LAMB & WOOL COMPANY
? What kind of a place is Thirteen
Mile Farm and who runs it ?
Thirteen Mile Farm is located in Belgrade, Montana, and is
owned and operated by Becky Weed and Dave Tyler. It was the John
Reese homestead, one of the oldest in the Gallatin Valley of southwest
Montana. It is good spot to grow lamb for the same reasons it
was a choice spot for a settler; abundant springs along the base
of the Bridger Mountains keep the pastures rich, while the local
topography channels the brunt of storms away from our corner of
the valley. It is a small place by Montana standards, but with
access to our own and neighboring pasture and hay ground, we're
able to care for a few hundred sheep.
Neither of us grew up in ranch or farm families, so we have
had a lot to learn in managing our place over the last 20 years.
We're still learning. But sometimes it seems that our late arrival
to agriculture is as much help as hindrance. As a geologist and
an engineer, both of us have had professional careers that have
given us the chance to see landscape in a context that includes,
but is not limited to agriculture. That has made it seem natural
to ask hard questions about what the goals of a modern ranch should
Here are some examples of tasks on our ranch, en route to a
goal of sustainable care of a local landscape, and production
of good food and fiber to sell:
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- We have set up a fencing and stock watering system that allows
us to rotate animals through multiple pastures and keep livestock
out of the creeks. The sheep, the grass, water and trees are
reaping the benefits, as are wildlife (sandhill cranes, deer,
elk, eagles, hawks, weasels..). There is more fence to build,
old fence to fix, water lines to extend, gates to rearrange.
. . . .
- By grazing livestock and encouraging clover (which fixes
nitrogen) on our fields, we're able to avoid the use of chemical
fertilizers and herbicides. There is still room for a lot more
pasture improvement; we still want to introduce more legumes,
refine grazing practices, and we hope, see an end to recent drought
conditions....or introduce limited irrigation.
- We'll continue our policies of not feeding antibiotics, hormones,
or any agricultural waste or livestock byproducts to our sheep.
The only off-farm feed that they get is a vitamin and mineral
product designed specifically for sheep, as well as kelp and natural trace mineral salt. The lambs get one vaccination that is strongly recommended by vets in our region, but now other routine medication. We have not routinely used commercial wormers since 1999 to control internal parasites, and through a combination of pasture and hay rotation practices,
careful culling and selection of replacements ewes, and mineral supplementation, we plan to keep that up.
|THIRTEEN MILE LAMB & WOOL COMPANY
13000 Springhill Road
Belgrade, Montana 59714