O’Toole works for improvement
Savery – Ladder Ranch in Savery and the O’Toole family are known across the state of Wyoming, but the newest generation running the ranch is stepping up in a big way to continue the legacy of the operation while also striving toward continued improvement.
Eamon O’Toole, a member of the fifth generation on the operation, says that he is fortunate to be involved in the ranch and can’t imagine life elsewhere.
“I live on the ranch full-time,” he comments. “My parents have been very gracious about passing the day-to-day operation of the ranch over to my sister and me.”
O’Toole and his sister Meghan Lally have taken over much of the ranch’s operation, segmenting it based on their interests.
“Meghan is most interested in the sheep part of the operation,” O’Toole says. “I do more of the cattle aspect.”
O’Toole was raised on the ranch, and he went to college at the University of Wyoming.
“It was probably during my junior year of college that I decided I wanted to come back to make a living on the ranch,” he says. “I started college to get a degree in business and marketing, but my life changed at some point. I realized I didn’t want to go out and live in a city somewhere. I wanted to live on the ranch.”
At the same time, O’Toole notes that his parents wanted him to come home and help at the ranch.
“I kept coming home during the summer, and I was doing a lot toward running the cattle side of the ranch before I finished college, in some respects,” he says. “We gradually started doing more and more to improve things.”
Improving the operation
Since becoming more involved in the day-to-day management of the operation, O’Toole says he and Meghan have concentrated on making continued improvements to the ranch.
“On the cattle side, I started artificially inseminating (AIing) cows five years ago when I got out of college,” he explains. “We have been keeping replacement bulls with the best genetics to improve the herd.”
As an additional way to improve the operation, O’Toole emphasizes involvement in agriculture organizations.
“I’ve been on the board of the American Farmland Trust, and I was on the County Planning and Zoning Board,” he says. “I’m getting more involved in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association as I can, and I participated in Wyoming L.E.A.D.”
His involvement has provided him with valuable skills at the ranch.
“Growing up, my grandpa was really involved, and my dad is involved in several organizations,” O’Toole says. “If you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu. I grew up knowing that if we wanted to have our voice heard, we had to go to meetings. If we weren’t there to help make decisions, other people would make them for us. Being involved has always been important for our family.”
For the next generation
O’Toole mentions that being the youngest managing generation on a ranch can be a challenge, but there are things that can be done to improve generational transfer and alleviate the strain of taking over an operation.
“I think one of the biggest challenges for young producers – other than the production things that everyone worries about – is how we pass on the ranch from our parents,” he comments. “I’ve been very lucky that my parents strategized to pass things on. We were really lucky.”
For families that don’t organize a generational transfer strategy, he adds that too often the ranch is let go and disappears into the sunset.
Another challenge for young people, O’Toole says, is being able to ask questions.
“The biggest thing for success, in my point of view, is to not be afraid to ask questions,” O’Toole notes. “Anyone who has information can be helpful. Make contacts and use those contacts when you have questions.”
O’Toole explains that Burke Teichert, the general manager for Deseret Land and Livestock Company at the time, was one of his mentors who helped him to be successful.
“I called him at least once a month for a long time to ask advice,” he says. “That really helped me.”
The bond of the family on the ranch is also important.
O’Toole’s wife Megan works off the ranch as a nurse, but they live and raise their sons Rhen and McCoy on the operation.
O’Toole and his sister work separately on the ranch to improve and maintain their individual enterprises, and O’Toole says, “We pretty well take care of our respective ends, but we help each other out during docking, shearing, branding, AIing and other times. We work really well together.”
“I am so glad I have family members who all work so well together,” he adds. “We get along great, and we help each other out. It really is good to know that we’re there to help each other out.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.