Multigenerational operation: Three generations of DeGerings learn from each other to keep a successful operation
Lusk – The ranch Kenny and Barbara DeGering call home was homesteaded by Kenny’s great-grandparents in 1908. In fact, a portion of the home they live in was originally built in 1913. Today, three generations are involved on the ranch.
“My mom and dad are still living on the ranch, and my dad has been involved since he was born,” Kenny shares. “The only time he wasn’t on the ranch was when he was in the Army.”
Kenny and his two sisters grew up on the ranch, though one now lives on a ranch in South Dakota, and another recently moved back to the area after being involved in a business in Missouri. On the family operation, Kenny’s aunt and uncle were also involved in the ranch until the early ’80s.
“In 1995, my dad and I formed a corporation called DeGering Livestock,” Kenny says. “This is the management company for all of the ranches and it doesn’t own much real estate, but owns all of the machinery and cattle, as well as does all of the management of the ranching operations.”
DeGering Livestock manages the operations on the main ranch, a farm east of Lusk and a ranch south of Lusk. Across their operation, the DeGerings have pivots and some farm ground to put up hay and feed to supply the ranch, as well as ground to summer and winter cattle.
“The real estate has been passed down through generations, and both of my children are now involved, so it’s a multigenerational operation, and everyone has their own role,” Kenny says.
He notes their son Jerit is particularly interested in artificial insemination (AI) on the ranch, and he has his own welding business, which fits a niche most ranches need. In addition, Jerit’s fiancé Lacy recently graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University. Kenny and Barbara’s daughter Kristy is very involved in the decisions of the ranch and continually works to promote the agriculture industry both in her career and personal interests.
The DeGerings run mostly black and black baldy cows. They utilize bulls purchased from M Diamond Angus in Glenrock – owned and operated by the DeGering’s cousins, the Boner family – or TD Angus in Hershey, Neb. and run by Trey Wasserberger, whose family originates from Niobrara County.
In addition to putting up their own hay, the DeGerings run a custom haying operation. They also have the option to sell calves or feed them out at a feedlot, and the DeGerings also recently began their own heifer development program.
Building productive cows
“There’s a growing demand as the workforce in agriculture gets older for heifer development,” Kenny explains. “There are a lot of people interested in buying three-year-olds or heifer pairs that have already calved out. So, we’ve been doing it on a small scale, but basically we develop heifers to make a better cow that will last.”
Select heifers are put through an AI program and culled multiple times based on pregnancy status and other criteria.
“Thegoalistogettoa place where there are more heifers than we need to put back into our own program and sell some as heifer pairs,” Kenny shares. “We are lucky to have the farm and pivot for feed, the facilities and to some extent the knowledge to do this.”
For Kenny, the addition of the heifer development program in their operation is similar to how the family operates as a multigenerational ranch.
“We think it is a good use of the cowherd with the resources we have, but we wouldn’t be able to do some of what we do without our children to do some of the work,” he adds.
Caring for family and community
Kenny shares he was a small child when his grandparents were alive and working on the ranch, and he believes his family lucky that his children have gone through high school and college seeing their grandparents still working and being involved in the operation.
“The good thing about having a multi-generation ranch is we get to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the older generations, but also the energy and fresh ideas of the younger generation,” he says. “People call it a family ranch, because it is family.”
Over the years, the many generations of DeGerings have taught their children to take care of their family as well as their community.
Kenny shares his grandparents and parents were very involved in community activities and developments.
Today, Kenny and Barbara both serve on several boards, Jerit serves on the Legend of Rawhide board and Kristy was involved in Ag Ambassadors through the University of Wyoming.
“One organization that is extremely special to us is Wyoming Ag in the Classroom,” Kenny says, sharing DeGering Livestock has hosted multiple classrooms at the ranch. “We think it is an extremely important tool to teach people the truth about agriculture and dispel some myths out there about this great industry.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@ wylr.net.