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Dedication to ranching: James Goodrich shares success based on hard work

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

When asked what James Goodrich is most proud of when it comes to his operation, he simply laughs and says, “The fact that we’re still in business.”

When James’ father, Bill Goodrich, passed in 1989, James stepped up to take over the family farm and ranch at the age of 30. 

With the help of his mother, and later his wife Conee, James was determined to keep the operation up and running. 

Making his mark

As a fourth-generation rancher, James was determined to see what his family had worked so hard for in the past continue to be successful.

Previously, his parents had calved and wintered cattle on a ranch Bill bought in 1958 near Laramie Peak. Because of harsh, inaccessible road conditions and James still working full-time off the ranch, James knew there were some changes to be made.  

“The bottom line is, we have to be able to adapt to our environment and surroundings to do what works best,” James says. 

When his dad passed, James decided to quit wintering cattle near Laramie Peak and moved them down to his grandparents’ place in Wheatland, which has been in the family since 1895.

Calving changes

James also made the decision to start calving earlier after the move to Wheatland. However, after a few years of doing so, there needed to be another change.

“They were too confined, and it wasn’t a good place to calve. So, we moved back to late-spring calving,” James says.

He notes they take cows back up to the mountain ranch to calve on their own through May and June. James keeps replacement heifers in a lot for either natural breeding or artificial insemination for early calving. The two-year-old heifers then calve in February and are bred to calve late the following year.

He notes this practice has helped improve the rebreeding percentage of his heifers over the years. 

Off-ranch success

James and Conee have been able to not only keep and maintain the family ranch in production agriculture, but also pay off the ranch, even through the challenges which came in the 80s and 90s. James attributes a large part of this success towards the fact he and Conee were able to work off the ranch in order to pay off debt. 

James was fortunate enough to work though the fall and winter at the National Western Stock Show in Denver as the livestock manager and be back on the ranch by spring in time to calve. He could then stay through the summer on the ranch before heading back to Denver in the fall. 

In 2007, James took on the position of director for the Wyoming State Fair. With this career change came a lot more windshield time in order to balance the ranch work. 

“I was in the office and on the fairgrounds all week, and then I would be back on the ranch for the weekends,” James said. “I’ve spent a good portion of my life driving.” 

Ranching advice

When it comes to a young person trying to make it in the cattle business, James advises, “Keep expectations realistic. A person isn’t going to learn it all in a short period of time or become extremely successful overnight.”

As an example, James shares the story of a young man from Meeker, Colo. who didn’t come from a ranching family or background but desperately wanted to make it in the cattle business. While this ambitious young man had very few assets and even less experience to draw on, he was determined to be a cattleman. 

The young man started out by buying bum calves and hauling them in the back of his car to a set of corrals he was borrowing on an old farmstead. 

James continues, “He was obviously working another job as well, but he started raising these calves. It got to where he could buy himself some heifers and started a cow herd for himself. Pretty soon he worked up to where he owned a couple hundred head of cows.”

Now retired, James and Conee get to enjoy working on the ranch full time. 

James and Conee, as well as the young man in his story are a testament to the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” 

While it might take sacrifice, hard work, dedication and even a second job, if one is determined enough, they can make a bright future in the cattle business. 

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

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