Running red, Orchard works for consistent cattle
Ten Sleep – South of Ten Sleep, there is a ranch that has been in the Orchard family since 1900. Third generation rancher Rob Orchard, his son Charlie, daughter April and her family help keep the Orchard Ranch thriving.
Orchard’s other children are sons Chris, who lives on the West Coast, Mark, a meat science teacher in Utah, and Robin, who lives in Cody.
Orchard has 14 grandchildren.
Rob’s grandfather came to Ten Sleep with the sheep business. He started out as a sheep producer, but through the years, the Orchard’s ranch has transitioned into a cattle-producing ranch.
“Back in those days, instead of paying wages, he was paid in ewes. That’s how my granddad got his start in the sheep business,” explains Rob.
At the end of World War II, Rob’s dad sold all of the sheep and worked to get the family solely into the cattle business.
“Granddad was not very happy about that. He told my dad, ‘It wasn’t the cows that got this ranch through the Depression. It was the double crop on the sheep that did,’” says Rob.
Rob was accepted to University of Colorado’s ROTC program and then went on to flight school. There was a particularly special day when he was 16 and signed up for the draft.
“It was one of the proudest days of my life when I was able to register for the draft,” says Rob. “Of course, I wanted to go into the Marine Corp, but I also wanted to get through school.”
Rob changed his mind about the Marines and instead went into the Air Force for three years. After being discharged from the military, he yearned to return home and go back to ranching.
“It was bred into me. I just wanted to keep punching cows,” Rob says.
Rob’s flying abilities and skills have come in handy as a tool for their ranch, along with their saddle horses.
“Using the plane helps to see what’s going on, what’s happening on our ranch and where the livestock are,” Rob explains. “I can also use the plane if somebody needs to come to town due to an injury. I can just load them up and come to town.”
Improving the cattle herd
After they transitioned to solely producing cattle, the Orchards began looking for a new area to where they could improve upon their herd.
“We needed a cross in our Hereford cattle, so we started running some Red Angus in 1989. Now it’s mainly just Red Angus now,” replies Rob. “A lot of the white has been bred out of them, and the red baldy is gone. There is a few with a freckled face or some with white on their belly.”
Rob much prefers his Red Angus to the Herefords he has had in the past.
“As I have been told a long time back, if we want to get a guy who is a really good hand that can do everything, get a guy who has been working with a Hereford outfit because they learned it all there,” teases Rob.
Joking aside, Rob takes his cattle operation very seriously and has a very high goals set for all of them.
“I always wanted a herd of cattle so that when they are run through a gate, it looks like a faucet was opened up and water is running through,” says Rob. “All the cattle should look about the same size and have a consistent conformation.”
“We’ve been selling our steers through Superior, and the ones that don’t quite fit go to a feedlot in Ogallala, Neb.,” says Rob.
He likes the way that Superior premiers their cattle, so anyone in the United States can purchase them, and they can find a better price, as well.
Because cattle ranching and the livestock industry is an important part of his life, Rob has also served in several capacities. Most notably, he was president of the Wyoming Livestock Board for six years, from March 2005 to March 2011.
The Orchards also lease their ranch out to an outfitting company from Casper that is a group of retired firemen.
“We hunt off horseback,” Rob says. “If we wanted to scare the elk, we’d just go after them with four-wheelers. They can hear one of those things coming for miles. The elk are used to seeing us on horseback with the cows.”
A lot of changes have occurred with the beef industry over the years and Orchard has witnessed quite a few of them.
“I can remember as a kid buying a calf at 12 cents a pound. In today’s market, that’s not even in the ballpark. Now it is at $1.60 a pound,” he notes. “I have watched it gradually work its way up over the years.”
“We’re just a bread-and-butter kind of cow outfit,” states Rob. “It’s a big enough outfit to go for a horseback ride. We raise a few cattle, and we’re not raising cattle on the end of a main street. We have enough that when we sell, most of the bills get paid.”
Madeline Robinson is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.