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There’s No Place Like Home: Justin and Myla Mills are the fourth generation on the X Ring Ranch

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Where the timber of the Black Hills meets the rolling plains of the prairies, one will find the X Ring Ranch. Located southeast of Upton, the X Ring Ranch has been operating for over 100 years. 

The ranch was established in 1913, when Henry P. and Clara Martens homesteaded where Beaver Creek and Soda Creek converge.

Justin and Myla returned to Myla’s family’s ranch 10 years ago and are the fourth generation on the ranch. They have five children – Ethan, Chase, Maddie, Paige and Olivia – and they lease the ranch from Myla’s parents Jim and Kathy Martens.

Cow/calf legacy

“For the most part, the ranch has always been a cow/calf operation,” explains Justin. “We do take some cattle in the summertime – pairs or yearlings – depending on the grass.”

Like others in Wyoming, the Mills’ have adapted their grazing plans as a reflection of the moisture for the year. 

“We’ve kind of fluctuated our herd numbers based on drought and grass availability,” explains Justin. “My in-laws worked on the development of water and pipelines, which has helped bring capacity up on the place in terms of the amount of cattle they could run.”

“When my wife and I took over the ranch 10 years ago, we fluctuated back and forth between taking in cattle on grass – more than probably was ever done before – depending on grass and good years,” he adds.

Cows thrive on the hardy grass growing in the heavy clay soil on the ranch. 

The Mills’ have worked on breaking their pastures into smaller paddocks, and through rotational grazing, have been able to manage their grazing in a way that leaves plenty of grass for the winter months. 

“We’re in an area where we can get through a pretty good chunk of the winter without having to feed a whole lot of hay, and we try not to,” says Justin. 

“From our management standpoint, we try to graze the grass as much as we can throughout the winter. There might be some times where we get pretty heavy snow so we have to dip into the hay pile, but we really don’t try to get too carried away if we can help it,” he continues.

Growing the next generation

Both Justin and Myla come from large families, which luckily means there are always helping hands around. Their nephew Triston Roberson grew up on the ranch and is working there now.

When asked what advice Justin would give the next generation of agriculturalists, his advice is to spread one’s wings and see what’s out there.

“I’ve had this conversation with my oldest son. I think it’s important to continue education beyond high school in some way, whether it’s a vocational school or a two-year or four-year degree. I think it’s important,” says Justin. 

“And then, the next element is to go and get some experience somewhere else,” he adds. “Leave. Get away from the ranch you grew up on. I think there’s a lot of value to that.”

Working Ranch Podcast

Some may recognize Justin’s name from his years working with the Northern Broadcasting Network or from the Working Ranch Podcast, which he has been hosting for the last two years. 

“The podcast covers issues a lot of us deal with in agriculture, and I think one of the advantages I have is I ranch for a living,” he states. “So, a lot of the issues we talk about on the show are relevant to those who run ranches, whether they’re like us and have a cow/calf outfit or yearling deals or farm feeders or whatever they may be, there’s some issues that are pretty applicable.”

The Working Ranch Podcast is a production of Working Ranch Magazine and can be found wherever readers listen to podcasts and airs on RFD-TV’s radio channel 147 on Sirius XM. 

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

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