ID Ranch: Carbon County ranch represents the historic West
Will Hudson has been the ID Ranch manager for nine years and has been with the ranch for 12 years. The ID Ranch is a cow/calf operation north of Sinclair. Will and two hired ranch hands maintain the ranch.
The ID Ranch is made up of a corporation with 1,000 shares owning the ranch. There are three different family branches serving as stakeholders of the corporation.
The ID Ranch, formerly named the Miller Ranch, was originally homesteaded by the Miller family in the late 1800s.
“The original homestead was down on the North Platte River, but in the 1890s, it was moved towards the western banks of the Seminoe Reservoir where it is now,” says Sherrod France, former ID Ranch board president and current stakeholder.
The Miller family managed the ranch until about 1928.
“At that point in time, as many places had, there were financial conditions that were very difficult, so the Millers tried to get refinanced and weren’t able to do so with the Great Depression,” he says.
A few bankers at the Rawlins National Bank in Rawlins decided they would like to help the Miller family keep the ranch operating.
“A couple of the principals in the bank put some money in as an investment, and they formed a corporation,” says Sherrod.
The earliest he can find a filing with the secretary of state is 1932.
“At that point in time, the name had changed to the Miller Estate Company, but it still retained the identity of the ID Ranch, and it remains so now,” says Sherrod.
Sherrod’s father was a banker in Rawlins, as was his grandfather. Sherrod’s grandfather Homer A. France was one of the three original principals of the bank at the time the corporation was formed. IC Miller and N.R. Greenfield were also principals.
“That’s how my family got involved with the ranch,” Sherrod says. “Each part of those three entities had a third interest in it. My father was secretary for the Miller Estate Company for many years.”
The Miller family continued operating the ranch until about 1970, at which time the ranch wasn’t profitable enough to support three families and had to give a return back to the shareholders.
“At that point in time, they decided to go to a ranch manager form of operation, so they hired a ranch manager and a couple cowhands, and it operates that way today,” says Sherrod.
Sherrod says the operation ran cattle early on but changed over to a total sheep operation for many years, raising about 5,000 head of sheep. Coyote predation and inability to find workers became a problem for the ranch.
“We had a lot of predators including coyotes in the area, and it was very difficult to find sheepherders,” Sherrod says. “Most of the herders were from Mexico and lived in sheep wagons and moved the sheep around as necessary, but with one or two herders out covering the size of the ranch, they couldn’t do an adequate job of controlling coyotes.”
The ranch transitioned from a sheep operation to a cattle operation in the late 1960s, and the last shearing on the ranch was around 1964.
Sherrod says the ranch transitioned to a successful Hereford operation, but the market gradually changed and became more favorable to Black Angus cattle.
“About 15 years ago, the ranch started introducing mostly black cattle and has converted to now where probably 90 percent of our cattle are black,” he says. “They’ve turned out well for us. We run about 1,000 pairs on average.”
The ID ranch focuses on traditional ways of ranching – mainly using horses to navigate the ranch.
“We fence with a side-by-side, but all of our work in the corrals is done horseback, and we gather all the cows horseback,” says Will. “We like to keep this tradition going.”
Sherrod says a ranch hand is typically put up at a cabin in the Seminoe Mountains in the summer when there’s adequate water to feed the cattle. Horses are used to maintain and move the herds.
“Much of it is rough terrain and there are not a lot of roads out there,” says Sherrod. “There is a lot of sand, so the sand, when it’s dry, makes it difficult to get around. It’s very easy to get stuck in those areas, and the Seminoe Mountains are very rough and rugged.”
Branding at the ID Ranch is a unique “old school” experience, says Sherrod.
“We do all of the branding the old fashioned way with roping, heading and heeling the calves, vaccinating, branding and ear tagging them right there, which takes about a minute and a half to do per calf if they get a good catch and everything works good,” he says.
The crew trails horses and camps out about six miles from the headquarters in the middle of “desert country,” says Will. “The roads are so terrible, we can’t run trailers out, so we trot the horses out to camp and live out of a wall tent and a teepee for a week.”
“We take a section in the pasture and gather them to a branding trap, head to heel, brand them and then they go out the gate and onto our mountain pasture,” says Will.
Neighboring ranchers assist with the branding process.
“In our area, there’s a pretty unique community of ranchers,” says Will. “We neighbor with other ranches and they’re 70 miles away, but we consider ourselves neighbors because we help them and they help us.”
Carbon County ranchers face challenges due to the higher elevations they raise cattle on. The ID Ranch focuses on genetics to combat the harsh climates and drought.
“About 10 years ago, when we had some drought in the summers and some real tough winter seasons to follow, we had to sell off about half of the herd simply because we didn’t have enough feed for the cattle,” says Sherrod. “We haven’t had to do it recently, but it takes quite some time to get the herd rebuilt.”
They try to raise their own stock for replacements.
“We will keep the better, bigger, stronger heifer calves and try to use those for replacements and put in new bulls each year. We raise our own breeding stock in order to get the genetic strains we want,” says Sherrod. “It has improved our operation considerably. Herefords perform better in this country than black cattle do, but the market place likes the black cattle.”
Brutally cold, windy winters affect the herd and make it difficult to manage the ranch, Will says.
“With this place in particular, we have been trying to develop our cowherd and genetics to fit the area,” says Will. “It’s been a challenge. It takes a special person to stay out here through the winter.”
Although the location of the ranch can be a challenge at times, Will notes the rural aspect of the ranch is what makes it so unique.
“It’s a great place to raise a family,” he says. “We are pretty well by ourselves out here, and it means a lot to my wife and I and the guys I’ve hired to somewhat live off of the land and persevere through hard times and come out on the other side a stronger, better person.”
“A goal of mine is to have the ranch be sustainable for the next generation,” adds Will.
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.