Little Belt Cattle Company
From Navy SEAL to Cattle Rancher: Finding Purpose, Working Hard, and Eating Well
Greg Putnam spent nine years of active duty as a US Navy SEAL stationed out of Hawaii before making the decision to return to the Rocky Mountains with his family. After his time in the service, he dabbled in the private sector as the business manager of Ascent Vision before changing course and setting in motion something he’d been toying with for years - owning and operating a cattle ranch in Montana.
The seed of his vision was planted over a decade earlier when he worked as a summer fishing guide in Missoula, picking up work as a ranch hand during the winter months. “Helping out on cattle ranches was always a good outlet for me, and an opportunity to get outside - I enjoyed working with good people and learning from my friends,” he says.
"Our mission with Little Belt Cattle Company is to provide the highest quality protein we can, that’s good for both people and the environment."
In 2020, amidst the global pandemic, Putnam partnered with a fellow veteran and friend, Tim Sheehy, to make this vision a reality. Connecting three different properties nestled at the foot of the Little Belt Mountains in central Montana, they founded Little Belt Cattle Company together. With the help and mentorship of some seasoned Montana cattle ranchers, they made it through the winter and just finished their first calving season.
“Turk Stovall and Stovall Ranches in Billings were instrumental in helping us get on our feet,” says Putnam.
Veteran-owned and run by the two families, LBCC sits on about 9,000 acres. The two families are set on making the operation as sustainable as possible, implementing regenerative agriculture practices whenever possible, including soil and grass restoration, a 12-month grazing plan that prioritizes the health of the pastures, and a calving schedule that aligns closely with nature. Working dogs and horses are used to move the cattle as often as possible in place of 4-wheelers, reducing the overall amount of stress on the cattle, which leads to higher quality meat.
“We’re mountain people first and foremost. We have to fuel our active lifestyle, and we want to be a producer that other mountain people can look at and say ‘they’re doing it right’. We’re doing our best, and I have no doubt that we will leave this piece of land healthier than we found it,” says Putnam.
Putnam says his time in the military really prepared him for taking on a huge endeavor like a start-up cattle ranch. “Just like in the service, you might feel like you made the best plan possible, but you always have to have your finger on the pulse and make small changes when surprises arise. Both jobs have been mentally and physically very challenging, but also very rewarding,” says Putnam.
I’VE ALWAYS ENJOYED FEELING LIKE I WAS PART OF CREATING A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEMGreg Putnam
Greg and his wife, Heidi, have three young girls, ages three, five, and seven. They’re a big part of why he left the service, so that he could spend more time with his family outside and in the mountains.
“I love the fact that my girls are growing up in nature and around animals - this work takes a huge amount of compassion and care that carries over to interacting with other people and the community,” says Putnam. “My kids have seen some really cool things, and have learned some hard lessons too - I want to teach them to be confident and resilient and to work hard at whatever it is that they want to accomplish.”
He says a lot of what he has learned about mindset and persistence he gained from being in the service. “You’re always in a learning mindset, and often have that ‘new guy’ mentality, especially during training. Being willing to learn and put in the hard work has carried over to this part of my life,” he says. “That goes for fueling what we do, too.”
Putnam learned very quickly while he was in the military that what you’re eating plays a big role in your mental and physical performance.
“These days I’m very particular about what I’m eating during a big day at work or in the mountains, and I make sure to fuel properly, knowing that diet and performance are so intertwined,” he says. “Our mission with Little Belt Cattle Company is to provide the highest quality protein we can, that’s good for both people and the environment.”