Tag Archives: Rachel Endecott

Learning How To “Agvocate”


Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to attend the AgChat Foundation’s Agvocacy 2.0 conference in Nashville, TN.  This conference brought together agriculturalists from across the US and Canada for a day and a half of learning about how to communicate “beyond the choir” about agriculture, with a focus on using social media.  I was fortunate to be chosen to attend this conference, and even more fortunate to have my registration sponsored by the Research, Education, and Endowment Foundation of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

In no particular order, here are my Top 5 Take-Home Messages from Agvocacy 2.0.

  • Be yourself!  Consumer research from the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, as well as feedback we received from 3 “mom bloggers” at the conference suggests that folks outside of agriculture want to know about how their food is produced, but also want to know about the people producing it.


  • Pick your platform.  It’s hard to be all things to all people.  Pick a social media platform you are comfortable with and make it your go-to resource.  For me, I prefer blogging and Facebook over Twitter, but I learned more about how I might use Twitter in the future.


  • Don’t over-spew information.  The social media world can lead to information overload incredibly quickly.  Putting some thought into your topics, posts, and tweets can lead to positive agvocacy impacts amongst your readers and followers.


  • Stick to what you know.  Use your personal experiences and knowledge to communicate with other ag and non-ag folks via social media.  This not only increases the level of trust of your readers or followers, it also allows them a more personal view of what you do (see take-home message #1, “Be yourself!”).


  • Face-to-face communication is still key.  This conference focused heavily on social media, and I think those platforms are incredibly powerful tools to use in agvocacy.  However, we cannot forget that the people we interact with on a daily, face-to-face basis might also have questions about agriculture and food production.  What better resource to address those questions than someone involved with producing that food?

I’d like to again thank the Research, Education, and Endowment Foundation of the Montana Stockgrowers Association for sponsoring my registration for this conference.  I learned so much and made great new friends from across the US and Canada who are passionate about agriculture.  It’s nice to know there are kindred spirits out there doing their best to advocate for agriculture!




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Everything I Need to Know I Learned in 4-H


It’s fair season across the country, and each year I tend to reflect on how my 11-year 4-H career has influenced my life.  And so, here it is…my top 5 list summarizing everything I needed to know that I learned in 4-H.

  1. Ask questions when you don’t know.  Going through life in the dark is no fun!  Take advantage of opportunities to learn from others with more experience than you have.
  2. Not everyone will like you (or your steer, or your homemade muffins, or your sewing project), and that’s okay.  Learning to take criticism is a great life skill.  Keep in mind that those criticisms might just be one person’s opinion on that day, and probably aren’t meant to be personal attacks.
  3. Help others when they need it.  One of the most rewarding parts of 4-H for me was helping my friends with their livestock projects on show day, and having them help me in return.  Opportunities to serve your community or industry are out there, so take advantage of them!
  4. Be ready for the unexpected.  Or, as my grandfather would say, “Make definite plans, but keep them flexible!”  One year, it snowed during our fair in mid-August (probably not a problem in every state!) and we certainly weren’t prepared for that.  But we dressed as warmly as we could and had a fantastic snowball fight.  Some of the most fun times in life happen when you’re not prepared for them.
  5. Networking doesn’t have to be work.  4-H is a remarkable networking system.  One advantage I had over kids who weren’t involved in 4-H is that I knew people from the surrounding communities well before we were involved in playing each other in sports.  This tended to drive my teammates nuts, as I was always “talking to the enemy” at basketball and volleyball games, not to mention bopping around to other school’s camps during track meets.  Oh, the horror!  It’s always great to unexpectedly run into someone you haven’t seen for years and have a, “Do you remember when?” conversation.

Good luck to all those 4-Hers out there.  Have a safe and successful rest of the fair season!

Rachel Endecott was raised on a family cow-calf operation near Ennis, MT.  She is a graduate of Montana and New Mexico State Universities and is currently the Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist located in Miles City, MT, while continuing to play an integral role on the family ranch.  Rachel writes about her glamorous life on her blog, Escapades of an Asphalt Cowgirl 


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The Bright Future of Animal Science


Contestants and advisors from 5 Western universities participated in the Western Region Academic Quadrathlon held at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, MT, June 20-21, 2011. Photo by Colleen Richardson, New Mexico State University.

Recently, the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science held their annual meeting in Miles City, MT.  Each year, scientists, graduate students, and industry stakeholders from across the western states gather to share the latest research in animal science.  It’s not very often that I don’t have to travel for a meeting, so it was a special treat.  Of course, as a trade-off for getting to stay home, we had to help put on the meeting!  It was a lot of work, but a very rewarding week all the same.

New this year, the western regional academic quadrathlon was held in conjunction with the meetings, rather than during the school year.  The AQ is a 4-part animal science contest for undergraduate students.  Each 4-person team participates in a written exam, oral presentation, a hands-on lab practicum, and a quiz bowl.  I was fortunate enough to be asked to organize the contest, which was a bit of a challenge since Fort Keogh – the USDA-ARS/Montana Ag Experiment Station facility where my office is located – isn’t a teaching facility.

But I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge, which may or may not be a character flaw.  I actually have experience with the western regional AQ, both as a contestant on the Montana State University team back in the day, and as an advisor during my graduate school days at New Mexico State University.  Lucky for me, my colleagues and friends in Miles City were very gracious with their time and helped me put on a successful contest.

This year, 5 teams from around the region competed in the contest: BYU-Idaho, Colorado State University, New Mexico State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Wyoming.  We began with the one-hour written exam and the oral presentation.  Students were given a packet of information with the theme “Irradiation is the silver bullet to E. coli in food safety”, and each team had an hour to prepare a 12-15 minute presentation.  Each team approached the assignment differently, and it was rewarding to see the creativity and enthusiasm of the students.

The second day of the contest started with the 8-station lab practicum, which included horse, reproductive physiology, beef, range, nutrition, meats, wool, and sheep topics.  The stations were challenging, and it was fun to watch the teams respond to the demanding tasks.  We finished up the afternoon with a double elimination quiz bowl, with the final round played at the opening reception that evening.

With a dramatic, out-of-the-loser-bracket finish (with a minor rain delay), the University of Wyoming won the quiz bowl, which sealed their win of the overall contest.  New Mexico State University finished second, with Colorado State in third place.  The team from UW will compete in the National Collegiate Beef Quiz Bowl at the 2012 Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA Trade Show in Nashville, TN.  I encourage you to attend so you can bask in the glow of the bright future of the animal science industry!

Rachel Endecott was raised on a family cow-calf operation near Ennis, MT.  She is a graduate of Montana and New Mexico State Universities and is currently the Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist located in Miles City, MT, while continuing to play an integral role on the family ranch.  Rachel writes about her glamorous life on her blog, Escapades of an Asphalt Cowgirl (


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Gathering of Montana’s Ranchers


Presidents of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana State University, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed Montana’s ranchers to MSGA’s Mid-Year Meeting in Bozeman, Montana.

On the campus of MSU, more than one hundred cattlemen and women from across the state came together for committee meetings, social media training, and a 4-stop ranch tour.

MSGA’s Young Stockgrowers hosted a “digital café” to teach Facebook to anyone who wanted help.

“Facebook and other social media are a major source of information in today’s world.  Helping MSGA members learn to navigate Facebook allows the story of ranching to be told from the very best source – ranchers themselves,” said Rachel Endecott, a past chair of the Young Stockgrowers who was on hand to help with the digital café.

Questions ranged from “what is a wall” to “how does this get us members?”

“Social media is not just about increasing our membership.  It is reaching out to our consumers to let them know how their beef is being raised, and how well the animals are cared for,” said another past chair of the Young Stockgrowers, Heather Malcolm.

Nearly a dozen ranchers of all ages, including MSGA officers, took part in the digital café.  The Young Stockgrowers were encouraged by the interest shown by the membership and consider this workshop a great foundation for the future of Montana’s ranchers telling their story.

On the ranch tour, the meeting attendees visited Montana State’s Teaching Farm, MZ Bar Ranch, Scutter Farms, and KG Ranch. Each stop provided insight to the operation.

At KG Ranch, MSGA’s Research, Education and Endowment Foundation (REEF) held a stick horse race to raise money for funding projects throughout the year.

The stick horse races were a lot of fun, both to participate in and to watch.  Some of the jockey’s were very creative with their attire, and the excitement for the races was contagious.  The overall support for REEF was great,” said Malcolm.

“It was hard to tell who had more fun during the stick horse races, the participants or the audience!  Gene and Cheryl Curry worked so hard to put on the event and it was a smashing success.  Several people have asked if we’re going to do it again next year. What a great way to support the fundraising efforts of REEF,” said Endecott.

The two-day Mid-Year Meeting was a great opportunity for ranchers from all over the state to come together and have a fun time. Winter and spring have been trying for ranchers and Mid-Year gave them a chance to talk to each other and enjoy a few days together.

“The Mid-Year meeting was a great success, thanks to the hard work of MSGA staff,” said Endecott.


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Beef improvement in Big Sky country

By Jesse R. Bussard

A recent scholarship award took me on an adventure to Big Sky country for the 2011 Beef Improvement Federation Annual Meeting and Research Symposium held June 1-4 in Bozeman, Montana at Montana State University.  This was my first time in Montana and I guarantee it won’t be my last.  I was honored to be chosen to receive the Roy A. Wallace Memorial Scholarship sponsored by the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Select Sires, Inc., and the Beef Improvement Federation.

An estimated 600 cattlemen and allied industry representatives were said to have attended the event including seedstock and commercial cow-calf producers, university specialists and breed association leaders.  All gathered to explore new innovative technologies and management practices to improve beef production through breeding and genetic selection. The meeting focused on a discussion of accurate measurement and prediction of genetic traits, environmental effects, genetic effects on animal health, and how we can tie it all back into profitability.  Not only did the meeting give attendees the chance to learn about some of the latest hot topics in genetic selection tools, but it provided a unique opportunity to network with some of the cattle industry’s leading seedstock producers from the US and abroad.

Left to right: Ben Spitzer, Lauren Chase, Jesse Bussard, Rachel Endecott

A list of speakers for the event can be found here with links to summaries, Powerpoint presentations, and audio recordings.  Ranch tours to three legendary ranches, including Sitz Angus Ranch, 5L Ranch, and the Cooper Hereford Ranch, were given on Saturday.  Four Young Producers Council members were in attendance at BIF including Ben Spitzer, past chairman, Lauren Chase, blog co-editor, Rachel Endecott, and myself.

The bottom line

Of all the things said at the meeting I came away with two very important things.  Number one:  Crossbreeding is underutilized in the cattle industry.  My beef professor, Dr. Dan Kniffen, from Penn State University always said, “Heterosis is the only free lunch in the cattle industry.”  There will always be a place for purebred seedstock operations but commercial cattlemen are shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t take advantage of the benefits of crossbreeding.  Time and time again research has shown that crossbreeding increases such characteristics as size, growth rate, fertility, and yield of of the offspring over those of its parents.  So what are we waiting for…

Number two:  You can’t achieve profitability through genetic selection.  Steve Radakovich put it in simple terms when he said, “We can select for efficiency, but the marketplace decides profit or loss.”  Efficiency is a worthy goal.  The main goal though should be to produce cattle that can perform well on low inputs.  But in today’s reality it seems more producers still aim to breed cattle that only function well in high-input operations.  The bottom line is, we shouldn’t design the system for the cow, we need to design the cow for the system.

You can take a great example of this from the plant breeding world.  Radakovich explained, “In my lifetime, they’ve gone from 60-bushel (per acre) corn to yields nearing 300 bushels. They’ve done it by increasing plant populations.  They actually put plants under stress and pick the ones that survive to breed the next new variety. Poultry, swine, and plant breeding industries recognize the value of increased adaptability.”  By raising cattle that can adapt to a variety of environments, not just the feedyard or the pasture, producers are able to increase their marketing options and in the end maintain more flexibility to adapt to market changes.

A meeting to remember

This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet YPC blog co-editor, Lauren Chase, in person!  She may have been a little taller than I was expecting, but it was finally good to see “the face behind the name” that I’ve been working with so diligently over the last four months.  Lauren and I attended both the meetings for BIF and the ranch tour.  We even took a little time for some fun at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman to see some dinosaurs and made a quick stop at the Goggins-Endecott Ranch to see some fine Herefords and Red Angus.  To see photos from our adventures, check out the great photos Lauren took on the Montana Stockgrowers Association Facebook page.  You can also see the updates we posted from the meeting on Twitter by searching hashtag #BIF11.


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Just Hit It An Angle…You’ll Be Fine!


Memorial Day weekend…cookouts, campfires, and sunburns, right?  For me, Memorial Day weekend has almost never included any of these activities, because at my family’s ranch, we’re artificially inseminating cows.  And furthermore, the weather over the long weekend in southwest Montana is notorious for requiring long underwear, not sunscreen!

This spring has been a challenging one for my family, as my dad was badly hurt in a wreck with a cow right as we began calving in early March.  I spent as much time as I could at the ranch while still trying to be productive in my job as an Extension beef cattle specialist.  My mom, uncle, and I worked to streamline our operation as best we could and things have worked out fairly well.

The artificial insemination (AI) job was our last big cattle-working chore for the spring.  At our place, we synchronize and AI the 80 earliest-calving mature cows.  Synchronizing estrus so that all the cows come into heat over a few-day time span results in a more uniform, older calf crop and AI-ing allows us to use high-accuracy bulls for more predictable performance.  Over three days, my mom and I gathered the cows each morning and evening, sorted the ones that were ready to be bred, inseminated them, and then sorted them out to pastures for the summer.

Mom and I probably don’t have a typical mother-daughter relationship – we’re more like best friends…crazy, sarcastic best friends, with warped humor, inside jokes, and plenty of social commentary.  We have a habit of saying the same thing at the same time, which often disconcerts those unfamiliar with us.  She and I can make any job fun, no matter how difficult the conditions or how distasteful the job (the warped humor and social commentary help with that quite a bit).

Mom has a saying – “Just hit it at an angle, you’ll be fine!” – which she originally said in response to a question from me about crossing a deep ditch with a 4-wheeler.  But based on our trials and tribulations this spring, I’d say it can be applied to just about any problem you might encounter.  Working with my mom on the ranch is awesome, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything in the world.

Rachel Endecott was raised on a family cow-calf operation near Ennis, MT.  She is a graduate of Montana and New Mexico State Universities and is currently the Montana State University Extension Beef Cattle Specialist located in Miles City, MT, while continuing to play an integral role on the family ranch.  Rachel writes about her glamorous life on her blog, Escapades of an Asphalt Cowgirl (


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