Exponent Explains: BART Farm

Providing livestock for research and teaching purposes for MSU’s department of agriculture is just one service through the Bozeman Agricultural Research and Teaching (BART) Farm, a part of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Stations. Professors on campus, primarily from the animal and range department, work with BART Farm to access any livestock they need to conduct research and teach subjects relating to livestock.

The headquarters is located off of Garfield Street just west of MSU and several different locations in the Bozeman area make up the BART Farm. As a land grant university with a heavy focus on agricultural research, the BART Farm plays an integral role for research at MSU.

One section of the BART Farm is the Fort Ellis Research Farm located on the eastern outskirts of Bozeman. The specific farm consists of around 640 acres and sits on a historic U.S. Cavalry fort. In 1930 Fort Ellis was dedicated as the headquarters for the range sheep investigations that are conducted by the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station and continues to provide significant research opportunities.

The Red Bluff Research Ranch, located near Norris in Madison County, also constitutes an important part of BART farm. This farm has around 900 head of ewes (female sheep) and 150 head of cows. All of the cattle used for research at are raised at the Red Bluff Research Ranch. When the cattle are weaned any steers that are not needed for research are sold and around 60 heifers are kept back to become a part of the breeding operation. These replacement heifers are bred and later have their calves at the BART Farm headquarters near MSU.

Students are hired during the school year for various management activities including assisting with calving.  During calving season student workers takes shifts and check any heifers that are close to calving every three hours during the night. Two full-time employees, one who graduated from MSU, work at the Red Bluff Research Ranch year round and during busy times like lambing, both students and members of the community are employed.


Bob Brekke, the animal operations manager at BART Farm, emphasizes a focus on animal welfare and accommodating for every research project possible. Brekke says his job is to take care of all of the livestock and care for “the health and welfare of all of the livestock we have at all of our locations in the Bozeman area.” Brekke has been with the BART Farm for seven and a half years. Brekke graduated from MSU in 1981 with a bachelors’ in Animal Science. Three other full-time employees, two of which graduated from MSU, work at the BART Farm as well.


BART Farm works with different departments, providing land teaching and research including land reclamation and landscaping. Beehives on the farm are used to study bees and bee diseases. The farm also works with the recycling department to make compost from plant based materials that may possibly be used across campus for flowerbeds if the small scale trial works.

The land at all of the research stations provides a place for range science students to do on-site training. Several years ago there was an accidental range fire at the Red Bluff Research Ranch and research projects on the effects of range fires on vegetation and water flow are currently being conducted. A fire at MSU Northern’s experiment station occurred the same year, so the researcher can compare the effects of fire breaks in both locations in relation to the differences in the land.

The farm does not foresee any significant changes in their future but is rather focused on continual improvement, maintenance and making the farm as animal friendly as possible. A new chute for processing cattle was recently purchased and will assist in quiet, efficient and humane handling of cattle.