Drought, fires focus of Miles City conference

MILES CITY, Mont. -- Montana cattle producers haven't had an easy go of it in 2017. More than 1 million acres burned in wildfires statewide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and much of that was pasture. And while drought conditio...

Plumes of smoke rise above hills of eastern Montana on July 23 during the Lodgepole Complex Fires. Drought and fire have impacted many Montana cattle producers, leading several groups to offer a free workshop about dealing with the conditions on Nov. 15 in Miles City. (Bureau of Land Management photo)

MILES CITY, Mont. - Montana cattle producers haven't had an easy go of it in 2017. More than 1 million acres burned in wildfires statewide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and much of that was pasture. And while drought conditions continue to ease, concerns about feed supplies and next year's pastures persist.

As ranchers make decisions moving forward, they may need more information on services available and best practices for recovery. The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation, Southeast Montana Livestock Association and the Montana State University Extension Service hope to offer some advice and services for getting through fire and drought during a Nov. 15 seminar at the Range Riders Museum in Miles City.

"We're really excited to support those supporters as they begin to pick up the pieces and figure out what's next," says Kori Anderson, communications manager for Montana Stockgrowers Association.

The free event is open to the public and will begin at 1 p.m.

Anderson says there is no count on how many producers or how many cattle were affected this year by fire and drought. Though fires burned throughout the state, the largest was the Lodgepole Complex Fire, which scorched more than a quarter million acres in eastern Montana. The eastern part of the state also has had the longest-lasting drought conditions, including the 12.27 percent of the state still in extreme drought. But the entire state has experienced some degree of drought; 17.93 percent of the state still is in severe drought, 27.62 percent is in moderate drought and 17.88 percent is considered abnormally dry.


Not many cattle were killed in the fires, but repercussions still have been severe.

"We will start to see the impacts of fire and drought as we move into next year," Anderson says.

Topics to be discussed at the seminar include tax strategies, risk management, drought management, heifer development strategies to reduce input and grazing strategies, she says.

Amy Iverson, a certified public accountant from Billings, will present information on options for managing tax issues related to decisions made during financial stress caused by drought conditions.

Brandon Willis, owner of Rancher's Insurance LLC of Utah, will provide information on deciding whether to use forage, pasture and rangeland insurance products.

Janna Kincheloe, North Dakota State University beef cattle specialist at the Hettinger Research Extension Center, will provide information on developing a drought management plan, efficient utilization of forages and alternative feeding options.

Andy Roberts, animal research scientist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, will explain how to reduce the input cost of a cow herd while maintaining productivity through changes in heifer development programs.

Lance Vermeire, rangeland ecologist at Fort Keogh, has done extensive study on the effects of grazing on rangeland production following fire and drought, and he will present strategies that allow for recovery of range condition with grazing animals.


"We just want people to know that there are resources out there to help them navigate," Anderson says.

For more information, contact the Montana Stockgrowers Association at

or 406-442-3420.

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