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Early Fall HOWA 2011

Country living still enjoyable for Montana couple

When Gary and Connie Becker moved to rural Yellowstone County in Montana, they accomplished their goal of getting away from the closed-in feeling of city life. And while they have immensely enjoyed living in the country, the city of Billings, Mont., has followed them.

Connie and Gary Becker of Billings, Mont., with their Bobcat CT230 compact tractor.

Connie and Gary Becker of Billings, Mont., with their Bobcat CT230 compact tractor.

"When we purchased a 1-acre alfalfa field and built our house in 1973, we generally had the area to ourselves," Becker says. "Over the years, more and more of the surrounding property has been annexed by the city and developers have built up the land around us. However, we still relish our country lifestyle."

That's possible because a decade ago the Beckers purchased an adjacent 16 acres, creating a ranch-like property they call Becker Ridge Pines. So while their house sits within an acre of a subdivision, they still have plenty of space for a barn and pasture for their horses.

Gary Becker demonstrates the convenience of the Bobcat compact tractor's front-end loader and bucket when cleaning his horse stalls.

Gary Becker demonstrates the convenience of the Bobcat compact tractor's front-end loader and bucket when cleaning his horse stalls.

"About 25 years ago, we offered to take care of the 16 acres next to our property," Becker says. "It was owned by an elderly couple in town and they allowed us to rent the pasture to people with horses. They received the rent income and we kept our horses on the property. We took care of the land like it was our own and eventually purchased it."

Today the Beckers put five horses on the pasture — their own four quarter horses and one owned by a neighbor. The pasture is divided into four sections by a permanent fence made of railroad ties as posts and no-climb horse fencing, a grid pattern of sturdy wire.

"By rotating the horses through the sections, we discovered that they keep the grass just the way we like it and, as a result, we never have to cut the hay," Becker says.

But there is plenty of other work to do in caring for the horses, and the purchase of a 30-horsepower Bobcat® compact tractor has made chores much easier for the 67-year-old retired electrician.

"For the past 10 years I have relied on an old tractor (vintage 1941) to keep up with the work, but it was becoming increasingly difficult, as you might imagine with a machine that old," Becker says. "We had to do many of the jobs manually because of the limitations of the tractor."

Connie Becker

Connie Becker takes delight in having horses on her property where she and her husband care for them.

Tractor upgrade

With the need for an upgrade, and especially a front-end loader, about a year ago Becker looked at several options. After seeing a Bobcat compact tractor at a trade show, he checked out the lineup at Bobcat of Big Sky in Billings.

"The company I worked for, and later became a part-owner of, had always operated Bobcat skid-steer loaders," Becker recalls. "We were very satisfied with the performance of the loaders. When I looked at Bobcat compact tractors, I liked them better than the other machines I considered — a nice package with a good engine, sturdy frame, good visibility and a lot of operator-friendly features."

Becker chose the CT230, a popular model that has the power to handle tough jobs while small enough to work in limited-access areas.

One of those areas is inside the three-year-old barn. It has six stalls for horses and a section for equipment storage. Becker drives the CT230 up to each stall, cleans out the manure, piles it in the front-end loader, delivers it to the pasture, tips the bucket and distributes the manure.

Bobcat compact tractors — loaded with safety features.

Bobcat compact tractors — loaded with safety features.

"It saved us from having to buy a manure spreader," he says. "We scatter the horse manure with a 3-point hitch harrow."

In winter the front-end loader helps clear snow. It also hauls logs for firewood and moves dirt around the property. The dirt road going to the barn is kept in good condition with the 3-point-hitch box blade implement on the back of the compact tractor.

Since the Beckers use flood irrigation on the pasture, they can count on plenty of weeds every year.

"The CT230 has made weed control much easier," Becker says. "I hook up a 3-point-hitch sprayer on the back of the compact tractor to apply herbicide to the pasture. I spray the ditches with a hand sprayer as I drive along. It works great.

"The ease of operation and user-friendly design allows my wife to do much of the operation, which she enjoys immensely."

While the Beckers don't get to do as much with their horses as they would like, they enjoy having their four grandsons visit and ride around the property. Each fall the horses are loaded onto a trailer and sent to southern Montana for elk hunting. The horses allow Becker and his group to hunt throughout the mountains.

While surrounded by new homes in a growing subdivision, Gary and Connie Becker still enjoy living the country life, with some help from a Bobcat compact tractor and attachments and implements.