FAIRMONT HOT SPRINGS, MT – Building coalitions and marketing cattle highlighted the discussion during the Young Farmer & Rancher Day June 13 at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. The group heard speakers in the morning, followed by a tour of the historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch in Deer Lodge and a committee meeting. The YF&R event was in conjunction with the Montana Farm Bureau Summer Conference.

During the coalition building workshop, the Big Hole Watershed Committee shared their strategies for bringing various groups to the table for meaningful discussion regarding the conservation of the Big Hole River and surrounding watershed.

With the current volatility of cattle and other commodity prices, two speakers—Ted Odle, Diamond T Livestock, and John Lockie, United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency—covered how to be flexible and profitable in the beef industry.

Odle talked about the pros and cons of selling cattle through private contracts versus the auction barn and told the young producers to vary when they haul their cull cows to market.

“Eighty percent of culled cows are sold in a 30-day window, so if you can get a semi-load of them, sell at a different time than everyone else,” said Odle. He noted that even with inflation, consumers are still buying beef. 

“Even in bad times, agriculture shines. People still need to eat,” he said.

Committee members Katharine Taylor from Lewis & Clark County and John Walker from Valley County shared their thoughts about the conference. Walker appreciated that speakers from the Big Hole Watershed Committee covered sustainability and conservation. 

“It’s important to bridge the gap with conservation groups and the public and show that you care about the environment, whether it’s improving streambeds or keeping livestock off the river,” said Walker. “They explained why it’s essential to form sustainable partnerships with other groups in your community. In Valley County, there is talk about releasing more water from the Fort Peck Dam for the Pallid Sturgeon, which would flood all the irrigated land in my area. Using the model of working with other groups may be the best way to address this challenge of helping the fish while keeping land in agriculture.”

“The good thing about the speakers regarding profitability in the cattle market was they made us look at other options and think about other markets that might be available,” said Taylor. “For instance, Ted Odle made us realize that having a reputable vaccination program could lead to more receiving more money for cattle in the future. He noted that if wheat was sold at an auction, the farmer could possibly receive a higher price than the contracted one. This session r showed how to look at your business with a different eye.”

YF&R Committee Chair J.M. Peck said during the committee meeting, the group focused on the Hoofin’ it for Hunger race, the YF&R Discussion Meet, the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Conference and member engagement.

“We want to encourage other young farmers and ranchers to join us on the YF&R Committee, and we added two new committee members this time,” said Peck. “As for Hoofin’ it for Hunger race, although Fort Keogh in Miles City had been an excellent place for the event, there is excitement about the race being held in September in Dillon. Our volunteers are already excited about increasing our donations to the Montana Food Bank Network, which is the reason for the race, and how our young farmers and ranchers can give back to communities across the state.

“We’re thrilled that for the eighth consecutive year, Montana Polaris dealers are donating a Ranger to the winner of the MFBF YF&R Discussion Meet,” said Peck, who won the Discussion Meet and a Polaris in 2021. In addition to the utility vehicle, the winner receives an all-expense-paid trip to the national AFBF YF&R Conference in Puerto Rico in January.

The committee also discussed plans for their Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership Conference in January 2023.

For more information on the Discussion Meet, Hoofin' it for Hunger, and other YF&R programs, visit www.mfbf.org or call Sue Ann Streufert, 406-587-3153.