BILLIINGS — Spring is a busy time of the year for Montana ranchers with activities like branding, pregnancy checking and shearing either underway or soon will be. And these activities can’t be done alone.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, agriculture has been declared an essential industry, but the Montana Department of Livestock does have some guidelines they’re asking ranchers to consider this year.
Mike Honeycutt, the Montana Department of Livestock’s executive officer, says COVID-19 has brought some unique challenges this year.
“We realize that it might be best to put out some guidance to get people thinking about how to do those the best they can and safely in the context of what we're dealing with the virus that's out there,” said Honeycutt. “We also want to provide reassurance to those county health departments and others who may have concerns about these activities carrying forward.”
He says they’re asking ranchers to strongly consider implementation of several guidelines set forth by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
“I think first and foremost is trying to consider how many people you need to do the job and do it safely and trying to have those people there,” said Honeycutt. “A lot of these events gather family members and others, maybe more people than you need. But for this year, consider trying to limit the number of people to actually who's essential to being able to get the job done. Also being considerate of those that would normally help you that have underlying conditions who are maybe at greater risk of having issues related to COVID-19 and trying to keep those people away.”
He says he wants to make it clear that these are just recommendations not mandates.
“These are guidance and recommendations,” said Honeycutt. “They're not mandates. And we just hope that people will think a little bit more as they carry into these activities this year. Hopefully this is a one-time thing that we have to deal with in our careers.”
If ranchers have any questions, they can contact the Department of Livestock in Helena at (406) 444-2976.