Montana Wool Growers Association

P.O. Box 1693 Helena, MT  59624       406-442-1330




Miles City Nights Were Cold, but Bidding Was Hot

at the Montana Ram Sale.

An early season cold front brought chilly temperatures and rain to Miles City and snow to large areas of the Northern Great Plains and mountains the second week of September.  Despite the cold weather, a large crowd turned out on Wednesday afternoon for the Montana State University Sheep Seminar.  Speakers and topics included Matt Hayes of Superior Lamb (Using EBV’s to meet future lamb carcass needs), Ron Cole of Colorado (Current market conditions), Larry Prager (American Wool Council update), and John Steuber (Wildlife Services Update).  A big thank you to Dr. Lisa Surber of the Montana Wool Lab for organizing the informational program and putting together this year’s sale catalog.

One of the highlights of this year’s Montana Ram Sale was honoring a true Montanan.  Dr. W.W. “Bill” Hawkins started as the sale veterinarian in 1957 and officially retired this year, having only missed about 10 years.  Bill grew up in a storied family with huge ties to early Montana history.  His grandfather’s picture hangs in the Range Rider Museum in Miles City and was an early Deputy Sheriff in old Custer County after having served as a Texas Ranger.  Bill grew up on the large Selway Sheep Company east of Dillon, which his father managed until it was acquired by the Matador Ranch.  After graduating high school and a short stint at Montana State College, Bill served in the Occupation of Japan and in Korea.  After being discharged, he returned to Dillon and while working as sheep foreman on the Cook Sheep Company decided to return to Bozeman and enter vet school.  He eventually became head of the Veterinary Research Lab at Bozeman and in 1973 started a private practice in Dillon.  At 86, Dr. Hawkins is the oldest practicing veterinarian in Montana.  With a large gathering of family and friends, Bill received a formal toast from John Helle of Dillon and was presented a custom engraved set of Italian crystal glasses.  Many thanks Bill for you and your family’s years of service to the Montana State University, the Montana sheep industry and ram sale, and to our great nation.  Miles City businesses who helped make the social possible were Fred Wacker Agency, Murdoch’s, Muggli Bros., Inc., Reynolds Market, Stockman Bank, and Schuldt Services.

To keep everyone warm during the social, the Bison’s mobile bar kept the drinks flowing to toast Dr. Hawkins and Jeff Shaw and his crew with Redneck Grill and the Miles City Chamber cooked up some fantastic lamb sliders.  Past MWGA President Randy Tunby of Plevna was presented a Montana Silversmith’s buckle by current Vice President Dave McEwen of Galata to finish off the presentations.  At 6 pm, local auctioneer Rob Fraser opened the ball on the 1st Annual Montana Ewe Sale with around 200 people in attendance.  Jack McRae of Jordan served as the first manager of the sale, Cord Bieber of Brockway chaired the committee which set the rules, and Dr. Ryan Rienstra acted as sale veterinarian.  Consignors to the historic event were Lehfeldt Rambouillet-Lavina, Dallas Sheep Outfit-Wilsall, Graves Sheep Outfit-Circle, Hughes Newford-Stanford, Green Ranch-Melville, Bieber Land-Brockway, Halverson Ranch-Big Timber, and Blue Bell Sheep-Molt.  The 470 white faced yearling ewes in 15 lots sold at a brisk pace and averaged $319 per head with buyers from Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota.  Frontier Stockyards provided a live video feed of the sale and John Morford and his crew did a great job.  There has been lots of interest in this sale over the past year and with the first one in the books, the organizers feel next year will be bigger and better.

After a night on the town in Miles City, sheepmen and women returned to the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds early on Thursday morning to look over the 304 rams being offered at the 89th Annual Montana Ram Sale.  The Miles City Chamber and Redneck Grill provided a great lamb lunch to buyers before the sale with the product being sourced from Montana Natural Lamb in Big Timber.  The MWGA Board was proud to host Talyor Brown and the first REAL Montana class.  This two year program for agriculture and natural resource leaders in the state focuses on leadership training and industry challenges and innovations.  MWGA wished the class the best of luck and continued success in the future.  Rob Fraser prides himself on starting on time and a little after noon the barn heated up as buyers took their seats and rams entered the ring.  The new Eastern Montana Beef Specialist Dr. Megan Van Emon and Garfield County Ag Extension Agent Eric Miller ran the gates and Custer County Ag Agent Mike Schuldt helped the Miles City FFA Chapter bring rams into the barn.  Ringmen Zane Kettleman, Andy Wemmer, and Collin Gibbs were kept busy by 92 registered buyers from Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Utah, and Wisconsin.  After four hours of calling bids and some help from Collin Gibbs, Rob declared the sale over and with a new all-time high selling ram at the sale.  Lot 50 was a single Targhee ram consigned by the Hibbard family of Sieben Live Stock Co. and sold to the partnership of Jack McRae or Jordan, MT and Jon Beastrom of Pierre, SD for $7,100.  The record was actually broken twice in the day with Carloyn Green’s Targhee Test Ram selling to Simms Sheep Co. of Evanston, WY for $6,900 earlier in the sale.  

With the rise in lamb and beef prices over last year, this year’s range ram average rose from 284 head at $784 in 2013 to 298 head at $1,042 this year.  Other stud and test rams were:  MSU Targhee Stud to Big Dry Angus for $1,400; Sieben Live Stock Targhee Stud to Dilts Ranch Co. of Douglas, WY for $4,400; Carolyn Green Targhee Stud to Bridle Bit Ranch of Gillete, WY for $3,000; Lehfeldt Rambouillet Test to Helle Rambouillet of Dillon, MT for $1,800; and Langhus Columbia Test to Bob Walker of Richey, MT for $1,100.  Breed averages on range rams included: 15 Rambouillet SAMM cross rams at $1,330; 214 Targhee rams at $1,141; 25 Rambouillet rams at $890; 28 Suffolk mostly ram lambs at $605; 10 Suffolk Hamp cross ram lambs at $507; and 6 Columbia rams and lambs at $358.  It is a testament to the depth of quality of the rams that many registered Targhee stud rams were purchased in the last third of the sale.  The Montana Ram Sale does not happen without huge assistance from volunteers in Miles City.  The MWGA Board would like to thank Mick Wiest (hay and straw), Joe Brady (night watch), Jim Hill, Kent Williams, and Geneal Bott of Stockman Bank (keeping the books), Chet Holmes of Eastern Montana Fairgrounds, Miles City FFA Chapter, Jeff Shaw, Redneck Grill and the Miles City Chamber (cooking), Dana Penrod Ram Sale Chairman, The Bison Bar, Kristee Weischedle and Christine Murphy of Northwest Farm Credit, Rob Fraser and Frontier Stockyards, MSU Ag Extension, Miles City Brand Inspectors Pat Murphy and Pat Anderson, and especially Mike and Cheryl Schuldt for helping plan and coordinate the ewe sale, registering bidders for the ram sale, and filling any job that was asked of them.  Personally I would like to thank the businesses and staff in Miles City for providing our consignors and buyers with a hot meal or warm bed with a gracious smile as we tracked mud across your clean floors all week.  We’ll see everyone next year with even more quality yearling ewes and rams at the 90TH Annual Montana Ram and 2nd Annual Montana Ewe Sale in Miles City, MT.

Auctioneer Rob Fraser and Ringman Collin Gibbs scan the audience for a bid as Ben Lehfeldt of Lavina sells a group of Rambouillet Yearling Ewes at the First Annual Montana Ewe Sale in Miles City.

Emily and Chase Hibbard of Sieben Live Stock Company hold the all-time high selling ram at the 89th Annual Montana Ram Sale.  The ram sold to Jack and Kathryn McRae of Jordan, MT and John Beastrom of Peirre, SD for $7,100.  Also pictured are Kristin and Ed Bieber of Brockway, MT.  The twin born QR ram had an adjusted ribeye of 3.75, 12.1% Number of Lambs Born, and had a very white, long, and dense 22.6 micron fleece.  We should see some of his sons in 2016.



    Well the dog days of summer are here, first cut is up, the harvest is in full swing, and some people are starting second cut.  The lamb market seems to be holding up well, but the pelt market has taken a severe nose dive.  The cattle market continues its fantastic run even though the futures have been trending down some lately.  Feed prices continue to drop as calls for a huge corn and soybean crop continue.  The wool market has been quiet, but the mid micron categories are holding up better than the finer wools.  

    The Montana Columbia Show and Sale will be on Saturday, August 23 in Lewistown and will feature some of the best Columbia genetics available in the Northwest.  If you’re wanted to add some rib eye and gain to your lambs, don’t miss this sale.  The Choteau Sheep Expo has been planning a big event to commemorate their 30th Anniversary sale.  The Montana Woolgrowers board will be meeting in Choteau at the Stage Stop Inn from 10 am till 4 pm on Friday, September 5th.  On Saturday the 6th, the Choteau Board is pleased to announce American Sheep Industry President Clint Krebs will be the featured speaker.  Clint will present a photographic history of his family’s past summer operation on the Blackfoot Reservation and give an update on issues related to the national industry.  The Montana Woolgrowers Board will be sponsoring a community invited, lamb fajita lunch and the sale will start at 1 pm.  

     The 89th Annual Montana Ram Sale will take place on Thursday, September 11th at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds in Miles City, Montana.  There will be over 300 quality range rams available with emphasis on production records like yearling micron, rib eye, and EBV’s.  As the industry transitions to instrument grading, make sure your lambs will beat the grid by using proven and tested genetics.  

      Also this year the MWGA Board is excited to announce the 1st Annual Montana Ewe Sale.  This sale will offer some of the best Montana female genetics from ram sale consignors and reputation commercial breeders.  Jack McRae reports there are close to 500 yearling and ewe lambs consigned to this first sale.  These select females will also have an emphasis on records with some lots having a full EBV list and other’s having wool core data from the ewe flock.  If your serious about the future of the sheep industry and committed to its long term improve, we hope to see you Miles City in September for these two sales.

American  Sheep  Industry  Association       2014  U.S.  Sheep,  Lamb  &  Wool  Fast  Facts,   April  2014  

Link to the report

Montana Sheep Institute

American Lamb


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Copyright 2015 Montana Wool Growers Association












December 3-5, 2015

Billings Hotel and Convention Center - Billings, MT.

Calendar has been updated


Weather conditions are looking favorable for the 131st Annual Montana Woolgrowers Convention in Billings, with the long range forecast is calling for highs in the 30’s during convention which will be a big change from last year.  We’ve lined up some great speakers including the Debby Barrett- Senate President, Austin Knudson-Speaker of the House, Jamie Connell-BLM State Director, and Bridger Feuz-UW Livestock Marketing Specialist.  Whit Stewart the future MSU Sheep Specialist will also be on hand for the whole convention along with many familiar faces and old friends to update us on the wool and lamb markets and national issues.  We will be having the speed shear Calcutta on Friday night during the Western Ranch Waterhole and some great lamb meals provided by Montana Natural Lamb and Highland Lamb.  I know everyone is looking forward to the Montana Make it With Wool Fashion Show during the banquet and finish by cheering on our favorite cowboys and girls competing at the NFR.  The lamb market is holding up well and most ranches report lots of fall grass, so plan on taking a few days to spend in Billings, see some old friends, catch up on industry issues, and get some shopping done.  See you in Billings.