Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Livestock Brands as part of an estate plan

When we think about succession or estate planning, it might be family heirlooms that come to mind. 
Who's wearing your brand?  Reviewing brand ownership
is an important part of an estate plan.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
However, livestock owners also should consider Montana brand ownership laws as they pertain to estate planning.  MSU Extension has a great MontGuide resource, available free online or from your local extension office, ‘Livestock Brands in Montana: An Important Componentof an Estate Plan’ from which this information comes.

One scenario in the MontGuide relates to the Rocking R brand which has been a family brand for 50 years.  In 2014, after John’s marriage to his second wife, Kathy, he added her as co-owner of the brand.  John’s son, Rob, is actively engaged in the ranch and thus in John’s will, he stated the Rocking R brand was to go to his son, Rob.  However, upon John’s death, a dispute arose between Rob and John’s wife, Kathy, as to who was the rightful owner of the brand and the livestock bearing that brand.  Was it Kathy, listed as co-owner on the Brand Assignment form?  Or was it Rob, who was listed specifically in John’s will? 
Upon an owner’s death, who inherits the brand and who inherits the livestock bearing the brand is determined by information provided on the Application for Brand Recording form, Montana brand laws and regulations, decisions issued by the Montana Supreme Court interpreting and applying the brand laws and regulations and the Montana Uniform Probate Code.  Upon the death of a brand owner, a key factor in determining who receives the brand and the livestock bearing the brand depends upon if the brand is recorded as sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenants in common, in the name of a business entity, or in the name of an estate or trust. 

In the scenario of the Rocking R brand we started out with, John’s wife Kathy and son, Rob, both believed they were rightful owners of the brand and cattle and hired attorneys to defend their position in court.  Based on the Application for Brand Recording form on which John designated “joint tenancy” as the form of ownership between himself and wife, Kathy, the judge ruled Kathy owned the brand and the livestock on which it appears.  John’s decision to add his spouse as a joint tenant had unintended consequences which resulted in a significant and costly family disagreement between his wife and his son.  This could have been prevented by a premarital agreement between John and Kathy, conferring with professional estate planning advisors, recording the brand in joint tenancy with son Rob, or keeping the brand in sole ownership of John. 

If you are a brand owner, here are four questions you should know the answer to:
1.       Who are the owners of your brands?
2.       If the brand is owned by more than one person, are the co-owner’s joint tenants with right of survivorship or tenants in common?  The use of the words ‘and’ or ‘or’ here are key.
3.       Whom do you want to own the brand upon your death?
4.       When you transfer a brand by gift or will, do you want to distinguish between ownership of the brand and ownership of the livestock bearing the brand?  If so, you will need to make your intent clear and likely should seek the advice of an attorney.

For more information on this topic of livestock brands as part of an estate plan, check out the MontGuide publication.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dr. Steven Hjartarson, Northern Veterinary Clinic in Cut Bank,
will be a workshop presenter February 1.

"Will it matter if I go with the cheaper scours vaccine?"  "How long can I wait on that heifer to calve before I call the vet?" "We gave shots at branding, why are we fighting summer pneumonia?"  Ranchers have lots of animal health questions when it comes to their cowherd and rightfully so.  When margins are tight, its critical to get the most live calves on the ground possible with the most efficient use of the budget.  Dr. Steven Hjartarson of the Northern Veterinary Clinic in Cut Bank will cover two topics, “Vaccines and Immunology – An Introduction” and “Calving Time Management” at Montana’s Next Generation Conference on February 1 that ranchers will want to attend!  We’ll have 36 workshop topics throughout the day, and the following are some other great options as well:

Shane Ophus, owner of Ophus Auction Service, has 37 years’ experience selling farm and ranch auctions and nine years’ experience selling farm and ranch equipment retail for farm machinery dealers.  In addition, he’s been conducting certified appraisals for 17 years and has a strong farm and ranch background and remains active ranching today.  He has completed numerous auctioneering, personal property appraiser, and real-estate courses and will use his background for his Saturday workshop, “All Things Equipment Value.”  This will be a great workshop to learn how equipment is valued and appraised and ask questions of someone with decades of experience in the business. 

What is your biggest fear when thinking about your retirement years? For many, it is the idea of potentially multiple years in a nursing home that depletes the entire estate.  How can you prepare for health care costs now and be ready to address that through your succession plan? Kristin Juras and Sarah Hamlen will delve into this during her workshop.  Kristen Gustafson Juras is a fourth generation Montanan who has been an attorney since 1982, specializing in agricultural, business, and tax law.

You have 50 bushels of grain left in the bottom of the bin. It will surely fit on top of the rest of the load, right? Another bale stacked on the top of the load won’t be a problem, right? The truck has made it back and forth to town for 40 years, what do you mean it doesn’t meet DOT regulations??? Merlin Frydenlund, MT Dept. of Transportation, has graciously agreed to meet with the farmers and ranchers in Northern MT to go over the rules and regulations of trucking down the road.  This is a great time to ask questions from the comfort of a classroom and not the side of the road!
Brian Fladstol will share
equipment maintenance tips.

We put a lot of dollars and time in machines worth than many people’s homes. With this large of an investment, what can you do to ensure your machine lasts as long as possible? Brian Fladstol has been a mechanic and farmer all his life. February 1 he’ll share tips and tricks he has picked up over the years and how you can troubleshoot issues before calling the mechanic.

Saturday, February 1 there are 36 workshop options available at the Shelby High School on these topics and more crops, livestock, succession planning, business, marketing, or accounting topics.  There will be 5 pesticide points available at workshops throughout the day, so that’s a great opportunity as well.

Please call our office in Cut Bank with any questions at 406-873-2239, and check the website, for the complete schedule and workshop agenda and to register.  Remember, Montana’s Next Generation conference only comes once a year and registration closes Friday, don’t miss out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Early Bird Rate for Montana's Next Generation Conference ends Friday!

This Friday, January 17, is the Early Bird deadline for Montana’s Next Generation Conference!  Montana’s Next Generation Conference is coming up quickly, Friday, January 31 and Saturday, February 1, in Shelby.  All the details are available online at 
Friday, January 31, will kick off at 11 a.m. at the Coyote Club in Shelby with our keynote speaker,   Dan is an ag economist and author who served as a consultant to the U.S. Grains Council on a trade mission to China.  He was a top executive of one of the nation’s top four firms on market outlooks and price risk management, and he also defended the beef industry on national TV against Oprah Winfry.  He was recently named the “Ag Communicator of the Year” and will bring a great perspective and knowledge to the conference.  Friday he’ll be covering, “The Big Picture in Ag,” “Financial Management Skills and Business Planning,” and “Farming is a Blessing and not a Punishment.”  He’ll have something for everyone, and both farmers and ranchers should plan to attend the Friday session.  We’ll cap the evening off with a delicious roast beef dinner and some time for networking.
Dan Manternach.

Saturday, February 1 there are 36 workshop options available at the Shelby High School.  It is extremely rare that a conference has 6 options every hour that you can choose from, its up to you to decide if you want to pursue a crops, livestock, succession planning, business, marketing, or accounting related topic each hour.  There will be 5 pesticide points available at workshops throughout the day, so that’s a great opportunity!  Here’s just a FEW of the workshop highlights:
Reducing Inputs through Regenerative Ag by Korey Fauque
·         Oilseed and Pulse Crop Scouting by 406 Agronomy
·         Top Range Plants You Need to Know by Rick Caquelin of NRCS
·         Equipment Maintenance by Brian Fladstol
·         Valuing Equipment by Shane Ophus of Ophus Auction Service
·         Land Purchasing 101 by Tyler Tintzman and Wade McAlpine of Northwest Farm Credit
·         Fetal Programming and beef cattle nutrition by Carla Canford from MSU Extension
·         Livestock Marketing by Rocky Forseth
·         Planning for Health Care after Retirement by Kristin Juras
·         Dealing with Stress in Ag and Family Communication in Ag By Jane Wolery

Each workshop is 45 minutes with additional time for questions and answers, so Montana’s Next Generation Conference is a great way to get to get time with ag professionals, accountants, and lawyers for just $25/person/day or $40/couple/day.  And, that low price includes all the meals as well!

Babysitting is available on site, and both the Comfort Inn and Best Western Shelby Inn & Suites are offering discounted rates on their beautiful rooms during the conference, just be sure to say you’re with Montana’s Next Generation Conference.

Please call our office in Cut Bank with any questions at 406-873-2239, and check the website, for the complete schedule and workshop agenda and to register.  Remember, Early Bird Discount is in effect through Friday, so save some cash and register early!  

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas!  Hopefully you will be enjoying a delicious Christmas dinner soon.  The holidays typically bring some great food and those leftovers can easily fill up the fridge. The key is to safely store and use those leftovers, and today we’ll offer a few tips on that topic. 

First, food storage.  After food has been served, leftovers should be placed in clean, small, shallow containers, three inches or less in height, and covered completely.  Leftover food should be placed in the refrigerator within two hours or less.  Containers should be spread out in the refrigerator to allow air flow and promote rapid, even cooling of the food.  Food should not be refrigerated or frozen in large, deep containers as the food in the center remains warm for a longer time which can cause harmful bacteria to grow.  If you’re short on fridge space, use a cooler with ice packs or cubed ice to keep leftovers at a temperature of 40 degrees or less. 

When reheating leftovers, food should be reheated on the stove, in the oven, or in the microwave until it reaches 165 degrees.  Slow cookers are not recommended for reheating leftovers. 

Plan ahead for using those leftovers.  If you’re having a Christmas ham, plan for omelets, casseroles,
Plan to use holiday leftovers, whether its
turkey sliders or scrambled eggs and ham!
sandwiches, or a pizza, for example.  Leftover turkey can become a base for a turkey pot pie, turkey noodle soup, turkey wild rice soup, turkey enchiladas, etc. – it can easily be substituted for chicken in many recipes.  Leftovers can quickly grow tiresome, so another good option is to freeze them.  For example, dice up that ham and freeze in small Ziploc bags so that a serving can be pulled out in the morning and added to scrambled eggs. 

So, how long can you safely keep refrigerated leftovers?  Generally, leftovers should be used within four days but specifically the guidelines are as follows:

Those delicious salads should be
eaten within three to five days.
  • Soups and stews - 3 to 4 days
  • Gravy and meat broth - 2 to 2 days
  • Cooked meat, meat dishes, casseroles - 3 to 4 days
  • Opened package of deli meats - 3 to 5 days
  • Pasta and potato salads - 3 to 5 days·       

Now, I’m sure there’s lots of folks out there right now saying, “Oh, I eat leftovers way older than that and I’ve always been fine!”  Could be, but please remember that adults ages 65 and older, children younger than 5 years, pregnant women, and people whose immune systems are weakened due to illness or medical treatment are most at risk for foodborne illnesses.  So, while you may be able to handle that week-old turkey, Grandma, your pregnant wife, or your three-year-old son may not be able to. 

So, keep those hot foods hot and those cold foods cold, and quickly refrigerate leftovers!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Give a lasting gift to your farmer, rancher, or farm/ranch spouse this Christmas!

We’re just one week away from Christmas! If you’re still trying to decide what to get that farmer,
rancher, or farm/ranch spouse in your life, let me suggest a registration to the 2020 Montana’s Next Generation Conference, which will be January 31 – February 1 in Shelby. Currently, registration is at the ‘Early Bird Rate’ of just $25/individual/day or $40/couple/day so you can save some money on gift giving too!

Here’s 5 reasons why a Next Generation conference registration would be a great gift!

· The meals! Anyone who has attended the conference in the past has often remarked that the food alone is worth going for. TLC Catering of Shelby will be doing the food which will include pulled pork and the fixings for the Friday lunch, a delicious roast beef dinner Friday night, and wonderful soups and sandwiches for the Saturday lunch along with all the snacks you can eat in between! Saturday night, each participant will get a $10 meal voucher to use at numerous participating Shelby restaurants.

· Your gift has the potential to have a long-lasting impact. What if after attending Kristen Juras and Sarah Hamlen’s workshop, ‘Planning for Health Care after Retirement’ workshop your parents or in-laws develop a plan for their healthcare? What if after attending Jane Wolery’s Mending FENCES workshop, your family is able to sit down and have a productive and respectful conversation about communication expectations? What if after attending Korey Fauque’ s Reducing Inputs through Regenerative Ag your operation is able to try one or two new tools that will save time and money on the farm or ranch? A gift of the Next Generation conference is not one that will be put in the closet to collect dust, it has the potential to make a great impact on families! There are 36 workshops offered on Saturday, and there’s truly something for everyone!

· Pesticide points! 2020 is the end of the pesticide cycle for our region, which means applicators need their 6 recertification credits by the end of 2020. There will be 5 workshops with pesticide points at the Next Generation conference, on both crop and range related topics.

·Networking – The conference provides an opportunity to network with industry professionals and other producers. Where else, can you ask questions of accountants and lawyers for just $25/day?

· The gift of family – The conference truly has something for everyone, regardless of age. Whether it’s a beginning producer, someone who’s been farming or ranching for 20 years, or someone nearing retirement, there are workshops for everyone! There is also babysitting provided on both days for just $15/child, so the whole family can come!

If you are interested in providing a friend or family member with a registration to Montana’s Next Generation Conference, you can register online at If you call our office at 406-873-2239, we would be happy to mail or email a gift certificate that you can give to your recipient. Another added bonus - everyone who purchases a conference registration by January 10 will be entered in two drawings, one for a free registration and one for a free hotel room during the conference!

This Christmas, give a gift that won’t sit on the shelf collecting dust, give a gift of Montana’s Next Generation conference that can provide a lasting impact.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Fall Lawn and Tree Reminders

Kari Lewis

Now, as we proceed farther into fall, I wanted to give some reminders regarding fall tree and lawn care.  Proper care of trees now, in the fall, usually reduces winter damage to trees.

Once the trees’ leaves turn color and fall off, the tree is dormant so, it is recommended to water trees once each week until the soil freezes.  This watering after the tree is dormant provides a water reserve for when the tree comes out of dormancy and it will make a big impact in next year’s overall tree health. Remember to water not at the tree trunk, but out at the dripline of the tree to water those feeder roots. 

If you have newly planted trees, it’s important to protect them from winter desiccation.  It’s advised to construct sun barriers for newly planted evergreens on the windward and south side of trees or shrubs to protect them from winds that will dry them out and protect them from intensive reflective winter sun.  These young trees can be protected by wrapping burlap between fence posts or propping a wooden pallet on end.  Deciduous trees (that’s the ones whose leaves turn color) with smooth and dark bark should have trunks wrapped with a tree wrap to reflect the sun, which will reduce sunscald on the bark. 

Regarding lawns, fall is the time to make another fertilizer application or two.  In Montana, it’s recommended to fertilize around Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day.  The final fall fertilizer application should occur after the last mowing of the year, but about four weeks before the soil freezes.  The fall fertilizer applications are key fertilizing times, as your lawn will green up much faster in the spring if it receives this October fertilizer application. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Living frugally to retire early - is that possible?
by Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension

The past couple of years I’ve been participating in a book club with MSU and North Dakota Extension Agents.  It is fun to get the perspectives from others during our weekly chats and to learn new information that I might not have read about myself.

This year’s book is How to Retire the Cheapskate Way by Jeff Yeager. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to share the tips he’s learned from other frugal savers and his own experiences along with the comments from other experts in the field of financial management.

From a former colleague, Jeff learned about the "Cheapskate’s Hierarchy of Moolah Management." It has four steps.  Today we’ll start with step number one.

Step One: Reduce your dependency on money as much as possible, thereby reducing your need for great cash flow. He says, "Cheapskates place the highest priority on spending less…not earning more."  Do you know anyone who has gotten a raise and still seems to be living paycheck to paycheck?

In step one it is important to place the highest priority on spending less, not earning more; there are three parts to step one:

First, identify your needs and your wants. Try to reduce your routine living expense needs to be no more than 50% of your income and allocate no more than 20% of your income to your wants or extras. Then put the remaining 30% into savings.  Take small steps to live within your means and whenever you can live below your means.  One suggestion is to make setting aside money for your savings part of your spending plan.

Second, establish a permanent standard of living and refuse to let your living expenses grow as your income grows during your working years.  As you income grows, put the extra income into your savings account or increase your contributions to a 401k or if you need to make a major purchase, save up for half or more of the total cost to reduce payment amounts for a loan. 

Third, avoid as much debt as possible and when you do take on debt, work on paying that off as quickly as possible.  Doing so will save you money in less interest paid and it helps people to avoid things like foreclosure and bankruptcy.  Pay ahead on house or car loans by adding extra payments to the principal.  If you have several credit cards with balances and loans to pay off, check out Utah State University's PowerPay - a free program to make a 'personalize, self-directed debt elimination program'.  

See the Resources below for more information.
MSU Extension has MontGuides to help with the budgeting.  
Track'n Your Savings Goals

If you want all the details, get a copy of Yeager's Book:  How to Retire the Cheapskate Way - The Ultimate Cheapskate's Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement by Jeff Yeager, 2013.

Utah State University Extension "PowerPay"