Homegrown beef: West Cattle Company strives to offer grass-fed/grass-finished beef
The West family has owned and operated a family cattle ranch for the last 75 years. The ranch originally started in southern Colorado and has been passed down from generation to generation. Since 1987, the West family has been running their cattle operation on the plains of southeastern Wyoming in Platte County near Wheatland.
Today, the ranch runs a Black and Red Angus cow/calf operation, focusing on meeting a demand and desire for high-quality, grass-fed/grass-finished beef, which has formed the operation of West Cattle Company, established in 2014.
Passion for family
Brandon West is the fourth generation on the West family ranch. Born in Raton, N.M., he spent his first years growing up on the original ranch in southern Colorado. As a result of his family’s move to the present-day range at the age of three, his passion lies in the state of Wyoming.
After high school, he attended the University of Wyoming and received a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management with an emphasis in vegetation ecology.
His love and passion for agriculture and his family’s ranch runs deep and can be seen in the way he and his family care for both the land and the animals.
“I grew up on the ranch here in Wyoming,” he says. “After meeting my wife Brittany and living in the Wright/Gillette area, we decided to return back home and start West Cattle Company in hopes of making a decent profit, if not more, on our cattle with less amount of head.”
“When we first started, we were learning the ropes, but within the last three years we’ve started reaching out to more customers and going to farmers’ markets,” says Brandon.
The company has progressively grown over the years. Brittany not only manages the homestead with chickens, vegetables, flowers, guineas and bees, she also runs the business side of things including the marketing and communication of the company.
She notes her goal is to be the friendly voice on the other end of the line and to provide people with high-quality customer service.
The couple currently has two children, five-year-old daughter Adeline and three-year-old son Flynn. Both parents find the importance of raising their children with the upmost respect, morals and character and teaching them respect for the land, livestock and people.
Brandon and Brittany recognize youth are the future of agriculture and share both of their children love helping on the ranch when they can.
West Cattle Company beef
Cattle graze freely on native grass and forbs, and during winter months, the feed hay harvested on the ranch. Cattle are never introduced to artificial hormones or growth promotants and never see a feedlot.
In July of every year, mother cows are partnered with selected bulls. Calves are born each spring in early May through June. The ranch utilizes a later calving season to avoid Wyoming’s harsh winters and associated sickness due to colder temperatures.
“We calve later to try to avoid bad weather,” explains Brandon. “As we calve, we select steers we plan to keep for our beef program. We’ll put our specific brand on those, and then put tags in their ears so they are easily identified.”
The ranch utilizes a Bar-Flying-W brand. This brand was chosen by Brandon and Brittany when they returned to the ranch in 2013. They note it’s a symbol designating the cattle in their herd from the cattle of other herds within the ranch as well as a symbol of high-quality, grass-fed/grass-finished beef.
When calves become yearlings, they continue grazing freely on pasture until they have met their desired weight. At this time, they are ready to be harvested as a pasture raised grass-fed/grass-finished beef.
Brandon notes it takes anywhere from 24 to 30 months to get a grass-fed/grass-finished beef cow to a reasonable slaughter weight.
“We’ll run them for quite a while, then the next year, we’ll keep the next round of cattle that will go two years on down the line,” he says. “Every year, we’ve been keeping more steers to keep up with customer demand.”
The company participates in several farmers’ markets in Loveland, Colo. and is looking to participate in surrounding farmers’ markets in Cheyenne and Fort Collins, Colo., as well.
“When we started in 2014, we decided we wanted to try to tailor what we were doing to be grass finished, which is something not everyone here in Wyoming is doing,” mentions Brittany. “We wanted our target audience to be people in Colorado, so it does take a lot longer to finish the cattle on grass, but we’ve seen the return to be worth it.”
All West Cattle Company beef and pork are processed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified facility, where an inspector carefully examines every animal going into the plant.
In addition to their grass-fed/grass-finished beef program, the company also has a mobile freezer leasing program. Their medium trailer is a cooler and freezer individuals can lease out for emergency situations – to fairs, festivals and catered events.
As an Ohio native, Brittany and her family will take a road trip across Nebraska and Iowa back to Ohio and deliver beef products along the way.
“We try to harvest at least eight beef and take them across the Midwest with our trailer as we travel back to Ohio,” says Brittany. “We presell everything, so we know what we’re hauling is sold.”
In addition to using their trailer for this trip, they make the trailer available to others who are in need of a mobile freezer trailer unit. The trailer can be used on a temporary or long-term basis. It can fit into a single parking space, uses a 208/240 single phase plug-in and provides users with 24-hour access to products in a temperature-controlled environment.
The hope and goal of West Cattle Company is to grow and expand into a bigger operation and to have the ability to sustain Brandon’s brother and family.
“With most ranches, trying to find a succession route from the older generation to the younger generation is one of the more difficult parts of ranching,” says Brandon. “This is our overall, long-term goal, but at the moment, it’s pretty much me and Brittany running West Cattle Company.”
In addition to running a cattle business, West Cattle Company also offers pasture-raised hogs.
“We started small to see how it would go. Once a year, we bring hogs in and pasture raise them,” Brandon explains.
Brittany adds, “We decided to market them as pasture raised in addition to our cattle to target a specific market.”
In 2020, the company started with eight hogs. However, in 2022, they raised and harvested 14, and this summer they are set up to do 26.
“We’re only selling those right now by the half and the whole. We’re looking to do six hogs over the winter so we can have some products to take to the farmers’ market this summer,” says Brittany. “It’s been a blessing to be able to get everything presold, but moving forward, we’re looking to have the availability to offer both beef and pork bundles to our customers in Wyoming, Colorado and across the U.S.”
Ranching in Platte County comes with struggles such as harsh weather conditions and water access, but ranching is a huge passion for the West family.
“We love it here,” says Brandon. “We’ve been here for 36 years – we’re kind of nestled up next to the bluffs in Chugwater, and it’s a beautiful spot to be. We love the people and this community. It’s a perfect spot for us and our family.”
“The people in Platte County are wonderful,” Brittany adds. “I feel there is a growth of young families, and I love that. I see Platte County growing, and it makes my heart full.”
For more information, visit westcattlecompany.com.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.