I am chairman of the sheep and goat committee in Montana. My interest in this committee comes from raising sheep all my life and their importance to Montana’s economy over the years. The sheep industry has and should continue to be a major player in agriculture in Montana.
Some of the major concerns to most sheep and goat producers include predators, a stable market, and fencing.
Members of our committee continue to face the challenge of a variety of predators including coyotes, wolves, bears and even mountain lions. Predator programs across the state vary from county to county but are funded through the Department of Livestock by the Per Capita fee. How those funds are used can vary greatly. Some areas of the state just pass funds on to Fish Wildlife and Parks who in turn may use these funds as they see fit, regardless of a producer’s needs. Our committee is trying to determine if Farm Bureau can help with the management of these funds and provide more relief to producers impacted by predator attacks. The use of guard animals such as dogs and llamas is always a common topic at our meetings too.
Editor's Note: The Livestock Loss Board recently announced they will have $100,000 in federal funds to use towards Loss Prevention Grants. A date has not yet been sent to review grant applications, but it will likely be in August so get your applications in soon!
Adjusting to area markets and consumer wants and needs is always a moving target. Working with processors and also legislators on imports and exports is a very important task for sheep and goat producers. We raise a superior product and need to do a better job promoting American lamb over foreign competitors. On the other hand, the wool market is currently very strong and we expect it to hold with the demand for wool products.
There is a delicate balance for sheep and goat ranchers in Montana between what it takes to contain our animals and what types of fencing are also acceptable for wildlife. Our fencing needs are different than other livestock producers and we need to educate legislators on those differences while working with our neighbors to find a balance.
As a committee we meet and discuss these and many other areas of our industry. Through these meetings we try to work together to educate our neighbors and folks who do not come from an ag background. MFBF is a strong voice that communicates our needs to legislators and helps us, as sheep and goat producers, understand other’s needs.
At Summer Conference we have time to sit and talk with ranchers across this great state of Montana. We hear of weed issues that, in some cases, could be taken care of by grazing multiple species in the same areas. We also learn of concerns in other parts of the industry in our state. These meetings allow fellow MFBF members to learn more within their industry areas and expand their understanding of other key issues affecting Montana agriculture.
Gary and his wife, Joyce, raise sheep near Alzada and belong to the Powder River/Carter Counties Farm Bureau.