The Montana Farm Bureau is commending the Department of Livestock and the Montana Department of Public Health for their safety guidelines for agricultural activities in our state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m hoping our Montana agricultural community realizes the seriousness of this pandemic and follows commonsense guidelines,” said Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson.  “As a farmer myself, I know how independent farmers and ranchers can be, but this is the time to act for the health and safety of everyone. I know how fun big brandings are, but we must all accept the fact that this year is unique and adjust accordingly. It’s not only our duty to keep producing food, it’s also our duty to help stop the spread of COVID-19. A lot of us in rural counties already are social distancing—which seems to be keeping the virus at bay—now is not the time to go dumb!”

“The State of Montana and the Department of Livestock recognize the importance of business continuity for farmers and ranchers. We understand that ranching activities such as branding, pregnancy checking, bull-testing and shearing may require involvement of multiple individuals,” said Montana Department of Livestock Executive Officer Mike Honeycutt. “While we continue to encourage local governments to permit continuation of ranching activities, we ask farmers and ranchers to strongly consider implementation of the following guidelines set forth by Montana Department of Public Health.”

  • Individuals at risk for severe complications of COVID-19, such as those with diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and those who are immunosuppressed should avoid performing ranch activities within a group.
  • Limit brandings and other activities to essential crews only (smallest crew possible to get the job done).
  • Do not provide a group meal. Offer sack lunches or have attendees pack their own lunch.
  • Do not share water bottles or utensils.
  • Have water and soap available for handwashing on site.  Hand sanitizer is not effective if hands are soiled (dirt, manure, blood, etc.).
  • When taking breaks, maintain six feet of distance between individuals while socializing.
  • When branding, consider the use of branding forks to restrain animals when using a rope/drag method. When a calf table is used, identify the smallest number of people needed to operate the equipment you have.
  • Keep the number of people near the animal at one time to a minimum, such as having the person vaccinating wait for the person performing castration to step away.

Honeycutt added that local public health officers have the authority to require more restrictive measures than those described above so be aware of regulations specific to your local jurisdiction.

Questions, please contact the Department of Livestock at (406) 444-2976.