Auburn ranch continues sheep and cattle operation through generations
Auburn – Jody Bagley is the fourth generation of his family to ranch in Star Valley. Jody grew up there and returned to the ranch after earning a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the UW.
The ranch consists of a Hereford and Black Angus cow/calf operation, 100 ewes, alfalfa and irrigated meadow.
In addition, the family used to run a small dairy, several hundred laying hens and dry land barley.
Bagley Ranch today
“Right now we run about 80 head of cattle,” Bagley says. “We used to have three times that number when had our grazing permits. We sold one of our permits in the 1970s, and let the other go last year.”
“We bought out a sheep permit and converted it to cattle. The U.S. Forest Service cut the number of cows we could run, so we bought another sheep permit. Then they cut us even further,” he explains. “Now, we have the cows and 100 head of ewes, and we operate on deeded ground. I brought in and fed some outside cows here last winter.”
“This fall I’ll buy more cows. We’d like to expand our operation and buy more ground,” Bagley continues, “but when land here is $5,000 to $10,000 an acre, you can’t make that pay.”
Jody ranches with his wife Suellen, who also works at the Farm Service Agency in Afton, and his mother Genell.
Jody and Suellen also have one son Rex and daughter Tenny who both live away from the ranch. Their oldest son Jody passed away in an accident five years ago.
Jody Bagley’s parents Clyde and Genell and grandparents Sid and Carrie created the Bagley Ranch near Auburn during the 1950s by putting together four small farms and ranches along the Salt River.
Beginning the ranch
Sid Bagley was quite a hand.
“He herded cattle for Ted Frome at Brockman, Idaho and up the Greys River for the Little Greys Cattle Association in western Wyoming. In 1918, he herded sheep for Covey’s on Elk Mountain, in what is now the Bridger Teton National Forest. The next year he bought a livestock grazing permit on West Bailey to run his own cows,” Jody recalls. “He homesteaded in Star Valley, but like many others, went bankrupt up in the 1930s. He returned to Fairview and ranched with his mother for a time. In the 1950s, they moved up here.”
Sid Bagley was a horseman and one of the first to bring registered Quarter Horses into western Wyoming. He taught many young men about breaking and training horses, and they nicknamed him “Big Dad.”
“My folks used to travel seven to eight miles a day with a team to feed 200 to 300 head of cows, plus that many yearlings,” Bagley says. “It used to take a six to eight-man crew to hay this place with teams, stacking all the hay by hand. During the oil boom in the 1980s, we upgraded to machinery, but it still took four or five people to put up the hay.”
“Mom worked on the hay crew driving the baler,” he continues. “Guys used to say she made the biggest, tightest bales of anyone around. I can now put up all the hay myself with a disk swather and a round baler. Even during the drought this year I had plenty of irrigation water, but with 80 degree days and 26 degree nights, the hay didn’t want to grow.”
“During the winter, I feed my cows in the afternoon. They eat, water and bed on it, and then get up in morning and clean it up. I’ve found I use less feed this way,” he explains.
The Salt River splits into ribbons when it enters the Bagley Ranch and comes back together before leaving the ranch.
“We have five miles of river channel here. There are also three creeks with a total of six diversions. I have my own ditches, so we don’t have to share with anyone. There is only one meadow field that doesn’t have live water,’ Bagley says.
“The springs are warm. We’ll have 30 to 40 inches of snow on the ground, and all the water is open. When I feed cows, I can tell how cold it is; if the creek is frozen all the way across, it’s about 20 below. The warm spring in the meadow won’t freeze until it’s 40 below,” he adds. “There are only two places around that have a longer winter than we do – Bondurant and Grays Lake, Idaho.”
With the open water, Bagley says they see several trumpeter swans in the winter, as well as moose, whitetail and mule deer and elk.
“We are in a brucellosis surveillance area and next to the forest, so I bleed my cattle every year as part of my brucellosis plan. There aren’t many elk on this place, but they are on my neighbors. In Lincoln County, we are also in a Trichomoniasis Special Focus Area, so we test our bulls for that.” Bagley adds, “We built a roof over our alleyway, and we have a hydraulic chute for working cattle, which makes all the chute work much easier.”
Jody serves on the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust Board, the Star Valley Land Trust board and the Lincoln County Predatory Animal Board.
He was vice president of the Star Valley Cattlemen’s Grazing Association and Region IV Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
He also encourages other producers to become involved, saying, “It’s our industry. We need to be involved and not let other people make decisions for us.”
Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup may be reached at 307-250-9723 or firstname.lastname@example.org.