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WLR Ag Citizen of the Year: Rancher dedicated to stewardship, education

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“Danny Hanson is a community leader, excellent rancher and educator,” says the nomination form suggesting he receive the Outstanding Ag Citizen award.

Hanson, along with Southwest Wyoming rancher William “Bill” Taliaferro, will be honored as an Outstanding Ag Citizen at the Wyoming State Fair. The award is presented annually to those people who have made outstanding contributions to the agriculture industry. Readers of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup submit nominations and a panel of judges subsequently chooses the year’s honorees.

Hanson’s contributions to the agriculture industry are far-reaching, spanning from a strong commitment to stewardship to providing an opportunity for Wyoming youth to receive hands-on agriculture education. Wyoming Ag In the Classroom Executive Director Shannon Andree-Shipp says the educational program involving Hanson Livestock, the Niobrara Conservation District, her organization and the Lusk schools is a model for the program. Her association is trying to replicate the endeavor in other Wyoming communities.

“We’re very lucky to have him,” says Niobrara Conservation District Director and Wyoming Ag in the Classroom Member Lisa Shaw. Shaw works extensively with Hanson making sure Lusk students have an understanding and appreciation for agriculture and natural resources. Lusk students, she adds, frequently visit Hanson Livestock and would visit the operation more if it was closer to town.

“He’s a great example of taking care of the land and the people,” she adds.

Wyoming Department of Agriculture Coordinated Response Management Director Dennis Sun is also impressed by Hanson’s commitment to education. “I’ve got a lot of respect for what he has done showcasing agriculture and what he has done in terms of agriculture education. Danny always seems to finds the time to help educate students on the benefits of agriculture and natural resources.”

“I think Danny has always thought thing through and hasn’t been afraid to try new ideas,” says Sun.

In 1999, when Hanson Livestock earned the Wyoming Stock Growers Association’s stewardship award, Sun coordinated a tour of the ranch. Hanson Livestock went on to receive the National Cattleman’s Beef Association’s Region V Stewardship Award, an award known for its stiff competition and one that is a very high honor for ranchers.

“Danny Hanson’s ultimate goal is that the condition of the land and the profitability of the ranch remain so that his sons can eventually earn a living in the cattle business,” says the August 2000 Wyoming Livestock Roundup article highlighting Hanson Livestock’s Region V award. “For him, the answer to maintaining his ranch is a holistic approach. He said the method has lowered his financial inputs, increased the profitability of his operation and has improved the ecological condition of the land.”

Hanson attended holistic management classes in the early 1990s.

“I learned about goals, and a new and interesting way of looking at grass. With a change in my own mindset, I learned I could produce a lot more forage for our livestock and the wildlife as well.”

There are a lot of approaches to ranching and different management approaches are better for different operations and different people, says Hanson today. Despite the management approach, however, he’s quick to add, “ranchers are the best environmentalists there are. I think it’s really important to educate young people through programs like Wyoming Ag in the Classroom and help them realize we’re not bad people.”

Hanson, this past June, was selected to serve on the Wyoming Stock Growers Association leadership team as vice president. Of this selection, he says, “I just want to help the industry as much as I can and be able to make a profit ranching.”

“I’ve never seen anybody that has to make a living off their ranch that’s a bad steward,” say Hanson. “There are a lot of approaches, but all-in-all, its hard to believe how good of stewards most ranchers are, especially when compared to other land use types.” The federal government’s management, he adds, is far below that of privately owned ranches. “When you have to make a profit off of the land you have to be a good steward.”

Hanson Livestock took roots in Niobrara County in 1905. Today, the ranch lies from Buck Creek Hills, south along Old Woman Creek, over the Hat Creek Breaks and plateaus on the flats above the breaks. The precipitation ranges from 10 to 15 inches of annual rainfall and relies on ponds, reservoirs and spring federal streams for its main water sources, but Hanson also has a finished pipeline system to help better utilize the ranch’s grass.

Danny is the third generation to run the ranch he hopes to pass along to his two sons, Dan Henry and Ben. Danny’s grandfather and his great-uncle arrived in Niobrara County from O’Neil, Nebraska using the “ride and tie” method, a progression of two people with one horse. One brother rode a mile while the other walked a mile, then switching off. The two brothers settled in the Niobrara County area and went to work for a large cattle operation. Danny’s grandfather was the youngest representative for the outfit.

“Over the years,” says the nomination form,” Dan (Danny’s father) pounded into Danny’s head that ranching was a biological operation. Danny had a different idea. It has to be mechanical. In the 70s, the ranch had a third less land, five tractors, ten pickups, four hired men, two semi-trucks and produced less beef than present day. Danny remembers his mother, Margret Brock Hanson, quoting her father, J. Elmer Brock, emphasizing that, ‘Grass, not cattle, is the crop.’ Now years later, Danny understands just how true his grandfather’s words of wisdom are.”

Today, Hanson Livestock utilizes holistic management principles. Hanson Livestock produces more pounds of beef and has better living standards. The ranch has increased its land holdings, increased stocking rates, reduced the number of acres required per cow by ten acres and slashed mechanical measures down to a minimum. The ranch now has four pickup, one tractor, no trucks, one hired assistant and no longer puts up hay.

Beyond a commitment to education and innovative ranch management, Hanson was responsible for the inception and development of the Niobrara Land Use Plan and Niobrara Resource Association. He assisted the Bureau of Land Management in rewriting the Newcastle Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.

Hanson will receive a plaque on August 13 in conjunction with the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and Farm Credit Services of America annual picnic.

The event begins at 6:00 p.m. in Riverside Park, just across the highway north of the Wyoming State Fairgrounds. The event is open to the public. 

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