Rookie farmer learns the ropes: Beck takes over family operation
Lovell – Tim Beck is under no illusion that he knows exactly what he’s doing, but he is up for the challenge and the learning experience when it comes to his farm and ranch west of Lovell.
Beck notes that he started when he drove by a “weed patch” and wanted to transform it into productive land.
“I asked my father-in-law to let me try some corn on that land. The first year, I plowed it up and was a little better than modestly successful,” comments Beck. “The second year, I tried again and planted corn and wheat. The third year, he asked if I would take over the cows as well, so I started chasing water across the pastures and working cows.”
As the fourth generation to work this land, Beck agreed to take on the family operation and started by purchasing more cows.
“I’ve been at it for three years full time,” says Beck. “I inherited the place from my father-in-law and bought some more land.”
“We run cows and raise a little bit of spring wheat and alfalfa,” says Beck, “I was trying to rejuvenate the herd, rejuvenate the ground and trying to figure out how to make two incomes from what we have.”
Beck works the operation with his nephew Ammon Brown, who is 22 years old and helps his uncle full time.
Beck hasn’t always been involved in agriculture. When he started farming he also worked as a bricklayer, and he admits he has a lack of experience, but works to gain the knowledge to be successful.
“I ask a lot of questions of the experts in the area,” says Beck. “I take a lot of classes and do a lot of reading, and I’m not afraid of asking the ‘rookie’ or ‘simpleton’ questions.”
“I preface my questions with ‘I’m sorry if this is a dumb question, but I’m going to ask it because I don’t know,’” says Beck. “I’m learning.”
Beck notes that some of his recent learning experiences have included artificially inseminating (AI) his cattle this year after taking a course on the subject.
“We learned what we’ll do a bit different next time,” says Beck. “It was a good experience.”
Beck also hopes to expand as he learns more and continues in the business, first by acquiring more land. He also hopes to increase his herd numbers in the future.
He adds that it takes about 300 head to support one family, and he is working to reach those levels.
To help accomplish his goals in building the operation, Beck says, “We’ve implemented rotational grazing into our system with our heifers, and we did a good job this year of maximizing and intensive rotational grazing. I’m hoping we’ll find positive results when we see what it looks like in November.”
Beck has also been improving the property and would like to make improvements to the BLM land he leases for grazing.
“We’ve been building fences and we’re trying to make electric fence work,” says Beck. “On the BLM, my father-in-law put in one water source. Other than that, most of the reservoirs were put in the in 1930s and at least 70 percent of them are in need of some kind of repair.”
“There is a huge array of hoops to jump through to do anything on federal land,” adds Beck. “It takes a lot of time. I can identify what needs repaired, but I haven’t initiated the process yet.”
Overall, Beck comments that working with the BLM has been very successful.
“My BLM range conservationist is great. He’s good to work with,” says Beck. “He works with me on things I don’t know about.”
However, the Big Horn Basin Resource Management Plan causes him some concern. Beck says that he has commented on the plan, but is worried about the potential affects of the plan on livestock grazing.
“In today’s economy, agriculture is a pretty good place to be. Cattle are a real good place to be because of the dwindling cattle herd,” says Beck. “This year, I’m selling alfalfa for the first time.”
Beck emphasizes that he’s never grown enough to sell alfalfa before, but on the same amount of land he is now being more productive.
“That shows the improvement in the management of our ground,” says Beck.
Regardless of his successes, Beck says that agriculture has been a very eye-opening experience.
“When I started, I had a very romanticized view of what this was going to be. Reality has set in and the romance is gone now,” says Beck, who realizes it takes hard work to make things better.
“If you have the confidence that what you’re doing is an attempt to make it better, things will work out,” says Beck. “We’ve done some things to make our land better. We’re also getting a better breed-up percentage, the ability to support an increased number of cows per acre, and we’re getting better at managing our scenario with the ground we have.”
There are some challenges that Beck anticipates for this year, including the increased grasshopper numbers in Big Horn County. He says his grass is getting depleted and he’ll have to take an aggressive stance to avoid major impact.
Despite success and hardships, Beck sees that agriculture is an integral part of the county and the families in the area.
“What amazes me are the families that have been farming and ranching for such a long time as families. It’s just amazing to me that they can keep a family enterprise going so well for so long,” says Beck.
“There are lean times and hard times, but they keep it going, and that is amazing. That’s the neat thing about agriculture.”
Beck’s passion for agriculture and his family drives the operation forward and helps Beck realize that, though he’s a rookie, the ag industry is where he wants to be.
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.