The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

44th Annual Montana Angus Tour set for north central region, September 18-20


September 12, 2018

Angus breeders gather each year for the Montana Angus Tour. The tour includes a number of stops where guests can view Angus cattle, tour ranches and facilities, socialize and network with others interested in the Angus breed. The upcoming 2018 tour will be hosted by the North Central Montana Angus Association that includes Angus breeders in Blaine, Hill and Phillips Counties. This photo is from the 2017 tour held in the southeast region of Montana.

The 44th annual Montana Angus Tour is set for our area during September 18-20. The annual event brings together as many as 400 Angus breeders and others connected to the breed to view Angus cattle, visit and tour ranch facilities and network with tour guests from all over the nation. Each of the three days of the tour includes stops at ranches and other facilities where Angus cattle will be showcased. Luncheons, dinners and the state Angus association's annual meeting will be held at stops along the way.

Montana's state Angus association is made up of seven regions, each of which hosts the annual event every seven years on a rotating basis. The North Central Montana Angus Association, hosting this year's tour, covers 12,000 square miles in three counties from the Canadian border to the Missouri River. With a population of just over 25,000 the area is also home to nearly 150,000 cattle.

A short primer of the Angus breeders' professional associations

An understanding of how the Angus industry is organized helps put the Montana Tour in perspective. At the national level, the American Angus Association (AAA) is the largest beef breed organization in the nation serving 25,000 members in the U.S, Canada and several other countries. It's home to an extensive breed registry that grows by nearly 300,000 animals each year. Based in St. Joseph, Missouri, AAA and its 200 staff members provide programs and services to breeders and others to produce quality genetics for the beef industry and quality beef for consumers.

The CEO of the American Angus Association will attend this year's tour in north central Montana. Dave Hinman, an Angus producer from Malta and the only Montanan on the AAA's national board, said, "The invitation was made to CEO Allen Moczygemba by the Montana Angus Association." Moczygemba joined the national association as CEO in late 2015 and according to Hinman's information, has not yet visited Montana. The Montana breeders believe this year's tour will be a great opportunity for the head of the national association to meet Montana breeders and see some of the state.

Roger Jacobs has been master of ceremonies for the Montana Tour for the last several years, introducing hosts and honored guests at each stop of the tour. Jacobs believes he has attended at least 40 of the 43 Montana Angus tours held to date. "Having the national CEO attend this tour is a big deal," Jacobs added, "and as best I can recall it was 28 years ago the last CEO of the national group attended the north central Montana tour." Jacobs said he could only recall a national CEO coming to a Montana tour "four or five times" in the four plus decades the tour has functioned.

The Montana Angus Association's mission is to "advance and assure the success of the Angus breed, breeders and owners." Jacobs conducts about 100 cattle auctions each year in Montana as well as other states. He's familiar with several state Angus organizations and said, "Montana has one of the most active and long running associations in the country." Jacobs heads up a committee that is trying to collect the history of the Montana Angus Association. He added, "A lot of the people who made this all happen are aging and I encouraged the Montana association to begin gathering historic information." The Montana association was founded in 1962 and has enjoyed a successful history.

At the regional level the North Central Angus Montana Association is made up of seedstock and commercial producers from Blaine, Hill and Phillips Counties. First organized as the Milk River Angus Association in 1999 it made the name change in 2006. It's the group that is hosting this year's tour and handling the details of the event. This year's tour organizers said a month ago that registrations were on track to reach the 250-300 level for the tour. Some ranches that host stops on the tour invite their regular customers in addition to the registered guests on the tour, often pushing the guest lists to 400+ at certain stops.

2018 Montana Angus Tour:

"Great Places, Great Memories, Great Angus Cattle"

To better understand the purpose and some history of the Montana Angus Tour, I first reached out to Kurt Kangas who's served the last five years as Regional Manager of Montana, Wyoming and Alaska for the American Angus Association. Kangas said the tour provides more than just an opportunity for breeders to get together and look at cattle. He added, "The tour is both business and social. The variety in the tours is the different parts of the state, the weather and always the cattle change." He explained that while much about a region and the breeders operations may stay the same over the seven year period between tours, "the cattle are always changing."

Historically, the Montana Tour is the oldest, continuous Angus tour in the country and attracts a large number of people from out of state and even foreign countries. Kangas said, "People like to visit Montana, they will attend several annual tours in Montana to see different parts of the state."

Lori Swanson told, "Many of the early registrants were from out of state and wanted information about Glacier Park. Some of these breeders are retired and they add time to sightsee in Montana as well as attend the tour." Kangas added, "The Montana tours that draw the largest crowds are the ones near big airports or Montana's major tourist attractions. Last year in the Gallatin Valley half the registered guests were from out of state."

About the number of out-of-staters on the tours, Roger Jacobs added, "Montana is well known as a source for its number of major Angus seedstock producers. Often producers like to come and see the area where the seedstock originates." Host ranches and facilities also use the tour as a chance to thank their customers. Klint and Lori Swanson, co-owners of Shipwheel Cattle Company, are inviting a lot of their customers to the pitchfork fondue steak dinner they're hosting for the tour.

Allen Moczygemba, the CEO of the American Angus Association (AAA), will be attending the Montana Angus Tour in mid-September. Moczyemba joined AAA, the largest beef breed organization in the country, as chief executive in late 2015. Long time Montana tour participants say the last time a CEO of the national group attended the north central Montana region's tour was nearly 30 years ago.

Dave Hinman, the AAA board member from Malta, will be hosting a stop on the last day of the tour. Asked why the large number of non-Montana breeders attend the tour, Hinman said, "We treat the tour guests well, feed them well and offer a lot of things to see-some great Angus cattle and beautiful country." He added that many out-of-state guests have been coming to the Montana tour for several years. Hinman said, "I don't always know their names but I recognize them."

In some ways a lot of the growth of the Montana Tour is from the large numbers of out-of-state guests. Roger Jacobs said, "The Montana Tour has a national draw with some people coming every year." He mentioned, "Dave and Dave from Louisiana. I can't recall their last names but they've been coming every year for the last ten years."

So, the focus of the tour is about Angus cattle, but the tour is much more than that. It's a chance to see some new country, learn about new ways of doing things and meet and network with other people in a shared business. The tour is a showcase for Angus cattle, the state of Montana and, this year, an opportunity for guests to enjoy the beauty and hospitality of north central Montana. The "Journal" welcomes our Montana and out-of-state visitors and wishes guests and organizers a great 2018 Montana Angus Tour.


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