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Fourth-generation rancher, farmer receives Distinguished Alumni Award from UW

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

A fourth-generation rancher and farmer from Harrisburg, Neb., is receiving a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wyoming (UW) during Homecoming Week Oct. 16-23.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumnus Gary Darnall and other award recipients will be recognized during campus activities Oct. 22; the parade Oct. 23; and an announcement at the Homecoming football game against New Mexico. The college is also hosting a reception for Darnall.

The UW Alumni Association (UWAA) and the UW Office of the President present the awards.

Darnall received the College of Agriculture and Natural Resource’s Outstanding Alumni Award in 2011. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1960 and a master’s degree in 1962, both in agricultural economics. 

Darnall said in a 2011 interview he had always intended to return to the livestock and farming operation that grew from his great-grandfather’s homestead nestled against the Wildcat Hills near Harrisburg.

Darnall had attended UW on a track scholarship. His return to fulltime at the farm/ranch had to wait until farm economics changed in the early 1960s. The family was not sure if the operation would support Darnall, his wife, Emilie, two children, Lisa and Lane, and his parents, Harvey and Mattie.

After teaching classes at Western Nebraska College in Scottsbluff, Neb., and as a vocational agricultural teacher – all the while working at the farm/ranch – the economics changed and Darnall was able to join his father. 

Darnall said he could not accomplish what he has done without advice and expertise from many others. He used his UW degrees to take his family’s ranch and Darnall Feedlot to the next level of innovation.

The ranch became one of the first feeders to adopt integrated pest management and no-till farming. It has grown to several thousand acres of grassland, dryland and irrigated cropland; a commercial Angus cow herd; a yearling grazing operation; and a 22,500-head commercial American Angus Association-certified feedlot.

Darnall helped start the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research Feedlot, located near Scottsbluff, Neb. He has served on the external advisory board for the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as well as other boards and commissions. He also gives workshops and hires college interns. Additionally, he is a staunch supporter of UW athletics, including the Steer-A-Year program. He and his ranch have earned many state and national honors.

In addition to Gary Darnall, Emilie, Lane and Lisa, and three of their grandchildren are UW graduates.

             This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming. For more information, visit

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