Seeking opportunity: Muleshoe Ranch uses business diversification to thrive
Colony – Colony rancher Jim Dacar explains the Muleshoe Ranch was officially founded in the early 1950s after his wife Roxie’s grandfather Thorval Jensen, Sr. purchased the land in the 1940s.
“The bank had repossessed the ranch, and he was the kind of guy who would stick his neck out and take a chance,” says Dacar.
Now, the ranch prides itself in being a progressive, family-operated business with four generations living on the ranch.
Muleshoe Ranch is primarily a cow/calf operation, with a mother cowherd of approximately 900 head.
“The only yearlings we run are for replacements,” explains Dacar. “We run mostly Black Angus cross, with some Simmental crosses in there.”
Dacar says the ranch primarily sells calves through video sales, noting, “We’ve gotten along with that pretty well the last two or three years.”
The ranch also has 1,200 acres of farm ground, which is primarily used to produce hay for their cattle, with approximately 450 acres the ranch is able to irrigate.
“We rotate out into small grains or something we can cut for hay and then go back into alfalfa,” he comments. “We’re a member of the Crook County Irrigation District, so that saves us. We have water most years.”
In addition to their regular ranching operations, the Muleshoe Ranch also has an outfitting business.
“My wife and I started that in the early 80s, and we continue with that now on this place,” says Dacar.
Getting started in the guiding business began as an additional source of income to be able to purchase land and livestock, says Dacar.
“My wife and I were working on another ranch not far from here, and we had to come up with something because we wanted to get into livestock and buy some land,” he comments. “I leased hunting rights from the guy I worked for, and we started up that way.”
He explains they began guiding 60 hunters per year and leased a large amount of land in previous years.
“We’ve gotten older, and there’s a lot of competition on leasing ground. We basically just hunt this ranch and take about 20 to 25 hunters per year,” continues Dacar. “My wife does the cooking. I do the guiding, and my sons might help some on the guiding.”
Muleshoe Ranch is home to a variety of wildlife species, including mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, turkey and elk.
Rewards and challenges
Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, Dacar explains a life in agriculture was always in his plans.
“I liked horses and livestock and always wanted to ranch,” says Dacar. “I like being my own boss and being out here doing what we want to do.”
Dacar credits the ranching lifestyle for allowing his children to develop care and appreciation for the land.
“The ranch instilled a really good work ethic into my kids, and it’s also developed their love for this ranch,” he continues.
Continuing the ranching legacy in the family is invaluable for Dacar, he says.
“The most important thing for me is passing this ranch on to the next generation,” comments Dacar. “For my wife’s father, one of his last requests was that we keep this ranch together.”
Dacar explains that Muleshoe Ranch is a family affair, with both of his sons and their families actively involved in the ranching operation.
“My oldest son Levi is an engineer at the Department of Transportation in Sundance. He and his wife Lana are weekend warriors for us,” he says. “They’ve got a little girl Ellie, who is 3.”
Dacar’s youngest son Caleb lives and works on the ranch with his family.
“His wife Megan is going to school to be a nurse practitioner, so she’s pretty busy,” continues Dacar. “They have Owen, who is two-and-a-half, and Elise, who is about 3 months. They’re busy with young families and trying to get the work done.”
As he and his family look toward the future, Dacar notes a goal for the ranch is to improve its carrying capacity.
“There is a lot we can do with the existing ranch to improve carrying capacity,” he concludes. “One thing we’ve been working on the past four or five years is increasing our hay base before we try to expand any farther to prepare for high cost hay years.”
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.