Economic Impact of Ranching

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the estimated population of Phillips County Montana in 2015 was 4,169.  The county has a total area of 5,212 square miles (Connecticut is 5440 square miles) of which 5,140 square miles is land and 72 square miles is water. It is the second-largest county in Montana by land area and third-largest by total area.  Phillips County has more cows than people and people take up less than 1 person per square mile.  Malta is the county seat and is 88 miles from the nearest Walmart, 200 miles from the nearest Starbucks, Costco or Sam’s Club.

North-Central Montana is characterized by gently rolling grass prairies adjoining the rough, broken landscape near the Missouri River.  Malta is the center of this agriculture community and denotes the heart of Dinosaur Country in Montana. Some of the world’s most significant dinosaurs ever discovered are unearthed in the Judith River Rock Formation in the northern portion of our region.

Agriculture is the economic engine of Phillips County.  While summarizing the importance of agriculture to Phillips County please keep in mind that if you eat you are involved in agriculture.

In the most recent (2012) Montana edition of the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) publication, Phillips County had almost $81,000,000.00 in gross farm income for 2010.  The 2008 Sheep Industry Economic Impact Analysis prepared for the American Sheep Industry stated that every $1.00 created by the U.S. sheep industry is multiplied by 3.65 in the economy.  Using that information, in 2010 the Phillips County agriculture community created $295,000,000.00 of economic impact that ripples through our community, Phillips County, the state and the nation.

NASS also stated in their 2012 publication that Phillips County had 56,000 head of cows and heifers that had calved.  That number ranked us number 3 among all Montana counties.  The industry standard would say that if 90% of them calved we would have 50,400 calves.  The beef industry typically keeps 15% of the females for replacement.  Therefore, Phillips County would have 46,800 head of calves going to the feedlot.  The Southern SARE reported a 1000-pound beef carcass yields 300 pounds of meat.   Those 46,800 head of calves will produce at least 14 million pounds of edible beef.  The USDA noted the average beef consumption in this country is 56 pounds per person.  Therefore, Phillips County feeds beef to 250,000 people annually.

NASS also said that in 2011 Phillips County harvested a little over 4 million bushels of winter and spring wheat.  According to the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee one bushel of wheat equals 60 pounds.  Therefore, Phillips County produced 240 million pounds of wheat.  The USDA said in 2010 the average American consumed 134 pounds of wheat annually.  That feeds 1.79 million people every year.

Let’s recap.  The Phillips County agriculture community creates $295 million in economic impact and feeds almost 2 million people annually.  All of this is done while maintaining the integrity of the landscape to support a myriad of bird and wildlife species.  The conservation efforts of our agriculture producers sustains our entire community.  A community that includes the teachers that educate our children, the doctors and nurses that heal our wounds, the elected officials that serve our community and the businesses that serve our needs.  It also includes numerous volunteers such as firefighters, EMTs, or members of the weed board, fair board, economic development board, cooperative board, historical society board, livestock association, recreation, and/or a variety of other organizations that make up the community that we proudly call home.


Anne Johnson, DVM 
The First State Bank of Malta