Rooted in excellence: Sled Runner Cattle Company’s history runs deep in Sublette County
Big Piney – What started as a handful of heifers and the money from an open 4-H Catch-a-Calf has turned into a budding seedstock operation from long-time Big Piney Rancher Kailey Barlow.
Kailey is the owner and operator of Sled Runner Cattle Company, which aims to provide high-quality Angus cattle to ranchers around the Mountain West.
“I grew up helping on the family ranch, attended the University of Wyoming and received a degree in ag business with minors in finance and banking financial systems, then returned to Big Piney,” Kailey explains of her journey into the seedstock business.
In addition to her own business, Kailey works for the Sublette County Fair and helps on her family’s operation.
Diving into seedstock
“My journey into the seedstock cattle industry started in the fall of 2014 when I purchased my first registered Angus heifers,” Kailey says. “I had been considering starting my own cowherd for several years, but hadn’t made the jump yet.”
She continues, “That fall, my old Catch-a-Calf 4-H cow came in open, and I decided to use the money from her, along with some other money I had saved, to purchase two registered Angus heifers from the Wyoming Angus Association Select Female Sale.”
Kailey notes at the time, she did not know a lot about the seedstock business, but knew she had a passion for improving cattle genetics for herself and other ranchers.
“I still only have a small herd – 25 registered Angus cows. I have them artificially inseminated to registered Angus or Simmental bulls every year,” she explains. “The cows then calve in late February and March and the calves are weaned in September.”
She shares bull calves she thinks will make quality breeding animals are sent to a feedlot in central Utah, while a handful of heifers stay in Big Piney.
“I slowly started buying a few more heifers and retaining my heifer calves to grow my herd. In the spring of 2018, I sold my first set of bulls,” Kailey says.
Focused on quality
Although the high desert of Sublette County can prove to be a major challenge for cattle producers, Kailey has made it a point to select for cattle that will thrive in this tough environment.
“I try to carefully select for cattle that will thrive in high mountain desert areas, such as southwest Wyoming,” she says. “Every rancher will tell you they live in a challenging environment, be it a hot and humid environment or one that can be brutally cold and dry.”
“The fact of the matter is,” Kailey shares, “There are cattle that will perform better in each of those environments and as a seedstock producer, I want to develop cattle that have adapted to our conditions.”
She continues, “For the first few years, I focused on building a herd of quality Angus females and only bred them to registered Angus bulls. The past couple of years, I have started crossing some of those females to Simmental bulls.”
“No matter what breed, I believe in moderation and balance,” she says. “I do pay attention to expected progeny differences (EPDs), but it isn’t a deal breaker for me if a bull or heifer doesn’t have the best EPDs.”
Kailey explains, “I have seen cattle with outstanding EPDs fall apart and I have seen cattle with poor EPDs be beautiful and productive cattle. Single trait selection can lead to a lot of problems, and ignoring EPDs can also lead to problems.”
Kailey’s roots run deep in both Sublette County and the cattle industry. Her family homesteaded near Big Piney nearly 145 years ago and were some of the first settlers to bring cattle to the Green River Valley.
“Overall, I plan to keep the same focus in my operation, but I would like to improve upon what I am doing each and every year,” she says. “Eventually I would also like to have a bigger herd, but for now, the numbers I have work well.”
Kailey notes there is an art to breeding cattle and she hopes to be able to improve upon this art to create a uniform set of females that produces a uniform set of calves.
Involvement is key
Aside from her own operation, Kailey strives to stay connected to Wyoming agriculture through her involvement with Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher (YF&R) program.
“I think it is important ranchers join whatever agriculture organizations fit them and their needs the best and use their voice to advocate for agriculture,” she says. “Right now, I am most active in the YF&R program.”
Kailey has served in many different roles within the organization, and is currently the vice-chair.
“I love that YF&R allows me to connect with other young farmers and ranchers across the state. We also have a conference every year that is geared toward young farmers and ranchers, and there has been a lot I have learned from those conferences,” she explains.
Through YF&R, Kailey has had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and meet the Congressional delegation, the American Farm Bureau Federation staff, the Department of the Interior and many others.
To learn more about Sled Runner Cattle Company’s Operation, visit sledrunnercattle.com.
Callie Hanson is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.