January 2023 Newsletter

Montana Bison News- January 2023

A newsletter from the Montana Bison Association

The President’s Corner

Just a few weeks ago I found myself surrounded by the good folks of the Montana Bison Association at our annual Winter Conference, held this year in White Sulphur Springs.  It was refreshing to spend time visiting with folks that have the same passion and enthusiasm for the bison and take the time to catch up with folks one on one.  What I took away from the meeting is that our members continue to innovate, promote, and educate themselves about this animal that provides so much to all of us.  And for that, I want to thank all of those that attended for their continuing membership and support of the Association.  

In addition, I want to give a big thank you to two of our outgoing board members for all the hard work and time they have provided.  Candy Westre, of Bitterroot Bison Ranch in Missoula, leaves the board after serving generously as Secretary for the Montana Bison Association.  Her position has been filled by a new board Member, Terye Gaustad owner of Ring of Horns Ranch out of Hot Springs, who so graciously volunteered to take over as Secretary of the Board.  And Jon Sepp of Roam Free Ranch in Hot Springs has also fulfilled his time on the Board.  Jon and Brittany both provided new ideas and new perspectives to all of us on the Board during Jon’s tenure.  His position is now filled by Michael Botha of Big Sky Bison in Vaughn.  I believe both Michael and Terye will bring to the board a passion for bison and a strong representation of producers of “grass to finish” bison.  We welcome both of them to the Board and encourage all members to reach out to any and all Board members with any issues or concerns you may have. 

That said, I want to update the membership on some of the current topics of discussion in front of the Board.  We are, of course, monitoring the 2023 session of the Montana Legislature for any bills that may be of concern to bison producers in the state.  In addition, we continue to stay in touch with the Department of Livestock and hope to continue our push to lower per capita fees on bison to a more acceptable price in line with other livestock.  Also in front of the Board is the discussion as to where to hold our annual summer conference. Any suggestions from membership are always welcome.  And, we encourage members to keep us abreast of any information that you feel is important for Board members to be aware of.  It’s a big state and a lot goes on out there in the world of Bison.  And with that final note, I want to once again reiterate that we are a small organization with a big impact.  Let’s maintain that strength by communicating. Reach out to other producers and let’s continue to advocate and commiserate.  Every individual success is a collective success for us all. – Chris Bechtold, MBA President 

2023 Winter Conference 

Thank you to all who attended the MBA Winter Conference this January in White Sulphur Springs. 

The annual Montana Bison Association Winter Conference was held January 6-7 at White Sulphur Springs, Montana.  The Board chose to hold the annual get together at a more centrally located town and what a fine idea it was to choose a spot with Hot Springs.  Most members were able to book rooms at the Spa Hotel and were able to wind down after a day of meetings with a soak in the springs after a day of informative presentations. 

Members gathered Friday night for an informal dinner of pizza and beer before our first speaker, Dr. Marty Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian for the Department of Livestock gave a very informative and thorough presentation on the state of affairs concerning infectious livestock diseases in the Montana.  In addition, Dr. Zaluski briefed membership of the status of funding and construction on the proposed new State Diagnostic Laboratory to be build in Bozeman.  He encouraged members to please reach out to your state legislative representatives to vote for additional funding needed to complete the lab.  The lab plays a vital role in testing for bison and all livestock and is critical to keeping our herds healthy. 

Saturday morning members enjoyed coffee and donuts from the local White Sulphur Springs Bakery and listened to a brief presentation from one of our gracious sponsors for the annual meeting, Michael Botha and Jordan Crisenberry of Quality Fence Solutions. I encourage all members to reach out to Quality Fence for any fencing you may be considering.  They deal in all types of fencing and corral work and are enthusiastic supporters or the Montana Bison Association. 

The educational portion of the gathering really kicked off with a fine presentation by Ron and Aaron Amidon, Bison Nutritionists with R&G Feed in Malta.  Mr. Amidon spent time presenting to the members some of the intricacies of finding and developing a quality mineral mix for bison.  He talked as well about the finer points of feed mixes and range cake ingredients and answered many of the questions members had about bison nutrition.

We also were granted a quick presentation by a member of the Montana Farmers Union on the status of their meat cutting operation being developed in Havre.  Members along the high line may have the ability to bring animals into a new USDA meat plant being developed in cooperation with the Montana State University Northern.  Anyone interested in more information about this operation is encouraged to contact Montana Farmers Union.

After a wonderful meal at Bar 47 on Main Street in White Sulphur, we all have a brief question and answer with Josh Pulst of Leavitt Insurance.  Josh took the time to remind all of us of the importance of keeping our coverage rates up to date with today’s rising real estate prices and encouraged all of us to continually keep an eye to safety with regards to our ranch operations.  Josh has been a generous sponsor for the Montana Bison Association for years and we encourage members to reach out to him for any insurance needs, be they livestock, automotive, or real estate. 

The afternoon presentation was given by Jim Matheson, the new director of the National Bison Association.  Jim, as always, gave a fine presentation that was both entertaining and informative.  He was able to fill in members on what is happening nationally in the world of bison and shed some light on what is affecting bison prices.  Jim does a great job of keeping bison front and center for legislators in Washington, D.C. as well and was able to present what issues are of national importance for all of us. 

An impromptu presentation was given by Melissa Brandao of Moovement Ear tags, a GPS and technology innovator in the field of GPS enabled ear tags.  Melissa has been a supporter of Bison with her previous endeavors at Herddogg, which worked with the National Bison Association to develop an animal records app.

The final presentation of the conference was given by Mike Honeycutt, director of the Montana Department of Livestock.  Mike gave a fine presentation describing what the Department of Livestock does and how it benefits bison producers.  He spent some time discussing how per capita fees are set, what tools are available to bison producers through the Department and how the Department can better serve us as bison producers.  We want to give a big thank you to Mike for taking the time to come and present to the group.  And for that matter, a big thank you to all of our presenters and board members for all the time and effort that went into making this winter conference a success.  Saturday night was capped off with a fine dinner at the Bar 47 and drinks and discussion amongst all members that chose to stay the evening in White Sulphur. 

Following dinner, we had our fun auction that raised at approximately $1,000.00. Thanks to all the buyers and those who donated items to be auctioned off. Special thanks to Susan Benton Meir and Terye Gaustad for their auctioneering skills.

Thank you to our Winter Conference event sponsors Quality Fence Solutions and  Leavitt Group of Livingston

Welcome New MBA Board Members!

Michael Botha
Big Sky Bison, LLC
Vaughn, MT

Michael J Botha is the manager/owner of Big Sky Bison.  Our mission is to contribute and participate in a meaningful way to the bison production industry and do our part to restore the magnificent bison to their natural habitat in Montana.  As a young man having completed service in the South African army, Michael arrived in the USA with $264 and with no education, job or contacts.  An entrepreneur by heart, Michael created a new life in the USA and started, operated and sold various businesses.  In 2019, Michael started Big Sky Bison in Montana, and embarked on a large scale ranch turn-around project.  Once the ranch was complete, and having enjoyed installing 14.5 miles of fences, Michael partnered with Jordan Crisenbery to start Quality Fence Solutions. Quality Fence Solutions offers top notch fencing solutions throughout Montana.

Terye Gaustad
Ring of Horns Ranch
Hot Springs, MT

Hello, I’m Terye Gaustad founder and co-owner of the Ring of Horns Bison Ranch established in 2021. My son and I run a small bison ranch in Hot Springs, Montana and are raising grass fed bison while focusing on soil health and regenerative ranching.  Our goal is to introduce customers to our delicious bison via food trailer and providing gourmet bison burgers in up coming events, concerts and Farmer’s Markets.  I’ve had many years of customer service and management which included retail, restaurant and 20 years of nursing.  I took early retirement from my nursing career in 2021 and started our bison ranch.  We are looking forward to what the future holds, forging forward one hoof at a time!

-Thank you Michael and Terye for volunteering to join the MBA Board!

MBA Member Spotlight:  Little Fork Ranch LLC  

Little Fork Ranch is located on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. The ranch is owned and operated by the Benton family. Hugh Benton, a Seattle builder, found this beautiful piece of property in 2007.

Hugh had retired from building back in the early 90’s but has always been busy finding new ways to stay active.  In 2007 he fell in love with this property which was an old dude ranch that was no longer in operation.  The beauty in this valley and the river running through the property is what drew him to it.  After a couple years of growing hay Hugh and his ranch manager Gary Kubat decided to learn as much as they could about raising bison. In 2010 the first bison were brought to the property.  Starting small and gradually adding animals, the herd has increased to produce about 50 calves a year. All the bison at Little Fork Ranch are 100% grass fed.  Little Fork Ranch hopes to also be involved in bison meat sales in the near future.

In 2018 Susan Benton Meier moved to Montana to be closer to the ranch and learn as much from her father as possible. Susan and her brother own a fishing lodge in Alaska.  The entire Benton family spend Christmas together every year at the ranch and all hope to be involved in bison production in the future.

Images from Little Fork Ranch:

MBA Membership Updates


  • Henry Hvizdos, American Prairie
  • Matt Skoglund, North Bridger Bison
  • Pedro Calderon- Dominguez, American Prairie
  • Terye Gaustad, Ring of Horns Ranch
  • Adam & Melinda Anakalea, Harlow Ranch


  • Kenneth Killorn, Montrail Bison
  • Henry Hvizdos, American Prairie
  • Pedro Calderon, Dominguez, American Prairie
  • Aaron Paulson, Compass Cattle Company


MBA members, the MBA Board is asking for your support to help pass HB5:

At the winter conference in White Sulphur Springs on January 6 & 7, 2023, Marty Zaluski and Mike Honeycutt, both with the MT Dept of Livestock(MDL), updated  our members on a number of items, including the status of the new state testing lab to be built at MSU Bozeman. At the prior legislative session, funds were authorized for the construction of the lab. However, since that time, inflation set in and construction costs have increased. MDL has now submitted legislation(HB 5) to try and obtain additional funding of approx. $3.8 million to pay for the higher construction costs.

The MBA Board is asking for your support to help obtain the additional funding. One would think this legislation would not be an issue, but we cannot assume anything and we are asking our members to please contact your representative (MT House and MT Senate) to ask for their support with their vote in favor of HB5.

To find out who your representative is and to send them an email, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to the web site of HTTPS://www.leg.mt.gov/legislator-lookup/
  2. Go to the “find legislator by address,” enter your address, enter the “find my district” button.
  3. Once open, hit the red button, and the names of your MT House and MT Senate representatives should appear.
  4. Enter each of these names to see their contact info and the “send an email” button.
  5. Click the “send an email” button for each, and ask for their support to vote in favor of HB 5 –MDL Long Range Building Appropriations.

Thanks for your support on this very important issue.

bison empanada with chimichurri sauce

Featured Member Recipe from the 777 Ranch


777 Ranch Ground Buffalo Empanadas with Chimichurri Sauce

Chef MJ Adams     Corn Exchange Restaurant, Rapid City, SD


2 garlic cloves minced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 lbs. of ground Buffalo meat
1/2 cup of green olives, rough chopped into small dice
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1/2 cup of moist sun dried tomatoes
Salt and pepper for seasoning
2 T. of olive oil


3 cups of flour
1/2 cup of cold butter
1/4 cup of lard
1/4 cup of cold water


1 cup of chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons  garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
3/4 cup of olive oil
1 tsp. of red pepper flakes


Prepare all ingredients first, then make the dough. To make the dough, place flour in a bowl, and work in butter and lard.  Dissolve salt in water and work into flour mixture, making a dough.  Let rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

To make the filling, heat a large sauté pan, adding the olive oil. Sauté the onions, garlic, celery and carrots for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the ground buffalo and cook until the meat is about medium (the meat will continue to cook in the dough), breaking up with a fork while cooking. Add the olives, sundried tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, add the the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter.  Brush the perimeter with water, place ¼ cup of filling onto one side, fold the dough over the filling and press the two edges firmly together, crimping if desired or lay on a baking sheet and with an end of the fork tines pressed into the ends.  Optional- brush tops with beaten egg yolk and water mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes and golden brown. While baking, make the Chimichurri sauce by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well. Pour over empanadas just before serving.

Do you have a favorite bison recipe to share?  Please send it to and we’ll share it with the members!  

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