Saturday morning was perfect with the suns rays gradually warming the autumn chill in the air. I dressed appropriately for a field day at a ranch; jeans, belt, ball cap, and best of all, a chance to wear my new cowboy boots!
Muddy Creek Ranch, just north of Wilsall, is one of Western Sustainability Exchange’s Certified Sustainable cattle ranches. Ranch manager’s Dave and Karen Shockey, along with their four kids and numerous ranch workers and volunteers, opened the ranch and its operations to the public for a ranch field day.
An interesting mix of town folk, ranchers, chefs, and restaurant owners came to learn about the techniques and challenges of raising high quality grass fed beef in Montana’s fickle dry land country.
Dave and Karen created a day of learning and enjoyment by sharing their passion and expertise on the World Champion American Lowline Cattle they raise and the grazing and feeding techniques they use to create a healthy, delicious beef product for folks like you and me – all while preserving over 5200 acres of pristine Montana open space and wildlife habitat and supporting the local economy.
After a tour of “Bull Alley,” an ultra-sound demonstration, a hayride ranch tour and a grass-fed beef sampler lunch (yum!) prepared by Chef Sean Rooney of the Wilsall Café, we settled back on our hay bales and listened to brief but interesting talks by Tracy Mosley, Park County Extension agent, Dewey and Kathy Emmet of Stillwater Packing and (blush) yours truly. The audience got involved with lively questions and comments.
I don’t think most folks out there realize the knowledge and expertise that goes into creating the beef we eat. “Cowboys” are really part botanists, conservationists, range scientists, animal welfare specialists, nutrition experts, project managers and business people. If they keep their cattle to sell direct as meat, they also have to be middlemen-arranging finishing, processing, storage, marketing, and delivery.
Western Sustainability Exchange believes that good stewardship practices such as those Muddy Creek Ranch uses can preserve what is so special about this region while contributing to a local food system that is healthy, humane, environmentally responsible and locally based.
Hat’s off to Dave and Karen Shockey for helping more of us understand and appreciate what is truly behind the excellent beef they sell. I’ll be checking in with them often to find out if they’ll do this again next year and mark the date on my calendar. When I do I’ll post it on this website so you don’t miss it either!