Wanda Pinnow got her Christmas surprise early.
She was named Montana Cattlewoman of the Year on Dec. 11 in Billings.
“It was definitely a surprise,” the current president of the American National Cattlewomen explained. “I went to the awards session and they called my name. I was totally shocked,” she said, noting it was the first time the Montana Cattlewomen organization had given the award.
Pinnow has lived in the area all of her life and has been involved with the Baker CowBelles since the 1990s.
“I have been really busy (with the national group),” she said, noting that her term as president of the group will end in February.
But she knows who was responsible for the December surprise in Billings, she said. “It is because the Baker CowBelles nominated me for this position, it is the reason I got it. They wrote letters explaining why they thought I should win the award,” she said. The letters focused on what she had been doing for the Montana Cattlewomen and the Baker CowBelles, according to Pinnow.
A longtime secretary/treasurer for the Baker CowBelles, she said that she only found out about the state award when they called her name at the awards ceremony.
“As president of the American National Cattlewomen, I have traveled to 15 states and I have helped put on a WIRED (Women In Ranching Education Development) event in Billings for the Montana Cattlewomen. It was a hands-on educational symposium for women and young collegians. It was a full-day thing at the Miller Horse Palace in Laurel (Yellowstone County). We had a whole day of education. We started with some classroom education, how to mix a live vaccine, the proper mixing of a live vaccine and the proper storage of a live vaccine. We also learned about what certain medicines are for, where to give the medicine, the proper way of giving the medicine to the livestock.
“It included hands-on chute education, the proper way to get cattle down the alleyway and into a chute and the proper way of setting up your alleyway,” she explained. The group at the event was also shown the way to get cattle into the corner gate with no yelling or talking. “Just by walking slowly towards them,” she explained. “It was one of our exercises.”
In addition, the event provided education on the ways to properly perform branding, castration, vaccination and worming, along with the chute handling, Pinnow said.
The participants also used cadaver ears to practice putting hormone implants on the ears.
In the classroom, the group also learned about grazing techniques. “How, in a dry year, what is it that you can do to get the most out of your pasture. When to pull your cattle out of the pasture. What are good grasses, what are bad grasses,” Pinnow said. “We also learned about minerals and why cattle need a mineral. It depends on your pasture and the type of mineral that your cattle needs.”
The WIRED event had 40 people participating, even including a mother-daughter from North Carolina who happened to be visiting in Montana, she added. “They were here for the Angus tour the week before and just stayed over the next week to do our class (in September).”
It was a brand new program set up by the American National Cattlewomen, Pinnow said. “They are bringing it to each state. It is one of their womens leadership education programs. We had national sponsors backing us and we had the third event (in Montana) backed by the American National Cattlewomen of that series. This is something that we would like to continue as a yearly event, but we’ll have to find sponsors to help us. We had five of the major drug companies there (this year) as our sponsors and answering our participants questions and educating us.”
The fact that she was able to visit so many states as the president of the national organization was very important to Pinnow. “I was able to visit with other cattle producers and find out how they do things and we do things, and make people aware there is a national American Cattlewomen organization. We are a group that does education, leadership, promotion and legislation,” she said.
One of the biggest misconceptions Pinnow has found about cattlewomen is recognizing just how many are involved in the industry. “They don’t realize that about 40 percent of all ranchers in the United States are women. Women alone are the owner-managers.”
“The biggest misconception with the public is they do not understand we are not factory farms. We don’t have factory farms. We are just a family on a farm/ranch, raising cattle with our family.”
“We take it to our heart and soul that these cattle are going to be raised in a good safe environment because we want to produce a good and safe wholesome product - beef,” she explained.
She admits that ranchers need to educate the public, noting there is a bill currently in the U.S. Senate about factory farms.
“It is a presidential candidate who is putting this bill forward. He thinks if you own over a hundred head of cattle, he wants to label us as a factory farm,” she said, noting that the candidate has been offered opportunities to come out to see an active ranch, but has declined the opportunity so far.
“It is important to educate women and show that it is important to belong to these groups (Montana Cattlewomen, American National Cattlewomen), if you want to see education going forward,” she explained. “If you want to see promotion and education, we have a program where we’ll get to the schools (the Perfect Cheeseburger). We offer to buy beef for schools in the food and consumer science classes in the high schools
“The Montana Cattlewomen, through the help of the beef checkoff, provide meat for our schools. We provide educational materials,” she explained.
It is also important to expand the number of people involved at every level, from the local CowBelles, to the state cattlewomen and the national organization, Pinnow stressed.
“We need more members because we are getting so sparse that we can not do it all. We need people to realize the importance of being a member of the Montana Cattlewomen. That is my most important thing. Our CowBelles have only 20 members and we have way more ranchers in Fallon County than that. We need more women to help spread the education. Even though we are a ranching and farming community in Montana, there are still so many kids that don’t understand all of the byproducts that come from beef and all of the important things that come when you have beef in your diet,” Pinnow said.
“There is only so many of us and we are spread so thin. We need more members. They need to realize what we do and how important it is to be a member to help do that,” she added.
The Montana Cattlewomen and other groups have also provided resources online for the public and teachers to use in the classroom, Pinnow explained, noting that the Montana Department of Agriculture is just one of the resources available to the public and teachers.
In addition, there are a number of videos on YouTube about agriculture in Montana, along with a variety of state and regional websites.