Montana Stockgrowers Association

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit membership organization, has worked on behalf of Montana’s cattle ranching families since 1884. Our mission is to protect and enhance Montana ranch families’ ability to grow and deliver safe, healthy, environmentally wholesome beef to the world.

Board of Livestock to meet March 15-16

DOL – The Montana Board of Livestock will meet March 15-16 in the Scott Hart Auditorium (Department of Agriculture/Department of Livestock building, 301 N. Roberts) in Helena.

Agenda items include a joint meeting between the board and Board of Milk Control, reports from Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) division administrators, updates on the department’s budget and special revenue projections, and a report from Attorney General Steve Bullock on a new consumer protection position relating to agriculture.

For a complete board meeting agenda click here.

MSGA responds to sage grouse decision

Helena, Mont. – Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the greater sage grouse a “warranted but precluded” species in regards to the Endangered Species Act. The sage grouse will be placed on the “candidate species” list which means the status of the sage grouse will be reviewed each year.

“We have a healthy sage grouse population in Montana,” said Jay Bodner, Natural Resource Director for the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “One of the reasons for this is the well-managed grazing and conservation efforts of Montana’s family ranchers on both private and federal land.”

Vicki Olson, a director of the Montana Public Lands Council, listed many specific efforts undertaken by Montana ranching families to protect sage grouse, include monitoring of rangeland conditions and sage grouse populations, grazing management plans, fence flagging, water trough escape ramps and water development.

“Many ranchers that graze in sage grouse habitat include rotations in their grazing management plans to minimize their impact and provide the right vegetation structure favored by sage grouse and other grassland birds for their habitat,” Olson said.

While this decision may change the way federal land management agencies make land use decisions, George Trischman, chairman of the Montana Public Lands Council, said it will not affect the conservation efforts of Montana ranchers.

“Family ranchers here in Montana were making efforts to protect healthy sage grouse populations before this decision and they will continue those efforts regardless of this or any future decision,” Trischman said.

Past MSGA Director, Leo Barthelmess wins Montana Neighbor Award

Today, Leo Barthelmess, Jr. was announced as one of four 2010 Montana Neighbor Award Recipients for displaying “the traditional neighborly spirit that helped make Montana what it is.”

Barthelmess hails from a multi-generation ranching family, and is widely recognized for his long-time commitment to the ranching community and quality range management. Barthelmess, a recent member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association board of directors and a leader of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA), has pioneered collaborative conservation solutions involving ranching, development, conservation groups and resource agencies. RSA and conservation organizations recently received funding to improve wildlife habitat on thousands of acres of private ranchlands in Phillips County. RSA was also recently named the 2010 Montana Environmental Stewardship Award winners by the Montana Stockgrowers Association. Barthelmess is a Certified Land Steward through the Undaunted Stewardship program and has been active in the Sage Grouse Working Group.

The awards are given every year by an informal coalition including the Montana Alliance of Land Trusts, Artemis Common Ground, The Nature Conservancy of Montana, the Montana Council of Trout Unlimited and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Award criteria include cooperation, land stewardship/conservation ethic, neighborly land access, and community leadership.

“Our mission is to promote the on-the-ground reality of being a good Montana neighbor in a time of transition in our state,” said Chris King, the Petroleum County Commissioner and Winnett rancher who serves on the awards committee. “We believe that publicizing the good things that are happening will encourage others to undertake similar efforts.”

The other award winners are Annie and Bob Graham, Madison Valley ranchland owners; Stoltze Lumber Company of Columbia Falls; and Wisdom rancher Calvin Erb.

Brand Owners Reminded to Update Addresses

DOL – Every 10 years, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) rerecords brands. With more than 55,000 active brands in the Big Sky, it’s a big job. It’s also an important job, as brands are a return address for your livestock – brands help prevent loss and theft of livestock, assist with the movement of livestock through markets channels, and are used to identify livestock in animal health emergencies.

“Brands are a big part of the state’s history,” said MDOL Brands Division administrator John Grainger. “It’s something people take seriously, and there’s some colorful history about rustlers who tried to beat the system and found the business end of a rope. It’s a system that’s worked well for 150 years, and it still works well today.”

In short, brands are rerecorded to keep DOL’s brand system – generally regarded as one the best in the nation – current, and that helps keep your livestock safe. Rerecord also allows brand owners to retain ownership of their brands, which is also a pretty big deal: Brands are possessions, and often have a family and historic value that can’t be measured by the cost of registration or rerecord fees. Brands that are not rerecorded are vacated and made available to the public.

“Brands will always be a fundamental part of the department’s operations, and rerecord is a fundamental part of keeping the system maintained,” Grainger said.

So, what does rerecord mean for you, the brand owner? It’s simple.
The first step is making sure your mailing address is up-to-date so that renewal notices get sent to the correct address. If your address has changed within the past 10 years – and many have with the restructuring of rural 911 systems – it needs to be updated. Addresses can be updated on the web site; by calling the Rerecord Hotline at 406/444-4999 (or secondary rerecord lines at 406/444-3812, 406/444-2045 or 406/444-9431); or by using mail-in cards available at brand offices, markets and other locations.

MDOL will send out brand renewal notices in January 2011, with a due date of December 31, 2011. The fee for rerecording, or renewing, a brand is the same as it was in 2001, $100, and has only been increased once in the past 30 years. If you do not receive your brand renewal notice by February 2011, please contact MDOL’s Brands Recorder at 406/444-3812.

“We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for brand owners to update up their address,” Grainger said. “We encourage people to use the online form, which is one of the web tools we’ve recently added to improve the delivery of services while improving our efficiency.”

Grainger reminded brand holders that there’s no way to get a head start on the process.

“Some people get antsy, but you can’t rerecord your brand until you receive a rerecord notice,” he said. “If you send us a check now, we’ll just have to send it back.”

For additional information regarding brands or brands rerecord, contact MDOL’s Brands Recorder (406/444-3812, 406/444-4999) or public information officer (406/444-9431).

For additional information on brands, please see…
Update your mailing address:;
New brands:;
Brand transfers:

MSU College of Ag announces visits of candidates for head of Dept. of Animal and Range Sciences

MSU – The Montana State University College of Agriculture is pleased to announce the campus interview visits of two candidates for the Department Head position for the Department of Animal and Range Sciences. Information about the candidates and their interview schedules can be found here. Each candidate will be giving a research seminar and an administrative philosophy seminar. We have also arranged time for the candidates to interact with members of the Montana animal and range community who have an interest in the department and this position. These times are listed below and flyers for each seminar are attached.

Dr. Charles Weems, University of Hawaii
Administrative Philosophy Seminar: Thursday February 18 at 4 p.m. in the Byker Auditorium, Chemistry Building
Ag Community Social: Thursday February 18 at 5:30 in the Aspen Room, GranTree Inn
Research Seminar: Friday February 19 at 10 a.m. in 231 Linfield Hall

Dr. Glenn Duff, University of Arizona
Administrative Philosophy Seminar: Thursday March 4 at 4 p.m. in 233 Strand Union Building
Ag Community Social: Thursday March 4 at 5:30 in the Aspen Room, GranTree Inn
Research Seminar: Friday March 5 at 2 p.m. in 233 Strand Union Building

DOL to host meetings on Official Calfhood Vaccination

DOL – The Montana Department of Livestock will host a series of meetings to talk with livestock producers about its preliminary proposal on statewide Official Calfhood Vaccination (OCV) for brucellosis, and will additionally solicit comment via an informal public participation process.
The proposal would, in short, require OCV for all sexually intact female cattle and bison not destined for slaughter. A copy of the proposal will be available at the meetings, and has also been posted on the department’s web site at

Currently, the state does not require cattle to be vaccinated against brucellosis except for the four counties (Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park counties) in the newly created brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). A key issue is that buyers of Montana cattle could perceive that the state is doing less than neighboring states – Wyoming and Idaho both have statewide OCV requirements – to prevent transmission of the disease from infected elk and bison to cattle.

“There are advantages to becoming an OCV state, and it’s a good time to have that discussion,” said state veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski, who, as chair of the U.S. Animal Health Association’s subcommitttee on brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area, has helped the department play a leadership role in the development of brucellosis policy. “It’s a hot topic, though, and there will be concerns.”

At this point, the proposal is a just a starting point for discussion with the livestock and associated industries.

“Mostly, we just want to talk with producers to get their thoughts on statewide OCV,” Zaluski said. “Producers have legitimate questions, and our goal is providing information that enables them to have constructive, informed input. We want them to be aware of the potential benefits as well as any drawbacks that may exist.”

Meetings have been scheduled for:
Glasgow Stockyards – Wednesday, February 17, 3 p.m.;
Western Livestock Auction, Great Falls – Thursday February 18, 1 p.m.;
Miles City Livestock Commission – Monday, February 22, 1:30 p.m.;
Public Auction Yards, Billings – Tuesday, February 23, 1:30 p.m.;
Montana Livestock Company, Ramsay – Wednesday, February 24, 10 a.m.;
Headwaters Livestock Auction, Three Forks – Thursday, February 25, 1 p.m.

Public comment can be submitted via U.S Postal Service mail at Montana Department of Livestock, ATTN: OCV Comments/Animal Health Division, PO Box 200201, Helena MT, 59620-2001, and via email at

With 70 percent of the state’s cattle voluntarily vaccinated by livestock producers, Zaluski doesn’t believe the proposal would require a significant increase in the number of animals needing to be vaccinated.

“The only animals that will require vaccination are sexually intact females retained for the state’s breeding herd rather than those raised for beef,” he said.

The proposal comes as USDA considers changes to its federal brucellosis program.

“If APHIS (USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service) proceeds with its desire to eliminate the Class Free status system, it could put the state at a serious disadvantage,” Zaluski said, referring to a concept paper that outlines a new direction for federal brucellosis policy. “Having a statewide program assures our trading partners that we’re doing everything we can to assure brucellosis-free cattle.”

Statewide OCV, Zaluski added, would also reduce the potential for brucellosis-infected wildlife transmitting the disease to domestic livestock.

“Bottom line, having a statewide OCV rule will look better for states that import Montana cattle, and it will look better for wildlife advocates who say the state isn’t doing enough to prevent transmission of the disease,” Zaluski said.

Zaluski stressed that the proposal is preliminary, and that any decisions regarding OCV would be made by the Board of Livestock after public comment has been collected and evaluated and all possible ramifications of implementation have been examined.

“We’ve invested a lot of time in producer and industry participation in the development of brucellosis policy, including the BAP (Brucellosis Action Plan) and DSA (Designated Surveillance Area ),” Zaluski said. “This is no different, we want and need participation from producers and industry.”

The proposal, if enacted, would not affect current requirements for livestock producers operating within the DSA.

You may download the preliminary proposal here.

Improving Rural Vet Service Survey

If you are a rancher in Montana, please take a moment to fill out this survey and forward your answers to Jim Knight,, Associate Director of Extension at MSU. Jim is working with the Montana Veterinary Association to submit a proposal for a USDA program that pays off student loans for veterinarians who agree to practice in underserved rural areas. Please forward this on to others so we can provide Jim with a good data set for his proposal.

1. What county are you in?
2. How many miles is it from your ranch/farm to the nearest D.V.M. practice?
3. In the event THAT D.V.M. is not available, how many miles is it to the next D.V.M.?
4. For routine regulatory or non-emergency DVM service, how long do you wait:
a. Same day _______
b. 1-3 days ________
c. More than 3 days ______

Young Cattlemen’s Conference tour details announced; Applications due Feb. 15

Young cattlemen's conference tour

This year, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) will hold its 31st Young Cattlemen’s Conference (YCC) for a limited number of young industry leaders, June 2-11, 2010. This year’s tour is sponsored by Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and John Deere.

MSGA’s Research, Education and Endowment Foundation (REEF) will nominate one person between the ages of 25 and 50 from Montana to attend the conference. REEF will pay the full cost of the program and provide $500 for travel costs.

The primary objective of the YCC is to develop leadership qualities in young cattlemen and expose them to all aspects of the beef industry. The tour helps young leaders understand all areas of our industry ranging from industry structure to issues management, from production research to marketing.

This year’s tour will begin in Denver with a comprehensive overview of the industry. The group will take an in-depth look at many of the issues affecting our industry and what NCBA is doing to address these issues on behalf of its members, plus receive a comprehensive view of market information from Cattle-Fax. The group will then travel to western Kansas to visit various cattle producing operations in the area. From there, the group will travel to Sioux City, Nebraska to tour Tyson Fresh Meats, one of the largest beef packing and processing plants in the world. Tyson will host the group and will be sharing with them their views of the beef industry from a processor standpoint. Chicago is the next destination. Here the group will visit the Chicago Board of Trade and the Bruss Company- a large meat purveyor. The participants will then travel to the nation’s Capitol. Here they will get a chance to meet with their respective congressmen and senators. In addition, the group will visit with a number of regulatory agencies that make decisions affecting agriculture.

The 2010 tour will be from June 3-10, 2010. Participants will need to arrive in Denver on June 2nd and may depart from Washington DC on June 11th. Participants are asked to commit to staying the entire trip.

Application forms are available on the MSGA website,, or by calling (406) 442-3420. Applications are due February 15. You must be a member of MSGA and NCBA to attend.

MSGA addresses brucellosis, EAJA, and NCBA structural change at 2010 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio

Last week, MSGA officers, members and staff attended the 2010 Cattle Industry Convention in San Antonio. Altogether, more than 6,000 people attended the convention. The MSGA delegation accomplished a lot at the meeting including further discussing the brucellosis issue with a top APHIS official, contributing to two major policies for NCBA, supporting the NCBA structural change recommendations, and seeing MSGA Past-President Bill Donald become NCBA President-Elect. (Bill is in the left of the picture with Tucker Hughes, MSGA 2nd VP, and Tom Hougen, MSGA President, to his right. MSGA 1st VP, Watty Taylor was also in attendance.)

MSGA discussed some of our members’ concerns about APHIS’s concept paper for revamping the National Brucellosis Eradication Program with Dr. Brian McCluskey, APHIS Veterinary Services Western Regional Director, who was in attendance at NCBA’s Cattle Health Committee meeting. Specifically, MSGA asked McCluskey what would happen if Montana were to discover another case of brucellosis in cattle before the new rules, which are two years from completion, are formerly adopted. McCluskey said that in such a case, APHIS will apply the newly developed concepts even though the official rules are not yet finalized. McCluskey said that APHIS is currently utilizing the new concepts with the latest brucellosis case in Idaho. McCluskey also addressed the difference between split-state status, regionalization, and the new Designated Surveillance Area model. He said that the differences between all of these are very clear: split-state status and regionalization are both clearly defined by APHIS and the World Animal Health Organization, and usually indicate a difference in class status from the surrounding areas with international trade implications. Designated Surveillance Areas (DSAs) are not based on declaring a separate class status and are designed to gradually shrink their boundaries based on scientific risk analyses. DSAs have flexibility and agility while split-state status and regionalization are fixed and rigid.

In the area of cattle health, MSGA worked with Wyoming and Idaho to modify NCBA’s policy on brucellosis. The new policy implies that NCBA will pursue priorities and strategies regarding both the modification of the National Brucellosis Eradication Program and the eradication of brucellosis from the Greater Yellowstone Area. New policy also directs NCBA to work to maintain producers’ ability to keep their cattle healthy through the use of approved antibiotics.

In the area of federal lands, property rights and land management, MSGA worked to get approval of the policy we submitted on reform of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). While EAJA was established by Congress to ensure that individuals, small businesses or public-interest groups with limited financial resources could seek judicial recourse from unreasonable government actions, a lack of federal oversight has allowed the Act to be abused, particularly by environmental-activist organizations which often target ranchers under the guise of “public interest.” In a six-year period, non-profit environmental groups have filed more than 1,500 lawsuits, and in turn the federal government has paid out billions in taxpayer dollars in settlements and legal fees under EAJA and other fee-shifting statutes in cases against the U.S. government.

The NCBA Board of Directors approved a task force report by a 201-13 margin, putting in motion the creation of a new governance structure, which would feature a smaller NCBA Board of Directors and a new House of Delegates that would include the organization’s state affiliates, state beef councils, industry/breed organizations, and product/allied industry councils. The Federation of State Beef Councils would be housed within the House of Delegates, and continue to conduct its federation duties as specified in the Beef Promotion and Research Act & Order. Also, the membership committee and board of directors accepted the dues increase first presented at the 2009 Summer Conference. This increase establishes the minimum dues level at $100, increases all membership categories accordingly, and increases the feeder dues from 10 cents/head marketed to 12.5 cents/head. Prior to this change, Montana’s minimum dues level for NCBA was $90.

Melville rancher and MSGA Past-President, Bill Donald, was elected to serve as the new NCBA President-Elect. This puts him on track to become President of NCBA in 2011. MSGA commends Bill for all of his hard work and leadership. Montana will be well represented at NCBA in the next two years!