CATTLE AND CONSERVATION, OCHSNER FAMILY FOCUSES ON STEWARDSHIP FOR LONGEVITY OF THE RANCH
Torrington – In 1913, Jacob and Eva Ochsner first settled on 320 acres 20 miles north of Torrington. Today, three generations of Ochsners operate the Hereford and Angus cattle operation, which is home to both registered and commercial cows, as well as registered Angus and Hereford bulls.
The George Ochsner Ranch won the 2019 Environmental Stewardship Award, sponsored by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Jacob and Eva’s grandson George is the patriarch of the 36,000-acre operation. George’s sons Rod and Blake help run the ranch today, with their wives Deb and Chrissy. George’s daughter Dixie Roth and her husband Steve are also involved in the operation. The fifth generation of the ranch, Rustin Roth and his wife Britte and B.W. Ochsner and his wife Terra, are poised to continue the family’s legacy far into the future.
With an eye on conservation, George comments, “I’ve been ranching all my life, and it’s important to keep the grass good and the farming good. We have to take care of it all to make our living.”
Dixie adds, “We can’t survive unless we conserve what we have and put back into the land what we take out of it. The most important thing for us is to be good stewards of the land.”
“We pride ourselves on the improvement and preservation of grazing on the lands we own and lease,” she says. “Our goal is to always leave the grass better than when we received it.”
On the ranch
The Ochsner and Roth families have focused on ongoing stewardship practices at the ranch to support health of their range and pastures.
“Our ranch management goals include improving water resources and the ongoing practice of maintaining our grasslands,” says the family.
They have installed 16.5 miles of pipeline, enabling more efficient rotational grazing that locates water more centrally in pastures. In 2017 alone, they installed additional solar panels and a solar pump.
“Tree planting has been an ongoing process,” Dixie notes. “We have shelter belts at every homestead, along with several of the pastures.”
Snow fences around trees also helps to protect the trees and hold moisture.
“In 2017, we acquired 60,000 railroad ties that we utilized to build nine windbreaks and snow fences, as well,” Dixie comments. “They were 750 pounds each, so it was a tough process, but we have beautiful windbreaks in our pastures that provide protection for the cattle.”
In addition to the cattle operation, the family raises 610 acres of irrigated crops, utilizing low-pressure sprinkler systems and lowered drops for improved efficiency. They have also replaced the tires on their sprinkler systems to reduce erosion.
“We spread manure over all our crops to keep it from blowing,” explains Blake, “and we recently switched to growing sorghum instead of corn, also resulting in less erosion.”
The family also raises alfalfa, enabling them to use all their own feed in the 2,000-head feedlot on the ranch.
Weathering the storms
With conservation efforts underway for many years, Dixie comments, “Reserving our grass and having ground cover have proven to be essential on our ranch, especially from our last several years of experience.”
In the summer of 2016, George Ochsner Ranch was consumed by an 11,000-acre fire that destroyed 44 miles of fence, 125 registered Hereford cattle, 2,000 tons of silage, 1,300 bales of hay, corn, corn bins and the calving facilities.
“We sat many hours figuring out how to re-do what was lost and to improve and conserve what we had left,” Dixie says. “We had to lease pastures from neighbors and utilize pastures differently.”
The family replaced fences, changing the layout of their pastures and preventing erosion. Additionally, they utilized electric fencing to keep cattle out of burned areas.
“The experience made us step outside the box and use some different management and organizational skills towards our environment,” she continues.
With a proven ranching operation, the community and conservation organizations have worked with the George Ochsner Ranch to help achieve their conservation goals.
“The George Ochsner Ranch is a family-owned, family-run, family-oriented ranch,” says James Sedman of the North Platte Valley Conservation District, Dan Jackson of the South Goshen Conservation District and Don McDowell of the Lingle-Ft. Laramie Conservation District. “The Ochsner family have been pillars of the Prairie Center and surrounding communities for generations and embody the ideals of ranching, business acumen and stewardship.”
Sedman, Jackson and McDowell emphasize the neighborly, hardworking nature of each of the family members, adding, “They love the land and the cowboy way of life.”
The group says, “We applaud the devotion put forth by the George Ochsner family to build upon the legacy started in 1913 by Jacob and Eva and approve of the dedication to healthy grazing principals and care for the land.”
The Conservation District representatives specifically noted water development, pasture management and shelter belt installation to improve their ranch.
“We feel the Ochsner family embodies the principals of what it means to be a good steward of the land,” Sedman, Jackson and McDowell comment.
The Ochsner and Roth families comment, “We feel our family has always shown environmental stewardship. Our proof is having a successful ranch for 106 years and the fact that the future generation wants to – and is able to – come back.”
They add, “To quote our 84-year-old father, ‘You take care of the land, and it will take care of you.’”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.