By Virginia Knerr, Broadwater County Extension Agent
Let me introduce you to Greg and Dawn Field of Tri Mountain Angus Ranch. Greg
and his dad, Lester (Buzz) Field, have worked together
over the years to build up Tri Mountain Angus Ranch.
Prior to 1968, Buzz earned a living in the horticulture
nursery business, eventually becoming president of
the New Jersey Nurseryman's Association. Trees and
shrubs were his forte, but he always had a few Angus
cows and Tennessee walking horses on hand. Being an
avid outdoorsman with a pioneer's spirit, he felt
the urge to go west. Buzz loaded up his family and
toured the Rocky Mountain West in search of a place
to settle down. In 1968, Buzz, his wife, Pat, and
their four sons and one daughter (soon to be six sons
and daughter) landed in Townsend, Montana. There,
they purchased a 12,000-acre ranch nestled in the
foothills of the Big Belt Mountains overlooking Canyon
Ferry Reservoir. The historic ranch was pieced together
at the turn of the century by Jefferson D. Doggett.
Greg's mom, Patricia coined the name Tri Mountain
based on the location of the ranch and created the
now familiar three-moun-tain logo.
Greg and Dawn have three children, Caitlin, Alaine, and Bailey. These young ladies
are very talented and accomplished musicians. Caitlin,
a recent high school graduate, will be going on off
to Montana State University in Bozeman this fall having
received the prestigious MSU Presidential Scholarship,
among others. Alaine is active in 4-H and music, while
young Bailee regards herself as daddy's right hand
"man." Greg met Dawn, a Ryegate farm girl, at MSU
where they both attended college. After graduation,
they were married and living in Billings where Greg
worked as an Ag loan officer for Norwest Bank. In
1984, they returned to the ranch where Greg partnered
with his dad until 1991 when he purchased the ranch
on contract. Like most ranch wives, Dawn has played
a critical role in the ranch's success. After 14 years
of being a stay at home mom, she re-entered the work
force and currently works in the Department of Legislative
Affairs office in the state capitol. Dawn says raising
kids, helping on the ranch and holding a full time,
off-ranch job is challenging but very rewarding.
With a background in plant and animal genetics, Buzz saw the need to develop
quality Angus seed stock. With valuable genetics and
advice obtained from such national notables as Clarence
and Ray Van Dyke, Les Leachmen and Bob Sitz, Buzz
and his sons started to build their own reputation
herd. Greg says he is "progressive yet retro" in the
way he works. The 350 head of purebred Angus cows
are intensively range-bred to calve in a 45-day window.
Cow selection is based on a moderate framed cow that
is a good milker but breeds back easily. All cows
are calved out on the range so calving ease, vigor
and longevity are all top priorities for the Tri Mountain
herd. Greg commented that the ranch is run as a commercial
herd even though they focus on purebred genetics.
He places a great deal of emphasis on raising quality
yearling bulls and bred heifers that are sold private
treaty. The ranch usually hand-feeds 40 to 60 yearling
bulls on a ration of chopped hay and oats at the ranch
and utilities within herd performance testing. All
of the cattle are allowed to develop and grow on large
pastures, preparing them for range conditions. The
bred heifers offered for sale go through extensive
culling and are pasture bred for 45 days. Feeder steers
are marketed in the fall and have gone to a repeat
buyer each of the last 10 years. Carcass data shows
why they are so well received.
The ranch produces alfalfa grass hay, wheat, barley and oats. With the addition
of center pivots, the ranch is self-sufficient for
its winter feed needs as well as producing some hay
for sale. In keeping with being "progressive yet retro,"
Greg keeps the center pivots and wheel lines running
but also flood irrigates 150 acres of pasture and
Greg says the key to management for him is to survive both financially and physically.
He likes the freedom of being a one-man show but the
workload is physically challenging so he works hard
at staying in good shape by running and exercising.
Financially, he uses his ag business and economics
background to scrutinize every aspect of operations
through enterprise budgeting.
Challenges abound on the ranch, with weather being at the top of the list. The
last 10 years of drought have impacted overall production.
Besides drought, the ranch has been victim to two
major wildfires, on in 1996 and another in 2000. Greg
has reduced herd size to decrease pressure on his
rangelands. Other challenges include invasive weeds,
indicators of range health and experimenting with
Opportunities also abound. First and foremost for Greg is to provide a healthy
environment for his family to grow and prosper. Additional
income opportunities include leasing part of the ranch
for big game hunting and developing a small locker
beef business based on ranch-raised, natural Angus
beef. If you are ever in the Townsend area, Greg and
his family invite you to stop by and visit Tri Mountain
Stop by and visit Tri Mountain Angus.