Skip to Content

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

Unforgiving Country: Dunmire Ranch Company makes adaptations to thrive at high elevations

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

It’s just after 8 a.m. when Heather Alexander answers a call from the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. She is horseback, pushing yearling steers with her faithful cow dog. 

“You caught me at a great time,” she says. “I do have time to talk.”

A family affair

Heather works on her family’s ranch, Dunmire Ranch Company, with her husband Ryon and their two children Mikayla and Lo. Her parents Les and Shelly Dunmire are still active on the ranch. It’s truly a family affair, with her brothers Tim Cooper and his daughter Sayge, and Garret Dunmire and his wife Kelsie all active on the ranch. 

The two hired hands on the ranch fall into the category of family, too, as they are vital to the operation, she notes. 

The Dunmire family relocated their ranching operation from Iron Mountain to McFadden in 1988.

The family has their hands full, running cow/calf pairs, as well as yearlings, with big irrigated hay meadows thrown into the mix. 

“Our winter country lies in the Rock Creek Valley, on Highway 13 from Arlington to Rock River, on the meadows. Our summer country lies on the west side of the road between Bosler and Rock River on the high plains,” explains Heather.

At 7,600 feet in elevation, the family has had to adapt their ranching practices to fit the harsh climate they describe as unforgiving. 

“The wind is treacherous at times, with frigid cold temps through the winter,” says Heather. “Our summers and fall are beautiful, but spring is unpredictable.”

Calving adaptations

Unpredictable weather has led the family to push back their calving date to the end of May. The promise of summertime temperatures allows the cows to be turned out for calving, with minimal oversight from the family. 

“We don’t do anything with our cows calving-wise,” Heather says. “We turn them out in big pastures that are six or 10 sections, and they’re just cows. We’ve seen a tremendous change in our females in terms of mothering and their instinct taking over when we remove humans from the scenario.”

With their hands-off approach to calving, Heather says the family is extremely careful with the bulls they choose to incorporate into the herd. Carefully reviewing genetics and working with producers they know and trust has been instrumental in the herd’s success. 

“We are very, very careful with what bulls we purchase,” says Heather. “We buy low birthweight bulls from Jim and Jamie Jensen of Lucky 7 Angus for our first-calf heifers because we trust their numbers and their bulls have done nothing but good for us. Those heifers can have those calves by themselves out in those huge pastures – their priority is their calf.”

“We firmly believe in putting good money into our bulls because we are seeing very powerful calves growing into yearlings,” she adds. “We use Where Two Trails Meet, Largent and Sons and Reyes bulls for our running age cows. We’re finding they’re feeding out tremendously, and we have the data to prove it .”

A May 25 calving date means the bulls are turned out Aug. 15. When the Dunmires decided to make the change to a later calving date, they knew they would have to supplement protein to the herd to help maintain healthy cattle for breeding season. They have found putting out lick tubs two weeks ahead of turning the bulls out and continuing them through breeding season has made a huge difference in herd health and breed up. 

“They do have a need for protein during those months, especially this year where we have been fighting a horrible drought,” says Heather. “By the time the bulls go out on Aug. 15, we have absolutely depleted the nutritional value in those grasses found on the high plains. It is an added expense and it is pricey, but after looking at the numbers we knew it was in our best interest to supplement the protein because we saw our fertility and breed up reflect the success, and it was worth the cost.”

Heather says having a great relationship with their vet through this process was vital. From helping them maintain a sustainable vaccination program to lending advice on the transition of the herd, the vet has helped the ranch ensure the cattle are performing to the best of their ability. 

“When we bumped our calving season back, we were told by our vet to expect a five or six percent decrease in our breed up,” says Heather. “We were sitting at 96 to 97 percent for breeding at the first of June, and now we’re sitting right around 90 percent, which we’re fine with because it’s still great, especially for that time of year.” 

Embracing diversification 

The Dunmire Ranch Company retains ownership on their calves until they are yearlings. After weaning in November, the calves are sent to winter pasture in Nebraska. They return to the ranch the following summer, where they graze the high mountain plains before being sold in September. 

Giant wind turbines speckle the Dunmire Ranch Company. The first turbines went up on the ranch in the early 2000s. 

“The wind turbines changed the landscape, but what it did for my family is it made it to where I know if my children decide to come back to the Dunmire Ranch Company, the ranch will be here,” says Heather. “When we moved here in the 80s, my grandpa said to my dad, ‘If we could ever sell wind or rock, this country would be worth millions.’”

In addition to the wind turbines, the ranch also diversifies its income with gravel pits, as well as partial ownership in a construction business with Tyler Sims while also leasing hunting and fishing out to Tyler Sims Outfitting, along with a slew of side hustles. 

Les coached boy’s basketball for 25 years, and Heather has been coaching high school volleyball and middle school boy’s basketball for almost as long. Ryon is a saddle maker, Tim trains colts and there are always a few dogs or horses for sale.  

“We’ve got to change with the times because if we don’t, we will fall behind and that is when we run into trouble. However, the old traditions and values are irreplaceable,” says Heather. “I never want to forget the people that came before me and got me to where I am.”

The Dunmire family cares deeply for their ranch and in turn, it takes care of them. The traditions of the past play an important part in the ranch while the family continues to adapt and diversify with the times. 

“We firmly believe in being mounted on good horses and running good dogs,” says Heather.

Tressa Lawrence is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

  • Posted in Special Editions
  • Comments Off on Unforgiving Country: Dunmire Ranch Company makes adaptations to thrive at high elevations
Back to top