Hendrys have a history of volunteerism
Lost Cabin — Robert, “Rob,” and Leslie Hendry live about as far from Casper as is possible while still living within Natrona County. Distance, however, hasn’t deterred this ranching couple from volunteering their time to improve their community and the agricultural industry.
“It’s 76.2 miles from our house to the courthouse steps,” says Rob. He and Leslie know the trip well after nearly 30 years traveling the route, often to attend meetings or volunteer their time.
The Hendrys’ efforts on behalf of their community resulted in their nomination and subsequent selection for the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame. Each year readers of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup nominate deserving individuals to the Hall of Fame with a panel of judges selecting the year’s recipients. U.S. Senator John Barrasso presented the Hendrys with their award on Aug. 12 at the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame picnic in Douglas. Also recognized was south central Wyoming rancher George Salisbury.
“Robert and Leslie have devoted time and leadership to every aspect of agriculture through each organization they have been involved with,” says the form nominating them for the recognition. “Whether it has been with the Stock Growers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, or the Greater Yellowstone Brucellosis Task Force, Robert has provided knowledge and insight. Leslie has been instrumental in creating the ag expos for third graders and also in developing the Beef Gift Certificate Program.”
The Hendrys, along with their sons Jarrod and J.W. and J.W.’s wife Hannah, ranch in the Lost Cabin area of Central Wyoming. The ranch straddles the Natrona and Fremont county line. In addition to their ranching operation, Clear Creek Cattle Co., the Hendrys launched Clear Creek Construction to meet the reclamation needs of the oil and gas producers working in their area. They also cater to pheasant hunters, an enterprise that allows them to capitalize on the recreational market while teaching their visitors about agriculture.
Rob is a long-time member of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and served as the organization’s president in 1999. WSGA and FFA, according to Rob, inspired his early volunteer work. He was attending WSGA conventions in high school, a time when he also served as Secretary of the Wyoming FFA Association.
Leslie laughs, “I love to tell the story that the day we got married here in town Rob was supposed to be at the house entertaining relatives. He slipped off and went to the WSGA convention going on here in town. People were asking him, ‘Aren’t you getting married today?’ He responded, ‘Yeah, but that’s not until later.’”
While Rob was serving as WSGA vice president, the organization hired Jim Magagna as their executive director. Rob was also instrumental in creation of the organization’s legal fund, a financial source that’s proven essential in defending the industry in numerous legal challenges over the past decade. The seed money for the fund came from the memorial contributions when Rob’s dad passed away. In a WSGA book on past presidents, Rob is quoted saying, “With the fund we could fight the battles, not just talk about them. We could have a legal presence.”
Rob has long called for unity in the ag industry, a goal he made a proactive effort toward when he helped launch the cow-calf caucus of NCBA earlier this decade. He and Montana ranch Bill Donald, now NCBA vice president, brought 13 western states together to ensure the cow-calf sector had a stronger voice at the national level. When NCBA adopted its one member, one vote policy the need for the group faded and cow-calf men found they had a lasting influence on the process.
“We do know how to divide ourselves for them,” says Hendry of the ranching industry’s adversaries. An industry that speaks with one voice is so important and we just can’t seem to get there.”
Rob says, “NCBA is best positioned to serve the entire industry.” Policy approaches, he says, need to keep feeders and packers in mind. “We can’t eat them all. We’ve got to have the feeders and the packers.” Given the recent economics of the cattle industry, “We’re lucky to have any feeders at all right now.”
Rob has scaled back his involvement in the NCBA since he was elected to the Natrona County Commission in 2007. Serving the past two years as chairman, Rob says he’s the first commissioner with an ag background since Pinky Ellis served nearly two decades ago.
The couple supports the beef checkoff and Rob spent six years on the Wyoming Beef Council working in support of the program.
Raised on a historic Powder River area sheep ranch, Leslie’s earliest volunteer efforts were through the Wyoming Wool Growers Auxiliary and the Natrona County Cowbelles, a group she’s belonged to since the early 1980s.
In 1994, becoming involved in the Wyoming CattleWomen through her local organization, Leslie stepped forward to chair the group’s beef gift certificate program. In 1995 southeast Wyoming ranch woman Wendy Harding joined her and the duo accomplished a steady increase in sales. When the program was nominated for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Vision Award two years ago, beef gift certificates had resulted in the sale of a little over a million dollars in beef under the women’s direction.
It was also the early 1990s when Leslie partnered with another ranch woman, Mary Owens of Midwest, to launch the Natrona County Ag Expo. Over the course of a few days the women oversee a program that provides factual ag information to third graders from across the county. Depending on enrollment at area schools, the event lasts three to four days with presentations made to between 750 and 1,000 students. Leslie’s desire to launch the ag expo arrived in unison with her service on the board of Wyoming Ag in the Classroom, a group she served as treasurer and president.
Rob and Leslie are both graduates of the Wyoming Business Council’s LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development) program. Its indicative of their effort to continually learn about their industry and new management practices they can implement at the ranch.
The Hendrys purchase black baldy heifers from an Idaho ranch. Bred to Black Angus bulls for their first calf, the ranch’s older cows are bred to Charolais bulls. A terminal cross, both the heifers and the steer calves are sold as feeders. While it varies given current market conditions, the Hendrys tend to sell their calves on the video during the summer months.
In support of their philosophy that all segments of the industry need to be profitable, they’ve implemented management practices to enhance the marketability of their cattle and profitability on down the line. Earlier this decade the ranch moved from a rib brand to a hip brand, a management practice that preserves some hide value. They’re also Beef Quality Assurance certified, administering all shots in the neck area to avoid potential damage to marketable cuts.
For the past few years the Hendrys have been placing an electronic identification eartag in their calves at branding time. Rob estimates the practice has added value to their calves by making them eligible for overseas markets. “Our cattle are eligible to go anywhere in the world, so I think it’s helping us,” he says.
As Rob continues to serve as county commissioner, and Leslie volunteers her time to numerous groups that benefit the ag industry, it doesn’t appear they’ll stop making the 76.2 mile trip anytime soon.
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.