Holding the course: Mullins family hangs together
Hyattville – Three years ago Cecil Mullins and his family were recognized at the Old Timer’s Celebration in Hyattville, and today the family ranch is still going strong, with two of Mullins’s three daughters sticking close to lend their helping hands.
According to Cecil, his grandfather, an engineer, came to the Hyattville area of the Big Horn Basin originally.
“There was a fellow by the name of Jordan who lived between here and Manderson on the Nowood River, and he contacted my grandfather, who lived in Nebraska at the time, and he hired him to come out and design and build a water-powered flour mill,” says Cecil. “The basic idea was that they’d take the water out of the canal about a quarter mile above where the site of the flour mill was, and they’d drop it down over a wheel, which transmitted the power up the hill to where the flour mill sat. They used big soft-twist ropes to transmit the power from the wheel to the grinding stone, and they’d bring wheat clear from across the mountain to this flour mill, because it was the only one in the country.”
However, after the flourmill was designed and built, Jordan didn’t have any money to pay Cecil’s grandfather, so he paid him in land.
“That’s the original place, and it sits across the river from our place and is still in the family,” he explains.
Through the years Cecil’s parents added three additional places to the original one, and that’s where Cecil and his family live today.
“In 1984 we moved over here, built the yard from scratch, and this is where we’ve been ever since,” he says.
The Mullins manage a mother cow operation, weaning the calves and feeding them to around 750 pounds before selling them around the first of the year.
When each of his three daughters were in middle school Cecil started each of them in the cattle business with a few cows of their own. The Mullins also raise hogs, and each of the girls also received a few sows of their own.
“However, my youngest daughter wanted to be different, and start in sheep,” says Cecil. “So now we’ve got cows, sheep and pigs.”
Of being in the hog business in the Big Horn Basin, Cecil says he and his family create their own market.
“I’ve got deals worked out with four or five different slaughter houses,” he comments, noting that at one time there were enough pigs produced in Wyoming to ship a semi load of pigs out of the Big Horn Basin every two weeks. “But, when pigs got clear down to 10 cents a pound that pretty well wiped everybody out.”
Cecil feeds his hogs corn raised in the basin, but he says 2011 isn’t so good for purchasing grains.
“There’s no corn left in the Big Horn Basin, and I have to ship it in, and the cost is pretty high,” he notes.
“When corn got up to a high price everyone sold theirs and there’s none left to be had, so we’re selling the pigs from our sows as feeder pigs because we can’t afford to finish them this year.”
Cecil’s wife Linda Mullins says they try to raise the pigs as naturally as possible.
“We do get a marketing advantage from it,” she says. “We sell some pigs to Cody Meat, but because of today’s economics and our location we do still have to sell them for market price, without a premium.”
She comments that Cody Meat’s regular customers appreciate the Mullins pork, and that the processor quickly runs out.
“People can look at the meat case and know when the pork came from somewhere else,” says Linda.
Cecil says it’s his ration that makes the difference.
“Even though soybeans are high-priced in this country, if I keep the protein up in that ration, the protein builds muscle, and if you don’t put the right amount of protein in the ration all you do is build fat,” he explains. “We sell a lot of our pigs at 300 pounds, but if we keep the protein up there, and have a good enough frame under them, they’re still fairly lean.”
The Mullins’ farm flock is composed of mostly purebred Suffolks, which also used to be sold to Cody Meat but are now being sold as feeders.
“Two dollars per pound for lambs is hard to turn down,” says Cecil.
Of his daughters’ involvement with the livestock, he says, “Maybe I had the wrong philosophy with them when they were growing up, but I tried to keep them so busy they didn’t have time to get in trouble.”
Cecil’s youngest daughter Michelle Mullins, who is studying ag education at Northwest College in Powell, says she appreciates the life lessons.
“You have to put other things before yourself – before you can do anything for yourself – because if you don’t have anything to sell, like livestock, you can’t make a profit to benefit yourself,” she says.
“I’m not rich, I won’t pretend I am, and these girls didn’t have new cars to go to school, but yet when they got away from school, and away from home, they knew what they wanted to do and what they were there for,” says Cecil of his daughters. “If you can hold a fairly steady course and give these kids some direction and a little pride, I think you will have some success. I expect these kids to amount to something, because they’re the future. If we don’t take care of the future, where do we go from there?”
“One of us will stay on the family place,” says Michelle.
Cecil’s second-oldest daughter Jessica Haley, who lives across the road from the family place with her family, says, “That’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck around to help, and to lend hand when it’s needed – to make sure the place can stay in the family for generations to come.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.