Introducing Sublette County: Ranching through valleys and up mountains, Sublette County agriculture defies the odds of production
The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is excited to highlight ranches, agribusinesses and community members in Sublette County in this 2021 Fall Cattlemen’s Edition.
Sublette County, Wyoming’s sixth largest county, is surrounded by the Wind River Range to the east, the Gros Ventre Wilderness to the north and the Salt River and Wyoming Ranges to the west. The abundant water supply is fed by the surrounding mountains, and water exits the county through the Green, Big Sandy and Hoback Rivers.
The central portion of the county is a valley described as a sagebrush steppe eco-system.
Sublette County covers 3.2 million acres in the western part of Wyoming, and 80 percent of the land is public land – state or federal lands. Greater than 70 percent of all non-federal land in Sublette County is defined as rangeland designated as sagebrush steppe.
While precipitation throughout the county ranges from seven to 20 inches annually, the major agricultural use of Sublette County rangelands is livestock grazing. In addition to serving livestock production, rangelands provide critical habitat for great numbers of antelope, elk, moose, mule deer, sage grouse and other non-game species.
The combination of private rangelands and public land rangelands creates a beautiful, unique and extensive habitat for livestock and wildlife.
Throughout the valley, there are approximately 141,197 acres of irrigated pasture and hayland. Native hay, varying in high-quality, introduced grass pastures to stands made entirely of sedges and rushes, is the dominant crop, and fields are typically flood irrigated. Average hay yield for the area is just over one ton per acre with flood irrigation and three tons per acre under a boom.
Irrigated hay meadows are typically utilized for fall/winter and spring grazing for livestock and a year-round habitat for wildlife.
Forests in Sublette County are used for recreation, livestock grazing, wildlife and some timber harvesting, narrow stands of lodgepole pine, cottonwood trees and willows dot the creeks and patches of aspen and pine stands in the uplands.
Agriculture and the economy
Many of the first inhabitants of the county described the area as uninviting. Through the years, cattlemen recognized the grazing potential and ranchers began to homestead along many tributaries fed by the mountains. Permanent ranchers in the area discovered cattle could graze year-round, like native buffalo herds, on nutritious prairie grasses.
Homesteading ranchers primarily raised beef cattle, though some maintained sheep and dairy herds. Today, cattle numbers in the area top 57,000 head. Sublette County is also home to over 300 goats, 3,200 horses and ponies and several large flocks of sheep.
Livestock and livestock products make up 87 percent of agricultural products in Sublette County, and crop production makes up the remaining 13 percent. In total, the market value of agricultural products sold tops $47,872,000. The average market value of products sold per farm is $119,084.
The sale of livestock, poultry and products totals $41,684,000. Poultry and egg sales come in at $11,000, cattle sales top $39,079,000, hogs and pigs sold come to $8,000, equine sales top $892,000 and aquaculture production brings $721,000. The sale of crops in Sublette County totals $6,188,000.
Agricultural production in Sublette County earns several top 15 rankings throughout Wyoming. In whole, the county ranks 12th in both the sales of crops, livestock and livestock products.
Sublette County ranks third in aquaculture and seventh in the market value of horses, ponies, mules, burros and donkeys. The sale of cattle and calves ranks 12th. The sale of crop products from nurseries and greenhouses ranks sixth. Vegetable, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes ranks 11th in the state.
Information in this article was compiled from the Wyoming State Historical Society, the Sublette County Conservation District, and the National Agriculture Statistics Service,
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.