Montana Rancher Q and A: John Henry Beardsley, Miles City

Like many Montanans, cattle ranching goes back several generations in the family’s history. One of these ranchers is John Henry Beardsley of Miles City, Montana. John Henry grew up on his family’s ranch and recently, graduated from Montana State University. Today, we learn what his next steps are and how the family ranch plays a role in his future….

What is the history of your family’s ranch? 

The ranch was homesteaded in 1910 by my great-grandpa John Henry Beardsley. My Grandpa, John Henry, kept slowly building the ranch by raising crops, kids, cattle, horses, pigs and sheep. My dad, Jim Beardsley, has expanded what my grandpa had to where we are today.

John Henry on his working horse.

John Henry on his working horse.

What is the ranch like today?

Our cow herd consists of Angus and Red Angus cows that we have developed through 40+ years of artificially inseminating (A.I.). We use Hereford bulls on the cows now and still have an A.I. program in place.  Recently, we started doing a terminal cross and have been really pleased with it for its marketing and maternal aspects. We strive to raise a very low input, productive cow that will make a living for herself. We have a rotational grazing program in place and have developed water to enhance grazing.

Can you describe a hardship that your family had to overcome on the ranch? 

The process of trying to keep the ranch in the family and pass it on to the next generation…while having it be a successful business.

Can you recall any advice your grandparents gave you about ranching? 

I was never fortunate to meet either of my grandpas, but people tell me stories of my grandpa Beardsley and how he started with nothing…but went on to build an operation to support his family and make a manageable business. It shows me that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything.

John Henry Beardsley 2What are a few things you’ve learned growing up on a ranch?

  • Taking care of the land. I have learned from a very young age that if you take care of the land it will take care of you.
  • How to be a entrepreneur. When I was little I would always get frustrated of why dad wouldn’t just do something and it seemed as easy as just writing that check to pay for something. When you get behind the books and see how its done, you lose that mindset in a hurry.
  • Not everything is wine and roses, but there are so many little things in everyday ranch life that makes you stop and enjoy what you are doing.

What does Montana family ranching mean to you?

Montana ranching is one of the biggest conservation groups that I have been around. Every rancher is a steward of the land while sustaining a viable operation that helps supply the world with a great source of protein and creating an environment that is appealing to families and making memories.

John Henry looks over the 2014 piglets.

John Henry looks over the 2014 piglets.

What do you hope the ranch (or business) will look like in 10 years? 50 years?

I hope to keep expanding the ranch. The future excites me in not knowing what it will hold. We recently went back to our roots with raising sheep on the ranch. I hope to follow in past generations footsteps and keep expanding and moving forward.

Is there anything else you would like to share? 

I recently signed on as a representative for Superior Livestock Auction, with my partner John Andras of Big Timber, MT. We operate as J&J Cattle Marketing LLC. This past year has been one full of windshield time, but at the end of the day I couldn’t ask for a better job. I am very excited about this position and the network of people I have met over my short time here has been incredible.

I am very proud to say that my four siblings and I are all involved in agriculture. My family is great to have around, because we are all different enough that we look at a situation in five different ways, and definitely makes you keep an open mind. I have five nieces and three nephews that make it so there is never a dull moment.

To participate in a future Q&A or to recommend someone from the Montana ranching community, please contact

Montana Rancher Q and A: Rose Malisani, Cascade

Rose Malisani on her horse near Cascade, MT.

Rose Malisani on her horse near Cascade, MT.

Rose Malisani and her mother, Cindy, ranch near Cascade Montana.  Rose not only helps on the family ranch, but she also is the MSU Cascade County Ag Extension agent, where she gets to help youth and local ranchers learn more about their livestock and land. If you haven’t met Rose, when you do, you will immediately have a smile on your face…she has the wonderful ability to make people laugh and feel happy. Read more about Rose and her family on today’s blog:

How long has your family been involved in ranching?

My family has been involved in agriculture for four generations. My maternal great-grandfather was a cattle and sheep buyer. He started in Windham, MT and eventually moved his family to the ranch in Cascade, MT. My maternal grandmother’s family farmed out of Geraldine, MT. Both my paternal grandparents were born in Italy and moved to the United States in the early 1900s. They started a very successful tile and terrazzo family business that is currently operated by my cousins. My dad decided to sell the family business to my uncle in the late 1970s and began ranching. My mom has some great stories of teaching the city guy how to ranch!

What was your favorite part about growing up on the ranch?

Working with my brother, Jack. He took me under his wing and taught me how to operate the tractors, fence, cuss, work with cattle, and so much more. Those were short, sweet years.

Rose Malisani Cascade 1

Trailing cattle on the ranch.

Tell us about your ranch today.

We’ve run a bred heifer operation for the last 15 years where we sell quality commercial Angus heifers to ranchers. We started running cows again in the past year and it’s fun to see calves back on the place. We also breed and ride AQHA horses. Our horses over the years have gone into the rodeo, show, ranching, jumping, and movie worlds in the United States and Canada.

What have been some of the trials you’ve had to overcome?

Life is about how you react to change. One needs to know how to roll with the punches and adjust. Sometimes a surprising change works out splendidly.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the ranch?

The beauty of it. Being able to get to swing your leg over a good horse and gather cattle in the mountains is my idea of heaven. Farmers and ranchers work so hard every day to feed their family and other people’s families.

What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?

The stories of days gone by. My grandparents and mom tell about when they grew up on the ranch and their dreams for the future. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Is there anything you would have done differently on the ranch if given the chance? 

Rose and her mother, Cindy (left).

Rose and her mother, Cindy (left).

I would have to say no. I’m a firm believer on not living with regrets and when change is needed, do it. Tell us about your current job and why you are excited to be a part of agriculture in that capacity. Besides working on the ranch I am the MSU Cascade County Ag Extension agent based out of Great Falls, MT. My job is extremely exciting that some days I don’t know if I will be helping a gardener with their tomatoes, inspecting a wheat field for disease, traveling for a training, helping a rancher with nitrate tests or working with 4-H members with their horse and livestock projects. The beauty of my job is to see people and talk about my favorite topic, agriculture. I started off working for the Montana Beef Council and then the Montana Stockgrowers Association out of college and I cannot express how blessed I am to have worked Montana ranchers.

Do you have any advice for future Montana rancher generations about running a successful beef cattle business?

Open communication with family members and partners. Develop a plan and put goals in place. Partner meetings are extremely important.

What’s your favorite beef dish?

A rare steak off the grill. Can’t beat it!

Is there anything else you can share with us?

Do good work in everything you do. Be honest and helpful.

Montana Rancher Feature Q&A: Lillian Ostendorf

Lillian and Tom Ostendorf.

Lillian and Tom Ostendorf.

Lillian and her husband, Tom, own and operate the Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch near Powderville, Montana. They are working to not only run a successful cattle business, but to be able to pass the ranch on to the next generation when the time is right. This family business means the world to the Ostendorfs…read more in today’s Q&A feature with Lillian:

How long has your family been involved in ranching?

Lillian Ostendorf (age 1) with her father.

Lillian Ostendorf (age 1) with her father.

My Norwegian grandparents came to this country and settled here around the time my Dad was born in 1917. The Orestad’s started a ranch on a section of land in Powder River County. My Dad grew up there and worked for ranches like the WL and the Brown Ranch. Dad met and married my Mom in Sioux City, IA. He worked for the stockyards, and later the Milwaukee railroad. They saved their money and bought their first section of land at the head of Ash Creek, in Custer County. From that section of land, our ranch has grown to about 17 sections, including the original Powder River section and the land that Tom and I bought and combined with my parents. (Dad passed away in 2004.)

What was your favorite part about growing up on the ranch?

My favorite part of growing up on the ranch was being my Dad’s sidekick, because it usually involved horses and riding. Whenever we didn’t have something to do, I could be found at the corral with the horses. I learned to ride bareback quite proficiently at an early age. I might not have been able to lift the saddle, but the old horse would let me bridle him and stand by the feed bunk until I scrabbled on.

Tell us about your ranch today.

Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch

Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch

Today our ranch consists of a herd of Red Angus cattle instead of Herefords, like Dad had. Using AI and Quality natural sires we have established a Registered Red Angus Herd and sell bulls. We have installed waterlines, cross fences, and established good grazing practices. Hay is more abundant on our dry land ranch since we developed alfalfa meadows and plant peas and hay barley for feed instead of wheat. Aaron and Mollie Phipps (our daughter) and the two grand boys are working with us on the ranch. Our son Steve has cattle and involvement in the ranch even though he is an engineer and works for an oil company in Minot. Even our daughter, Martha who writes for the JD Furrow magazine, comes out from Miles City to help on occasion. We continue to work the ranch in family style tradition.

What have been some of the trials you’ve had to overcome?

A few of the most trying setbacks we had to overcome were, a hailstorm that knocked out probably the best wheat and hay crop we have ever raised, a prairie fire that burned our ranch and neighboring ranches in 1996, but still probably the most devastating was the drought of 1988. Our ponds all went dry and grass was scarce. We had to move our cattle and my parent’s cattle to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in S.D. for the summer. It was really hard to keep watch over them that far away in 100 degree day temperatures. We hired a cowboy to check on them regularly and we made many trips that summer to fix fence and bring cattle back to their pastures. We were able to keep our cattle herd and bring them home in the fall.

What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the ranch?

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Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch

Our ranch and cattle is not only our livelihood, but it is our backyard where we live and raise our families. We take pride in being good stewards of the land and work to make it sustain life not only for humans and cattle, but for the wildlife to co-exist as well.

What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?

Working together with our family who fully understands our dedication and expectations towards the animals and the ranch, makes our life whole. Children grow up here learning about trials and responsibility side by side with grandparents and parents, to become responsible caring adults. It’s an indescribable prideful feeling, when after college they want to continue on the ranching tradition or they are responsible employees in another field.

How would describe “building a legacy” on the ranch?

Our goal has been to preserve the basic land we have making improvements that sustain it for the future. Improved grazing practices, waterlines, solar power wells, buffer grass strips in the water ways all contribute to the overall sustainability and wellbeing of continuing the heritage of a ranch, while improving the number of animals it will support. Teaching methods and patience to contribute to the humane handling of cattle, like being Beef Quality Assurance certified on our ranch is important to us. Do you have any advice for future Montana rancher generations about running a successful beef cattle business? Figure your expenses a little higher and cattle prices lower than you anticipate and enjoy it when it works out better than you figured. Keep extra cattle feed on hand for those unexpected long winters and storms. Treat your cattle, your helpers, and the land well and they will reward you back. Trials will come along, persevere and work your way through them. It is a great next year country!

Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch

Ostendorf Red Angus Ranch

What’s your favorite beef dish?

A medium rare beef steak grilled with a baked potato and salad has to be my favorite meal.

Is there anything else you can share with us?

Different problems face this generation. One of the biggest issues we face, in my opinion, is the challenge of our private property rights from the government. Interpretations of rules from government agencies like the EPA’s attempt at new definition of the Waters of the US that would establish their jurisdiction over dry ditches and creeks that only carry water once or twice a year will threaten ordinary practices on our ranches, like mending a ditch. The definition of the waters of the United States is only those “navigable” waters. The Supreme Court never intended for EPA to rule on dry streams and ditches, proven by two previous Supreme Court cases. It takes time away from our ranches to talk to legislators about these issues.

Montana Rancher Q and A: Cam Cooper, Talon Ranch

Camron “Cam” Cooper of Twin Bridges, Montana had her sights set on running a cattle ranch and about twenty years ago, she was able to accomplish that dream. Cam owns the Talon Ranch which is both a commercial and registered seedstock Angus operation. Cam’s heart reaches far beyond the borders of Montana. She is leaving her entire estate to the Angus Foundation and established a scholarship program to help the nation’s young cattle raisers. Today on the blog, we feature Cam…her work, her ranch, her generosity…

Cam Cooper Talon Ranch 2.jpg

Camron “Cam” Cooper at home on the Talon Ranch

How long have you been involved in ranching?

I got started on my own about 20 years ago. I was a newcomer to the cattle business. In 1996, I bought my first commercial cattle and a few registered Angus which I kept adding to. Then in 2003, I sold all the commercial cows and became completely a registered Angus seedstock operation.

Why did you want to get involved in the cattle business?

It’s in my genetics. I had a cowboy granddad in Missouri, and in the 1920s, he moved out to California. I was born there in 1939. When I was 4-years-old, he bought me my first horse and I was hooked. Many years later, I was looking for a good spot to retire and In 1994, I moved to Montana.

Why did you chose to settle in Montana?

I visited Montana several times for business and had always loved those trips. The state just seemed opened and away from it all. I knew this is where I wanted to retire.

It seems like there is good ranch community support in your area. Do you agree?

I didn’t know very much when I first got into the business, but luckily my neighbors and those involved in the Angus breed helped me quite a bit. They are all very passionate about Angus and its benefits for the national cowherd. I work with the Sitz Angus Ranch in Dillon…they’ve been terrific and a huge support system.

Cam Cooper Talon Ranch Sign.jpgWhat are some of things you’ve learned over the years?

There is a great need for flexibility in the cattle business. You can have the best plan in the world…the best breeding genetics, but sometimes, it just doesn’t turn out like you wanted. Instead of beating your head against the fence post, you better shift gears. There are a number of things you have no control over so learn to deal with it.

Do you have any advice for young people in the ranching business?

Every situation is different and you can’t generalize. Get experience first and define your goals and objectives. But be ready to use that flexibility. You can’t just do it by the seat your pants.

What are your favorite days on the ranch?

I love the calving season…especially at the beginning. It’s one of the most rewarding things. But the thing is, the reward comes from all the hard work you put into the rest of the ranch year…everything from the preparation of the breeding season, (making sure your genetics are set up properly for the herd because it ends up being like a chess game when selecting genetics) to the actual breeding season…and later, the calving season. It’s labor intensive and a 24-hour a day job. We not only have to monitor the calves, but also constantly check the health of the momma cows…often times in drastically cold weather.

What else would you like our readers to know about?

It’s important for ranchers to stand up for what they’re doing. We raise cattle properly…from animal care to land stewardship. We have to do our best, because if not, we’re out of business. We also want to create the most satisfactory experience for the beef consumer we can. It takes time, money and great effort.

Cam Cooper Talon Ranch Mountains.jpgTell us more about the future of your ranch and your scholarship program.

My estate in entirety is going to be left to the Angus Foundation to provide scholarships for students interested in animal husbandry and cattle business operations. The Talon Ranch Scholarship has been up and running for 5 years. It just is so gratifying to provide this money to students who may not have had another means to get an opportunity. It warms my heart.

A word of thanks from Milford Jenkins, Angus Foundation president:

“Cam’s undergraduate and graduate scholarships through her Angus/Talon Youth Educational Learning Program Endowment Fund in the Angus Foundation have literally transformed the lives of the outstanding and deserving youth selected to be the recipients of her prestigious scholarships. A consummate visionary, Cam has a keen understanding and appreciation for the importance of investing today in the next generation who will be tomorrow’s leaders of our beef cattle and agricultural related industries, communities, schools, states and nation.  The Angus Foundation, Angus/Talon scholarship recipients, their families and those that follow in the years to come whose lives will forever be enriched by Cam’s selfless philanthropy, will always owe her a huge debt of gratitude.  She truly is an inspiration to all of us!”

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Indreland Angus Ranch Montana Local Beef

Featured Rancher: Indreland Angus Ranch

Indreland Angus Ranch Montana Local Natural Beef Betsy Indreland stands behind a table supporting two red coolers full of beef cuts. She smiles at people as they check out her stand at the Livingston Western Sustainability Exchange. A man in a plaid shirt and khaki shorts asks Betsy where the beef is raised. She replies that the beef is raised on her family’s ranch located near Big Timber. The man thinks that is great and proceeds to purchase several different packages of Indreland Angus Beef.

Selling dry-aged beef directly to consumers at farmers’ markets is not anything out of the ordinary for the Indreland family. Since 2003, Betsy and her husband, Roger, have sold 100 percent natural Montana beef at markets in Billings, Bozeman, Big Timber, and Livingston. They also ship their products across the country and provide Indreland Angus beef at local restaurants, grocery stores and even the Livingston hospital.

“It became evident to us that people want quality beef and know where it came from,” explained Betsy.

On the Indreland Angus beef package label, there is a product identification number, which corresponds to the animal’s ear tag number. This allows for complete access to the records of the cattle, if a buyer has questions.

“People like the idea that all the meat in that package came from one animal,” says Roger. “They also like the ranch information provided.”

The Indreland’s beef business did not start with the idea that they needed to grow to a certain size to be able to make it work. Instead, Roger and Betsy allow it to grow only if it is profitable.

One way the Indreland’s beef remains profitable is by appealing to customers of a niche market. The beef is natural which means the animal is not given growth hormones or antibiotics. Most of the cattle are finished with corn, but a few customers requested grass-fed only and therefore, Roger and Betsy raise a few head per year on a grass diet.

“We understand that we operate in a niche market,” says Roger. “If you’re providing a consumer who wants beef from a known source, wants beef to be a certain grade, and wants dry-aged cuts, then that means that we’re not competing with the large segments of the beef industry. Those larger segments of the industry do not dry-age their beef. It’s the dry-aging that makes a huge difference in the flavor profile.”

The Indrelands understand that the majority of the beef industry does not operate using a custom market model

“Our product is definitely gourmet,” said Roger.

One of the benefits of utilizing this gourmet market is the ability to converse directly with the consumer about the ranch lifestyle.

“We become the ambassadors of the beef industry and explain how we do what we do and why we do it. This helps to put a face with the beef products, and makes ranching more personable,” said Betsy.

Being a marketing major, Betsy understood the value of the niche market, but also realized how important it was to direct market Angus beef.

“When we started, we knew we had to have the word ‘Angus’ in our product name. Angus cattle are known for their premium beef quality. The Certified Angus Beef Brand has done wonders with their promotion and educating people on the attributes of Angus beef. It is recognized worldwide as a premiere beef product. We couldn’t pass up that opportunity with ours,” said Roger.


Indreland Angus Ranch Montana Local BeefSelling Angus beef stems from a history of raising Angus cattle in Roger’s family. The Indreland Angus Ranch originated in 1976 when Roger purchased 13 registered bred heifers for a FFA project in high school. He chose to get into the Angus breed because his grandfather, Arch Ginther, was one of the founders of the Montana Angus Association. Roger’s mother and aunt continued the black cattle traditions by showing them in the 1940s and ‘50s and encouraged Roger to raise Angus as well.

Roger’s herd continued through college as he worked with Leachman Angus in Bozeman, learning about the purebred industry. After college, his parents retired and Roger leased the ranch, expanding the registered cowherd. Roger married Betsy in 1986.

Betsy was born in New Jersey and later moved to Big Timber where she met Roger. She did not grow up on a ranch.

“I didn’t know the difference between a heifer and a Hereford, just that the two sounded alike. But I’ve learned a lot,” said Betsy.

The Indrelands are raising two daughters on the ranch. Anne was born in 1993 and Kate in 1998. The addition to the family solidified the need to be more involved in the Angus business and start the small branded beef program.

In August 2011, Anne started her freshman year of college at Claredon College in Claredon, Texas. She was awarded a scholarship to be on the livestock judging team and will study agriculture-business and animal science. Kate is in 7th grade and does livestock judging. She has a few chickens and sells the eggs as a business. Both girls have their own cattle in the Indreland herd and according to their parents, are passionate about ranching and taking care of those animals.


On the ranch, the Indrelands run about 200 mother cows and out of that, they raise bulls. This year, they will sell 65 coming 2-year-old bulls and 25 bred heifers on December 10.

Because the beef business side of the operation demands a lot of time, Roger and Betsy try to maintain the cowherd as hands-off as possible. Living just north of Big Timber, Roger says the grass opens up in the wintertime and therefore, they do not have to feed hay everyday. This allows the focus to be on planning for the beef marketing or ranch needs.

The other benefit of where they are located is that the 2-year-old bulls they sell are coming off summer grass and have developed slowly.

“I think the longevity of those bulls is really great and they’re adaptable for whatever the commercial people have for them,” said Roger. “They’re going to be moderate size cattle with moderate EPDs that truly should match a lot of Montana environment.”

Their production philosophy remains that cows must consistently excel at converting basic grass resources into beef.

“Practicing this philosophy has refined our cowherd into trouble free and productive cattle. We do not select for any extremes in performance but demand functionality,” said Roger.

Operating under the philosophy of low-input ranching and creating profitability of a direct marking business, the Indreland family will continue to provide quality beef to consumers while maintaining the ranching lifestyle they love. To find out more information on their ranch or to view the beef products for sale, visit

*Originally published in the Montana Stockgrowers Newsletter, January 2012
*Article and photos sponsored in part by the Montana Angus News

Stevenson Angus Bull Sale 2011

Stevenson Angus Ranch held its spring production sale on March 10, 2011 in Hobson, MT. Darrell Stevenson was back from Russia, where he took cattle herds to establish American-style ranching. MSGA’s executive vice president, Errol Rice, attended the sale and was interviewed by Bloomberg TV about Montana beef and the future of international markets. To see photos from the Stevenson Angus Ranch, check out MSGA’s Facebook page: click here. 

Sitz Angus Ranch Bull Sale 2011

Sitz Angus Ranch in Dillon & Harrison, Montana had their 9th annual bull sale on March 9, 2011. It was the ranch’s best sale on record, with the top bull selling for more than $50,000. Check out the Montana Stockgrowers Association‘s Facebook page for photos: click here.

Reminisce Angus Ranch Production Sale 2011

AUDIO SLIDE SHOW: Watch and hear Angus bulls being sold at the Mussard Family sale in Dillon, Montana. There is also a speech from NCBA president, Bill Donald and some dancing at the end of the night, after a great sale. To see photos from the sale, head over to the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s Facebook page: click here.

Sitz Angus Ranch Calving

Sitz Angus Ranch has a great reputation of having some of the best Angus genetics. February is calving season and MSGA’s Multimedia Outreach Specialist, Lauren Chase, was able to spend a few days with the crew. To find out more information about Sitz Angus Ranch, check out their website: Sitz Angus Ranch

sitz angus ranch calving

To see all the photos from her trip, head on over to Facebook for a view! Click here