20 Montana Ranches Needed for 2015 Summer Research Project

Agri-Best Feeds is looking to work in conjunction with the Growth Through Agriculture Program sponsored by the Montana Department of Agriculture to do a summer research project on ranches throughout Montana evaluating the economic benefit of increased average daily gain on either calves or yearlings by feeding SweetPro and Redmond salt.

This project looks to work with approximately 20 ranches in different areas across Montana. Each ranch will put 75 to 200 head per ranch on the feeding program and compare the average daily gain to a contemporary group (same sex calves, similar genetics, range, water, etc.) of cattle on the rancher’s mineral and salt program. Each ranch will work with the researchers to put the protocols into place for around a 180 to 205 day trial that will look to run from calving to weaning for the cow/calf operation and the summer grazing period for a yearling operation.

Historically Agri-Best has seen and increase in average daily gains up to 4/10 of a pound utilizing SweetPro and Redmond salt compared to simply grazing with a good mineral program. The day cost for this program ranges from $0.42 to $0.48 per pair (or yearling) but the increased weight gain pays for all of the vitamin, mineral, protein, and energy needs of the cow, calf, and calf in gestation plus puts more dollars in the producer’s pockets and all on less grass.

For the summer research project, the selected ranches will pay $0.12 per pair (yearlings per head) per day for the animals on trial to participate in the program as a replacement value to their current salt and mineral program as well as supplying their normal mineral and salt for the control group. Agri-Best Feeds will carry the remaining cost of the program and deliver product into the ranch as well as working with the rancher on managing the feeding program. At the end of the trial period, the average gain increase will be multiplied by the contracted calf/yearling price and the proceeds split 50/50 between the rancher and Agri-Best Feeds. For example, a 4/10 pound average daily gain increase on $2.00 calves would produce an additional $.80 per day that would be split equally between the rancher and Agri-Best Feeds. The $.40/head on 100 head for 180 days would give the rancher an additional profit of $72/head or $7,200.

Other areas that this research project will evaluate are conception rates, forage usage, body condition, weaning ease and growth, and overall herd health.

Requirements to Participate in the 2015 Summer Feeding Research Project include:

  1. The management ability and commitment to follow the research protocol
  2. Enough cattle (pairs or yearlings – min of 100 head with 50 on trial/50 control) of:
    • Similar genetics
    • Same age (focusing on first and second calf heifers for the target of the bulk of the study)
    • Same sex on calves/yearings
  3. Same/similar range conditions (forage type, quality, quantity, etc.)
  4. Same/similar water (quality, availability, etc.)

The Growth through Agriculture Program seeks to add value to Montana’s agricultural products and have the prospects to create and/or retain jobs in Montana by funding projects that meet their criteria through grants and loans. Agri-Best Feeds, 2010 MSU College of Business State Farm Montana Family Business of the Year, seeks to equip farmers and ranchers to maximize land and livestock by distributing unique high performing products.

If you are interested in more information about this research project or to receive an application to participate in this research call 866 601-6646 and ask for Scott Anderson or email scott@agribestfeeds.com.

Montana ranch women featured in new iBook

Ladies and Livestock coverContinuing coverage from the release of our new book, Ladies and Livestock, the following is an article by Amanda Radke for Tri-State Livestock News. The book is now available exclusively on iTunes for $14.99. Click here to go to the store.

Grit and grace, boots and biscuits, flowers and financial plans. The term “ranch woman” evokes countless images, memories and thoughts for the livestock community. Ladies that literally grow the food to feed their families and the world can often tend to a fussing baby just as handily as sorting off a waspy fence-crawling bull. Multi-talented doesn’t seem like a big enough word to describe the ranch gals of the west that hold their families and business operations together.

“During my travels to Montana ranches, one theme became evident as I visited Montana Stockgrowers Association members’ operations,” said author Lauren Chase. “The ladies on the ranch were often described by their family as ‘the backbone’ of the place. We wanted to honor this and all the work the women do by sharing their stories in ‘Ladies and Livestock.’ Often, the ladies have many roles, and we want the public to understand how each of these roles helps make the ranch successful.”

Besides being a writer, Chase is also a photographer and former multimedia outreach specialist for the MSGA. She released a new e-book entitled, “Ladies and Livestock” on Oct. 1. Available exclusively on iTunes, Chase takes a tour of rural Montana and introduces readers to the ladies of Montana and their roles on the ranch.

Chase is no stranger to advocating for agriculture through social media. She brings a rancher’s world to life through photographs, which she shares on online platforms like Facebook. She believes this outreach is critical to bridging the gap between urban and rural America.

“I believe that consumers, in general, have no idea how much work it takes to get beef on their plates,” said Chase. “Even more so, they don’t know how much work the women do on any ranch or farm to help make that possible. I was really interested in sharing that information, but also, making the connection between women on the ranch and women in the city though shared experiences, like raising a family.”

The women in the book come from all walks of life, but each has a shared passion for agriculture, which Chase captures in her storytelling.

For example, one of the women featured in the e-book is Chaley Harney, who works as the executive director for the Montana Beef Council. Raised in Red Lodge, Harney traveled the country before finding her way back to her home state to work for the beef council. In her travels, she worked for the California Cattlemen’s Association followed by a job at a remote cow camp in the high desert of northern Nevada, where she met her husband, Deeth Harney.

“I guess I have always been enamored with agriculture,” said Harney. “The satisfaction that comes from working on the land and providing for others is deeply gratifying. Not to mention the contentment that comes with a day full of physical labor.”

Harney says she is humbled to be included in the book, which features “a strong force of women in the West.”

“The book ‘Ladies and Livestock’ shares the passion and commitment of women in agriculture,” said Harney. “As wives, mothers, sisters and daughters, these women represent a glimpse into a day in their life and exude their appreciation for the ranching heritage that allows them to raise their families where they love to live and work. This book also provides a look into the business of ranching and the family that ties it all together. I am honored to be included as part of this book to help further broadcast the Montana families that work every day to provide a nutritious, complete source of protein for the world to enjoy.”

Although Chase didn’t come from an agricultural background, she says she’s fascinated with learning more about the ranching lifestyle and was surprised to discover that ranching wasn’t just a man’s job; there are plenty of women involved in beef production, too.

“Readers will be surprised by the young women that are dedicating their life to working on the ranch,” said Chase. “Before I got involved in agriculture, I thought that kind of work was for older men, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! It’s inspiring to see women my age (25) who are passionate about working cows and raising kids to do the same.”

Flipping through the photographs featured in “Ladies and Livestock,” it’s quite evident that Chase has captured the heart and soul of these women of the West.

“Women in agriculture are not only sweet and loving, but they are tough and their work ethic is unlike any other,” said Chase. “If the job needs done in negative 20 degrees, they don’t fuss about having to do it. They are there when their families and neighbors need them – willing to cook a meal out of love for anyone who is hungry and then head out to ride through hundreds of acres of pasture. They are truly inspiring.”

Another woman featured in the e-book is Rachel Endecott, PhD, Extension beef/cattle specialist at Montana State University (MSU). Endecott grew up on a family cow-calf operation near Ennis. In addition to her Extension work, she teaches the 400-level beef cattle management class at MSU, serves as an advisor for the Collegiate Stockgrowers Club, and was recently appointed the MSU Extension Ag and Natural Resources Program Leader. She runs cattle on shares with her family back in Ennis and goes home in her spare time to help with the operation.

“Agriculture has made me what I am,” said Endecott. “I feel a deep sense of responsibility to do all I can to help the beef cattle ranching way of life continue. Food production is not faceless – real people are involved in every step from farm to fork and pasture to plate. Our consumers want to know about those real people and what they do; I want to help tell their story and do what I can to help them stay on the ranch to keep telling that story for generations to come.”

Endecott was featured alongside her mother, whom she calls her best friend. Her father was featured in Chase’s first coffee table book, “Big Sky Boots: Working Seasons Of A Montana Cowboy,” which was released in 2012.

“It’s fun to have the entire family be included in these two books,” said Endecott. “It’s exciting to be included in this latest book. I’m honored to call many of those featured my friends. Several of those ladies I’ve known since college and it’s fun to see all the different things we’ve accomplished in our lives.”

While women in agriculture are the minority, Endecott said what makes them special is “a unique combination of work ethic, determination, and compassion.”

“This book is an authentic, honest look at the life and times of ranching women – what more compelling subject could you find?” she added.

Although Chase didn’t follow the format of a coffee table book like her last published work, she hopes to reach a new audience – particularly consumers – in her latest release.

“This book was developed for the general public,” said Chase. “Millions of people across the world have iPads and can download the digital book in minutes. What’s unique about the book is that on some of the pages there are videos that readers can click ‘play’ and watch interviews with the women on their ranches. This format is an easy way for us to get outside of the ‘agriculture box.’”

Continue reading this article on Tri-State Livestock News…

Addressing Antibiotic Resistance and Livestock Use

Antibiotics Use Livestock ResistanceFor many Americans purchasing food products at local grocery stores and retailers, there has been a growing movement to learn more about where our food comes from. Many food consumers have been asking to know who produces their food and under what conditions it was raised. Many people are asking for more transparency from food companies in order to learn more about the farming and ranching practices in place. As members of the farming and ranching community, we have a vital role in providing that information.

One of the more frequently discussed topics among food customers today is about the role of antibiotics use in livestock systems. As livestock producers, we understand there are variety of tools used on farms, ranches and feedlots which include vaccines, good nutrition programs and proper housing to keep animals healthy. Antibiotics are only one tool in a plan of good production practices to raise healthy animals. We also understand the importance of judicious use of these tools to keep them effective for animal health, food safety, costs, and proper management.

Last week, PBS Frontline aired an episode focused on the use of antibiotics and questions surrounding the cause of increasing antibiotic resistance in the human population. Though there are several possible sources for this medical trend, livestock were focused on as a possible cause. As members of the livestock we understand the continual to improve the way we utilize tools such as antibiotics, but we may not always communicate that clearly. It is a cooperation between local producers, veterinarians and federal officials who collaborate to improve our methods with food safety in mind.

With that in mind, we have a few points to address on the issue of antibiotic use in food animals and it’s relation to food safety. To learn more about these topics, be sure to consult your local veterinarian and be sure to share examples of how you ensure judicious and responsible antibiotic use on your livestock operation.

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance is incredibly complex and it’s rare for a strain of bacteria from our food supply to be resistant to antibiotics. 

  • Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics attack the majority of bacteria but a few may survive and “mutate” or adapt to the drugs in ways that help them resist treatment by the same drug in the future.
  • The vast majority of antibiotic resistant bacteria are non-foodborne, emerging decades ago in hospital settings or communities and are not linked to animals in our food system.
  • There are occasional cases of antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria, such as antibiotic resistant salmonella, but those cases are rare.

The chance a person becomes ill from antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria and not being able to be treated with alternative antibiotics is slim, with many safeguards built in to keep it from happening, such as responsible antibiotic use, research and surveillance.

  • In order for foodborne bacteria to become resistant and impact human health, the bacteria would have to develop a resistant animal strain, survive food processing and handling, proper cooking and find a human with an illness/weakened immune system as the host, survive the human’s body (which will naturally fight the bacteria) and result in a human seeking treatment with the same antibiotic that was used to treat the animal. If antibiotic resistant bacteria were to cause human illness, it means that the standard treatment doesn’t work and that other treatments may have to be considered. So, people becoming ill from antibiotic resistant foodborne bacteria and not being able to be treated in some manner, is extremely rare.  

Farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and animal health experts work together to make sure they’re using antibiotics responsibly, in order to reduce the chances of antibiotic resistance forming. 

In the animal agriculture industry, we work hard to stop the potential formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria by using antibiotics responsibly:

  • Identify the right illness that the animal has by consulting with animal health experts and veterinarians when necessary
  • Pinpoint the right treatment and dose needed to treat that specific illness, condition or concern
  • Administer the antibiotic for the right amount of time by following the law and clear label instructions (not stopping antibiotics early, which is a threat for antibiotic resistance in humans)
  • Conduct the right research to make sure that we continue to protect both animal and human health

Continued research on antibiotic resistance is needed to fully understand antibiotic resistance and address questions about multiple resistance, or co-resistance, which is when bacteria become resistant to several different types or classes of antibiotics and the agriculture community is committed to being part of this important research and dialogue.

  • The agricultural community is proactively working to minimize future risk and continuing to conduct research to look at this important topic.
  • Everyone – farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, doctors, the government, researchers and companies working in animal or human medicine – needs to work collaboratively to protect animal and human health.
  • The agricultural industry is committed to looking at any and all opportunities to mitigate antibiotic resistance in order to make sure we’re continuing to improve the way we use these very important tools.

Antibiotic Use in the Livestock Industry

We can all agree that healthy animals are the basis of a healthy, humane and safe food supply.

  • When antibiotics are used, they are used judiciously to keep the potential risk extremely low of developing antibiotic resistant bacteria that is harmful to people.
  • The beef community has invested in quality assurance programs, research and education designed to maintain high standards of animal care and health and to help us continuously improve how we use antibiotics.
  • Farmers and ranchers have no reason to overuse antibiotics but rather every reason to use them as selectively as possible. For one, it’s the law, but antibiotics also are a costly input for the small business men and women who raise cattle for beef.
  • If farmers did not treat sick animals, many would suffer and die.  This would be inhumane.

The livestock community, including farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, the federal government and the animal health companies that make antibiotics, proactively are working together to continuously improve the way we responsibly use antibiotics in livestock.

  • Changes in FDA Guidance 209 and 213 that will eliminate growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics and extend veterinary oversight.
  • Within about four years, any medically important antibiotics used in animals will only be for therapeutic purposes and under the supervision of a veterinarian.

To learn more about the use of antibiotics in livestock production, visit with a local veterinarian or find a farmer or rancher in the area to ask their perspectives. You can also find more online tools and information at these links:

Fall 2014 Weaning and Gathering Cattle on Montana Ranches

They say a photo is worth a thousand words, and that’s an important part of sharing our stories of ranch life in Montana with those who want to learn more about where their beef comes from!

Over the past few weeks, we have been seeing several reports from ranchers bringing cattle home for the Fall, weaning calves and shipping! It’s a busy and rewarding season for ranchers across the state and we want to share a few of those scenes with you. Have photo of Montana ranch life to share with us? Include a brief description of what’s happening and send them to ryan@mtbeef.org. We love to share them with everyone!

(Click the photos below to enlarge)

Lee Gibbs captured this shot while trailing yearinglings in Circle.

Lee Gibbs captured this shot while trailing yearinglings in Circle.

Charley Nissen is practicing her driving skills during weaning 2014!

Charley Nissen is practicing her driving skills during weaning 2014!

Great shots of cattle on pasture from the Nissen family!

Great shots of cattle on pasture from the Nissen family!

Great shots of cattle on pasture from the Nissen family!

Great shots of cattle on pasture from the Nissen family!

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Kayla Sandru captured some great photos in the Ruby Valley as her family brings the cattle down for the fall season.

Tamara Choat captured these cattle in the feedlot with a corn chopper running in the background at Homestead Cattle Company near Terry.

Tamara Choat captured these cattle in the feedlot with a corn chopper running in the background at Homestead Cattle Company near Terry.

Bridger Cunningham of the T Lazy Y Ranch is bringing the cows home across the Yellowstone river south of Emigrant, Montana.

Bridger Cunningham of the T Lazy Y Ranch is bringing the cows home across the Yellowstone river south of Emigrant, Montana.

Bridger Cunningham of the T Lazy Y Ranch captured this shot coming home off the forest service lease near Emigrant

Bridger Cunningham of the T Lazy Y Ranch captured this shot coming home off the forest service lease near Emigrant

Bruce Neumann is gathering pairs to precondition calves

Bruce Neumann is gathering pairs to precondition calves

Justine Kougl is starting her kids young at the ranch in the Wolf Mountains, South of Busby

Justine Kougl is starting her kids young at the ranch in the Wolf Mountains, South of Busby

A great scene captured by Justine Kougl on the ranch in the Wolf Mountains south of Busby.

A great scene captured by Justine Kougl on the ranch in the Wolf Mountains south of Busby.

A great scene captured by Justine Kougl on the ranch in the Wolf Mountains south of Busby.

A great scene captured by Justine Kougl on the ranch in the Wolf Mountains south of Busby.

Kaitlin Cusker sent us this great fall cattle scene on an early morning start.

Kaitlin Cusker sent us this great fall cattle scene on an early morning start.

Larisa Mehlhoff is working with her family, trailing yearlings home on the  5L ranch near Sheridan.

Larisa Mehlhoff is working with her family, trailing yearlings home on the 5L ranch near Sheridan.

Tips and tools to integrate safety into your cattle operation

IMG_7623When raising livestock, even the most gentle cows may unintentionally cause injury to a handler. In fact, the National Agricultural Safety Database statistics show that one in three farm worker injuries involve handling animals. Many of these injuries include broken bones and crushed limbs that lead to missed days of work and unnecessary medical expenses due to a lack of safety awareness. That’s why an understanding of animal behavior is essential to prevent accidents.

“Handlers must be aware of how animals react in different situations,” said Dr. Roger Winter, technical services veterinarian, AgriLabs. “Cattle are extremely sensitive to loud noises, shadows or too much pressure, and this kicks in their ‘fight or flight’ reaction. In turn, this could lead to a potentially dangerous predicament.”

Understanding the flight zone

The flight zone is one of the most important principles regarding cattle behavior and safe handling. It can be thought of as a circle around an animal, or in essence, the animal’s personal space. The radius of this circle is the distance at which an animal will move away from a “predator” that comes too close.

The flight zone varies with each animal, depending on its previous life experiences or perhaps just not recognizing a shape or movement of the “predator”. Cattle that have never seen a human before may have a very large flight zone. While cattle more familiar with people, depending on how they are approached whether on foot, RTV, truck or horse, will be more comfortable and have a very small flight zone. In both extremes, whether it is a large or small flight zone, it can lead to dangerous situations when it comes to trying to move cattle from one location to another.

“In fact, when producers are working cattle, a lack of patience leads to pushing cattle too hard or too fast,” said Winter. “Animals then experience a feeling of slight anxiety (which is the goal) and then react with fear. At this point, their ‘flight’ reaction kicks in, causing them to run and crash into fences, gates or vehicles. Cattle then can sustain bruises, broken legs, foot injuries, or lacerations, and when humans are in the wrong location when this occurs, they can be injured as well.”

Ways to enhance safety

It’s best to remember that animals don’t think the way we do. Learning a few basic tips can help to reduce the chance of injuries to people and livestock, and will help improve handling skills, whether cattle are being gathered from the pasture or processed. Some safety tips include:

  • Know your animals — Learn how cattle think. Cattle are prey animals and as such, are constantly on the lookout for predators, whether that be wolves or people. Understanding how cattle react and behave is key to ensuring safety.
  • Get acclimated — Injuries to cattle and people can be minimized by taking the time to let them get use to their surroundings and movements of the people working around them.
  • Appropriate application of pressure — If producers spend a little time slowly walking at a distance from their animals without causing them too much anxiety, their livestock will eventually realize they are not a threat. In time, the producer can move in a little closer and as the flight zone is approached, the animals will begin to move away. This concept, when used properly, will allow the producer to apply and release pressure at appropriately times and positions to gently move animals with limited excitement.

“When producers learn to utilize these techniques effectively, everyone benefits,” said Winter. “This means fewer injuries for everyone involved and better performance for the cattle due to a lower-stress environment.”

Effective horn fly control; less disruption for cattle

Building upon the safety and low-stress aspect, AgriLabs has an innovative approach to control horn flies and lice on cattle called the VetGun™ which requires no confining or handling.

The VetGun is a precision-engineered remote delivery device powered with CO2 to project a precise dosage of an insecticide-filled gel capsule known as AiM-L™ VetCaps™.  Upon impact, the VetCap bursts on the animal, releasing its contents to treat the animal.

The entire process is completed quickly and with far less disruption or stress than any conventional process that requires cattle to be gathered, yarded or run through a chute. Essentially, it improves the overall welfare by making the process safer for both cattle and ranchers.

“While everyone handles livestock a little differently, it’s all about using common sense and good judgment,” said Winter. “It’s a plus when producers also understand animal behavior, which in turn can increase their level of safety when handling livestock.”

About AgriLabs

AgriLabs is a leading animal health, sales and marketing organization with distribution throughout the United States. Through technology transfer and cooperative development agreements, AgriLabs has introduced state-of-the-art products for beef, dairy and companion animal industries. The wholly-owned ProLabs® (www.prolabpets.com) division focuses on new product development of companion animal products into the over-the-counter channel. The VaxLiant™ (www.vaxliant.com) company is an adjuvant company designed to modernize how vaccines deliver antigens to prevent disease with its ENABL™ and Biomize™ adjuvants.

About SmartVet

SmartVet is a biopharmaceutical company specializing in developing novel formulations optimized for topical and transdermal delivery for free-ranging livestock. Established in 2006, its mission is to make livestock producers’ lives easier by providing simple and convenient solutions to common problems, to deliver product onto livestock at the time it would be most effective and to apply medications to cattle without needing to handle them. The VetGun delivery system optimizes both the delivery process and the timing of treatment, reducing the impact of parasites and other diseases. SmartVet’s headquarters are located in the International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute in the Kansas Biosciences Park in Olathe, Kansas. Visit smartvet.com for more information.

Thank you to AgriLabs for being a supporter of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a member or supporter, please see our Allied Industry Information listed at mtbeef.org.

Ranching Roots – What is a cowgirl?

By Book Author, Lauren Chase, Montana Family Ranching Project – You can read more stories about Montana ranch women in the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s new digital photo book, “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” which is available for download on the Apple store for $14.99. Be sure to flip through the pages to watch video interviews with some of the ladies and follow MSGA’s social media sites for daily updates about Montana ranchers.

The shadow of a cowgirl

The shadow of a cowgirl

What is a cowgirl? What is a rancher?

These are questions that kept running through my mind while collecting stories of Montana ranching women for the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s digital book, “Ladies and Livestock. I had one idea, which was a woman in a cowgirl hat, hair blowing in the wind as she gallops across an open field to seek out her herd. While that image may have some clout, I have since learned that being a cowgirl and being a rancher is so much more.

Since the days of homesteading, women have had to fill many roles on the ranch…everything thing from cooking and child rearing to fixing fence and roping calves. While all of that work still needs to be done, today’s ranch woman sometimes finds herself elsewhere. Whether it’s for economic reasons, ranch size, insurance purposes, or a passion for a certain type of skill, some ladies take jobs in town.

Heather Malcolm at her desk - Bank of the Rockies - Livingston, Montana.

Heather Malcolm at her desk – Bank of the Rockies – Livingston, Montana.

“As the vice president of agriculture lending, I have the opportunity to work with my fellow farmers and ranchers across Montana. I am blessed to have a flexible schedule so I can help on the ranch as much as needed,” said Heather Malcolm of Livingston, Montana.

Other ladies, like Haylie Shipp, work to help inform ranchers of the latest news in communication jobs. Haylie grew up on a ranch near Glasgow, Mont. and now is a farm broadcaster for Northern Ag Network. Linda Grosskopf’s family ranch is near Billings, Mont., making it convenient for her the edit of the Western Ag Reporter, published from town.

There are women who lobby at the Montana state capitol during the legislature, working on behalf of ranchers…and others who spend their weekdays teaching college students about beef production at Montana State University and their weekends at home on the ranch, like Dr. Rachel Endecott of McAllister, Mont.

“I was really lucky that Rachel could spend a lot of time home this spring helping me because I could have never done it without her,” said Janet Goggins-Endecott, Rachel’s mother and full-time rancher.

These positions off of the ranch are just a fraction of what makes a modern day Montana rancher…and modern day Montana cowgirl.

At MSGA, we appreciate all the work these ladies do to help the ranches run smoothly and to help produce healthy, wholesome, nutritious beef to the world.

Ladies and Livestock coverYou can read more stories about Montana ranch women in the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s new digital photo book, “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” which is available for download on the Apple store for $14.99. Be sure to flip through the pages to watch video interviews with some of the ladies and follow MSGA’s social media sites for daily updates about Montana ranchers.

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?

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.12.41 AM

A sign welcoming visitors to the Coulter Ranches.

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.

Casey and Lacey Coulter

Casey and Lacey Coulter

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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.12.32 AMWhat does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?

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.

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Presenting during MSGA Mid-Year Meeting 2013 as president of the Young Stockgrowers.

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.

Ranchers Reflect on Community One Year After Atlas Blizzard

Image courtesy of Weather.com

Image courtesy of Weather.com

It’s hard to believe, but this weekend marks the one year anniversary of the Atlas Blizzard. The unexpected early-season storm targeted a region surrounding western South Dakota, burying thousands of ranches below feet of snow, killing thousands of livestock, and leaving hundreds of ranchers devastated, cleaning up the aftermath. The event, largely going unnoticed by national media, resulted in the national ranching community gathering in support, raising millions of dollars toward cleanup and recovery efforts, along with many ranchers donating replacement heifers to aid those who had lost nearly everything.

While many ranchers and communities from the region are far from complete recovery after the storm, many are thankful for the support from their peers and reflect on the reactions as we approach this anniversary. The following is a letter sent out by those affected and we want to share those with you today.

Thank you from those impacted by Atlas…

As we near the one-year anniversary of winter storm Atlas, the ranching people and communities devastated by the storm would like to say “thank you” to everyone who rallied behind us and extended such kindness and generosity toward us over the course of the past year.

It is an indescribably humbling, blessed experience to be on the receiving end of such grace and giving as that which poured into western South Dakota and the surrounding area in the weeks and months following the storm. You have impacted our lives in the most powerful, positive way, restoring our faith in humanity and increasing our love and appreciation for our lifestyle and those we share it with.

To those who donated livestock or money to the cause, we did receive them but at times without the original donor’s name attached. As you likely know, there is no greater gift to a rancher than a good bred heifer or cow, and while we found it difficult to accept such a costly and incredible gift, they have made all the difference. The same can be said of the monetary donations that found their way to our mailboxes. We are the independent type, as you likely are, and we hold ourselves accountable for making it on our own. But, those dollars came at critical times for us and covered bills that would have been difficult to find funds for otherwise.

There are those who donated their craft to auctions to generate funds, the communities and individuals who organized and delivered amazing Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, and those who took the time to write, call or email personal words of encouragement. There were the people who traveled to areas impacted to help rebuild following the storm, the businesses who donated their goods and services, and those who developed online resources to help both those impacted and those wishing to help.

This is only a smattering of the countless acts of kindheartedness executed on our behalf. A glimpse into the hours individuals, families and companies put into helping us make it through the effects of the storm. Because of these efforts we are going to make it, and if you didn’t hear it from someone personally, please take it from all of us – thank you! You have made a magnificent difference in our present and future success, and we thank God for each and every one of you who took the time to help us in your own way. While we hope to never have to repay the favor, we stand ready with the example you set in our minds eye should the time ever come. May God bless you and American agriculture.

Sincerely,
The ranching families and communities hit by winter storm Atlas in Oct. 2013

Immediately following the storm, ranchers in the area's hit hardest by the Oct., 2013 winter storm Atlas searched and were devastated to find a staggering number of animals had succumbed to the record breaking snow, wind and cold wrought by the storm.

Immediately following the storm, ranchers in the area’s hit hardest by the Oct., 2013 winter storm Atlas searched and were devastated to find a staggering number of animals had succumbed to the record breaking snow, wind and cold wrought by the storm.

It took 16 days for power to be restored to every household in western South Dakota following the Atlas blizzard. West River Electric Association employees as well as over 100 additional helpers worked tirelessly to get power back on in both rural and more populated areas.

It took 16 days for power to be restored to every household in western South Dakota following the Atlas blizzard. West River Electric Association employees as well as over 100 additional helpers worked tirelessly to get power back on in both rural and more populated areas.

Numerous thoughtful donations found their way into the homes of those impacted by Atlas, including a complete Thanksgiving feast organized and delivered by North Dakota communities. From homemade pies and loaves to bread to a turkey, thermos and hope inspired artwork, gifts such as this touched the hearts of those on the receiving end.

Numerous thoughtful donations found their way into the homes of those impacted by Atlas, including a complete Thanksgiving feast organized and delivered by North Dakota communities. From homemade pies and loaves to bread to a turkey, thermos and hope inspired artwork, gifts such as this touched the hearts of those on the receiving end.

T-shirts made by the Lauderdale County Junior Cattlemen's Association of Alabama to commemorate their trip to South Dakota to help families in the Union Center area in the summer of 2014. More than 30 young people stayed with area ranching families, providing free labor in addition to 21 donated yearling heifers.

T-shirts made by the Lauderdale County Junior Cattlemen’s Association of Alabama to commemorate their trip to South Dakota to help families in the Union Center area in the summer of 2014. More than 30 young people stayed with area ranching families, providing free labor in addition to 21 donated yearling heifers.

A first-calf heifer donated to a ranching family who lost livestock in the Atlas blizzard takes a peak outside with her newborn calf in the spring of 2014.

A first-calf heifer donated to a ranching family who lost livestock in the Atlas blizzard takes a peak outside with her newborn calf in the spring of 2014.

Heifers for South Dakota was started immediately following the storm, and had donated more than 1,000 bred heifers or cows to ranching families who lost livestock in the blizzard as of June, 2014. Many families also received livestock donations directly from friends or family in the months following the storm.

Heifers for South Dakota was started immediately following the storm, and had donated more than 1,000 bred heifers or cows to ranching families who lost livestock in the blizzard as of June, 2014. Many families also received livestock donations directly from friends or family in the months following the storm.

Yearling heifers who survived Atlas as calves, as well as a handful of donated heifers, enjoy the lush summer grass of 2014. Their generation will significantly help in rebuilding herds who suffered losses in the storm.

Yearling heifers who survived Atlas as calves, as well as a handful of donated heifers, enjoy the lush summer grass of 2014. Their generation will significantly help in rebuilding herds who suffered losses in the storm.

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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 ryan@mtbeef.org.

Longevity of Ladies and Livestock

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(By Lauren Chase, author of the new photography book, Ladies and Livestock, to be released October 1 exclusively on the Apple iBooks store.)

When I began traveling across Montana and collecting content for the Montana Family Ranching Project, I had no idea what all I would get to see and experience on the ranches. I went from knowing absolutely nothing about cattle production to being able to discuss topics like heterosis without just nodding along. Beyond gaining knowledge of beef and a better understanding of agriculture, something else stuck me as important: the longevity of Montana’s ranches. While many Americans can no longer relate to multi-generational family businesses, it’s still viewed with high esteem and awe.

Vicki Olson on her family's ranch near Malta, Montana.

Vicki Olson on her family’s ranch near Malta, Montana.

It’s hard for me to comprehend what fifth and sixth generations actually mean. However, many of the women featured in Ladies and Livestock wear that title with pride. Their ranches have been within their families for more than 100 years…through droughts, fires, blizzards, poor economic times, and even differences in opinions on how the ranch should run. They have gone from log cabins and no electricity to some of the largest and most efficient ranches in the country…and all kept in the family name.

“We have had parts of the ranch in the family for almost 100 years. Each generation has loved it and the lifestyle as much as the next,” said Vicki Olson of Malta, Montana.

This attitude of ranch life is shared by women all across Montana.

“I get to spend every day with the love of my life and together we raise our children to appreciate this life as much as we do. Breeding good black cattle, riding great ranch horses and conserving the beautiful nature around us is not what we do…it’s who we are,” said Lori Swanson of Chinook, Mont.

Ladies and Livestock coverReflecting on stories from grandparents and parents, women learn to appreciate their heritage and livelihood on the ranch, and work hard to raise their children with the same upbringing and passion for cattle ranching. It’s important to remember that beef production is a business, but ran by families who hope that for many generations to come will still be raising healthy, wholesome and nutritious beef for the world.

You can read more stories about Montana ranch women in the Montana Stockgrowers Association’s new digital photo book, “Ladies and Livestock: Life on the Ranch,” which will be available for download on the Apple store for $14.99 starting October 1, 2014. Be sure to flip through the pages to watch video interviews with some of the ladies and follow MSGA’s social media sites for daily updates about Montana ranchers.