Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) recently recognized Lila Taylor of Kirby, in Big Horn County, as “Ranching Woman of the Year”. The announcement was made Saturday, December 5 during the 131st MSGA Annual Convention and Trade Show at Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings.
Lila, wife of Watty, excited to win the award, was joined on stage by her family. Taylor was nominated for the award by friends and family in the Busby area and from across Montana.
The Taylor family and friends collaborated to share a fitting profile of Lila’s accomplishments through the years:
Lila (Vescovi) Taylor was born into a dairy family outside of Roundup. After the dairy burned down, her family bought into the Registered Polled Hereford business. Her parents, Earl and Wasy, became successful breeders and were eventually inducted into the Polled Hereford Hall of Fame. She was her dad’s right hand man, learning all aspects of the cattle industry and business. She began delivering bulls across Montana and neighboring states when she was just 15 years old.
In her youth, Lila spent countless hours preparing and participating in 4-H and became very successful, especially in the cattle judging and showing arenas. She was the second high individual scorer at the 4-H Congress her senior year. After high school graduation, Lila moved to Bozeman to attend Montana State University where she participated on the MSU Judging Team. Lila graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Ag Business in 1971. To this day, she is a hard-core Bobcat fan and is proud to wear blue and gold!
In 1969, she served as the first official Northern International Livestock Exposition hostess, making her the first “Queen of the Nile.” Later, she would become the chairperson for the youth 4-H/FFA committee at the NILE. This gave her the opportunity to judge 4-H fairs across the state, which she enjoyed. Watty and Lila are proud inaugural members of the NILE.
After a short courtship, she married Watty Taylor in June 1972. They moved to a ranch in Boyd, Montana, which was the start of the “ranch wife” years. In 1973, they moved to Kirby, Montana so that Watty could take over as foreman of his family’s ranch, a cow-calf operation. She became a mother to three sons, (Kirby born 1975, Jay born 1976 and Peter born 1978).
It was during this time that Lila learned the art of cooking for large ranch crews and refining her skills in the “domestic” areas, which was new to her as she grew up a tomboy. Many can attest that today she will not bat an eye at cooking a meal for 30, after she has weighed the calves, provided coffee and checked on the crew’s progress!
Watty & Lila took over the ranch business from his parents in 1994. The boys were away at school and as a couple, they did it all…night calving, riding & gathering, vaccinating, spraying weeds, swathing and the list goes on. Lila has a can-do attitude and expects everyone else to get it done, too!
Lila has put much energy into serving outside of the ranch. After sending her last son away to school, Governor Racicot encouraged her to run for a seat in the Montana House of Representatives. She was told she had 19% chance of winning. However, she was resilient and was elected in the fall of 1994. She served three terms, sitting on committee seats in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Education. In her last term, she served as vice chair of the Legislative Finance Committee.
In 2003, Governor Martz appointed her to the Board of Regents, where she served until 2010. She was selected to serve on the Montana Higher Education Student Assistance Corporation Board (MHESAC) & Student Assistant Foundation (SAF) Boards; she is still serving on these boards today.
In 2011, Governor Schweitzer appointed her to the Montana Board of Public Education. Governor Bullock appointed her to a seat on the Montana Board of Livestock in 2015. Lila serves on the local school board, having helped to create the only small school district cooperative in the state. She also currently serves on the Big Horn Electric Cooperative Board and the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors.
Lila has Italian “gusto” and will not be dissuaded. Her brother remembers fondly that if she couldn’t get a gate open, she’d pull up to it with a pick-up and “nudge” the gate until she could get it loose enough to open, a trick she uses to this day. She is confident in her beliefs and does not back down easily; while terrified of mice, she has been known to a kill a rattlesnake or two with a rope. She loves her family, friends and her suburban passionately.
Today, Lila and Watty are still operating their cow-calf operation near Kirby. All three sons and their spouses, Kirby and Misty, Jay and Cherie, and Peter and Amanda, are involved in ranching in Montana. She is a very proud grandmother of seven: Will, Ava, Emery, Anna, Reese, Brett and Samuel. Her boys lovingly refer to her as “The Warden”, you know her as Lila Taylor.
The Ranching Woman of the Year award is an annual honor presented during MSGA’s Annual Convention and Trade Show. Contact the MSGA office at (406) 442-3420 to find out how you can nominate someone for next year’s recognition. To learn about previous honorees, visit mtbeef.org/ranching-woman.