Glenrock native works to represent ag
Gay Lynn Byrd has had a passion for agriculture ever since she was a small child. She grew up on her family’s ranch outside of Glenrock. Her grandparents bought the ranch where she resides in 1939, and have mostly raised cattle, sheep and a few horses and goats over the years. Cattle and sheep are the basis of the operation.
After high school, Gay Lynn attended Montana State University and graduated with a degree in agriculture business. She always enjoyed being involved in ranching and the Western way of life. After graduating college, she worked in Montana for a year before deciding to go back home.
Today, she continues to be heavily involved in her family’s ranch and serves on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (WGFC) as the District Seven appointee serving Converse, Natrona and Fremont counties.
WGFC and WGFD
Gay Lynn’s appointment with the WGFC started in March of 2017. Since then, she has helped the commission establish the WYldlife Fund to help raise funds for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) wildlife, fish and habitat projects; work being done to keep aquatic invasive species out of Wyoming waters; construct and plan for more wildlife crossings and numerous other habitat and fiscal improvements. In 2021, she was elected to serve as the vice president of the commission. Her term representing District Seven will end in March 2023.
“As a commissioner, we oversee policy and regulations and meet about seven times a year scattered around the state – we try to keep up on what is going on mainly in our area, but also all over the state,” she explains. “We do a lot of easements and updating employee housing and hunting regulations – the commission ends up voting on anything affecting the WGFD.”
The WGFD webpage shares Gay Lynn appreciates the WGFD programs promoting women and kids to learn and get outdoors including Becoming an Outdoors-Woman, known as BOW, Beyond Bow and the department’s Inspire a Kid initiative.
Through the BOW program, women 18 years of age or older learn the basics of canoeing, archery, fly-tying, shooting skills, backpacking and more. The Inspire a Kid initiative aims to introduce youth to the outdoors by providing resources for families to teach their children how to enjoy outside activities such as fishing, hunting, wildlife, photography, hiking, etc.
Gay Lynn notes it’s great to see women getting out and enjoying the outdoors, alongside teaching children.
Gay Lynn says she always had a passion for raising sheep, so shortly after graduating college, she decided to buy all of the sheep from the ranch.
“My folks had a ranch hand working on the ranch and shortly after he left, I bought 50 head of cows from him and just kept building up the herd,” she shares. “After getting married, we kept increasing our livestock, took care of my dad’s operation, started leasing the place and ended up buying it out – we run the livestock and have outfitted hunters for extra funds.”
“We just like trying to improve things, whether it’s livestock, fencing or water, to make things more labor efficient,” Gay Lynn explains. “Now, we have to deal with a lot of oil field stuff. There is a lot of drilling and pipelines going in which throws a new learning curve into everything.”
Gay Lynn works alongside her husband Barton and two children. Their daughter is a lawyer and has two little girls, and their son moved back home recently and bought half of the cowherd.
“He is in the process of working into the ranch, and it’s great seeing him wanting to do it,” she shares. “Having his interest in the cows and the horses, it’s fun to have him home and to have some younger blood around to help with operations.”
Gay Lynn explains her role on the ranch has changed over the years, but she wouldn’t have wanted to live her life any other way.
“When I was first married, it was just my husband and I, so we did everything that needed done – whether it was fencing or feeding – all that went along with it,” she says. “Over the years, we have been able to hire help, so I don’t do much fencing anymore. My role is more of the decision making and bookkeeping.”
Gay Lynn offers other women in ag advice, saying, “If you like it, go for it. It typically has been a man’s world, but women can figure out how to do what needs done.”
Growing up, Gay Lynn recalls her parents telling her if she wanted to work in the branding pen, she better know how to do every job in case someone asked her to do something.
“My dad had us work alongside the hired men – we could ride, rope and run the skid steer or fix fence and work on water,” she shares. “He really made us learn how to do a lot of things and think all of it is very doable.”
She adds, “There are times when women are not physically as strong, but we’re smart enough to figure out how to get it done.”
Over the years, the Byrds have hired a variety of women to help on their ranch. She notes they are great help – they are not out to prove anything, they just want to get the job done.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.