Beef Magazine: Sage Grouse, Cattle Thrive on Rest-Rotation

August 5, 2014

The August 5th edition of Beef Magazine online features an article about the Sage Grouse Initiative and specifically the inspiring stewardship of the Delaneys, a multi-generational ranch family from Winnett, Montana. Their home ranch harbors 10 identified sage grouse leks (breeding areas). Through rest-rotation programs with funding from SGI, the grouse and the range are faring well and so is their Black Angus cow-calf operation, with calf weights rising from 500 to 600 pounds. Read the full Story.


“My biggest surprise was the amount of cover we got in that 15-month period of resting pastures,” Mike says, pointing out a doubling of growth in rested pastures. (photo of Montana rancher Mike Delaney, by Deborah Richie, SGI)


Mike Delaney shows his ranch plan with rest-rotation, water developments and sage grouse leks to Pete Husby, Montana NRCS state biologist (blue jacket) and Jon Siddoway, Montana NRCS state rangeland conservationist. (photo, Deborah Richie, SGI)


Deb and Mike Delaney on their ranch northwest of Winnett, Montana, (about an hour east of Lewistown). (photo by Deborah Richie, SGI)


“All the credit for us getting involved goes to Nikki Rife,” says Mike, who regularly attends her workshops. When she explained the benefits of SGI, the Delaneys decided to approach the bank for a loan, finding immediate success. (photo of Nikki Rife, NRCS district conservationist, Winnett, with Mike and Deb Delaney on the ranch, by Deborah Richie, SGI)


Mike Delaney with son Michael pose in front of one of Deb Delaney’s handmade quilts that grace the walls of their ranch home. From the article: “Mike and Deb put in long days to pass down a profitable and sustainable ranch to their daughter and son. Their daughter Anne Bergum is actively involved with the ranch and helps keep track of the finances. Their son Michael has worked side by side with them since 2006, after graduating from Montana State University with an animal science degree. He brings new technology to the ranch, such as remote cameras to be alerted to any problems at watering tanks or during calving season.” (photo by Deborah Richie, SGI)


“I’ve found that SGI has a snowball effect,” Anderson said. “A few ranchers get involved and then more want to be part of it and it keeps growing.” (Photo of Scott Anderson, SGI rangeland conservationist in a partner position out of Forsyth, MT, who went on the Delaney ranch tour (photo, Deborah Richie, SGI)


Jon Siddoway, Montana NRCS state rangeland conservationist, (left) and Pete Husby, Montana NRCS state biologist, were impressed at the response of the sagebrush, grasslands and forbs from almost two years of rest from grazing, as part of a rest-rotation plan that assures good cover for nesting grouse and improving range conditions that withstand drought well. (photo, Deborah Richie, SGI)


View of Black Butte from the Delaney Ranch–see forever country that’s vast, intact and with the kind of native range and sagebrush that’s ideal for sage grouse. (photo, Deborah Richie, SGI)





The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.