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Ranch management: UW highlights ways to manage human resources on the ranch during seminarRanch management

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Sheridan – The University of Wyoming (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources held its second seminar in a five-part series on Feb. 16 at Sheridan College. 

The series, titled “Ranching in the West,” focuses on ranch management and agricultural leadership through four educational sessions held at community colleges throughout the state, which culminate into a one-day leadership symposium at UW campus in Laramie.

During the second seminar, titled “Managing Human Resources on the Ranch,” presenters discussed challenges associated with hiring and managing employees, how to implement best practices and what to do when something goes wrong.

The first section of the seminar hosted panelists Trey Patterson, chief executive officer and president of the Padlock Ranch; David and Terri Kane, owners and operators of the Kane Ranch and SR Cattle Company; Ben Hostetler, operations manager of Mountain Meadow Wool in Buffalo and Amy Ormseth, district ranger for the Tongue Ranger District of the Bighorn National Forest.

Understanding employee strength 

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to visit about the issue of human resource management – it’s as important as ever,” said Patterson to kick off the panel. “Leadership is also really important.” 

Although important, Patterson noted employees who have worked in a company for a long period of time are not always best suited to serve in a managerial or leadership role. 

“There are people who can be a very important part of a team, but this doesn’t mean they will be good in a leadership position,” he said. “There are some people who are just not cut out for it.” 

Patterson explained this doesn’t mean it’s not possible – people can change – but doing what’s right by honoring an employee’s loyalty isn’t always what is best for the company. 

Finding replacements for employees who have been hired to replace lost employees or managers is not only costly, but also greatly impacts productivity. 

“Bosses have to identify whether a person has the capability to serve in a leadership or managerial role,” he said. “They have to identify whether a person has the capability, and if they’re not cut out for it, they are only going to set the employee up to fail.” 

Importance of background checks 

David and Terri reminded attendees of the importance of doing background checks on a regular basis for potential hires. 

They noted a lot of information can be found on the internet, but in order to ensure a well-rounded, qualified employee is hired, thorough background checks need to be conducted. 

The couple shared they often use TransUnion ShareAble for Hires – Designed for Small Business, an online, streamlined website business owners can use to get reports quickly. The company offers three different background checks – a basic, plus and pro option, ranging from $25 to $60. 

“People on ranches often open up their place and their lives to potential hires – whether it’s ranch hands, managers, etc.,” said Terri. “We have to be able to trust them.” 

“Just because somebody does a background check, doesn’t mean they don’t trust the person,” added David. “As an employer, it’s necessary – we have to protect ourselves.” 

Labor crisis 

“Labor is not just an issue, it’s a current crisis in our society,” shared Hostetler. “Often, when we have a job opening, we’re subject to hire whoever comes in the door.” 

Hostetler mentioned in an entry-level production job, he often sees employees who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. Over the years, he has worked with several employees who have become some of their most dependable employees.

“As an employer, I love hiring people,” he shared. “One of the joys of being an owner of a company is bringing someone on board and sharing a goal and mission to achieve great things. But, one of the most challenging parts is allowing bad behavior to continue and knowing an unfit employee may end up on the streets.”

Because of this, Hostetler explained he now has a drug policy in place, but he is always willing to work with employees. 

“I find a lot of employees who come into work are really looking for joy and satisfaction in life, but they aren’t finding it anywhere. So, I strongly believe if we can give them a way to find value in working hard and being dependable, we can pull them out of their rut of behavior,” he said.  

Employee skill set

Through Ormseth’s position with the forest service, she has had experience working with and managing people. She further shared, throughout her career and experience with the hiring process, she has found a handful of employees who tend to inflate their skill set in an effort to get the job. 

“There have been a few different times we’ve had applicants who really inflate their skill set. They want the job and want to look good, so they’ll list experiences and skill sets on their resume they don’t necessarily have,” she explained. 

“When an employee states false information on their resume or says they have experience or skills in the interview they really don’t have, it unfortunately sets them up for failure in the workplace,” she added.

Ormseth also noted employers will sometimes hire employees simply because they are desperate to fill a position, but end up setting this employee up to fail. 

“I really like to focus on people’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Ormseth. “A lot of people want to hide their weaknesses because they see them as something bad, but weaknesses are not bad at all – everyone has areas they need to grow and improve on. So, as an employer, I like to capitalize on strengths and recognize weaknesses.” 

She offered some advice, stating, “People need to be honest with themselves and with their employers, because they never know what they are looking for in a position.” 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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