Montana Ranching, Redefined

Spurred by growing concern over beef’s environmental impact and the long-term viability of their livelihood, a cohort of Montana ranchers work to integrate ecological practices into livestock management.

Culturally, the way we think about our food has changed in recent years: now, more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from and how it was raised. Since 2011, I’ve been spending time with a group of Montana ranchers who understand what it means to raise cattle in this day and age.

These ranchers profoundly love their work. They’ve sought to balance the needs of their livelihood with reverence for the land and respect for the animals. By mimicking the behaviors of wild herbivores (calving in the spring and intensely grazing an area for a brief period before moving on), this integrative conservation effort preserves the integrity of the land. It benefits both people and wildlife.

Resilience, inventiveness and adaptability are not foreign concepts to these ranchers, nor is living at the boundary of a venerable wilderness. Yet, their practices reveal a deeper story—one with layered realities during changing times.

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