Teeters family takes advantage of opportunities through the years
Goshen Hole – If you draw a triangle between Lingle, Cheyenne and Chugwater, the center of that shape is where the Teeters family first began ranching in Wyoming.
While that ranch was in Laramie County, Rick Teeters, who manages the ranch today with his son Matt Teeters, says his granddad Merle Teeters moved off Slater Hill and into Goshen Hole during the Depression.
“He got started in our present location in the 30s, and he initially ran sheep,” says Rick, noting that at one point the ranch supported almost 12,000 ewes.
The Teeters family ran mostly sheep through WWII, and after the war they got into some farming with dryland wheat. Soon the coyotes got so bad Rick says they were run out of the sheep business.
“In the late 40s and 50s they began to bring trainloads of Longhorn cattle up from New Mexico and old Mexico,” says Rick, adding, “And that sure made a lot of friends with the neighbors. People didn’t like the Longhorn thing very well.”
In the 60s Rick says the ranch started the transition to domestic breeds of cattle and began to run cows. “That’s when we got rid of all the sheep and went strictly to a cattle operation,” he says. “And before that we’d been mostly a large-scale yearling operation.”
Today the ranch is both a cow/calf and yearling operation with some dryland wheat, irrigated corn and hay.
“Most of the reason why we farm is to provide our own hay and corn and we’ll winter calves and raise them out on that farm,” says Rick. “We buy a little corn, but we don’t buy any hay.”
Of 2009 he says they probably bought more corn than they needed. ”We didn’t realize we’d have so much in the field,” he says of the season’s yield. In mid-November they were finishing up combining corn, and Rick says he thought they were working on a record crop.
The ranch is a family corporation Rick’s granddad founded in 1941. “When my granddad was at the peak with the ranch he owned almost 75,000 acres in Goshen and Platte counties,” says Rick. “We still own real estate in both counties, though our operation’s not that big anymore.”
Matt is a member of the Wyoming House of Representatives from District 5. “We see him very little every February,” says Rick. “But for us that’s the slowest time of the whole year, and winter gives us the chance to do our maintenance.”
Rick says the ranch never buys new equipment, instead buying everything used and rebuilding it. “We spend a lot of time in the winter manufacturing and remanufacturing parts,” he says.
In addition to Rick and Matt, three full-time hired men work on the ranch, as well as one part-time man in the summer.
“We take as good of care of our help as we can. If you cheat a cow she’ll cheat you, and if you cheat your employees they’ll cheat you,” notes Rick, adding the ranch tries to hire young people with kids to build community. “When you do that you have to take good care of them, because if they’re struggling they’re not going to do you any good.”
For their stocker program, Rick says the ranch buys calves from whatever area of the country is most droughty. “We try to buy lightweight calves in the 270- to 240-pound range. Our facilities are designed for small cattle, so we specialize in those flyweight calves,” he explains. “We buy them from wherever they’re at, and this year was Belle Fourche because of the grasshopper infested country.”
Rick says many of the calves come from the bottom of videos sales. “I like video cattle because they’re cleaned and preconditioned,” he says.
The small purchased calves are corralled immediately and pushed hard. The Teeters use a feeding format that utilizes salt to control intake.
“We put out two week’s worth of feed in bulk,” says Rick. “All the little calves get a pound of corn per hundredweight per day, and we can adjust that with salt down to less than a quarter pound consumption.”
The Teeters don’t keep any replacement heifers, because the beef heifers would grow too big for their cow program. Instead, the ranch purchases replacements every three years and calves them all out at once. “If we’re going to calve heifers and be up checking during the night, we’d just as soon have five calves instead of only one,” says Rick.
The Teeters bale their hay into big rounds, hauling them the 17 miles from the farm to the ranch on a 32-foot trailer, which Rick says can handle 400 to 500 bales in a day.
“We feed with Hydrabeds on the range, and the efficiency is fabulous with them and the Super Slashers,” he adds. The ranch feeds a combination of hay and corn for maximum efficiency.
While the big native calves are sold in July, the purchased calves are marketed in September. “We get about 460 to 500 pounds of gain on the calves we buy,” says Rick.
Rick calls the Goshen County area the “banana belt” of Wyoming in terms of weather, even though he says the area got clocked last spring with two snowstorms during calving that dropped 16 inches of snow each and were accompanied by high winds.
“For the most part it’s pretty mild here, and the other part we really like is access to feedstuffs,” says Rick. “And it’s a fabulous place to market cattle. Torrington is about as good as it gets in terms of getting the top of the market.”
“When you have a good year you enjoy it, because the next one probably won’t be like that,” says Rick of the 2009 moisture. “Dad once said to someone, ‘I don’t know what you’re complaining about, we’ve been ranching for almost 75 years and we’ve already had two wet ones.’”
Of keeping the Teeters family ranch running, Rick says, “Our primary strategies are to minimize and eliminate debt, then do everything we can to maximize performance and hope that’s good enough.”
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.