A different outlook: Pexton changes operation to fit needs
Douglas – “I made a big life decision last spring and I sold my cows,” says Tim Pexton. “They’ll stay here, but I sold them to a young neighbor who wanted to get in the cow business.”
Despite the sale, Tim says, “I told my family that I will do whatever I can to keep the land and the ranch intact. I had a lot of debt and cattle prices were higher than I’ve ever seen them.”
In an informal agreement with his father John Pexton, Tim agreed to keep the land in the family.
Since selling his cows, Tim notes they are still working out the details of how the new operation will run, but he anticipates that he will still be very involved, working the cows for a percentage of the profits. The changes in his operation have helped Tim to get out of debt and allowed him to continue working with cattle.
“This arrangement has to work for both of us,” says Tim, adding that there have been discussions about changing to a summer calving program. “I don’t want to be calving cows in the cold and snow when I’m 80.”
The benefits of summer calving would include less labor and feed costs. When calves would be born the weather would be nicer, so they would need less supervision and less feed.
“We would hit a different market, but it seems to be just as good,” continues Tim. “The market would be the main consideration. We still have to make money.”
The Pexton family has lived south of Douglas since Tim’s grandfather and father purchased the property. In the late 1940s the property expanded with the purchase of several other homesteads, and Tim’s father got married and moved into the house that still stands today.
“I’m the only one left on the ranch, but my sister does have some cattle here,” adds Tim. “I have one brother who lives in Douglas and the other two brothers have scattered. We’ve bought or traded them out.”
Tim has Black Angus cattle, adding, “I bought a polled Hereford bull for my token baldies.”
“I’ve lived here all my life. I don’t know if I could do anything else,” says Tim. “I’ve been around the country and around the world, and I’ve not been anywhere else where I would want to live yet.”
Tim’s property provides for adequate winter pastures and higher pastures for the summer. Depending on weather, he is able to leave his cattle on range until late November.
For winter-feeding, Pexton puts up hay each year, saying that the land is capable of producing 300 tons, and irrigation isn’t a problem because he has live water.
“I have my own water from a little stream that runs to a reservoir,” says Tim. “I don’t have to fight anyone over it, and it’s enough to irrigate everything one and a half times.”
The land is intermingled state, Forest Service, BLM and private land. Tim adds that, while he works with a great range conservationist, regulations are getting stricter. He also mentions that all of his land is contiguous, which is helpful.
“I just open the gates and the cows pretty well know where they are going,” says Tim, continuing, “I’ve got a lot of summer pasture, so I summer another 300 head over what we have.”
Unlike many, Tim has live water in all of his pastures, as well as a few reservoirs.
“Water has never been a problem. I take that for granted,” adds Tim. “Even when we had the big drought I never had to stay out of a pasture because of water.”
Tim’s cowherd calves the first of March, and he sells steer calves by private treaty.
“I’ve sold for the last eight years or so to a feeder in Nebraska. They go directly to the feedlot and he feeds them out,” says Tim. “It’s a great thing to have him buy them from here so I don’t have to mess with a video.”
Because Tim lives 25 miles south of Douglas, he says the distance can be challenging, with high fuel costs and the potential for harsh winter weather.
“I remember as a kid we got snowed in regularly, but recently the weather hasn’t been terribly bad,” says Tim.
He also mentions that the county road runs through the full length of his property, which can cause some problems.
“We’re near the end of the road up here, and we get a lot of people who want to get out of town,” says Tim. “They get on my land a lot, and they can be pretty abusive.”
Though hunters are allowed on the land, Tim says they can cause a lot of damage with their ATV use, so he is working with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to mark a walk-in area to curb the abuse.
With the large elk herds in the area, Tim says that having hunters is important to try to get numbers down.
“There is a huge elk herd here and that is a problem. It’s double the objective, and they are struggling to get it back in control,” comments Tim. “I just want the problem taken care of. Elk eat grass, not brush like deer or antelope, and there are 300 to 400 in a herd, and they get into the alfalfa all the time.”
Tim says that, despite challenges, he enjoys his work, and the lifestyle that comes with it.
“It’s quiet. I do what I want, when I want, and I don’t have hired men whom I have to supervise,” says Tim. “I’m my own boss – it’s almost total freedom.”
He also has the opportunity to be very involved in his community, joking, “I could be a professional meeting goer.”
Between the Wyoming Farm Bureau Board of Directors, the Farm Bureau Insurance Board and his service as Wyoming Rural Development Council chairman and chairman of the county predator board, Tim stays busy off the ranch, as well.
“I’m chairman of the Douglas local economic development group and the Esterbrook community organization, and have been for quite a while,” adds Tim. “I’m on a lot of boards and local committees. I like being involved.”
Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.