Brady and Tonya Liles ranch north of Terry in eastern Montana. The Liles family started out in Iowa, then moved to North Dakota where they raised and sold horses to the U.S. Calvary. In 1915, Brady’s great-grandfather moved to Montana and purchased a ranch where he raised horses and Hereford cattle. In the early 1900’s, Herefords were the most popular and common cattle type raised in Montana.
Over the years, the family purchased more land, including the ranch on which Brady and Tonya currently reside. They eventually phased out their horse business and switched to raising cattle and farming small grains such as wheat.
In the 1960’s, Brady’s grandpa and great uncle were some of the first ranchers in the area who started purchasing Black Angus bulls and crossing them with their Hereford cows. They also purchased and added Black Angus heifers to their herd, transforming it from being almost exclusively Hereford, to a predominantly Black Angus very quickly. By the time Brady’s father operated the ranch, the ranch had mostly Black Angus cattle.
Brady grew up on his family’s ranch, graduated from high school in a nearby town and attended college. He was only 18 credits short of earning his bachelor’s degree when his family’s hired man, also known as a ranch employee, quit and Brady returned home to the ranch to help his parents. His father suffered from Lou Garhig’s disease for nine years before passing away, leaving only Brady, his mom, sister, and younger brother who was still in high school, to run the ranch. Brady returned to the ranch full time when he was only 22 years old and began running it independently.
Tonya grew up on a ranch east of Miles City in eastern Montana. Her family arrived in eastern Montana a little differently than Brady’s. Tonya’s grandmother, a first generation American whose parents immigrated into the United States from Germany, worked for Boeing during World War II and her grandfather, a Nebraska farm boy, was enlisted and deployed during the War. They met and married after the war, then moved to eastern Montana (where Tonya’s grandmother is originally from) and bought a ranch. They raised four children, including Tonya’s father, on the ranch. All four of their children and their families raise cattle on nearby ranches to this day.
Tonya developed a passion for animals at a young age so it is no surprise that when she graduated high school, she obtained a degree in agricultural business and a veterinary technician’s degree. She moved back to her hometown and worked at the large animal veterinarian’s office and with her parents on the family ranch. She even had her own herd of cattle and several horses.
Brady and Tonya never met until they were both adults, even though they grew up less than 100 miles apart. When they finally did meet, they realized they had a lot in common, including their passion for the cattle business. They were married in 2010 and Tonya and her cattle moved out to Brady’s ranch. Today, they raise Black Angus and Hereford cross cattle, meaning their cattle are part Angus and part Hereford. Brady decided to bring Hereford genetics back into his herd a few years after his return to the ranch which is a good thing because Tonya has always been a fan of Herefords.
As you can see from their picture, Tonya and Brady recently started their own family and their daughter Kinley was born last summer. Not only is Kinley the 5th generation Liles to live on the family ranch, she is also already a 5th generation cattle owner. Brady and Tonya bought Kinley her own brand and bred heifer (pregnant yearling female who has not yet calved) last fall. “She is only 8 months old and she already likes to try to pet the cows,” Tonya explains.
Brady and Tonya strive to provide their animals with the best possible care. “It’s not like we just turn them out in the pasture and forget about them,” says Tonya. “We spend an incredible amount of time checking their health, making sure their nutritional requirements are met, moving them to pastures with the best grass and water sources, putting up hay for winter feeding, and that’s just in the summer! Sometimes I’m afraid we take better care of them than we do ourselves.” The area they live in has very long, often cold and snowy winters. “We feed a lot of hay and plow a lot of snow,” Brady explains. “The winter pastures provide the cows with places to get out of the wind, but we plow snow so they have a place to lay down if necessary and we feed them lots of hay so they can easily maintain their weight and stay comfortable. It takes a lot of hay to do that when it’s cold, but it’s our job and we’re glad to do it!”
In addition to thinking about the well-being of their cattle, Tonya and Brady are always thinking about their customers. “We want to raise the healthiest, highest quality, most consistent and delicious product for our customers because we want them to keep eating beef. I know the beef we raise is healthy and safe,” says Brady. “Living this life, and seeing first-hand how our food is raised, how our animals are treated, and knowing the responsibility my fellow farmers and ranchers take on when raising food makes me feel 100% confident about feeding beef to my growing family,” added Tonya.
*Hereford is a breed of cattle that originated in England and was brought to the United States in the 1800’s for meat production. Herefords usually have red bodies and white faces, feet, bellies, and necks. Black Angus is another breed of cattle. They originated in Scotland, are a beef breed and obviously, they are black in color.