since been able to purchase the ranch and more ground. “I met my husband and he was game for attempting to start our endeavor. I was lucky because I had a base place to come back to and work from. Then we built off of that.”
Sticking with the Simmental breed was an easy decision for Mai. She saw the breed through many changes and believed in its ability to be versatile, profitable, and sustainable. “I’ve always liked what they had to offer, and I’ve always appreciated that they want to be moms and they’re easy to be around.”
Jerry Lipsey, ASA's former EVP, invited Mai to participate in Focus 2000, where she was able to be a part of many of the decisions that are responsible for the breed’s success. "The Simmental breeders who organized the event said, ‘here are Simmental’s problems, and here is how we can fix them,’ and they said it out loud. It was essential to get some of the young industry people with older industry people, and figure out what to do.”
This forward-thinking philosophy is also a part of Rymo Cattle Company. Mai says, “I think our biggest asset is the breeders who believe in science and the use of technology and measurements, EPDs and turning in data, and Total Herd Enrollment, which helps get a true, accurate, and standardized picture to make the EPDs more efficient.”
Rymo Cattle Company markets the majority of their bulls through the Bulls of the Big Sky Sale, held each February in Billings, Montana. Mai explains that the number of bulls they sell, in addition to their female decisions, depends on the year. “This year we had a pretty strong bull crop so we sent most of them there. Then we sell 4-H steers, and we usually market heifers through the Montana Choice Sale.”
The operation also includes a significant amount of farming, and Mai is involved with every step in that process, including putting up hay and running other equipment. She is also a part of every aspect of the cattle operation. “I do anything from doctoring to vaccination selection, all of the computer work and what is associated with that, DNA selection and processes, replacement heifer selection, running equipment, feeding, and calving, and in the summertime, we put up hay. The biggest project is that I am the contact person for the Bulls of the Big Sky sale group.”
Mai has also been involved with the Washington, Montana, and Idaho state Simmental associations in a number of capacities.
She is also passing her passion for cattle and agriculture onto the next generation. Her son, Dillon, went to his first AJSA Regional Classic at five, and now at 14, continues to be very active with Simmental and other youth beef activities. Mai has helped organize several Western Regional Classics, including the upcoming 2020 event, and has taken youth to past shows.
"It's been super rewarding to watch the kids I have taken into the junior program grow and participate, and become teachers and things they never thought possible. They get so much more out of the program than showing cattle. They become better people. The quality of the people in the Simmental Association is pretty elite and I enjoy working with all of them.”