On the Trail

Travels with MFBF’s State Staff and Volunteer Leaders

Montana Farm Bureau wants to keep you “in the know” with the federation’s activities. Tune in regularly to see what your county leaders are up to and how MFBF is promoting agriculture!

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May 26th, 2016: Why Summer Conference? The grassroots come together here

We hope many of you are planning to join us for the MFBF Summer Conference June 7-9 in Great Falls! This year’s theme: Impact, Influence, Innovate is jam-packed with information on new trends in agriculture, movers and shakers on Montana’s agriculture scene and ideas on how every Farm Bureau member can impact and influence our own communities.


Why Summer Conference?

This meeting is a catalyst for policy development within our organization. There are 15 committees that meet; ranging from commodity specific committees like livestock, weeds and water, to outreach and advocacy committees like health and safety, women’s leadership and promotion and education.

At summer conference the committees have time to delve into specific issues and develop policy ideas they believe are important to our organization. Committees may bring in speakers to provide information on a variety of topics important to their commodity. This provides an opportunity for members across Montana to understand important industry issues and discuss how MFBF’s position on those issues should be reflected in policy.

But MFBF is a grassroots organization—policy comes from the county Farm Bureaus, right?

Right! MFBF is a grassroots organization guided by the policy directives that start at the county Farm Bureau level.

No committee has the authority to make policy without it first being approved by a county Farm Bureau and being discussed and voted on during annual convention. Rather, these committees give members with specific commodity interests the ability to dial down and peel back the layers on important issues and trends in our industries. After listening to experts and discussing with their peers, committee members are tasked with taking these ideas back to their county Farm Bureaus for further discussion and policy development. If a committee deems necessary, they may decide to hold a second meeting during annual convention.

Only when a proposed policy is voted on and approved by a county Farm Bureau at their annual meeting is it eligible for discussion on the voting delegate floor at annual convention.

Sounds interesting—how do I get on a committee?

Each committee is made up of 10 primary members (one representative from each district) and 10 alternates.  Nominations must be made during the district caucuses held each November during annual convention.  Not sure what district you’re in? Find out here: http://mfbf.org/county-farm-bureau/.

After the district caucuses, the nominations are submitted and the President makes the final committee appointments following annual convention. Each committee is assigned a MFBF staff contact. This contact works with the committee chair and members to set the agenda for each meeting, share pertinent information between meetings, and collect resources for the committees to use when discussing policy.

Not sure if these committees are for you just yet? That’s OK! You’re welcome, and encouraged, to participate in our summer conference even if you’re not on a committee; anyone may sit in and listen to the presentations and discussion.

To see a complete conference agenda and to register by June 1 check out our website: http://mfbf.org/event/2016/04/2016-summer-conference/

May 25th, 2016: Sharing an Opinion: Why We AI

Travis Standley

Travis Standley

The “Why We…” series is a quarterly feature in The Spokesman magazine. It’s a place for Montana Farm Bureau members to share their opinions on topics and techniques that work for their farms and ranches across Montana. This month’s feature comes from Travis Standley. Travis was raised on a commercial cow-calf operation outside of Cascade, Montana. He worked as an MSU Extension agent for almost 10 years and is currently a Livestock Nutrition Specialist for Westfeeds. 

Ranching in my opinion is one of the best careers and lifestyles in the world. It is also one of the most difficult when it comes to the amount of knowledge and expertise that is required with new technologies that are readily available.

It seems that there is always something new or a better method than previously used. A person can get overwhelmed by all the new techniques or gadgets that are supposed to make things easier to accomplish one’s goals.

Although the commercial use of artificial insemination is recent (1937), the sequence of events leading to today’s industry traces back to the 17th century. Artificial Insemination is also used in numerous different animals, including humans. Across all species one thing remains the same and that is that the procedure must be done in the quickest and most painless way possible in order to ensure conception and health of the reproductive system.

Even though this is not a new technology most producers are still not incorporating it into their management strategies. While the genetic advantages to using AI in beef cattle are well known, the rate of use across the country remains very low.  According to USDA data (2012) about 5 percent of cows and 16 percent of heifers in the U.S. beef herd are bred artificially. AI is a valuable tool the producers can use to their advantage; however, it is also my belief that AI will not work in for every ranch.

So when it comes to decisions like choosing between buying a bull or buying semen for AI, the business manager needs to determine which one is most cost effective and best fits their ranch. What are the pros and cons of AI?


  • These include the amount of time livestock managers must spend checking females for estrus or “heat.”
  • Putting cattle through working facilities multiple times. Some special facilities for corralling and insemination are required.
  • Clean-up bulls (a bull turned out to breed any cows that didn’t conceive under artificial means) are still required.
  • Trained personnel are required to perform the technique.
  • The biggest disadvantage is the amount of time, labor, and management that it takes to perform this task successfully.


  • It saves on the cost of buying and keeping/feeding bulls year round.
  • It prevents the spread of certain diseases.
  • The semen of a desired sire can be used even after the death of that particular sire.
  • Safer for smaller cows and heifers as bulls can be bigger and heavier as they age.
  • Semen can be used on thousands of females a year instead of the actual bull being only able to cover 20-25 females in a breeding season.
  • The rate of genetic development and production gain can be increased, by using semen from males with superior genetics.

The biggest reason we use AI on our ranch is the opportunity for genetic advancement. We keep most of our own females to put back into our herd. AI allows us to breed to bulls we would otherwise not be able to due to expense. The other advantage that we have in common with many ranches is that it involves the entire family. My parents still run and manage the operation with myself and my wife and my brother and his wife all contributing in our own ways. We all share a love of agriculture and the animals in which we are responsible for. We have plenty of labor (in between our full time jobs) available for our small ranch.

AI allows us to breed our heifers and cows to different bulls without having to purchase multiples of each. We still have to buy a clean-up bull for the heifers. We also don’t breed all the cows in our herd, mostly because we only have one technician (me) and fatigue can become an issue to the amount of time and the success in percentage of conception.

We use a 7-day protocol (which is one of many methods for AI procedures), on both our heifers and mature cows, which adds another degree of timing, as the heifers have a shorter amount of time in the protocol than the cows. Although the animals go through the facilities three different times during the process, they spend only minutes in the facilities and it is an easy process.

Any rancher’s goal is to reduce stress and to work cattle in the calmest, most efficient way possible. We use this fixed time (which means we don’t heat detect) AI protocol because we have to do the majority of the work in evenings and weekends. I realize that heat detection would give us better conception rates but time is still the most important commodity for everyone.

Farmers and ranchers strive to use the safest and most efficient methods and products available for animal care. It’s up to the farmer or rancher to choose the method of breeding that will work best for his herd.

The Spokesman is a quarterly publication for the more than 21,000 member families of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. To subscribe or become a Farm Bureau member, contact Scott at (406) 587-3153 or visit www.mfbf.org.

May 18th, 2016: Why the best is yet to come for agriculture

Montana Farm Bureau leaders attended the national State Program Leaders Conference April 30-May 4 in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together chairs and staff of the Women’s Leadership Committee (WLC) and the Promotion & Education Committee. The theme was “Educate. Empower. Engage.” Check out what that means to our guest blogging, member attendees!

Large animal veterinarian, rancher and MFBF leader Beth Blevins in Washington, DC this month.

“Educate. Empower. Engage.”

My name is Beth Blevins. I am a large animal veterinarian. People frequently become large animal veterinarians because they really want to be ranchers. So I married a rancher, Craig Blevins, 25 years ago! We raise mostly registered Black Angus cattle with a few club calf prospects thrown in for variety, a daughter Michaela, 21, who is taking animal science at Montana State University and a son Ethan, 18, who is graduating from high school in June and plans to attend Montana Tech in Butte this fall, pursuing degrees in Petroleum Engineering and Chemistry.

I became involved with Farm Bureau when a member, Bill Meadows, invited us to an annual meeting. When Craig and I bought our own place in 1997, the previous owner had insurance with Farm Bureau. We became members then, but didn’t realize it. We attended that meeting with Bill and quickly saw the need to become involved and what a vital avenue of involvement Farm Bureau is. Craig was chair of the state Livestock committee for several years and I am District I Women’s Leadership chair, past state Animal Health committee chair and was a committee member and chair for the national Animal Health committee. Attending the Women’s Communication Boot Camp in Washington, DC helped me find my voice.

For farmers and ranchers to preserve their livelihood and lifestyle, we must share about what we do with our non-farming and ranching friends, neighbors and customers. Since less than 2% of the population has a connection with agriculture these days, that sharing is a monumental task. Taking the time in our busy schedules to juggle one more time commitment seems unreasonable, but we must do it or someone else will who doesn’t understand what we do and wants to vilify it.

Education is a primary focus of the Women’s Leadership Committee. As a large animal veterinarian, much of what I do in my work is education, coming alongside my customers to help make things better for ranchers and their animals. Being involved in Farm Bureau provides more resources for connecting with our ultimate customer, helping me to be a liaison between ranchers and people who are interested in where their food comes from.

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has materials to help in that education. Knowledge empowers, gives us answers for the questions consumers are asking, and equips us so that we may confidently engage the consuming public, our representatives in government and even our neighbors and friends to help them understand what we do and to recruit them as allies in our struggle to continue what we’re doing to feed the world.

We can’t become active for just one issue every once in a while. We must stay alert to opportunities and seek out those opportunities to engage in promoting what we do. And may it truly be said that the best is yet to be!

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