Montana Rancher Q and A Feature: Casey Coulter, Brusett
At the Montana Stockgrowers Association, we are very fortunate to have such a passionate group of young leaders. Casey Coulter of Brusett, Montana served as the Young Stockgrowers (YSG) president, helping to organize leadership events and educational opportunities for our YSG membership. Today, we learn more about life on the ranch for Casey and his family…
How long has your family been involved in ranching?
My grandfather’s step-father homesteaded on the place we live now in 1914. He and two other bachelors came from Maiden, north of Lewistown and all took homesteads in the area. My granddad came here when he was about two years old and he and my grandmother started purchasing the place around 1950. They continued putting land together until about 1990 and were able to support three families on the operation. Currently my grandmother, Ruth, and my wife Lacey and I live on the southern end of the place, and my folks, Rod and Lorri live and operate the north part of the ranch. Each place is operated independently now.
What was your favorite part about growing up on the ranch?
The best part about growing up on the ranch was having a back yard that extended from our house to Ft. Peck Lake. There are countless miles to explore as a kid growing up. It was also a great experience to work and play next to friends and neighbors, a unique experience for sure. You have to live somewhere else for a while to appreciate growing up in a community like this.
Tell us about your ranch today.
Lacey and I have a commercial set of cows and we market steer calves and spayed yearlings from those cows. We also raise wheat and hay. I returned to the ranch several years ago and needed to get it fully stocked. We have purchased some sim/angus females, many straight angus, and a few red angus cattle. We are putting sim/angus bulls back on the cows and are having some decent results. On our cropland we are trying to continuous crop using a cover crop/wheat rotation and having mixed results with that program. Lacey and I operate this place by ourselves contracting some of the work out, such as combining wheat. At times we will hire some day labor, too. Lacey works 2 days a week in town as a Speech Language Pathologist, but the other 5 days she spends helping me outside or on home improvement projects (of which there are many). We are very blessed to be our own bosses! What have been some of the trials you’ve had to overcome? I would say the highest hurdle we have had to clear was a transition plan for the ranch Lacey and I live on. It took time, resources, and an emotional toll. I know of many families who have been through these transitions, but I didn’t appreciate how hard it was until going through one personally.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the ranch?
There are so many things I wish urban people knew about our food chain, but a starting place would be that farm and ranch families are stewards to land and livestock. I am confused by the latest buzz word “sustainable.” I am not sure of any business who doesn’t want to be sustainable. Ranchers have to use stewardship practices on the land or the land will not sustain the livestock. They then have to be good stewards or livestock or they will not be able to market a healthy well managed animals. This translates into profits that allows the rancher to “sustain” in his/her business. I wish people from urban areas had easier access to see how well we treat our land and cattle.
What does it mean to be able to bring Lacey into the business? I feel very blessed to have my family so close, my sister and brother in law live 12 miles south of our place, my parents are 12 miles north of us and my grandmother is across the barnyard. We work together a lot and are able to depend on one another for help on short notice, business decisions, or someone to go fishing with. It is a nice dynamic. Lacey is a very smart and capable woman and though she did not grow up in agriculture, she has had no trouble adjusting to ranch life. We talk about all business decisions and goals and she is able to see things from different angles which is very helpful.
What has being a part of Young Stockgrowers meant to you?
Why is a group like YSG important for the Montana ranching community? YSG is a great group within a great group. YSG provides young ranchers with all of the benefits of MSGA, plus information and a network of people dealing with issues that pertain to young ranchers. Also, people can be as involved as they want to in the organization. It is a great low pressure group made up young people with similar backgrounds.
Do you have any advice for fellow young Montana ranchers about the beef cattle business?
I am usually the one listening to advice about the cattle business, I don’t feel I am one to be giving anyone advice. One thing I would say is to get the business transition things figured out now! No matter how awkward it may be, get the conversation at least started, it will be easier in the long run.
What’s your favorite beef dish?
Rib steak. No dish.
Is there anything else you can share with us?
I would encourage all MSGA members to visit with your non-member neighbors and friends about the organization and how much MSGA does on our natural resource issues. I feel like the west is on the ropes right now with sage grouse, bison, and water. Ranchers are in short supply, so even if folks do not want to be involved in MSGA, a membership would help fight their battles for them while keeping them informed on many of these issues.