Montana Stockgrowers Seeking Applicants for Year Two of Leadership Series

The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) is excited to announce the second year of a leadership program for young leaders in the ranching industry. The Stockgrowers Leadership Series is designed to provide training and skills to future leaders of MSGA and Montana’s ranching communities. The 12-month class kicks off in January 2017 in Helena. Applications are due October 31.

“We are excited to launch the second year of MSGA’s Leadership Series,” says Errol Rice, MSGA Executive Vice President. “Investing in leadership is a core strategy of MSGA’s long-range plan and our industry’s success will rely on our ability to develop a pipeline of leaders who are disciplined, well trained and inspired by the future of ranching.”

The Leadership Series is a 12-month program where participants will take part in a number of workshops and sessions exposing them to different aspects of the ranching business today. These topics include policy work, banking and finance, management, business relationships, awareness of industry topics, media training, and beef consumer concerns.

Program participants will also work with a designated leadership coach to build upon their strengths and skills. Sarah Bohnenkamp, former Executive Director for the Denver based, American National CattleWomen, will coach the class in a series of workshops, webinars and at-home tasks throughout the year. Bohnenkamp has more than 14 years’ experience with leadership development and is familiar with topics faced by the ranching industry, having trained youth for the National Beef Ambassador program for many years.

The Leadership Series class will meet in several locations across Montana over the course of 12 months. Sessions will allow participants to travel on a summer ranch tour, network with industry leaders, gain valuable skills for their careers and be given further opportunities to be engaged in leadership positions upon completion of the course.

Applicants for the Stockgrowers Leadership Series should be between the ages of 25 and 40, be involved in the Montana ranching industry and have a strong interest in improving their leadership and business skills. Both ranchers and Allied Industry members are encouraged to apply.

For more information, contact the Montana Stockgrowers Association at (406) 442-3420 or email Kori Anderson at Applications are available at All submissions should be postmarked no later than October 31, 2016.


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.


Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Shaelyn Meyer

Written by Shaelyn Meyer



Being a part of the Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series has challenged me in so many ways; some more personal than I feel comfortable sharing with the world. I will share a few personal details about why this has been an impactful program for me: It’s a very, VERY huge responsibility to be heard. It’s something that I’ve always shied away from. It’s scary! When you step up to be heard you’re opening yourself up to attack from anyone who might flat out disagree or just misinterpret what you’re saying. Let’s face it, what you SAY, is often not at all what people HEAR. Effective communication takes skill, skill comes from practice, and practice is best performed with coaching. I’m being coached through the MSGA Leadership Series.

Another thing I’ve realized since I started paying more attention to advocacy and leadership is that people are getting tired of being misinformed and they’re tired of disrespect. The agriculture industry is under attack and being taken for granted. We in the ag industry aren’t innocent of disrespect however: can you remember a time when you’ve reacted to someone’s criticism of agriculture with sarcasm (aka disrespect)? I think we’re all guilty of that.

First we have to listen. We have to identify the values we have in common with our audience. In our case, our audience is consumers of food… so basically everyone; that’s not a monumental task at all. Let’s simplify: I think, in general, consumers want to know that we aren’t degrading the land and that we are treating our animals with respect. How can we show that we hold those values as well and do it in a way that people will listen? That, in a nutshell, is what advocacy is all about. It’s about conveying values and respecting people. Showing respect for others is difficult in the face of some of the tactics used by animal rights groups for example, but I know that it’s absolutely the only way that we’ll gain respect from consumers.

Through the skills I’m practicing in the Leadership Series program, I am better able to approach both sides of the issue with a desire to first understand and then respond in a clear, concise way that people can appreciate and understand. My role as an MSU Extension Agent, puts me in a position to work with both producers on quality assurance and sustainable land management AND be a credible source of information for consumers. It’s a responsibility I want to be prepared as possible for.

Considering the changes that agriculture has made in just the past 50 years, and that the average American is at least 3 generations removed from farming, it’s apparent that people are struggling to catch up and understand why agriculture has changed. Combined with misinformation and anti-ag propaganda, it’s no wonder people are confused and angry. Let’s have patience and understanding and know that we can step in and lift the curtain and let people see what agriculture is really like in Montana. It’s a beautiful thing.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Weston Merrill

Post by Weston Merrill


I was asked to write a blog post about my leadership brand. What intimidated me most were the words “blog post”! This relates to my leadership brand because my brand is difficult to define. I am all about being the maker of your own destiny. Whether we believe it or not at the end of the day we have control over how successful we will be. This includes how we feel about ourselves and others.

My brand is not something that has one ingredient or that can even be defined in one word. It’s much bigger than a blog post. The only way I can describe it would be that it can’t be contained and that it’s contagious, watch out!!!!!!!! The word that comes closest to adequately describing what my brand is ” animo” which is a Spanish word that doesn’t have a direct English translation but means excitement and energy! It’s an ever changing and adapting attitude so that you are not stagnate or stuck on one way to do things or way of thinking.

Developing and living my leadership brand is a lifelong process. Being able to objectively look at people, things or situations so as not to be confined by outside stigmas or presumptions. I know my brand fits me and is all mine. My involvement in the leadership series is giving me an opportunity to grow and learn from others. It’s helping me to put into practice what I just talked about. Look at others and their brands objectively and not subjectively. I’m excited to learn from fellow members of the leadership series this year and far into the future! The opportunity to network with people who are like me and NOT like me is so rewarding. I’m excited to hit the world with my brand.

My goal for the leadership series is to get my brand burning hot enough that it leaves a lasting mark when I stick it on the cow hide!

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email

Meet the Leadership Series | Lacey Sutherlin

Lacey Sutherlin

Stevensville, MT


About Lacey:

Lacey Sutherlin was raised in Western Montana. Her parents are Mike & Janet Hunter. She has an older sister, Michele Hunter, who has a son and a daughter. Lacey enjoys being an Aunt. She also has a younger brother Isaac Hunter who works for Montana State University.

Sutherlin attended college at Northwest College in Powell Wyoming for Agricultural Business and then went on to Montana State and received a bachelor’s degree in both Animal Science and Agricultural Communications. She was part of the Livestock Judging team at both NWC and MSU.

Her first job out of college was at ORIgen Breeder to Breeder Genetics near Billings, MT. Lacey started in the distribution department and finished as a Marketing Director. In December of 2015 Sutherlin started with ABS Global as a Beef Sales Team Leader in Montana. She is sales support staff for the beef cattle representatives in Montana and works with beef producers to set-up synchronization-breeding programs via artificial insemination.

Lacey and her husband Chad Sutherlin own and operate 3C Cattle. They raise both registered Black and Red Angus. Sutherlins have annual production sales on the first Friday and Saturday in March at the Sutherlin Farms Feedlot in Stevensville, MT.  They also sell some females by private treaty. In addition to cattle they raise some hay and small grains.


What sparked your interest in Agriculture?

When I was a kid my uncle had a ranch in central Montana that I would visit during the summer and I really enjoyed being around the cattle. My love for animals especially cattle and a passion for the beef industry is also what sparked my interest in Ag. I also enjoy the challenge of the Agriculture industry. It doesn’t matter what season it is every day is different.


What makes a great leader?

I truly think a huge part to being a great leader is being an excellent listener and also knowing how to read people and actually getting the most out of not only yourself but the people around you.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I think after traveling to Costa Rica early this Spring I would learn another language. Communication is a key to being  successful in everything that we do and I think it would create more opportunities for us to market our own agriculture products easier if we knew additional languages beyond English.



Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I am happy where I am at in life and truly loving the path that I am on. Chad and I are doing great in our operation. We are at the point that genetics we have selected are now having their first calves and it great to see what is being created. I just started working for ABS but thus far I am truly enjoying being out in the country with customers and cattle. In five years I hope to have continued to reach goals in my business ABS by increasing market share in Montana. Chad and I will continue to makes changes to our cattle herd and operation by making constructive breeding decisions and hopefully increase our customer base for both bull sales by offering sound proven genetics.


What do you hope to gain from the leadership series?

I am hoping to work on my public speaking skills and be more confident when giving presentations.  I hope to gain more people to be a strong part of my professional network. And have more resources in my toolbox to not only make myself better but the Montana Agricultural Industry as a whole.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the direct support of our members and the Research and Education Endowment Foundation. To learn more about the Leadership Series, please email

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Casey Knudsen


Post by Casey Knudsen


Leadership has always been an important concept to me.  Growing up heavily involved in sports, I realized early on that without an efficient and empathetic leader, a team cannot perform to its full potential.  This understanding of group dynamics between a team and its leader has carried over with me from sports and other extracurricular activities into my post-secondary education and professional endeavors.  I strive on a daily basis to lead by example. I do not always meet my goal, but I believe that the ability to self-examine, understand where I am deficient, and try to improve in those areas is important in any leadership role.

I also believe that a leader cannot be above any task that a team is presented with, whether that task is time-consuming or uneventful.  A team is much more likely to trust in their leader and perform even the most menial job when they know that their leader is willing to do the same.  As I said before, many of these leadership skills I learned when involved in sports.  I do not believe that sports are the most important thing in a high-schooler’s life, but they are a very vital method of teaching young people how and how not to be an effective leader later in life.

In my experience, sports almost taught me how NOT to be a leader more than they taught me the correct way to lead.  I have had many great coaches in my athletic career, but it seems that the coaches that performed and treated their teams poorly had more of an impact on my leadership style than the good ones.  These poor coaches impressed on me the importance of being an empathetic leader and understanding the struggles of not only the above average team members, but the team members that need greater support as well.  Being a leader does not only mean utilizing your team as they are, but trying to improve your team and develop them into something greater.

Agriculture has also taught me a great deal about being a leader.  Work ethic has always been a heavily emphasized skill on the ranch, which translated into the professional world.  Working cattle has been a great teacher as well.  Being able to stay calm, cool and collected when working cattle is paramount, as the more upset you act, the wilder cattle tend to behave.  This is something every leader must understand, since being able to steel yourself in the face of adversity not only allows you to think straight yourself, but it keeps your team from breaking down.

Being involved in the Leadership Series has not only taught me valuable skills, it has proved to me that my leadership style can be effective.  This series has also shown me that no matter how good you think you might be at whatever you are doing, there is always room for improvement.


The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Trina Bradley


Post by Trina Bradley


Last fall I applied and was accepted into the inaugural Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series, which is a year-long “class” that will help mentor and develop fourteen young ag leaders from across the state of Montana.

As you all know, I am a born and bred cattle woman. I eat, sleep and breathe cows, and I want to make sure that my daughter has every opportunity to carry on this lifestyle and keep this ranch in the family for years to come. Therefore, I have been working on stepping up and getting involved in ag advocacy for the past few years. I have recently become a Director for the Marias River Livestock Association, I am a 4-H Cloverbud leader, and I have been working on establishing a CattleWomen association in my area.

The Leadership Series is a perfect opportunity for me to focus my energy and hone my skills as a leader, as well as being the perfect place to network with fellow lovers of ag from all over Montana.

We are now four months into the program, and I have come to realize several things about what true leadership is to me. I have also had to some serious soul searching, and admit to myself some things that I really didn’t want to admit to.

I could go on and on about the things that I am not, and the things I suck at as a leader. HOWEVER, our insanely wonderful and slightly crazy leadership coach has impressed on us NUMEROUS times that we do not need to focus on what we aren’t – we need to focus on what we are.

So here are some things that I know to be true about my leadership skills:

  1. I am bossy. I know what needs to be done, and I know who needs to do it. I have no problem giving orders, and I expect things to be done in a timely manner, and done right.
  2. I work hard. When there’s a job to be done, I don’t quit when I’m tired, I quit when I’m done. A good leader doesn’t just give orders; a good leader gets her hands dirty.
  3. I’m stubborn. I’m not going to take no for an answer, and when I get a great idea, I get after it, no matter the obstacle.
  4. I love to learn. I love learning about everything, and that comes in handy when I take on a project I’m not 100% familiar with, or when a new issue comes up.
  5. I’m a good listener. I always have an ear to lend for a friend, and I am learning to listen to the “other side” – the people that oppose ag, or certain ag practices, etc. In order to be a great advocate for our ag community, I need to be able to listen to the concerns of our consumers and look at things from their point of view.

This Series has been eye opening to me in many ways, and I have made a plethora of new friends along the way. I cannot wait to see what Sarah and Ryan (our coaches) have in store for us in the coming months.

I am hoping that this program will continue well into the future, and I encourage every young rancher in Montana to apply next year. You won’t regret it for a second.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email

Leadership Series | Guest Blog Post | Chisholm Christensen

My personal leadership story and why I’m stepping up to live larger by being a part of this program

Post by Chisholm Christensen


Writing is one of the more difficult and important tasks a person can undertake; requiring the author to think critically and explain effectively their topic of choice. Through writing, more so than speaking, we are able to fine-tune, rework and continually reanalyze our position free from external judgement or input until we ourselves are satisfied with the presentation and tone of our offering. This very personal task provides the writer an opportunity for personal growth while at the same time cementing his or her ideas and thoughts about the theme to be drawn upon when future circumstances dictate. We have all heard again and again how important effective communication is in any type of relationship and I think this is an area I personally excel in and a good place to start telling you my individual leadership story.

My passion for an array of subjects led me at a very young age to have an impact on my surroundings. I have a clear picture of how I think things I am passionate about should be and I learned that if I didn’t have a voice or speak up many times those things took a course leading to an outcome altogether different and many times less exemplary than the one I was wishing for. I learned that wishing doesn’t get it done. Getting mad or excessively frustrated or disrespectful didn’t have a positive effect either. I had to learn not only how to make myself heard but also how to exert an influence on other individuals involved.

Most of this learning took place at the middle and high school level as I became more confident in myself and more zealous about circumstances affecting me or having an effect on things I cared about. Being low on the executive ladder posed a problem as well. The opinion of a student, no matter how well stated, carries far less weight than that of a teacher, staff, or any adult. A sad truth I had to deal with but one that taught me the importance of team and tone. When and how you say something can be just as important as what you are saying. I was at a disadvantage at school again because it is not a democracy. In the end the teacher or adult makes the choice. I may have had a voice but I did not have a vote and that taught me how to influence people and plead my case. It has made me, in my mind, an effective communicator and flows directly into how I lead.

I put my hat in the ring to be a part of this leadership series because my passion has not waned and I am passionate about agriculture. And just as I wished to exert an influence on themes deemed significant in my past I continue to desire exemplary results in areas I am passionate about now. This leadership series is providing me with the tools to sharpen my leadership skills and a platform from which my voice can be heard.

The Leadership Series is made possible through the support of MSGA’s Research Education and Endowment Foundation. Want to learn more about our Leadership Series? Check out the website or email

Leadership Series Guest Blogger: Katelyn Dynneson

The Leadership Series was challenged this month to write a blog post that shares their personal leadership story and why they’re stepping up to live LARGER by being a part of this program. Below we are sharing Katelyn Dynneson’s blog post. Katelyn is the 4th generation on her family’s operation where they run a custom back-grounding feedlot, cow-calf operation and farm. She attended Montana State University and received a BS in Agricultural Business with a second major in Economics. Katelyn returned to the farm full-time after college and I have been loving every minute of it.

Thanks for sharing this with us Katelyn!


“I am incredibly honored to be a part of the inaugural Montana Stockgrowers Association Leadership Series. I applied to be a part of this program because I am truly passionate about my agriculture community and I want to learn how to be a great rancher and the best advocate I can be.

Throughout the program I have been learning more about my personal leadership brand. It has really opened up my eyes to who I am and what I enjoy doing. It has made me realize how dedicated I am to promoting what my family and other farmers and ranchers do in agriculture. For the past few years, I have been sharing my family’s story on our ranch’s Facebook page. I love connecting with consumers and sharing what my family does day to day. Part of the reason I joined the program was to improve on my skills and hopefully encourage others to share their stories as well.

The most valuable lesson I have learned from this program is that I need to do things that align with my leadership brand. I cannot give my all if I do not fully believe in what I am doing. It is okay to not be involved in every single thing. Instead, I need to focus my energy and my talents on the things that I am best at and truly care about. This is why I serve on the board of the MonDak Area Stockgrowers and am an active 4-H leader. I try to find programs and organizations that follow my leadership brand.

Thanks to our coaches, Ryan and Sarah, I continue to learn more about myself and my leadership brand. So far I have learned that I will fight tooth and nail for our agriculture community. I’m not afraid to talk about a controversial topic and I try my best to be well educated on the issues facing our community. I am also not afraid to jump into a task and get things done. Organizations are run by those who show up and voice their opinions, and I am one of those people that is willing to do what it takes to make a difference. I am not easily intimidated by new or different challenges and I love to learn. I am proud to be a face for agriculture.

This program has already given me numerous invaluable skills and experiences. I have the pleasure of working with an outstanding group of individuals that share my passion for agriculture. My improved communication and advocating skills have already helped with connecting with consumers and fellow ranchers. Not to mention the skills we have learned to make us better ranchers. This program has been amazing thus far and I cannot wait to see what else it has in store for us. I hope this program continues for many years and future groups gain as much as I have. Thank you Montana Stockgrowers, Ryan and Sarah for allowing me this opportunity to better myself. I truly appreciate it.”

Interested in connecting with Katelyn? You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Meet the Leadership Series | Brenda “Bre” Ochs

Bre Ochs


Home town

Great Falls


I was born and raised in Great Falls. My grandparents are the original owners of this beautiful ranch in which I live on and operate with my family.

After graduating high school, I graduated secondary college for Business; continued on with my education by graduating and receiving my Cosmetology license.  I was an active Independent Cosmetologist for 12+ years. In 2002 I became a co-owner of Oak Tree Constructions, Inc. and shortly after that, I began my own Bookkeeping services, Future Contractors, Inc., in which I operate both currently.

2 years ago I decided to really go after my real dream of taking over the ranch from my parents. Now starting year 3, I am living that dream! I live a crazy professional/business life most days, but I have been truly blessed with 2 beautiful girls’ ages 18 & 12, and a very supportive family.


Independent Administrator /Bookkeeper (Owner of Future Contractors Inc.) Owner of Indian Hammer Ranch, LLC – Home of the “Montana Wine Beef”, Mother and a Caregiver for my parent(s).

What sparked your interest in agriculture?

Growing up on this ranch with cows, pigs, horses, and chickens, always seemed so much fun! My parents, well especially my mom in this case, would always freak out when I came up missing. Needless to say, they didn’t have to look far because they would usually find me with the animals. During summer months I was on the tractor with my father or stacking hay bales.  With all that 1st hand experience and education, who wouldn’t be interested in agriculture………

What makes a great leader?

I feel a great leader is an individual who not only walks with the people, is confident to lead when needed. A leader also takes accountability, good communication skills, empathy, and be able to inspire with optimism.

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?

I would love to learn how to fly a helicopter! The thrill of soaring in the sky like a free bird who is fearless.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In 5 years my goal is to have “Montana Wine Beef” sold nationally while keeping the overall best quality of products and customer service.  Even more a successful replacement heifer program with the highest success Artificial Insemination pregnancy rate.  While adding to my diversity of my ranch by beginning a Rent-A –Bull program.

What do you hope to gain from the leadership series?

I hope to gain better communication with people and inspire others with optimism.  Improve delegating jobs to my support team instead of feeling I need to do it all.


Meet the Leadership Series – Casey Knudsen

Casey Knudsen



Malta, MT


5th generation rancher, mechanical engineer, firefighter, EMT, and I am running for the Montana House of Representatives.


Rancher, engineering design

What sparked your interest in agriculture?

I was raised on my family’s farm, and I have always had a deep connection to the land, animals, and way of life we have here in rural Montana.

What makes a great leader?

I believe a great leader must be able to empathize, because if you can’t understand the people around you, you can’t encourage them to reach their full potential.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I want to pick up a second language.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I plan on refining our ranch operation, in order to increase our efficiency and the number of cattle in our herd, as well as expanding our land holdings.

What do you hope to gain from the Leadership Series?

I hope to gain a greater understanding of the policies that affect agriculture in our state, as well as a greater understanding of the Stockgrowers Association itself.