The Holts

Dave Holt and his wife, Colleen, pose for a photo on Wednesday. After trying every tobacco-free dip on the market “known to man,” Holt came up with his own creation, Holt Tobaccoless Chew.

New Year’s Eve is around the corner and with the turning of the annual calendar page, folks tend to vow positive changes in their lives. And Dave Holt said he wants to be there when they do.

Holt had a 45-year love affair with dipping tobacco. He couldn’t be pulled away from nicotine’s loving arms, but like most flings, it had a tragic ending.

“I loved it,” the 68-year old said. “I went to the dentist and he said I was developing lesions on my gums.”

One day, Holt woke up to a swollen jaw and he immediately went to the dentist thinking a troubled tooth was to blame.

“After inspecting it, he said there was nothing wrong with the tooth,” he said. “He told me to go down and get a biopsy. It came back positive. I had cancer. When a doctor says your test is positive, it changes your whole life.”

Holt had a cancerous lymph gland. Three days later, he started chemotherapy. That was almost two years ago and he is now free of cancer. Even so, he still thinks about his old mistress, tobacco.

“It’s a craving you never lose,” he said. “It’s also a matter of having something in your lip. It’s a pacifier.”

He tried every tobacco-free dip on the market “known to man” but to no avail. One day in a Bozeman health food store, he eyed a bag of dried alfalfa.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try that,’” he said. “Ten million cows can’t be wrong.”

It wasn’t the best at first, but he stuck with it because it tasted better than other nicotine-free brands. After years of alchemy searching for that perfect mix, Holt Tobaccoless Chew was born.

“It took me a while to get it just right,” he said. “The main problem I had was when it was in your pocket, it turned to silage.”

With the help of various universities, he was able to keep the fodder from breaking down by using peppermint oil. From there, he uses vitamin C, honey and a little cayenne pepper for that initial bite when you first slip a dip “between your lip and gum.”

“We sent it to the pharmacy department at University of Montana to see if we were going to kill anybody,” he said.

Holt uses all Montana products. He only uses fodder grown in southwest Montana because, according to Holt, it is the “sweetest” tasting alfalfa in the West. Something about the soil in the area gives it character compared to other hay he has sampled.

His recipe has kept him away from nicotine, but Holt said he has other found other health benefits from his product.

He said its useful in reducing colds, settles the stomach in a tea form and is high in minerals, amino acids and nutrients.

“I’m not selling snake oil,” he said. “This really has helped me in different ways.”

Holt been involved with horses, cattle and rodeos his entire life. Embracing the idea of an herbal product took a leap of faith, but in the end, he said it was worth it and it works.

“I don’t need other people going through chemo treatment like I did,” he said.

Holt Tobaccoless Chew can be found in Belgrade at Rocky Mountain Supply and Albertsons. For more information visit the website at