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> Department > Home > Beef > Beef/Cattle > Profiles
Beef/Cattle Extension Program

Producer Profile: Wing Road Farm — Gene and Larry Billmayerby

by Mike Schuldt, MSU Extension Agent, Blaine County

"...he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else or do anything differently."

The Wing Road Farm is a fourth generation family ranch managed by brothers Larry and Gene Billmayer in Hogeland Montana. The ranch is located in Northern Blaine County in a region known as the “Big Flat.” Larry and Gene’s grandparents homesteaded the land and their parents still live on the place. Larry’s two sons (who make up the fourth generation) currently work for the farm.

In recent interview, Larry described the ranch as a diversified operation with a number of enterprises including 400 mother cows, a 2000 head feedlot, irrigated lands producing peas, barley, canola, wheat and alfalfa (for silage). The operation includes 5000 acres of dryland wheat and 5000 acres of ground enrolled in the CRP program. The ranch employs four full-time and three part-time seasonal employees as well as Larry, Gene and Gene’s wife Susan, who does the books. This makes them one of the larger employers
in the area.

The irrigated silage production is used to feed 2000 lightweight calves each fall from 500-550 pounds to 900 pounds at which time they are shipped to a finishing feedlot in Wyoming. Wing Road Farm retains around 90 percent ownership in all of the calves through the feedlot until they are harvested.

Two things that have helped this enterprise succeed are a great relationship with the finishing feeder (Larry says that it is a lot like a marriage -- you need to work together and develop trust in the relationship to be successful)
and having a brother who is a full time cattle buyer assisting them as their marketing specialist. Larry said that low feed costs and excellent markets in recent years have helped the effort. Low interest rates have also been a factor in making the capital-intensive feeding operation more lucrative. In the past 10 years the risk has always paid off for them.

The cost of raising a commodity crop such as wheat under the pivot irrigation is high and Wing Road Farm has found that producing irrigated forage crops and converting that to beef in the feedlot is the best production system
for them. The calves are placed on feed in Wyoming when they leave the lot in Hogeland to be finished. This works well, as the transportation to the feeder and then to the packer is a fairly straight line and minimizes the transportation costs.

When asked about how they are able to find good employees, Larry said that it’s a challenge. The ranch has had success connecting with young men who have made some decisions that have gotten them in trouble and worked with them to give them a chance to get their life straight. It has been rewarding to watch a young person grow into a productive reliable employee, he said.

Using the CRP program has been a beneficial decision for the Wing Road Farm, as it has provided a source of income as well as additional forage on tough drought years. The management of the CRP income is almost a separate venture, with income and land management responsibilities
for 5000 acres taking a dedicated effort by the brothers.

When asked to sum up what it is that they do to make the ranch successful, Larry immediately responded with “Hard work. A good hardworking crew to get the work done.” He quotes his grandfather who emigrated from Norway and homesteaded the home place – “I couldn’t speak English when I got here but I knew how to work hard.”

Larry continues to work hard everyday and says he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else or do anything differently.

Beef: Questions & Answers is a joint project between MSU Extension and the Montana Beef Council. This column informs producers about current consumer education, promotion and research projects funded through the $1 per head checkoff. For more information, contact the Montana Beef Council at (406) 442-5111 or at beefcncl@mt.net

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 08/14/2009
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