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New life, same great love for ranching

Posted on February 24, 2011 07:03 by Lauren Chase


As I've described in an earlier post, my job for the Montana Stockgrowers Association is to visit our member ranches and take photos/videos to promote the cattle industry. My first...and second stop (loved it so much that I had to go back the next day)...was at Ehlke Herefords in Townsend, MT. Day One, which is posted below, I talked about how lively calves are and how ranching families care about the animals, their families, and the safety of the end product. Day Two, I spent with the Ehlke's hired help, Ryan Hamilton, who took me around in the tractor to feed. Boy, when those cows see that big, round bale coming, it's a race to see who can start chomping first. Ryan talked about how he likes doing things on the ranch "the cowboy way." He would much rather be on horseback or on foot while in the herd as to keep the cows' stress down. When he started talking about his job, I could really tell this is something he is passionate about. Keeping the cattle safe and calm is his number one priority - and he loves it. Ryan also said that he hopes to have his own ranch someday.

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All I can say is moo

Posted on February 22, 2011 05:52 by Lauren Chase

I’ve seen photos and I’ve seen them from a distance, but being up close to a newborn calf is unreal.

My first ranch stop this season for the Montana Stockgrowers Association was at  Ehlke Herefords  in Townsend. Their breeding philosophy is to “focus on the female. It takes an exceptional cow to produce replacement quality breeding animals.”

The ranch is operated by owners Mark and Della Ehlke, with daughters Lacey Jo and Jane’a and a hire employee, Ryan.

As I pulled in the snow-covered driveway, I saw the red and white cows grazing on hay with navy blue mountains behind them. They looked at me for a bit, but realized I wasn’t overly interesting and went back to eating.

Mark, Jane’a, Ryan and I went out to give the new cow/calf pairs some hay.

I had seen cow/calf pairs during the summer, but nothing like this.

The lil ones were only a handful of hours old and nestled comfortably in a pile of warm hay. Naturally, Mom was right by their side.

Immediately, I smiled and didn’t stop smiling until I left.

The day-month old ones leaped over small hills to get to tasty udders and called out with moos when they couldn’t find any.

I don’t think I could have been any happier. And what made it even more special was that Mark, Ryan and Jane’a smiled, laughed, and obviously, loved their work. I think that’s what ranching is all about…just doing what you love.

I’ve said it time and time again, and will keep saying it: In ranching, there’s a feeling of tangible, genuine passion for not only raising animals, but providing care for them…providing care for the family unit, and providing care for consumers’ quality of meat.  That’s exactly what I saw at the Ehlke’s ranch.

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Why are you obsessed with beef?

Posted on February 18, 2011 08:13 by Lauren Chase

I keep getting asked: Why are you obsessed with beef? It’s time to tell my story of how I came from knowing nothing about agriculture to being a passionate advocate.

The world’s most productive land for corn is where I call home: Iowa, and I am the product of a long line of farmers of that land. However, my grandpa, the last relative I had working the fields, sold his farm when I was little.

I can remember thinking it was a blast to go to Grandpa’s place and jump around in the hay barn, but as I grew older, in the state’s second largest city, those memories faded; along with any excitement for farming.

In high school, I played basketball and our team was fortunate enough to go to state championship games. In our division, there was a high school that sat just outside of city limits. Naturally, when they made it to the championships also, our fans intimated them by dressing up as farmers and waiving around cutout cardboard ears of corn.

And off I went to college at the University of Iowa.

I had always been interested in natural science, cultures, and meeting new people so I chose to double major in journalism and anthropology.  I dappled in local news, but something always felt missing; maybe a broader view or lack of travel during work.

The summer of 2010 changed everything.

Combing anthropology and journalism, I took an internship at the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) in Helena, Montana as the multimedia communications intern.

Before I went there, I couldn’t even picture what a ranch was, but I thought it would be a great way to learn about that portion of America.

During my internship, I traveled all over the most beautiful country I had ever seen and interviewed ranchers on camera. Every few weeks, I made videos with these interviews for MSGA's social media websites.

Stockgrower members welcomed me into their homes and patiently taught me about day-to-day operations. But I learned so much more than that.

I learned that ranching is a powerful connection with nature; it is tangible feeling of warmth and comfort for family and neighbors; it is having the knowledge of chemistry, economics, biology, political science, and so much more; it stems from the greatest work ethic I have ever been around, an overwhelming care for their animals and without these ranchers, the world would not eat.

The summer ended too quickly and I returned to college. I graduated in December and in February, returned to MSGA as a full-time employee. 

I am now the multimedia specialist and will once again, travel to our member ranches, documenting their lives to help promote the beef industry. 

I think it's time the world realizes how much cattlemen and cattlewomen care about their animals, love what they do, and work tirelessly to provide safe, healthy food for everyone. 

**Look for future blog posts about my experiences on Montana ranches.**
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Vegetative Treatment Systems

Posted on October 18, 2010 05:06 by Doug Ferguson

Cattle feeders seem to always get unfairly blamed for hurting the environment.  There are well organized groups that spread false evidence about what really happens out here.   They even get the news media to believe their story.  Then millions of people see it and just accept it as truth without questioning the source.  I’m going to narrow my focus on this topic to ground water.  The fact is nobody cares more about this natural resource than a cattle feeder.  I am one, and the reason it is so important to me is because we get all our water from a private well.  That well provides the water that my pregnant wife drinks, and the water that she cooks with.

So what did I do to ensure it will be safe?  I built my feedlot from scratch, so I sought the advice from some engineers from the University of Nebraska Lincoln.  These guys had a different approach to the project than myself.  I would have designed pens for the cattle first then retro fitted how I was going to handle runoff water.  These guys designed how we were going to handle the runoff water then designed the pens.  Location was also a big consideration.  We had to make sure we were a safe distance from our well, and we had to determine the risk of contact with surface water.  Soil type was also considered to be sure no leaching would take place.

What we have in place now is a Vegetative Treatment System (VTS).  My pens are built with a slope to get all the runoff water to flow out the back of the pens where we have built a settling basin.  In the lowest point of this basin we have an outlet structure to filter out any solids in the water.  There is a terrace that has an underground line buried in it that goes from the outlet structure to some gated pipe on the other side.  This underground line has a shut off valve.  We keep this closed until after a rain event.  Usually after a short period of time the solids settle out of the water that has been held up in the settling basin and then  I can open this valve and release the run off through the gated pipe.

The water runs out of the gated pipe across an area where we planted grass.  This area has some slope to it as well so the water will flow away from the pipe.  This area is completely contained.  We have dikes that run along the pens and the grass area, so no water can escape, and come in contact with other surface water.

The grass is the main component  of the VTS.  The grass takes up nutrients from the runoff water; by utilizing the nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium contained in the water, this grass allows us to make sure that these nutrients do not reach the ground water.  We then get these nutrients off that area by harvesting hay off the grass area.  I usually get two cuttings of hay a year off of it, and the tonnage per acre is double what my hay fields produce.

I have hosted tours that were attended by people from the NRCS, EPA, and DEQ.  All were amazed at how easy the VTS system is to maintain and how simple the concept is.  Soil and plant growth are a natural filter for keeping contaminants out of ground water.  In fact, that is where the idea of filters came from years ago.

Since this was one of the first of it’s type built in the state, I have some monitoring equipment set up that the University uses to collect data.  We built this in 2005 and have had absolutely no problems.  We even experienced a fifty year rain event and still managed 100% containment.

The Vegetative Treatment System was a simple and effective way to manage water quality in my feeding business and I know when my daughter is born, I won’t have to worry about the water she drinks.

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Creative Fencing for Rotational Grazing

Posted on April 28, 2010 05:46 by Blair Hunewill

I realize I’ve been a delinquent contributor to the YPC blog lately.  Calving season has been moving along and we haven’t really had too much excitement.  After a branding two weeks ago my mare stepped on my foot and broke a toe.  While quite painful, I’m not sure even that could count as excitement.  The weather has varied from sunny and in the seventies to snow.  I sold half a load of feeder calves and bought their replacements at a healthy profit.  We are leasing some new pasture and rangeland and I’ve spent a fair amount of time working on improving a few things. 

All my life I’ve seen the forage on the ranch across the road overgrazed and overstocked.  Cattle were shipped in and set stocked in the spring to calf and shipped out a few months later after grazing everything down to nearly nothing.  Bare ground slowly increased a little each year and sagebrush edged out forage that had been overgrazed.  Our first task this spring was to install some permanent electric fencing to divide the pastures into paddocks so we could practice planned rotational grazing with adequate recovery periods. 

Being that this property is not ours and it’s very unlikely that any of our rent would be put into improvements, it was up to us to find economical ways to install this fencing.  There are a number of very large stumps around a grove of Cottonwood trees.  Using a backhoe, I moved stumps into place to form braces.  High tensile wire was strung up and tightened.  I used up all available stumps on the first fence.  The next fence I used pallets for braces.  Plywood scraps were nailed to one side of three pallets.  The three pallets were then wired together to form a triangle.  I then filled each triangle brace with dirt.  This formed a simple yet strong brace with no cost for materials.  Old copper telephone wire was used in place of high tensile wire on this stretch.  

I’m very excited to see how this rental pasture reacts to planned grazing.  My expectations are high.  Next fall we will broadcast grass seed then feed hay over the top to promote new grass grown in bare ground. 

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HSUS Attacks Farmers, Consumers in Ohio

Posted on February 2, 2010 06:32 by Andy Vance

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a self-declared "sophisticated political organization," submitted a petition to Ohio’s Attorney General this week in support of placing an "anti-cruelty" measure on the statewide November ballot. The proposed measure would allow voters to require the newly created Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to adopt standards that will effectively end livestock production in Ohio by making it economically unfeasible to feed chickens, hogs, or veal calves in the state.

Utilizing a large corps of paid petition circulators, the group will seek to collect more than 600,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters upon approval of the petition forms by the Secretary of State. In doing so, they will attempt to circumvent the will of the Ohio voters in passing the measure to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board last November.

HSUS, it is widely known, is a radical activist organization dedicated to reducing and replacing animal-derived proteins and products from the human lifestyle. Equating animals with More...