What You Need to Know about Calf-killers

The news has been full of reports of livestock kills on the Rocky Mountain Front over the last several weeks, and scores of ranchers have been scrambling to keep their herds safe.

Thankfully, our local “government trapper” Mike Hoggan, USDA Wildlife Services, has been working tirelessly to catch the bear that has been on a killing spree west of Dupuyer, and now our herds are safer and we can all breathe a sigh of relief – for now.

Fortunately for these ranchers that suffered losses, verified and probable livestock kills by grizzlies and wolves are reimbursed by the State of Montana’s Livestock Loss Board, which means the majority of these ranchers will be reimbursed for market value of their livestock.

Unfortunately, the damage this bear did goes much deeper than the pocketbook. This bear didn’t just eat some beef worth somewhere around $1.50/pound. This bear killed and ate a grown cow, which means a loss of not just that animal, but also the calf inside her, as well as turning the calf at her side into an orphan.  This led to the calf not gaining as it should, and coming in small at shipping time means more loss for the rancher. The Livestock Loss Board doesn’t cover those losses.

The same goes for the 10 heifer calves that were killed west of Dupuyer. Those were replacement heifers for a registered herd, valued at around $100,000. Again, it’s not just the monetary loss these ranchers are facing. They’re now short 10 replacements, which means future losses for the rancher due to decreased herd size.

Another factor to consider when looking at these death losses due to bears is herd health and well-being. If cows and calves are being preyed upon continuously, their stress levels are higher, which means they’re not eating as much as they should, which means the calves aren’t gaining and the pregnant cows are not getting the nutrition they need. High stress levels in cows also leads to abortion, which again means more losses for the ranchers.

All of the ranchers that had losses this fall have dealt with bears for years, and are constantly working as hard as they can to coexist with grizzlies, but the fact of the matter is there are just too many bears. These bears have learned that humans provide many excellent food sources – beef, mutton, grain, peas, etc., and these food sources are readily available. As bears become more accustomed to being around people and ranches, they get more dangerous. They also pass these learned behaviors down to their offspring, who then begin life with no fear of humans, and that’s when things really get scary.

It is time to get these grizzlies delisted so they can be better and more strictly managed in order to avoid conflicts, especially rampant killing sprees like we witnessed this fall. The only way to get this message across is to make our voices heard – not only locally, but state and nationwide. Write to your congressmen, your senators, Ryan Zinke. Show up for Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Subcommittee meetings and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meetings. Represent the facts. Share your story. We cannot win this fight by being silent.

Until next time,

Trina Jo



Tuesday, April 19, I attended the spring Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) committee meeting in Choteau. While there, committee chair Jim Williams acknowledged that because of an increased number of grizzlies, ranchers have changed the way they operate at a great cost to themselves.

I don’t know of any ranchers – especially west of Highway 89 – that haven’t had to put up electric fences, or avoid using certain pastures, or had to be armed every time they leave the house, or started driving from the house to the barn because it’s not safe to walk that half mile anymore.

Cases of grizzlies vs. livestock have increased every year due to both the population growth as well as the desensitization of these bears. They are no longer scared of people, and they know where there are people, cattle and sheep, there is an endless supply of food. This comes at a cost of thousands of dollars every year to the ranchers, with very little assistance from the government to make up for these losses.

However, a great resource that we have is the Montana Department of Livestock’s Livestock Loss Board. Their mission is, “To help support Montana Livestock communities by reducing the economic impacts of wolves and grizzly bears on individual producers by reimbursing confirmed and probable wolf or grizzly bear caused losses and helping to reduce their losses by approving projects and funding programs that will discourage wolves and grizzly bears from killing livestock.”

Last year, in Pondera County alone, the Livestock Loss Board had 14 confirmed grizzly kills, and paid out $11,124.63. In total, the Board reported 168 confirmed grizzly and wolf kills, and paid out $191,895.63. That comes nowhere near what the actual monetary damage was to those producers, but it helps soften the blow.

For more information on the Livestock Loss Board, I encourage you to talk to George Edwards at (406) 444-5609, or visit their website – http://liv.mt.gov/llb/default.mcpx.

2016 MSGA Leadership Series

Last fall I applied and was accepted into the inaugural Montana Stockgrowers Leadership Series, which is a year-long “class” that will help mentor and develop fourteen young ag leaders from across the state of Montana.

As you all know, I am a born and bred cattle woman. I eat, sleep and breathe cows, and I want to make sure that my daughter has every opportunity to carry on this lifestyle and keep this ranch in the family for years to come. Therefore, I have been working on stepping up and getting involved in ag advocacy for the past few years. I have recently become a Director for the Marias River Livestock Association, I am a 4-H Cloverbud leader, and I have been working on establishing a CattleWomen association in my area.

The Leadership Series is a perfect opportunity for me to focus my energy and hone my skills as a leader, as well as being the perfect place to network with fellow lovers of ag from all over Montana.

We are now four months into the program, and I have come to realize several things about what true leadership is to me. I have also had to some serious soul searching, and admit to myself some things that I really didn’t want to admit to.

I could go on and on about the things that I am not, and the things I suck at as a leader. HOWEVER, our insanely wonderful and slightly crazy leadership coach has impressed on us NUMEROUS times that we do not need to focus on what we aren’t – we need to focus on what we are.

So here are some things that I know to be true about my leadership skills:

  1. I am bossy. I know what needs to be done, and I know who needs to do it. I have no problem giving orders, and I expect things to be done in a timely manner, and done right.
  2. I work hard. When there’s a job to be done, I don’t quit when I’m tired, I quit when I’m done. A good leader doesn’t just give orders; a good leader gets her hands dirty.
  3. I’m stubborn. I’m not going to take no for an answer, and when I get a great idea, I get after it, no matter the obstacle.
  4. I love to learn. I love learning about everything, and that comes in handy when I take on a project I’m not 100% familiar with, or when a new issue comes up.
  5. I’m a good listener. I always have an ear to lend for a friend, and I am learning to listen to the “other side” – the people that oppose ag, or certain ag practices, etc. In order to be a great advocate for our ag community, I need to be able to listen to the concerns of our consumers and look at things from their point of view.

This Series has been eye opening to me in many ways, and I have made a plethora of new friends along the way. I cannot wait to see what Sarah and Ryan (our coaches) have in store for us in the coming months.

I am hoping that this program will continue well into the future, and I encourage every young rancher in Montana to apply next year. You won’t regret it for a second.

Until next time,

Trina Jo


Wow, its been a while! Here’s an update (and an excuse why I haven’t written for two months). We’re almost done calving – 18 to go!!! I’ve finally convinced the weather to cooperate to get a few more photo shoots done – I still have one senior to finish before he graduates next month! We branded at a neighbor’s house a couple weekends ago – always a good time visiting and checking in with people we haven’t seen forever. Last weekend we branded at my dad’s house, which meant on top of getting our butts worked off we also get to have a semi family reunion – both my brothers and my sister were there, so that always makes for a good time!
We’re branding this weekend – and yes, of course the forecast says we’re going to get snow on Saturday and the high will be 31 degrees. SO, my husband decided this morning we’d better brand Friday instead. Which means we have a smaller crew, which means I will somehow manage to spend the day in the corral working cows and helping brand, as well as finding time to put lunch together in some sort of orderly fashion. Don’t feel bad – I’d MUCH rather be in the corral than in the kitchen, but alas…that’s my lot in life. Its not a lot, but its my life. (Feel free to laugh out loud for my benefit. I’m feeling witty today.)
Those of you that are ranchy know how much work there is to do leading up to branding. Yesterday morning, we moved all the cows closer to the barn, and then I showered and headed the 100 miles to the nearest “big” city (Great Falls) and spent the day getting branding supplies and food. Unfortunately, that meant a trip to my FAVORITE (did you hear the sarcasm?) store WALMART. My first cart was filled to the brim with beer, pop, bottled water and paper plates. Check out, take it to the car, unload, go back in, spend the next two hours filling the cart AGAIN to the brim with food for lunch. Check out, deal with the absolutely RUDE women behind me in line – I don’t care if you speak spanish, or any language, but don’t get all up in my space and then be rude to me in spanish when I tell you to move so I can pay for my damn groceries…take it to the car, unload, call husband – I’M DONE!!! – and then crap…I forgot batteries for the hot shot…BACK into the store. I swear I’m going to shoot someone. Maybe carrying a gun in my purse is a bad idea…Why is everyone in the city of Great Falls at Walmart RIGHT NOW?!?!?! Get in the car…breathe…

Today, I’m paying bills, editing pictures, making graduation announcements, cleaning the house, putting the groceries away, and then I’m off to a 4-H meeting, and then gymnastics, and then a school board meeting. My husband is just as busy – fixing the corrals, getting all his branding supplies in one place, figuring out who’s going to do what on Friday…its a big week.

I don’t know that this post has a point – I just wanted to let you know I haven’t forgotten about you. 🙂

Now that she's six, she's FINALLY big enough to push calves!

Now that she’s six, she’s FINALLY big enough to push calves!

What Should I Make?!

If you’re a ranch wife like me, I know you’ve been faced with this question NUMEROUS times. The hard part is not finding something delicious to make for all those neighbors and friends that come help work cows, its finding something delicious that makes ITSELF.

Here’s how my morning on a typical cattle working day goes – I get up at dawn, throw a bunch of stuff in the crock or oven, get my daughter up and fed and ready, then rush out to the corral, where we spend all morning working cows. THEN, while the men stand around and BS for a few minutes, I rush to the house, set the table, finish the meal, whip up anything extra that I need, make two pots of coffee, and HOPEFULLY have that all done before they crowd into my not-big-enough-for-ten-people kitchen.

I used to make roast and potatoes EVERY TIME, because that was easy, and it cooks in one pot, and its done when I get to the house. HOWEVER, roast and potatoes bores the crap out of me. So, I started testing new things on these boys, and I have to say they’ve been pretty accepting of my attempts at gourmet cooking. So, I’ll share a few of my favorite recipes with you.

Pizza Casserole is a recipe I got from my stepmother, who got it from Country Favorites, a cookbook published by the Dupuyer Community Club like a hundred years ago. Its wicked easy to throw together the night before, and then just put in the oven before you go out, and AS LONG AS YOU QUIT FOR LUNCH WHEN YOUR HUSBAND PROMISES YOU’RE GOING TO, it turns out splendidly. Add a tossed salad, some garlic bread and some kind of dessert, and you’ve got a meal fit for a king.

My favorite go-to meal is Taco Soup. Its so easy a caveman could do it. Brown the burger, open a bunch of cans, and voila! Dinner is served. Dump a bag of tortilla chips in a bowl and shred some cheese (or buy it already shredded like I do) and again, simple meal. This one is the best for when you know you’re not going to have any time either in the morning, or when you break for lunch, because sometimes let’s face it – there’s a lot of cows out there and not a whole lot of time in the day to be spent in the house.

Do you have some go-to recipes you’d like to share? I’d love to have them!!!

Until next time,

Trina Jo

Pizza Casserole

1 (4 oz) pkg. pepperoni, sliced

1 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. oregano

1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

6 oz. spaghetti, cooked

1 med. onion, chopped (I actually use about one slice of an onion)

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 lb. Mozzarella cheese, grated

1 (4 oz) can mushroom stems and pieces

Boil pepperoni to remove excess fat for five minutes in water to cover; drain well. Saute onion in 1 tablespoon butter. Pour remaining butter into a 13×9 dish. Place cooked spaghetti in baking dish; toss to cover with butter. Cover with half of the tomato sauce. Add in order: half of grated Swiss cheese, half of pepperoni, half of grated Mozzarella cheese, all the mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle with oregano. Top with remainder of tomato sauce, Swiss cheese, pepperoni and finally the Mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 6.

(If you cook it at a lower temp you can leave it in the oven longer. I double this recipe for eight-ten guys, because my brothers eat. A LOT.)

Crock Pot Taco Soup

2 pounds ground beef

1 med to large onion, chopped

2 can corn, undrained

2 can black beans, undrained

2 cans chopped tomatoes with chiles

1 cans kidney beans, undrained

2 small cans tomato sauce

1 envelope taco seasoning

2 cans chilies

1 can chopped jalepenos

Brown burger with onion. Drain well and put in crock. Add all other ingredients. Stir well. Cook on low for four to six hours. When serving, top soup with broken tortilla chips and shredded cheddar cheese.