It’s just grass to you, but it’s a cash crop to me

04_livestockofficers1561NEW OFFICERS  — Officers for the coming year were elected for the Marias River Livestock Association. Newly elected officers are, from the left: BJ Brown, Janet Hawks, Jeff Habets, Maggie Nutter, Marvin Kimmet, Bob Thompson and Butch Gillespie.  Courtesy Photo





Last fall a radio announcer was reporting on a wildfire and he stated so many acres had burned but it was “just grass,” no structures were affected. A few weeks later there was a gentleman who came to discuss some oil lease issues.  In the discussion of surface damages the agent stated, “You don’t have any crops in that area. It is just grass.”

It is in moments like that when ranchers realize how little the general public understands the livestock industry. Grass is money.  Grass is what makes cows fat and sheep plump. Grass is truly the livelihood of a rancher.  Without grass you must lease land, buy hay or sell animals. None of those options are cheap.

Marias River Livestock Association’s formation was brought about by such misunderstanding.  When we hear about free roaming, wild bison, our first thoughts are, “We already feed, deer, elk and antelope, can we really be expected to allow bison to graze our land too.” Our grass is a cash crop.

If you have never seen where elk go through a fence and take out 5-20 posts and break wire, you can’t understand the fear ranchers have of 50-1,000 bison doing the same.  The work and expense of fixing fence is high now days with post $3 to $5 each and wire $65 to $75 a roll.  That doesn’t even begin to touch on the irritation of your cows being out due to wildlife or the subject of disease issues that come into play when elk or bison are mixed with your cattle.

On May 10, Marias River Livestock Association held its second membership meeting with approximately 50 people in attendance.

Bruce Lee, District Director for the Montana Cattlemen Association, came and spoke about how being affiliated with their association could benefit our membership and he answered questions about the mandatory Beef Check Off that ranchers pay into each time a bull, cow or calf is sold.

Then Kraig Glazier and Mike Hoggan from USDA—Wildlife Services spoke about their roll in predator control and how their department is funded both by the Federal Government and by voluntary contributions from the Livestock Producers.

Education of the public and telling the story of agriculture is one of the big goals of Marias River Livestock Association. There is so much negative press out there we need to tell our stories to counter act some of the misinformation.

Our next goal is educating the livestock producer in the facts surrounding the issues effecting agriculture right now. How do you comment at a “Bison Scoping Meeting,” without having some facts to back up your statements?

The other problem is finding where meetings are and when the period to comment is open. Marias River Livestock Association hopes to help ranchers gather the facts and inform them of dates and places to comment. We encourage everyone to go to meetings and comment in person.

The Association is also working on communicating with the Association Members and writing up resolutions and statements that  represent the Memberships beliefs as a whole on issues such as bison, wolfs and private property rights.

These can be presented at public comment meetings by Government Agencies such as FWP and used in supporting or opposing legislation that will affect agriculture as a business or lifestyle.  Agriculture is Montana’s biggest business but often its smallest voice. We need to speak up and be heard.

Marias River Livestock Association welcomes anyone who is interested or involved in livestock production to contact one of the newly elected Officers and Board Members. Go ahead and “like” us on Facebook at Marias River Livestock Association.  Our next meeting will be June 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Marias Fair Exhibit Building at the Shelby Fair Grounds.

Newly elected Officers and Directors for the coming year are: President Maggie Nutter, Sweet Grass, 937-2751; Vice President Butch Gillespie, Kevin, 337-2943; Director Glacier County-Marvin Kimmet, Cut Bank, 339-2135; Director Liberty County Bob Thompson, Whitlash, 432-5615; Director Pondera County Jeff Habets, Conrad, 450-1976; Director Toole County BJ Brown, Whitlash, 432-5110; and Director-at-Large Janet Hawks, Galata, 432-5355.

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Maggie Nutter.