When fires ravaged eastern Montana last summer, St. Ignatius resident David Tammen knew he wanted to help ranchers.
After hearing about the Lodgepole Complex fire in Jordan, Tammen said that he thought about putting a load of hay together for ranchers who were losing everything.
“It just hit home,” he said.
Tammen, who hauls for MP Livestock in Stanford, Mont., said he contacted his employer to see if together, they could haul a load of hay.
He would donate his time while MP Livestock would donate the transportation.
Reaching out to his neighbor, Kurt McPherson who owns Lazy JM Ranch in St. Ignatius, Tammen said the hay was shipped out on Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Donating roughly 24 bales, Tammen said he hauled equals roughly 20 tons.
“It is a lot, but depending on how many cows there are, it might only be two days’ feed,” he explained, adding, “it goes a long way.”
Tammen said that he and McPherson have always helped each other out, as neighbors do.
Now, they have worked together to help neighbors to the east, he said.
McPherson’s niece and ranch hand, Jordan Adams, said that an empty trailer was headed east, and together the team thought to send it full with hay.
“We wanted to donate something to these ranchers because it could just as easily been us. We would be scrambling,” Adams said.
Tammen explained that the eastern portion of the state doesn’t have irrigation systems like the western side.
“In the eastern part, it’s the same amount of cows (as western Montana) but 1,500 acres” where hay, cattle and “everything else” are cared for.
Due to the scarcity of water sources, ranchers to the east cut hay once a season, Tammen said, while here in the Mission Valley, ranchers can get two and sometimes three cuttings a season.
Adams explained that the news of the fire devastation to the east put things in perspective locally.
“We started thinking, what’s our plan if something like that were to happen here? You can never plan for something like that,” she recalled.
While the outgoing hay marked Tammen’s first time donating what he could, Adams shared that several years ago, the McPhersons donated heffers to South Dakota after word that ranchers lost livestock to a severe winter storm reached Lazy JM Ranch.
McPherson moved to St. Ignatius in the 1980s, purchasing 180 acres of land. Since then, the ranch has expanded and “at least” 500 heads of black Angus are tended to, Adams said.
“We do it all; we run cattle, we put up hay,” she said.
The ranch is a family affair, with her grandmother, Elaine McPherson and uncle running the operation.
Grandkids are part of it and help, Adams added.
She explained that lending a helping hand is a code among ranchers, near and far.
“We’re all ranchers. We take care of each other. It’s just what we do. Ranchers help ranchers.”