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Barlow embraces diverse ag lifestyle

Written by Saige

Big Piney – When Kailey Barlow was showing livestock during the Sublette County Fair, she didn’t imagine that one day she’d be managing that very same fair.  At the time, the young lady thought her future career plans leaned toward becoming a veterinarian. 

“I started at the University of Wyoming with a major in animal science and pre-vet,” Barlow explains. “However, I realized, although I wanted to remain involved with agriculture, becoming a veterinarian wasn’t the right path for me, so I changed my major to ag business, finance and banking.”

The fair had been part of Barlow’s life since childhood. Her father was on the fair board, and she showed horses and cattle at that venue and helped in the summers during school, including her college years. 

“When the position of manager came up, I was in my senior year at the University, so I worked as the fair manager from Laramie,” Barlow says.

Family ranch

Today, the busy young woman, 27, not only serves as the fair manager but teaches therapeutic riding and is an integral part of the family ranch. She is the eighth generation who calls the ranch near Big Piney home. 

Her family history on that ranch dates back to the 1870s. 

“Ed Swan, with his son Esdras, filed for the homestead in 1878,” says Barlow. “Esdras married Minnie in 1882. Sadly, he died young, so Minnie sold the ranch to her sister and brother-in-law John and Daisy Curtis.  They passed the ranch to their daughter, Lillian who married George Milleg.” 

“And that’s where the Milleg family name came from. This place is still called the Milleg Ranch,” Barlow explains. “George and Lillian then gave the ranch to my great-grandpa, who we called ‘Pa.’”

Pa and his wife Helen owned and operated the ranch, until Kailey’s grandpa Bill was old enough to begin working on the ranch. Bill married Sandra, and they raised their two kids, Mark and Marsha on the ranch.  Kailey, her sister and cousin make the eighth generation to grow up on the family ranch.  

Today, Kailey and her parents, Wayne and Marsha, handle most of the day-to-day ranching duties.  However, the entire family is still active on the ranch whenever their help is needed.  

Running cattle

The place has always been a cattle ranch, starting in the 1870s with shorthorn cattle, then Herefords and then, like many ranches in the latter half of the 20th century, transitioned into a predominantly Black Angus cross ranch. 

The 27-year-old has a real love for ranching, which increased when she started showing cattle and horses in 4-H. 

“I became very passionate about high-quality cattle and actually started my own purebred business. I will be selling my first bulls this spring,” she says. “I love cattle genetics and seeing how different cattle perform.”

Barlow continues, “We have a unique situation with our high altitude of 7,000-plus feet year-round. A lot of people in other areas of the country don’t have to deal with high-altitude sickness in cattle, and it takes special genetic selection to find cattle that can perform at higher altitude. I love fine-tuning the breeding and trying to get the best calf I can.”

A year in the life

Barlow will start calving her registered cows Feb. 20, with the Milleg Ranch commercial heifers slated to start March 10 and cows March 20.

“I think calving is one of the most rewarding times of the year,” she says. “Every day, I see a new calf getting up, and it’s a wonderful cycle. I find it very stressful if I lose one, but then we have to go on knowing there will be another one being born who is doing great.” 

Leadership

Barlow is on the Wyoming Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) Committee. 

“I joined in 2013. I really enjoy that I make different connections with other young people involved in farming and ranching,” Barlow says. “I like Farm Bureau because it’s not representing a specific commodity but many different ones. I don’t know much about farming, so it’s been great meeting farmers and learning more about their agriculture business.” 

Because Sublette County doesn’t have a county YF&R, Barlow went straight to serving on the state committee. She serves as chair of the Leadership and Conference subcommittee, a great fit for her talents in event management. 

The state committee held their annual conference in Thermopolis in January and plans for a Cheyenne event in 2019.

Industry challenges

The rancher admits that, as a young person, there are a slew of challenges facing agriculture in the coming years, although she quickly adds there can be many rewards. 

“If people look at it the right way, ag is essential to human survival,” she comments. “We need to get the simple message to consumers that we can’t live without agriculture – it helps all of us.”

Today, social media plays a strong role. Barlow has personal Instagram and Facebook pages where she shares stories and photos about things that were interesting, unique or fun that day. 

She cautions that if someone is thinking about starting to ranch as an investment, think again. 

“Whether or not we’re born into agriculture, sometimes we don’t realize this isn’t like a lot of businesses where we receive a quick return on investments. There is no quick return of investments. It can take a long time for profits to actually show up,” she comments. 

The lifestyle with cattle and horses is wonderful, but it’s not what movies and magazine might portray.

“I think one of the biggest things about working in agriculture is it takes a lot of physical and mental work, but we have to realize that sometimes, even if we work hard, things might not work out the way we had hoped,” Barlow says. “I have to take the bad with the good and look forward to the good things that can – and do – happen.”

Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..