Farmers and Ranchers Care

Stories about REAL Montana Farmers and Ranchers and how they care for their animals

Congratulations, you’ve found your source for information about farms and ranches in Montana! Find out how the food you eat is made by the people actually growing it and learn how the farmers and ranchers are protecting your environment.

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July 18th, 2014: Ranchers Care 24/7/365

Winter-web-ad-Facebook-ad-sizeWinters in Montana can be extremely harsh. It’s not unheard of for sub-zero weather to last for a few weeks with no breaks.  The winter of 2013-2014 was one that started in early October, lasted through mid-May, and had very few above-freezing days in between. Blizzards, blowing snow…it’s all part of living in Montana . For those involved in agriculture, winter poses more challenges than just throwing on some snow boots, an insulated parka and gloves.  There is a lot of planning before the wintry weather hits:  Do I have enough hay? Do I have enough shelter? When we start calving, is my calf warmer/hot box operating? Do I have the right type of diesel in my feed trucks and tractors? Do I have extra batteries and hoses to replace something that might break in the cold?

Ranchers figure out the amount of hay each cow needs to maintain body weight and provide nutrition for her calf, both before and after birth. Each morning, we start the feed truck and load up the hay.  Generally we feed round bales with a Hydrabed—this is a metal contraption mounted on the back of a pick-up with arms that rolls out the bale.  This year, some of our alfalfa hay was in large square bales that weighed about 1000 pounds per bale. Because our bale feeder isn’t set up for large squares, we had to use a pitchfork to fork to get the flakes off while someone slowly drove the pickup through the field. This photo was taken of a friend of ours feeding at our ranch. It was 22 below and snowing.

I am always amazed how well cows and calves do in inclement weather. If they have food and  some type of shelter—whether it’s a manmade windbreak, trees or a coulee— usually they survive well.  We roll out a lot of fluffy, dry straw before and then after a storm so the calves can burrow into it.  We are fortunate enough usually be able to check all of our livestock after a storm to make sure they are all doing all right.

Of course, it’s imperative to keep water open and flowing so the animals have plenty to drink no matter what the temperature. This year in January we had our well pump go out and had to call a well repair service.  He had to pull the well and put a new pump in.  We might have been able to get by without water in a house for a day or so, but we absolutely HAVE to get water to the livestock no matter what the weather or circumstance.

Our livestock’s comfort definitely comes before our does every time!

July 18th, 2014: Animal Care is Our #1 Priority

Jim and Gretchen Schubert, who ranch near Huntley, MT, work together daily to care for their animals.

Jim and Gretchen Schubert, who ranch near Huntley, MT, work together daily to care for their animals.

“We have a cow-calf ranch, which simply put means we have cows that we breed to our bulls, and they have calves,” notes Jim Schubert. “Although Gretchen grew up on a ranch that raised Black Angus, about about ten years ago we decided to start raising all Red Angus cattle, and about four years ago to increase heterosis, [heterosis is defined as “the tendency of a crossbred individual to show qualities superior to those of both parents”] we started using Red Angus/Simmental bulls. This has helped us increase our weaning weights and improve our herd, in general.”

Both Jim and Gretchen share feeding chores and help with calving in the early spring. In the fall, they market their calves through Superior Livestock instead of physically shipping the calves to a sale barn and running them through the ring for a bid.

“For the past 10 years we’ve gone through Superior’s video auction, but this year we opted to use Superior Livestock’s internet auction. It worked out well,” Jim says. “Today, there are many different market options for producers to choose from.”

Jim makes sure their cattle not only have high-quality, abundant forage and feed, but a good balance of minerals.  “We are constantly making adjustment to our nutrition program due to weather conditions and other factors that affect the overall health of the animal,” he says. “Just like humans, it’s important that cows nutritional needs are met, which results in a healthier animal.”

The rancher notes that he and Gretchen strive to have cattle with good dispositions.  “Since we do 98 percent of our animal work and care, it’s important to us that our cattle are easy to handle. If they’re not, we sell them.”

It’s apparent from all of the time they spend ensuring their animals are healthy and content that livestock is a rancher’s number-one priority.


June 24th, 2014: Thank Farmers for Growing our Food


Ted and Lisa McFarland along with their girls Ainsley and Kamdyn

Ted and Lisa McFarland along with their girls Ainsley and Kamdyn

Ted and Lisa operate a farm/ranch Northwest of Billings in the Molt area.  The McFarland’s run a cow/calf operation along with a custom feedlot.  Ted produces most of the feed for their cattle on both dry land and irrigated farmland.  They raise alfalfa and grass hay along with, wheat, barley and corn.  The McFarland family also runs McFarland Custom Works, which is a custom harvesting and farming business, where they custom harvest small grains and corn and swath and/or bale hay for their customers.

Besides helping Ted on the ranch and with the farming, Lisa also works in Billings at an electrical engineering company in project controls.  In her spare time, Lisa is also the current President of the Yellowstone County Farm Bureau and the Co-chair of the District IV Women’s Leadership Committee for the Montana Farm Bureau Federation.

Ted has spent his entire life on the family ranch because it is what he loves to do.  Ted can look across the pasture and tell you which cow is which without looking at their identifying ear tags and can tell you who her mother and grandmother are.  This is proof that he truly cares for his animals.  What does Ted do in his spare time?  He doesn’t have any, farming and ranching pretty much means 365 days a year when you combine both vocations.  Having livestock does require work every day during certain times of the year and that means working even if you sick, hurt or want to go on vacation.    If he does have any spare time, he can be found searching the most current weather sites and New Ag Talk, a website for Ag related topics.

Lisa grew up on a sugar beet farm south of Hardin so she is no stranger to the lifestyle she married into.  While Lisa admits that being married to a farmer or rancher isn’t for everyone, she enjoys what she does. She is happy that their girls get to grow up learning about the facts of life and how to care for their animals and farmland.  The girls are already investing in their future by starting their own small cow heard from bucket calves they have raised with the help of mom and dad.  This has really helped them understand the value of money.  When they want to busy something, it is in terms of “how many cows will it cost to buy that?”  “Do you want to sell Ginger (Pink Tag Cow 501) to buy that or would you rather keep her?”  Luckily at this stage of the game, their cows are way more important to them than any swing set they want.

Ainsley and Kamdyn will be headed back to school this fall as a 2nd Grader and 1st Grader respectively.  When they aren’t busy helping mom and dad take care of the cows or buckets calves and helping with irrigating, they are busy being avid soccer players and 4-H members.   They are very helpful in explaining to their classmates about agriculture and life on the ranch as they are the only kids in their school that live on a “real farm”  The girls are quick to point out the pink tag cows and calves in the pasture that are for their “college money.”  Ainsley’s wants to be a veterinarian and dog trainer when she grows up and Kamdyn’s goal is to be a MSU Bobcat cheerleader.

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