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Montpelier Cattleman Chosen as North Dakota Stockmen’s Association Rancher of the Year

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) presented 36-year NDSA member Curtis Brown of Montpelier, N.D., with its 2023 Rancher of the Year Award during the organization’s 94th Annual Convention & Trade Show this evening in Watford City, N.D.

“Curtis embodies North Dakota’s ranching spirit and work ethic,” said NDSA President Jason Leiseth of Arnegard, N.D. “He raises good cattle, is a good neighbor and is deserving of this prestigious award.”

Curtis’ cattle-ranching story dates back to 1910, when his grandparents began building the family’s farming and ranching operation in Stutsman County, near Montpelier. Curtis’ parents, Richard and Beatrice Brown, and, later, Curtis, who represents the third generation on the 113-year operation, and his wife Laurie followed in those footsteps.

“My dad raised Hereford-Simmental-cross cattle,” Curtis explained. “In the 1960s, he began crossing them with Charolais bulls, which was right around the time I was growing up.” They liked the vigorous, fast-growing calves and continued raising Charolais cattle.

Curtis said his father is the one who had the most influence on him and helped him get his start on the farm and in the cattle operation. “When I was about an eighth-grader, my dad gifted me a heifer,” he recalled. “When she calved, she had a heifer and I had to decide if I was going to keep the calf or sell the calf. I wanted to build my herd, so I kept her, and, every time after, if my cows had heifer calves, I put them back into my herd.”

When Curtis graduated from high school in 1982, he went to his father with the inventory of what he had built up. His dad suggested he use what he had at the time to get into the purebred Charolais business. He agreed and so he purchased some Charolais females and began ranching alongside his father. “That was a time of building and learning,” explained Curtis. “I can’t imagine starting out at all without the help and knowledge that my father gave me. I wouldn’t be in the cattle business if it wasn’t for him.”

In the beginning of Curtis’ ranching career and at the start of his married life with his wife Laurie, land became available to purchase near the Browns’ farm. “We started buying land and making the operation more sustainable for my dad and my young family to be a part of,” Curtis said. “That has turned out to be one of the biggest and best opportunities that we have had over the years, and we are so fortunate we did what we did when we did it.”

In 1985, Curtis began selling Charolais bulls private treaty. Then, in 2006, he started having a public auction. Today, it is held the fourth Tuesday of March at the C-B Charolais Sale Facility just south of the Browns’ ranch.

Curtis raises Charolais cattle under the family’s ranch name, C-B Charolais. He also raises commercial cow-calf pairs, backgrounds the calves and has a heifer development program consisting of commercial females sold either as pairs in their annual sale or as bred heifers by private treaty.

“It’s exciting to see our family grow into our diversified operation,” said Curtis. He and Laurie have two grown children, Troy (Jessica) and Heather (Lance) Dykins, and five grandchildren, Jayden, Emily, Lincoln, Braden and Hadleigh. “The grandkids are around, seeing what we do every day. They have so much enthusiasm and the same sparkle in their eyes as I did as a kid. It is just exciting and, now, we just have to cultivate their love for the industry.”

Curtis’ son Troy works on the operation alongside him. “It is so enjoyable to work with someone that has the same goals that you do,” he said. “Our main goal is to continue the ranching tradition for the future generation and we are so fortunate to have four generations on the family farm, with my parents still here as well.” Daughter Heather works as a nutritionist for CHS Nutrition and, together with her family, is actively involved in farming on the western side of North Dakota.

“Every day is different,” said Curtis. “There’s a lot of things that go on at any operation. As a rancher, you learn to roll with the punches and give it your all. You have blood, sweat and tears in everything you have. In the end, it’s so fulfilling to get up every morning and see what you have started and the end product.”

Curtis served on the NDSA Board of Directors from 2010 to 2018. He was the NDSA Environmental Issues Committee vice chairman and the organization’s statewide rural transportation committee representative. He has also served on the NDSA Seedstock Council. In addition, he is a longtime member of the International Charolais Association and North Dakota Charolais Association.

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