Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Berger Ranch: Cow/calf operation looks towards the future of ranching in the West

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The Berger Ranch, located near Saratoga, is operated by Jack Berger, his wife Diana and sons Kyle, Hadley and Jace. The Bergers operate a predominately Black Angus commercial cow/calf operation. 

Jack’s great-grandpa came to the area in 1909, and the ranch has been passed down through the generations ever since. Jack’s sons are the fifth generation on the ranch.

“My parents were the first ones to have Angus cattle in the valley in the 1950s, and that wasn’t very popular then, but things change,” says Jack. “Our operation has expanded quite a bit over the years from where it was with my great-grandfather.” 

Drought and input costs

Jack says 2021 was the worst summer he’d ever spent on the ranch as far as moisture and the lack of pasture and hay. 

“It was a tough year,” he says. “This year was better, but it’s certainly not great. We did have a better hay crop and at least it greened up in the spring, but drought is always a challenge.”

Jack says cattle prices went up this year, but so did input costs. 

“Our costs are going up so fast, I don’t know if we are actually going to make more money or not, but we bought a lot of hay last year trying to hold the cows together because I knew the price was supposed to be up this year,” Jack says.

He says ranchers are expecting record prices the next two years, but he is not sure what to expect.

“If all we had to worry about was supply and demand, we’d really be in great shape, but there’s a lot of other things going on in the world,” he says.

Water management

Jack says he feels fortunate to mostly have live water on the ranch. 

“It’s one place we are very fortunate compared to a lot of places around Wyoming. We have to depend a lot more on the water development from springs or wells,” he says.

Jack is concerned for the future of water management in Western states.

“Water is a big challenge all the time,” he says. “There’re more people, but the same amount of water, so I worry there may be water issues in the future.”

Wyoming is fortunate enough to have the water tied to the land, he says.

“You can’t sell the water off the land,” he says. “Never say never, at some point they may decide there’s a greater good, but it’s pretty well established that taking water off the land does not help in the long run.” 

The Bergers flood irrigate, so it can be a challenge not knowing the amount of water they will have. 

“We don’t know day-to-day what’s going to come down the creek – it’s all on Mother Nature, the weather and how the water comes out of the mountain,” Jack says. “We have to grab it while we can.”

Irrigation is what keeps the streams and river running late in the season, says Jack. The North Platte River in the valley used to go dry before irrigation, but now it’s a year-round blue ribbon trout fishery.

“Water coming out of the bank storage cools off the streams and helps the fish in August and September when it’s the hottest and driest,” he says. “Flood irrigation benefits everybody all the way down the stream.”

Ranching lifestyle

Jack says raising a family on the ranch is a good lifestyle – one he values and hopes to pass down to his sons.  

“We have grandkids on the ranch helping most every day,” he says. “It’s a good way to give those kids a job and see if it’s what they want to do in the future.”

“Hopefully, we can keep the ranch in the family,” he says. “I try to do as much estate planning as I can so the ranch is able to stay in the family and not have to be sold off, so hopefully we’ve done things right, but time will tell.”

Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

  • Posted in Special Editions
  • Comments Off on Berger Ranch: Cow/calf operation looks towards the future of ranching in the West
Back to top