Building relationships: Wolf family cherishes friendships, experiences in Hereford production
Hulett – Third generation rancher Tom Wolf began managing the family’s cow/calf operation in 1996 along with his wife Donna.
“My wife and I took over the family operation 21 years ago from my parents,” he says.
Staying close to its roots, the ranch continues to be a cow/calf operation, explains Wolf.
“We run about 150 to 175 herd cows now and sell feeder steers on Superior Livestock,” he says.
The family primarily raises Hereford cattle, with approximately 30 percent of the herd being black baldies that are marketed as bred cows.
The ranch raises its own replacement animals and sells calves off of the cow in the fall.
“We calve in March, and the calves are delivered in late October,” Wolf notes.
In addition to the cattle side of the business, Wolf explains the ranch also grows dryland grass and alfalfa hay and raises a small amount of small grains.
“We usually put up around 1,000 round bales to feed the cows through the winter months,” he comments.
Off the ranch, both Wolf and his wife work for the Crook County School District.
“I drive a school bus, and my wife is a paraprofessional at Hulett School,” says Wolf.
For Wolf, ranching holds many rewards, both in the day-to-day work and special experiences.
“Seeing the baby calves in the spring and the green grass is something that I enjoy,” says Wolf.
The relationships the couple has built with friends and neighbors in agriculture are another part of ranching they deeply cherish.
“We have a whole host of great neighbors in every direction who are friends we can lean on anytime to help us with whatever needs done,” he says.
Wolf also explains that he and his wife have become acquainted with a few families who show their Hereford calves.
“It’s been quite rewarding and very enjoyable to meet those families,” says Wolf. “Two of our biggest highlights were a grand champion carcass at the National Hereford Show in Oklahoma one year and the grand champion steer in Ohio at a county fair.”
He notes their involvement with the showing first began with Jim Williams, formerly of the American Hereford Association, as Williams began seeking a Hereford steer for his daughter to show.
“He went to a feedlot to pick a steer, and he selected one of ours,” Wolf comments. “He called me wanting to know the information about this steer, like its birthdate and what all I knew about it.”
After that, Williams introduced the couple to other families interested in showing Hereford cattle.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch their young people grow up,” he notes.
“We’re very interested in maintaining soil health and are moving forward with different efforts through our Natural Resources Conservation Service office and education at their field days,” Wolf says.
This past spring, Wolf explains the ranch began planting cover crops to extend their grazing season and allow them to feed less hay.
“I think we’ll continue using cover crops. It helps to nourish the soil as the turnips, radishes and such are doing their job penetrating the impacted ground and allowing moisture to soak in when it rains,” Wolf states.
Improving environmental sustainability is a continued goal for the ranch, he continues.
The ranch has recently added new fencing to improve grazing and is currently working on water line projects.
“We’ve got one project going on right now where we’re putting in a mile of pipe and several tanks to better utilize the pasture we have available to us,” he continues.
Additionally, the ponderosa pine trees are managed on the ranch’s timbered acres to maintain a healthy and sustainable forest.
Eye to the future
According to Wolf, operating the ranch is a family affair, with the couple’s two sons actively involved, while they also work off the ranch.
“They both went to college and returned to the area. Our oldest Calvin works for the Crook County Road and Bridge Department,” he says. “Our youngest son Shane is an agricultural loan officer at the Sundance State Bank. They help nights, weekends and whenever they’re needed.”
As they look toward the future, Wolf explains the family is also looking to diversify their marketing strategy.
“A friend told me about a guy in New Mexico who wanted some Hereford bull calves, so we’re sending him 10 head in November,” he says. “We’re not in the bull business, but it seemed like a pretty good thing to try.”
As the demand increases for locally raised food, each year, a few steers are fattened on the ranch and sold as beef to local consumers.
Wolf continues, “We’re trying to diversify our income, so we’re not relying just on one thing or another.”
He notes that both sons and their wives desire to continue the family ranching tradition and have started to help with some of the decision making.
“It’s gratifying to have them interested in it. We’ve done some long-term planning to help us be able to pass the ranch on to them, hopefully seamlessly,” Wolf concludes.
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.