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

Producer Profile: Cayuse Livestock Company

by Marc King, Extension Agent Sweetgrass County

"...most of all we need to communicate amongst ourselves and with those policy makers that can help shape our industry and keep us viable."

Cayuse Livestock Company is a true working family ranch. The ranch is based at the foot of the Crazy Mountains in Melville about 20 miles North of Big Timber.

Cayuse Livestock Company was founded in 1910 by Bill Donald’s grandfather. The ranch is currently owned and operated by Bill and Betsy Donald and Paul and Eleanor Hawks. Both families have two children, who also work and raise their families on the ranch. The ranch has grown over the past couple of years to help accommodate the additional families, but this has been a continual step toward reaching the goals of the ranch.

All the family members are involved in the daily activities of the ranch and they all developed the ranch’s mission statement. Cayuse Livestock Company’s Mission Statement reads,

“Provide a successful, nurturing, multi-generational, family ranch by raising high quality Angus cattle, using sustainable resource stewardship. This requires integrity, a strong communicative team that fosters innovative leadership. As a model ranch we will be an asset to our community and educate others by sharing our unique lifestyle.”

The ranch strives daily to uphold this ambitious mission statement. Part of their commitment to the ranching industry shows in the fact that Bill has served in several leadership roles within the Montana Stockgrowers,
and this past December was elected as the President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Currently the ranch runs 850 cows on the Melville Ranch and 800 head on several leases in the Cody, Wyoming area. The cow herd is a commercial Black Angus herd. Cattle are individually identified on the ranch with panel and electronic tags. Calves are marketed in a variety of ways according to Bill. In the recent past, calves have been weaned and back grounded, weaned and grazed as yearlings and the ranch has retained ownership.

“This past fall, steers were sold off the cow, because the prices were good and the drought was taking its toll on the resources,” said Bill.

During a recent interview with Bill, I asked several questions pertaining to his outlook and philosophy on the beef industry. Asked how he became involved with the Montana Stockgrowers Association and how he rose to the leadership role that he now fills, he replied, “I got involved with the MSGA on issues that directly impacted our ranch, plus I realized early on that the MSGA held highly esteemed political clout within the State of Montana and on the National Level. Further, I have always felt that you need to give back to the industry that you make your living from.”

Mr. Donald summed up the biggest challenges facing the beef industry on a regional level as the drought. On the state and national level, he said the biggest challenge is the differing visions and pathways of groups to achieve their vision of the industry. This divisiveness makes creating and implementing policy very difficult, according to Bill.

When asked about these differing views and visions of what the beef industry should look like, Bill replied, “Everyone wants to maintain the viability and integrity of the family ranch. Thus those of us in leadership roles must help provide education to these operations. We need to keep producers informed of innovative marketing strategies, help producers keep up with evolving technology, and most of all we need to communicate amongst ourselves and with those policy makers that can help shape our industry and keep us viable.”

About the divisive nature of groups currently working within the beef industry, Bill responded that all of the groups must communicate and keep the discussions civil and based on the issues.

“Too often we let emotion take over, and this often leads to poor decisions. We will probably never be one big happy family, but we must learn to work together. Teamwork can help us achieve more that any one person can standing alone.”

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

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