The Circle L Ranch, Loomis family uses technology to support tradition
Bridgeport, Neb. – “We just got Wi-Fi here at the ranch a month ago,” says Naomi Loomis. “We can’t get cell service yet, but we have internet.”
Cody and Naomi Loomis’ Circle L Ranch is 35 miles north of Bridgeport, Neb.
Naomi says, “We’re at the edge of the Sandhills – tall, rolling hills interspersed with sub-irrigated hay meadows that provide all of our grass hay and grazing. Our kids are the fifth generation of Loomis’ here.”
Rooted in tradition
In the midst of 21st century technology, traditions run deeply.
Family, neighbors, their ranch-raised Quarter horses and Border Collie and Heeler stock dogs are vital to their black-baldy cow/calf operation.
The ranch uses horses for 85 to 90 percent of the cattle work. The dogs do the work of several hired hands.
Cody says, “Come calving in March, I’ll be horseback at least half of every day. I check the cows and rope every calf to doctor and tag it. The cattle are used to horses, so everybody stays calm.”
“Branding season is my favorite time of year,” he continues. “I can go through five or six horses a day. When a couple of other guys and I help one neighbor, we brand 300 calves in the morning and 300 in the afternoon.”
Cody added electric fencing and rotational grazing to the ranch operation. He checks cows and pastures regularly.
“Moving them is now just a matter of opening a gate,” he says.
Checking cattle in the far summer pasture entails a long ride over miles of rough country.
In the fall, they move everything in close to an accessible road.
Cody says, “We keep the weaned calves on pasture right up to hauling day. We’re able to load them right into our own stock trailers and take them straight to a local feedlot. It works great.”
He continues, “We winter the cows close to the home place. We use two pickups with hydro-beds to haul and feed round bales. I’ll go get a horse if I see something that needs doctored, but winter is pretty quiet. That’s when I start my colts.”
Cody says, “Naomi and the boys really enjoy riding, moving and working cattle, so I schedule as much of that work for weekends and summer as I can.
“We are happy to be able to raise our kids with this lifestyle. The two older boys have their own small cowherd,” he explains. “Both are training their own colts and young dogs. They get to be around good people, who are honest and sincere. The boys already have strong work ethics that will serve them well no matter what they decide to do in life.”
However, Cody adds, “If any of our kids decide to ranch, we’ll have to spread out, diversify and find some new niches to generate more income. They are part of this technology generation, so they will be able to make changes and improve the ranch business.”
Naomi has worked in town managing the Double A feed store since 1999, a year after she and Cody were married.
She says, “The kids – Cade, 15, Kason, 13, and the twins, Ryder and Reata, 7 – consider the store their second home.”
While it’s nice to have Wi-Fi at the ranch, she treasures the almost-daily technology-free 70-mile commute.
“Every day I get to spend quality time with my kids while we’re driving those miles. I actually know my kids,” Naomi comments.
The Loomis’ are members of Nebraska Cattlemen. Naomi sits on the boards of the Morrill County Cattlemen and the local FFA advisory committee. She is the current president of the Morrill County Fair Board.
Naomi is also a Western States Ranch Rodeo Association (WSRRA) representative and has been a ranch rodeo and ranch bronc riding producer since 2007. She writes for the WSRRA magazine Rodeo News and was named WSRRA Producer of the Year in 2015.
“In 2016, I produced over 20 ranch rodeos and ranch bronc riding events. I bucked over 2,500 head of horses that year,” she says. “I put in a lot of miles and had a lot of fun.”
She says, “I support the sport of ranch rodeo to keep our ranching traditions alive. Working cowboys can compete in WSRRA. I want my own kids to be able to compete and to go to town and show off the skills they’ve acquired while working.”
Naomi embraces the technology that allows her to market their businesses. More importantly, through developing websites and blogs and using Facebook and other social media, she has developed her voice “to keep our ranching ways and traditions alive.”
She says, “I’ve started my website and blog to tell our story. I think everybody has a story to tell. We’re all unique, so I also encourage people to tell theirs. If I can make a difference in one person’s day or one person’s life, that’s all I need to do.”
“Plus, this is my chance to advocate for beef and agriculture,” Naomi adds. “People are so far away from ranch life, reading my blogs gives them a chance to see where their food comes from.”
Virginia Wakefield is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.