Hefenieder helps on family farm
Worland – Al Hefenieder grew up on the family farm and feedlot operation, and since returning from college, he has become an integral part of the operation.
“I farm with my dad, his two brothers, my cousin and grandpa,” says Hefenieder. “All of our help is family.”
Hefenieder graduated from Northwest College in Powell this May with a degree in Farm and Ranch Business Management and says he hopes to farm as long as he can.
The Hefenieders’ operation consists of over 1,000 acres of farm ground, as well as a feedlot operation that custom feeds 3,000 cattle during the winter months.
“We don’t own any cows,” clarifies Hefenieder. “It’s all custom feeding. We mix our own feed.”
Hefenieder notes that the calves they take in are backgrounded and fed a primarily roughage diet, rather than high-energy corn.
“We aren’t pushing anything real hard,” he explains. “They are on a more roughage diet, so they are developed and grow better.”
The operation feeds a large number of cattle that go to grass or are shipped to other states for fattening.
“We feed a lot of cattle to about 800 pounds, and they are shipped to Nebraska, Kansas or Texas where they are closer to the big packing houses,” explains Hefenieder. “It’s more cost efficient to fatten them down there.”
He also adds that a number of heifers are AIed in their feedlot for local producers as well.
The Hefenieder family also raises hay, corn silage and malt barley, all of which require irrigation.
“Most of the challenges we see, we just overcome, but weather is always an issue,” comments Hefenieder, adding that hail and rain are major concerns. “We’ve been pretty fortunate and dodged a bullet as far as hail, but our area is really dry.”
The average rainfall in the Worland area is only about eight inches each year, so their irrigated land is surrounded by badlands.
“In places there is no irrigation, there isn’t anything,” he continues, “and we hardly get any snow, so we depend on the snow runoff from the mountain.”
Hefenieder notes that areas that aren’t reached by irrigation waters are unproductive, but if they can get enough water, their crops flourish.
“We’re always dealing with making sure that we have enough water to irrigate,” he says. “We have good crops if we can get water.”
While the Hefenieders utilize part of their harvest for the custom feeding operation, they also sell the crop from their 500 acres of malt barley to the Coors grain elevator in Worland.
All in the family
Hefenieder knew that he would be coming back to the family operation after college and says, “I worked for a lot of farms in college, and it was fine, but it wasn’t our place.”
The family involvement in the operation works well, despite the common concern that families don’t work well together.
“Some people have told us that when blood and money mix, it makes poison, but we can make it work as a family,” he comments. “It’s an incredible asset, because we all have a vested interest in the farm, and we work together to make it a lot better.”
The family all takes control of different parts of the operation, and they work together to help it run efficiently.
“Everyone has their own jobs and takes care of business,” Hefenieder says. “It works smoothly and efficiently.”
Passion for ag
“The thing is, I have spent my whole life farming – we have a lot of dirt and a lot of iron – but I also have what I love, and I might as well do what I love,” says Hefenieder of the reason he came back to the farm.
He adds that it might be possible to get an easier job, but he’s happy on the farm.
“I could have a better job working from eight to five instead of from five to eight, but I like that we can all work together here,” he comments. “I like our outfit better than if I was doing anything else.”
“We are fortunate,” adds Hefenieder. “I’m pretty happy with what we have here, and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.