Perseverance, Teamwork and Dedication: Hamilton family works together to create successful operation near the famous Lance Formation
Lance Creek – In 1989, after purchasing TRH Ranch in Lance Creek, Tom Hamilton’s father Lyle fulfilled his dream of owning a winter ranch where he wouldn’t have to feed hay during the long, cold Wyoming winters.
A short year later, Tom and his wife Randi, along with their three children, Holly, Heather and Kyle, moved to the new operation in Niobrara County where they continue to ranch today.
Raising, marketing Black Angus beef
“We currently run a cow/calf operation and occasionally a yearling operation,” states Tom. “God, Randi, Holly and I are the primary workforce on the place, with other family members helping with the branding, shipping, etc.”
Tom explains TRH Ranch backgrounds their calves at a feedlot with their daughter Heather Maude and her husband Charles Maude, selling them privately when possible. He also notes the operation owns shares in a grazing association located 150 miles north of Lance Creek where cattle are summered for five months out of the year.
“This added pasture has allowed us to spread out the weather risk and manage our range more effectively,” Tom says.
He continues, “Our preferred breed of cattle is Black Angus. We have raised Herefords, Gelbvieh and some terminal crosses, but in my opinion, the Black Angus breed has the best genetic profile for whatever a producer desires in their herd. Additionally, Certified Angus Beef is the best marketing strategy in the beef industry.”
With this said, Tom further notes TRH Ranch has been finishing out cattle for several years to sell on the grid to U.S. Premium Beef. In addition, some cattle are processed in a different enterprise under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) label “Hamilton’s Natural Wyoming Beef.”
“This is a marketing practice Heather and Charles continue today with their USDA label ‘Maude Hog and Cattle,’” says Tom.
Overcoming challenges, achieving goals
Tom notes the overarching goal at TRH Ranch is to manage what has taken the Hamilton family a lifetime
to create. And, as far as the cattle go, he explains the goal is to develop desirable genetics in their herd so the cattle are hardy and self-sufficient, while still producing a high-end product.
“Our cattle winter on cake and grass and calve unassisted. All of our open cows are sold,” Tom states.
While the Hamiltons have been successful in their pursuit to achieve these goals, it has not come without many challenges, and in response to these challenges, Tom and his family have been resilient and creative.
“Water is one of our biggest challenges,” Tom states. “We have installed nearly 12 miles of pipeline, 25 tanks, drilled five new wells and converted five windmills to solar. Additionally, we have also cross-fenced most of our pastures with nine miles of three-wire electric fence to make our grazing plan more manageable.”
“During the drought years when we had to destock, we started up TK Freight LLC, a trucking business to haul hay and livestock. Kyle has expanded it and is still operating it today,” explains Tom. “Randi also started a successful document destruction business during this time, which we ended up selling. But, both of these enterprises allowed us to continue ranching through some tough times.”
He continues, “This ranch is one of the few in this area with no mineral rights or oil pipelines, but we have the treasure of perseverance, teamwork and family dedication.”
Ranching in the “Outback”
In addition to the challenges they have weathered over the years, Tom explains learning to run a successful operation in the Niobrara County climate is a whole other beast entirely.
“I grew up on a ranch in the Black Hills of northeast Wyoming and Randi is a mountain girl. Moving to Lance Creek was like moving to the Outback,” he says. “When we first moved in, we had never fought a prairie fire. The first one we experienced was burning about 40 to 50 miles per hour. We were terrified, but our good neighbors educated us rather quickly.”
“Consequently, we keep our sprayer loaded and full of water most of the summer,” Tom adds.
“The other exciting thing about living in the “Outback” are the flash floods,” he continues. “The first one we experienced came as a roar in the middle of the night, and we could not imagine what was happening. As dawn arrived, we learned a lot about floods on Dogie Creek – water gaps, trash, dead animals and so on. Now, if we have some warning, we pull the wires up on the fence so the trash can go under.” Despite some extreme weather events in the area, Tom notes the Lance For- mation is a unique and famous landmark.
“One of the unique features of this area are the dinosaurs,” he says. “We get plenty of inquiries from people wanting to find and dig up a dinosaur.”
“Another feature – not necessarily unique to our place but one we enjoy – is the remoteness,” Tom adds. “We live 54 miles from the nearest grocery store, and the kids learned to drive at age seven to meet a bus they rode for three hours a day.”
Hannah Bugas is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@ wylr.net.