ROY, Mont. – For the Murnions, family is number one. Rex Murnion, the patriarch of the gang, grew up around Jordan, Mont. After graduating from high school, he returned to the family operation until 1989. At that time, after an opportunity presented itself, Rex, his wife Lori and their two children Barney and Kristen, bought land about 100 miles north of Billings and that is where they have been ever since.
In the early days at Roy, the Murnions raised sheep, commercial cattle and they farmed some. Daughters Katlyn, Angela and Kendra, joined the family after the move to Roy and the Murnions settled in to build an operation that could one day be passed on.
In 2004, the Murnions started raising their own horses after they inherited a band of broodmares from Lori’s dad. They purchased a stud shortly after. The broodmares and their stud are heavy running bred, tracing back to greats like Special Effort, First Down Dash and Frenchman’s Guy.
“Those running bred horses can cover a lot of country, and even if they are straight running bred, they still have a little bit of cow sense, so that helps,” Katlyn said.
Rex and Lori are nearing retirement, so daughters Katlyn and Angela are back full-time on the operation. Katlyn graduated from MSU and tried for one year to work at an accounting firm, but her heart longed for the ranch. Two years ago, she returned to help her parents.
Angela graduated with a pre-veterinary degree and had thought initially of going on to veterinary school, but the family cattle operation pulled at her heart strings too. This will be her first fall/winter at the ranch full-time.
The two sisters are really partners in the day-to-day ranch operations, tackling each task as it comes their way and there isn’t much they can’t accomplish. Lori pointed out with pride that her two middle daughters are not only handy with livestock, but both can also run equipment with skill.
As fall quickly dissipates into winter in central Montana, Rex and Lori are glad to have their daughters around to help with the fall works. The steer calves were pre-conditioned around the middle of October and they shipped out the first of November.
“I feel like we have been riding every day, just moving cattle around, getting them sorted and ready to ship,” Angela chuckled.
The Murnions have gotten in the habit of holding over their heifer calves for a few extra months, giving them a chance to grow a little more before they ship. Katlyn also pointed out, holding them over allows the Murnions ample opportunity to look over their replacement heifers. A unique tagging system makes eyeballing replacement heifers rather straightforward.
“If there is a cow that has some undesirable qualities, when she calves, we give the heifer calf a pink tag. But if we really like the cow, we give her calf a green tag, so we only pick our replacement heifers out of the green tags,” Katlyn explained.
Furthermore, only heifer calves born during the first cycle are donned a green tag, ensuring that only the cream of the crop are retained for breeding.
Even though the calves are nearly all packed up and gone, there is still much to be done on the ranch. Mother cows need to be moved around, vaccinated and preg-checked.
Additionally, these early snowstorms have really thrown a wrench into the normal ranching routine. The Murnions have been forced to supplement their cattle with some feed for the time being. They are crossing their fingers and hoping for a break in the weather so the cattle can go back to grass for a while before Montana’s real winter sets in.