Montana Youth Range Camp Applications Available

DUPUYER, Mont. – Applications are now available for the 2015 Montana Youth Range Camp. This year’s camp will be held the week of July 27-31 at Frank Brattin Middle School in Colstrip, Mont., and is open to all youth ages 12 -18.

“Range camp is an opportunity for kids to connect with Montana’s great outdoors in a setting that offers fun, friendship and learning,” said Heidi Crum, DNRC Rangeland Program Coordinator.

Students will attend outdoor classes covering four major subjects: water and riparian areas; soils and geology; rangeland monitoring; and wildlife and livestock grazing management. Students also receive instruction in plant identification and anatomy, and work in teams to solve a natural resource or range management problem, presenting their solutions to a panel of judges at the end of the week.

Along with coursework, Youth Range Camp offers opportunities for fun and recreation. Campers have the opportunity to participate in a wildlife presentation, hiking and visiting the medicine rocks. The fun day includes swimming and fishing. A dance takes place on the last night of the week.

Scholarships may be available by contacting your local conservation district for more information. Additional assistance and help to run the camp is being provided by Montana DNRC and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Cost for the camp is $175 and includes meals, lodging and all scheduled activities. Registration is due by July 3.

The 2015 Montana Youth Range Camp is hosted by the Rosebud Conservation District. For more information, contact Scott Kaiser, DNRC Program Specialist at (406) 232-6359, or Bobbi Vannattan with the Rosebud Conservation District at (406) 346-7333, ext. 101. For more information, including an application form, visit the DNRC Web site at

Updates on Montana Youth Range Camp and other events can be found on the Facebook page:

Livestock Producers Need Stocking Rate Reduction Plan

moving cattle montana pastureLivestock producers should have a drought management plan in place prior to pasture turnout in case drought persists into the growing season this year, North Dakota State University Extension Service livestock and rangeland specialists say.

Producers need to have a good idea how to assess available forage, feed and water supplies to determine if they need to reduce their stocking rates or modify grazing plans before they turn their cattle out onto pasture this spring, according to beef cattle specialist Carl Dahlen. The stocking rate is the number of specific kinds of animals grazing a unit of land for a specified time.

Developing a plan early is important because 80 percent of the grass growth on rangeland is dictated by May and June precipitation. Drought conditions during that time will reduce the amount of grass available on pasture and rangeland for the duration of the grazing season, rangeland management specialist Kevin Sedivec says.

If producers don’t reduce the stocking rate to compensate for the loss of grass, overgrazing can result. Overgrazing affects the entire rangeland plant community, leading to a loss of plant species diversity and biomass, soil erosion, weed growth and a reduction in the soil’s ability to hold water, livestock environmental stewardship specialist Miranda Meehan explains. Drought conditions also can lead to increased risk of toxicity from selenium and nitrates in plants.

“It takes a lot longer for the entire ecosystem (plants, soils, water, etc.) to recover if you don’t prepare and take active steps to change management in response to drought,” she says.

She advises producers to use the National Drought Mitigation Center’s U.S. Drought Monitor to keep track of the conditions.

“Selective culling is a quick way to reduce the stocking rate,” Sedivec says.

It also could be profitable because cattle prices are high.

“It’s a seller’s market right now,” he notes.

Culling targets include cows that are old, have a poor disposition or physical structure, or had a difficult time giving birth this spring and have a low chance of rebreeding.

“The importance of records is magnified in times when tough culling decisions need to be made,” Dahlen says. “Good calving and production records can help producers pinpoint cows that could be culled.”

Locating sources of and feeding alternative feeds is another way to reduce the risk of overgrazing.

In cases when surplus wet distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol production, are available as a result of dryer shutdown or reduced railcar availability, producers may have the opportunity to purchase those grains in early to midsummer at a relatively low cost, Dahlen says. The drawback is that the distillers grains are a wet product, but producers can use storage methods to preserve the nutrient quality until the feed is needed.

Producers also should evaluate hay and stockpiled forage remaining from last year that could be used to delay pasture turnout this year or supplement pasture grass later in the grazing season, Meehan says.

Other options the specialists suggest producers consider if warranted include weaning calves early, providing cattle with creep feed or feed supplements, and feeding cattle in drylots. Weaning early eliminates the cows’ energy demand for milk production, which may result in reduced intake of pasture grasses and improvements in body condition once the calves are removed, Dahlen says.

For more information on dealing with drought, contact the local county Extension office or visit NDSU Extension’s “Ranchers Guide to Grassland Management IV.”

–NDSU Extension Service

Branding on Montana Cattle Ranches | Video

With Spring comes one of our favorite times of year. As calving is wrapping up for many ranches across Montana, those who started calving earlier in the year will begin branding in preparation for turnout on Spring and Summer grass ranges. Often when we ask ranchers across the state what they love about ranching, branding is an event that will more than likely be included in their response. It’s a great time for community as several neighbors join in to help, with great food and many memorable experiences.

One of our ranchers near Sidney, Montana recently captured their family’s Spring branding in aerial video. It’s a very cool perspective to watch as the cattle are gathered, sorted and branded.

Why do Montana ranchers brand cattle?

Livestock branding has existed for centuries in European countries and eventually migrating to Central and North Americas. Since the earliest days on ranges, hot iron brands were used as a form of permanent identification to prevent rustling and served as a marker when sorting out mixed herds in common grazing areas.

Today, ranchers still brand cattle as a form of permanent identification to differentiate cattle from neighboring ranches and to prevent theft. Branding day is an opportunity for ranchers to give calves vaccinations and closely inspect their herds before turning cattle out on summer pastures. The branding events also serve as a strong tie to the heritage and culture of the American West.

During recent years, the cattle industry has recognized the significant contribution of cattle hides in leather markets and the negative impact excessive brand scarring can have on the value of that leather. Efforts have been made to reduce the number of brands, or relocate brands to reduce negative impacts on the hide value. Freeze branding has also become more popular in certain regions of the country as an alternative to hot iron branding.

We asked our current President, Gene Curry, a rancher from Valier, Montana why his family brands their cattle. Find out his perspective and watch branding day with his family in this video.

Who regulates cattle brands?


As a permanent form of identification, each brand, and its location on the animal must be different. Each state handles its registration and regulation of brands differently. In Montana, this is tracked and regulated by the Brands Enforcement Division of the Department of Livestock (DOL). Brands Inspectors must inspect cattle at the time of sale or when cattle are transported from one location to another to verify ownership or record change of ownership.

To ensure that all brands are different, the DOL records brands and their location on the animal, which are published in a Brand Book. Brands must be recorded every 10 years. Ranchers are keeping up with technology, as last year this database of brands was made available in a mobile application, which can search through the entire brands database to identify an owner or location of the brand.

Brands must be recorded as being on a specific location on the animal. These locations often include the hip, rib, shoulder, side or jaw. The image to the right shows several different locations for brands on cattle.

Read more about how brands are registered and tracked by visiting the Montana Department of Livestock.

How do I read cattle brands?

Brands on livestock come in many shapes and sizes, and are based on a characters consisting of letters, numbers, lines or symbols. The brands are read from left to right. top-down, or outside-in. The position of the character makes a difference in how it is read. If a letter or number is on its side, it is read as “lazy”. If it has a quarter/half circle underneath the main character, it is read as “rocking”. Other symbols include diamonds, circles, rafters, crosses and bars.

Learn more about reading cattle brands from the Texas Brand Registration.

Every brand has a story

What is the story behind your ranch’s brand? Has your brand been passed down through the generations? Is there a story to the characters included? Maybe its a new brand with a nod toward a bright future?

Share your story with us and share a photo of your brand. Email or visit our Facebook page to join the conversation!

Ladies And Livestock Book Makes The Perfect Gift For Mom

Ladies and Livestock cover

Mother’s Day is just around the corner – May 10. Have you selected your gift for mom yet? If you are like most of us, mom is a champion who takes care of everyone in the family and worries about herself later. This year, as you are trying to find that gift that will let mom take a few moments to enjoy herself, consider an iBook that she can appreciate with a good cup of coffee.

Released this past Fall, Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch, is a multimedia exploration of the roles of Montana women on the ranch. This book features over 130 pages of stories, photographs and video features of the ladies who raise livestock, care for the land, and build their family’s legacy on Montana ranches. Not only are these Montana women working on the ranch, many have jobs in town, volunteer in their communities, and are involved in the legislation process of issues affecting agriculture.

By utilizing the digital format, Ladies and Livestock adds a new dimension to reading a book. Included on nearly 30 of the pages are video features that play with the touch of the finger. These videos show interviews of the ladies speaking about their ranch history, family life and how they feel about being part of Montana’s agriculture communities.

This book is an educational tool for anyone who wants to learn more about where their beef comes from and understand the lives of the people who raise cattle. Not only can a reader see photographs, but can hear the woman tell her own story and see the emotion on her face as she talks about how important her family is to her.

Purchase or gift your copy of Ladies and Livestock today. Available exclusively on iTunes or in the iBooks store for only $14.99, or go to

Proceeds from sales of Ladies and Livestock benefit the Research & Education Endowment Foundation of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization established to ensure the future of Montana’s cattle industry through producer and public education, and promotion of MSGA programs. For more information, contact the Montana Stockgrowers Association at (406) 442-3420 or go to

Calving Season Photos On Our Facebook Page

Have you been following our calving season photos on Facebook?

During the past few months, ranchers across Montana have been sending us photos from their ranches during calving season. Many of the photos feature the next generation of Montana ranchers had at work and learning about ranch life from their mentors and parents. We’d love to see these photos continue as the seasons and tasks change throughout the year!

Below are a few of our favorite posts from the season. Be sure to Like our Facebook page, share these posts with your friends and send us your photos and videos that document tasks during the changing seasons in Montana ranch life. This is a great way to share your hard work with folks who may not always have an opportunity to experience what it takes to bring beef to our plates.

Post your photos and video clips on our Facebook page or email them to Include some background on what’s happening in the photos so we can help others learn more about your work on the ranch. And be sure to follow our posts on Instagram and Twitter as well!

Do you have photos or video clips to share from #ranchlife this season? Be sure to send them our way so we can share Montana ranching with folks across the country to help them learn more about the families behind our beef supply!

Proud to be a part of Montana ranching | Contest Winner

kayla lasalleLast month, we hosted a contest to find out why folks are proud to be a part of our Montana ranching communities and received some great feedback! We’re proud to announce that Kayla LaSalle, a Stockgrowers member and student at MSU-Northern in Havre, is our contest winner! Kayla will receive a copy of the first book in our Montana Family Ranching Series, Big Sky Boots.

Want to share why you’re proud to be a part of your Montana ranching communities? Send us an email or connect with us on social media!

Thank you Kayla for sharing why you’re proud to be a part of our Montana ranching communities and being an inspiration to many people!

I am proud to be a part of Montana ranching because I know it is something that will be carried on for generations with my family and to be farming and ranching is a way of life.

Another reason I am proud to be a part of ranching in Montana is that I get to experience a relationship with my horse that is difficult to explain, but she becomes my legs when I need her to help me see and go where I want to on the amazing land that we have. I have also come to understand what it means to work hard and what responsibility is.

A third reason that I am proud to be a part of Montana ranching is that I have an appreciation and understanding of where our food comes from being raised on a farm/ranch before it is sent out to the supermarkets for consumers to eat.

I am proud to be a part of Montana ranching is, even though times are changing with technology, farmers/ranchers are integrating it into their daily lives to continue to do their work efficiently and effectively! No matter what it is still a way of life!

Finally, I also am proud to be a part of Montana ranching because I love learning about the industry and I get to see amazing sunrises and sunsets without the views of city streetlights and skyscrapers blocking my view!

That is why I love Montana ranching!

By: Kayla LaSalle, Havre, MT

Montana Ford Stores Continue Partnership with Stockgrowers for Seventh Year

2015 Ford Logo SquareHelena, Mont. – Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) and Montana Ford Stores are excited to announce their seventh year as partners, designating Ford “The Official Truck of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.” MSGA and the Montana Ford Stores will give away a Ford Super Duty truck to one lucky MSGA member at the Montana Stockgrowers’ 2015 Annual Convention and Trade Show at the MetraPark in Billings on December 5.

“Montana Stockgrowers is thrilled to receive Montana Ford Stores’ continued support of our programs,” says Gene Curry, MSGA President and rancher from Valier. “Ford continues to be the number one    truck in livestock agriculture and MSGA looks forward to working once again with the great Ford dealers in our state.  I look forward to the trip around the state to thank each Ford store for their support!

Ford Truck Gary Paula Bischoff AlzadaLast year’s winner of the Ford Super Duty truck was Paula Bischoff. Paula and her husband, Gary, ranch at the 99 Bar Cattle Company near Alzada.

The 2015 Ford Super Duty truck will debut at MSGA’s MidYear Meeting in Bozeman, June 4-6, and will be featured at several events across Montana throughout the Summer and Fall.

MSGA Rancher, Young Stockgrower, and Feeder/Stocker members are eligible to win the truck. An entry form must be filled out and the member must be present at Annual Convention when the truck will be given away. To learn more about the MSGA/Ford partnership, please visit our Membership Benefits section or call (406) 442-3420.

Montana Stockgrowers Members among Top Seedstock Producers in U.S.

Image via BEEF Magazine

Image via BEEF Magazine

As an organization founded in 1884, the Montana Stockgrowers Association has worked with a fair number of ranchers through the years who are leaders in our industry. The values of excellence, leadership, collaboration, optimism and innovation certainly ring true within the organization and the ranchers who MSGA represents.

According to a list published by BEEF Magazine earlier this year, MSGA members continue to be an influential force in the ranching business. Among BEEF Magazine’s 2015 Seedstock 100 listing, thirteen are members of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

These ranchers speak to not only the reputation and prominence of the organization, but also the Montana Seedstock business as a whole. Montana Stockgrowers is proud to have many of them as active members in the organization.

The Seedstock 100 listing ranks ranch operations across the country according to bull sales volume and is reflective of the operations’ influence on U.S. beef cattle herd genetics. Dedication to managing cattle herds with heavy emphasis on genetics that are in demand across the industry is certainly an attainment any Seedstock producer can be proud to claim.

According to BEEF Magazine, the ranking is “based on the number of bulls marketed annually, not the number of cattle, the number of cattle registered annually, or the number of cows listed in inventories with a breed association or other genetic organization.”

In the article prefacing the listing, BEEF Magazine recognizes the Seedstock 100 rankings as beneficial to:

  • Establish a benchmark for the level of Seedstock concentration,
  • Establish another benchmark other than annual registrations or purebred cow inventory to gauge breed genetic influence,
  • Recognize Seedstock producers who make all or a substantial portion of their cattle income from the Seedstock business.

Montana ranchers and MSGA members included in the Seedstock 100 rankings include:

Montana Stockgrowers wants to congratulate these influential ranchers for their accomplishments and leadership role in the cattle business today. MSGA also thanks these ranchers for their dedication and contributions to one of the most prominent cattlemen’s organizations in the nation.

Know Ranch Employee Needs to Improve People Management

In this video, Casey Risinger, DVM, Risinger Veterinary Hospital, Terrell, Texas, says you have to change yourself to help your team succeed. “I wasn’t sure if this program was something that would work in a veterinary clinic or if it was specifically for a feedyard or dairy. And it wasn’t at all. It was all about if you manage people.” Learn more at

In this video, Casey Risinger, DVM, Risinger Veterinary Hospital, Terrell, Texas, says you have to change yourself to help your team succeed. “I wasn’t sure if this program was something that would work in a veterinary clinic or if it was specifically for a feedyard or dairy. And it wasn’t at all. It was all about if you manage people.” Learn more at

Dr. Casey Risinger is a veterinarian. But he is also a manager of people.

Until now, Dr. Risinger had never given a review to any of his team members. He didn’t know how much he, his staff and business needed it.

“I’ve been told by other people, yes, you need to do this, but I had put it off and put it off,” said Dr. Risinger, of Risinger Veterinary Hospital in Terrell, Texas. “I just think everybody knows what’s going on and what to do. I know what I expect and surely everybody reads my mind. But I realize they don’t.”

Learning how to communicate in new ways with staff helped him see how much he could support his team.

“The reviews really helped me have a better understanding of what was expected of me and what they thought I was expecting out of them,” Dr. Risinger said. “They want to know how they can get better, where I think they can get better, and then they want to be able to express what I can do to help them.”

It even made him aware of issues he had never considered before.

“I would realize there was a problem, but I really didn’t understand where it was coming from,” he said. “I never thought about that, and I think that was one of the key things, is just understanding where people are at and where I can help them. Now I’ve got the tools to do that.”

The only way your business gets bigger and better is through your ability to manage people, he continued.

“I have to change first,” Dr. Risinger said. “The better I get, the better I should be able to help staff, help new employees, help existing people find out the needs they have. I can help the staff, and the more they know, and the more they’ve been trained, the more they can help the customer.

“Encouragement is always the best motivator, and when clients give comments and feedback, this gets everybody excited about trying to do a better job.”

In this video, hear more from Dr. Risinger about how you can learn to help your team. For help identifying ways to build a better team and veterinary clinic, operation or business, contact your local Zoetis representative or visit

This is part of a series on rancher continuing education articles and provided by Zoetis. To see more rancher education posts, click here.

A Different Age of Managing Ranch Employees

In this video, Jason Gerstberger, yard manager at Pioneer Feedyard in Oakley, Kansas, shares why managers need to better understand employees. Learn more at

In this video, Jason Gerstberger, yard manager at Pioneer Feedyard in Oakley, Kansas, shares why managers need to better understand employees. Learn more at

Every employee has a different way of working, thinking and communicating, especially when it comes to different generations. It’s easy to see those differences and challenges, but it’s not as simple to manage.

Rather than just trying to change the team or individuals, it’s important that managers learn how to recognize generational differences and adapt. For Pioneer Feedyard near Oakley, Kansas, this required a different way to manage.

“There’s always challenges with age, race, even males and females in the industry,” said Jason Gerstberger, yard manager at Pioneer Feedyard. “The biggest one was learning to deal with different generational gaps and how to get one generation to understand another generation without causing too many problems or issues. In the older generation, they didn’t ask why, they just went ahead and did the work. But with the younger generation, they want to know why before they go do it.”

Gerstberger understands that to overcome this challenge and get the most out of each employee, managers and supervisors need to take the time to understand each person — and what keeps him or her motivated. It means taking time to understand how to best communicate with people as individuals.

To better learn how to do this, Pioneer Feedyard sent managers through the PeopleFirst™ Supervisory Certificate Program from Zoetis.

“PeopleFirst — we invested in it to get the benefits that we could, to get the most potential out of our employees that we could, not only by work, but by understanding what they’re doing,” Gerstberger said. “And in doing those things, get more out of our people.”

“What it allowed us to do is push our foremen a little bit more,” he continued.

“It helps to tell the older generation, ‘explain to these guys why you’re doing it, and they’ll be able to get it done a lot better and be able to do it with you,’” Gerstberger said. “The foremen are probably more engaged with the individuals they are working with. They can understand how we’re doing it and why we’re doing it. They understand what they’re seeing, what the problems are and help them to fix and increase their profitability on their issues.”

Gerstberger knows that adapting your management style can go a long way.

“Individuals, if they can learn to react a little different to certain situations, they’ll get more respect from the people working under them and, therefore, we’ll get more benefit out of it here at this yard,” Gerstberger said. “You’re going to get more profitability, which they can put back into the cattle.”

In this video, hear more from Gerstberger about what you can do to help your team understand the value of their role to the company’s success. For help identifying ways to invest in and strengthen your employees, contact your local Zoetis representative or visit

This is part of a series on rancher continuing education articles and provided by Zoetis. To see more rancher education posts, click here.