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Generations outside Aladdin: Moline family runs pairs, works together

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Aladdin – Before the Moline family homesteaded their ranch, the area served as a trail from Deadwood, S.D. to Miles City, Mont.

“In this area, there was a corral where horses were kept for relays,” says John Moline, the oldest of the seven Moline boys involved in the ranch. “This place was homesteaded in 1886.”

Today, the Moline boys are all peripherally involved in the ranch. David manages the ranch full-time, and John and Kevin help regularly. Ted also lives down the road and spends much of his time at the ranch. Ted also works for Crook County Road and Bridge.

Dan lives in Riverton, and Galen lives in Big Piney. Brett, the youngest of the family, lives in Laramie and works for Wyoming Farm Bureau.

The family didn’t move to Aladdin until 1959, though.

“When Margaret, my mom met Dad, she was in Spearfish, S.D. at a teacher’s college,” Kevin explains. “My Dad, John, was stationed at Fort Mead. When they got married, he started a farm in South Dakota where his mother and siblings were.”

When their uncle in Aladdin passed away, Margaret was the only surviving child, so she moved the family to Aladdin to operate the ranch.

Cow/calf operation

Today, the Molines run cow/calf pairs, favoring black baldy cattle for their hybrid vigor.

“Dad was one of the first in the area to run black baldies,” John says. “I think if one were to look at it, black white-faced cattle would probably make more money more often than any others.”

They calve in March, starting early in the month with heifers and moving through the mature cows later. After calves are on the ground, they begin to move out to summer pasture. The cows are split to the north and south of the home place.

Overall, they keep their management simple and low stress, a strategy that allows them to maintain a health cattle herd.

Kevin adds that everything is cake-broke to make their livestock easier to handle, and they see benefits in weaning and when working.

“We try to keep things low-key and low stress,” John says. “The calves in the pasture aren’t tagged usually.”

The Molines sell calves in October, usually at the Belle Fourche Livestock Auction in Belle Fourche, S.D. They emphasize consistency in their steers.

“We’ve kept our genetics very consistent over the last 20 years,” Kevin says. “We can market the calves better and get a better price if we can sell a uniform truckload of steers.”

They sell 700-pound calves weaned as they leave the ranch. All calves are pre-conditioned 45 days before reaching the sale barn.

“David has done a nice job increasing the size of our calves and retaining the quality that we have,” John says.

The heifer calves are kept as replacements until January or February, when they heavily cull the heifers and sell them.

“We’re working to develop a stronger market to sell our heifers as quality replacement animals, instead of them just going to the feedlot,” John says.

Good place

Despite the remote nature of the ranch, John emphasizes that one benefit of ranching where they do is the tight-knit nature of the community.

“If anything happens here, like a fire or something similar, within a half hour, at least a dozen neighbors will be here,” John says. “We work together and take care of each other.”

They also emphasize good water quality and quantity, and good grass most years.

Though there are benefits, the brothers mention that they have to be self-sufficient, since electricity and phone service can be unpredictable during harsh winter storms.

“We survive out here pretty well,” Kevin says.

Community involvement

The tight-knit nature of the community also means that the Moline brothers have all been involved on different boards and commissions.

“Our folks were pretty involved,” John says. “Dad was on the school board, church council and county commissioners.”

“I was a county commissioner for many years,” he continues. “Kevin was on the medical board, and David was president of the weed and pest.”

They all also serve on the volunteer fire department, which has been strongly supported in the region.

“Even though the ranch is so isolated, it’s been important that all of us got out and saw the world at some point or another,” Kevin says. “We realize that we operate in a world market, and we change and adapt based on what the market demands.”

“We’re aware of how politics and ag are continually changing,” he emphasizes. “We’re not so remote that we’re disconnected from how the industry is changing.”

Next generations

One of the concerns for the Moline family is transitioning their ranch to the next generation.

“There are 10 grandkids after us, and most of them use the ranch only for recreational purposes,” Kevin says. “It worries us a bit to think about how we’re going to keep the place going.”

Currently, the sixth generation of Molines lives in Buffalo, Dayton and Thermopolis, and Kevin says, “We’d like the ranch to continue into the future.”

The brothers comment that they appreciate the work ethic that comes from an ag background, and though they worked away from the ranch, the agriculture industry was always home.

Kevin says, “I’m a retired banker, and I always looked forward to coming home. I always wanted to come back to the ranch.”

“I like to be independent,” John says. “We do as much as we can here on the ranch – from mechanic work to taxes and marketing. I hate an eight-to-five job. I’ve done it, but I prefer it out here.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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