Grass Country Grass, climate favor Scheersâ€™ cow/calf, stocker operation
La Grange – The Scheer family homesteaded at the turn of the 20th century in northern Goshen County near Jay Em and even after a stint ranching in the mountains near Lander the family returned to the grass country of southeast Wyoming.
“When my dad was middle-aged he wanted to expand the ranch, and at that time he couldn’t find anything to buy in Goshen County and a ranch came up for sale at the foot of the mountains near Lander,” says Doug Scheer.
The Scheers lived on that place only a few years, and Doug says his dad never liked it. “He was a flatlander. He didn’t like going up in the forest and not being able to see all his cattle.”
Of Goshen County, Doug says, “Here you can go to a windmill and count all the cows and bulls, but over there you could ride all day and maybe never see a cow, and the cattle would commingle and it’s different country. My dad was too old and he never did adjust to it.”
So the Scheer family returned to Goshen County in 1971, this time to the southern portion west of La Grange on Bear Creek. Doug and his wife Peggy bought the place from his parents, although they remained on the place, with Doug’s mother just moving to town within the last year at the age of 92.
Today the Scheers run what Doug refers to as a cow/calf, yearling and stocker operation with Black Angus cows bred to horned Hereford bulls.
“Fifteen years ago ‘retained ownership’ was a buzzword in the industry, and my version of that is keeping calves, grazing them over to make yearlings,” says Doug, adding they’ve done it off and on for a while, when the market puts them in the right situation. “There were a lot of years calves were too high to run over, but now we’ve got the country tied up and we’ve backed our calving way up to get smaller calves, so it’s more realistic to hold them over.”
“If you wean a 650-pound calf he’s too big to own all winter and summer, but with our May calving they fit the yearling deal a little better,” he adds.
The ranch used to keep its own replacement heifers, but now purchases them because of the current Angus/Hereford crossbred system. Doug says he prefers to go to higher country to purchase his females.
“That way, later in their life, because I rent so much country, if I need to I can go to 6,000 or 7,000 feet without running into a brisket problem,” he explains.
The ranch’s bulls are local, coming from auctions or Goshen County breeders, says Peggy.
Doug and Peggy’s daughter Jennifer also ranches with them, while their son Chris is a professional guide in the Cody area.
“Jennifer wasn’t sure if she wanted to keep her calves to yearlings, because the first year you do it you don’t have any income,” says Peggy. Doug adds a year ago last fall the drop in the market encouraged her to skip the bad year a make yearlings out of her calves.
In addition to her cowherd she coaches basketball at Southeast in Yoder and manages 120 cows for another outfit between her and her parents’ place.
“Cowboying and basketball were what she grew up doing, and she’s still doing both,” notes Doug.
Peggy grew up in New Jersey and ended up in Wyoming after traveling cross-country to attend college at the University of Wyoming. Doug tells a story of how, a few weeks after they were married, she ended up in the hospital after attempting to snub a rogue head of beef.
Today Peggy maintains Doug’s parents’ house as a guest home on the ranch. “I thought it would be fun to have people come once in a while to visit, and a neighbor has a team and wagon we can offer, as well as things like a steak fry,” she says.
Doug says over the years he’s made improvements to the ranch, but nothing very intensive.
“My father probably had a rest/rotation program 40 years ahead of me, but I’ve never really chased intensive grazing because we’re so sandy soiled in this country that I don’t know where to draw the line on how much it can tolerate,” he says.
“For all the years we’ve lived here we’ve participated in government programs to put in underground waterlines and tanks and some cross fences, but I don’t know anyone in this part of Goshen County who’s divided their ranch into smaller pastures, rotating every four or six days,” he adds.
Of ranching along Bear Creek, Doug says he likes the caliber of the area, including the grass, climate and weather.
“It might be a little dry, but this is almost as good of grass and cattle country as there is for gains, and you can’t really compare it to a lot of central and western Wyoming. It’s quite different,” he says.
Of the country’s quality for cattle, Doug says, “My dad knew that, he was born and raised here and moved to the mountains but came back because he knew what this country was like.”
Although he concedes it can be “awful windy,” Doug thinks the trade-offs are worth it.
Saying that running cattle anywhere on earth has a lot of challenges, Doug says there aren’t that many specific to his area of the state.
“We don’t have to worry much about urban sprawl, and the taxes in Wyoming, and especially in Goshen County, are about as low as they are anywhere in the world. Our climate here is good, and I think we’ve got less problems here than in most other places,” he says.
One of his concerns is the lack of young family members returning to the ranch. He notes that Patrick and Matt Johnson east of La Grange have stayed with the ranch, and his daughter Jennifer, but few others.
“I knew I wanted to go to college and come home and ranch, and I never saw myself doing anything besides this,” he says.
For more information on the Scheer’s ranch guesthouse, visit www.thebearcreekinn.com. Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.