A new book from the Montana Stockgrowers Association chronicles the life of Montana ranchers and features two Madison County ranches.
Big Sky Boots: Working Seasons of a Montana Cowboy is a coffee table photography book photographed and written by Lauren Chase of the stockgrowers association. It follows ranch life through all the stages of raising cattle, from calving through weaning.
“So the book kind of starts off at calving time in the winter and it goes up until shipping,” Chase said.
The photos in the book were taken in 2010 and 2011 and feature Bob Endecott at the Endecott Ranch near McAllister as well as Bob Sitz and Ted Williams at the Sitz Angus Ranch near Harrison.
One goal of the book is to try and tell the ranching story in a way to help people understand the process of beef production with the idea that a better understanding will help people make the connection between the products they buy in the store and the ranchers who raise those animals, Chase said.
Helping people understand more about ranching is a passion of the Endecotts, said Janet Endecott.
“We were tickled to have Lauren come down and kind of show her what we do and where everyone’s food begins and where it comes from,” Endecott said.
Chase photographed the Endecotts preconditioning their calves. This is done prior to weaning and helps get the calves ready to be shipped. On the Endecott Ranch, preconditioning involves vaccinations, individual electronic tags and weighing each calf.
Weaning happens in late September and is the time when the calves are separated from their mothers to be shipped to market. It can be stressful for calves and so the vaccinations help them stay healthy through the process, Endecott said.
“We take really good care of them because they take good care of us,” she said. “You’ll never find someone who cares more about their animals than a rancher.”
In travelling around Montana taking photos for the book and interviewing ranchers, Chase said she was struck by how much ranchers love what they do. It was common to see tears well up in a rancher’s eyes when she asked him what ranching meant to him.
“That told me how much they care about what they do and their lifestyle and what it means to them,” she said.
And for a young woman from Iowa, putting the book together gave her a great opportunity to learn about ranching from the people who know it best.
“I love learning about ranching and why ranchers do what they do and how food gets to our plate,” Chase said.
The book also provides an outlet to social media and videos Chase took around the state. QR codes were printed on several pages that can take a reader equipped with a smartphone to the Montana Stockgrower’s YouTube channel.
According to a press release, “Big Sky Boots is the first book in a series of five books that MSGA will develop over the next five years. The next book, already in production, will feature the women that are an essential part of today’s ranching families.
To learn more about this project or to order a copy of the book, visit www.mtbeef.org. The books are $75, which includes shipping and handling. The profits from the book will help support the continuation of MSGA’s “Telling the Story of Montana’s Family Ranchers” project into the future. To see Chase’s photography and other multimedia work, visit the MSGA’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.