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The Woody family came to the southwest corner of Wyoming in the late 1800s after unfortunate losses of their cattle herd.

“My great-grandfather and his parents moved here from Texas,” says Brian Woody, Union Telephone’s Chief Customer Relations Officer. “They came to Wyoming and started working on the Oregon Shortline, which ran from Granger west.”

When the railroad hub was moved to Green River, Woody says the commute was far – and John Woody saw a need in the community in the form of communication.

“At the time, there were some independent telephone lines,” explains Woody, “but they were just a line that connected a string of houses down the road. There was no way to call anyone unless they were on the same line.”

John Woody believed there was a way to bring communication to a broader level and bought the existing four lines, combining them into one company – Union Telephone Company – in 1914.

Starting small

Woody notes that the company has remained small but strong in Wyoming’s Bridger Valley, growing with the energy boom in the valley.

“When my grandfather took over in the early 1950s, there were 125 lines,” he says. “After 40 years of being in business, we found that there wasn’t a large population here, but we had those 125 customers and no one else wanted to serve them.”

At the time, Woody says his grandfather was searching for a way to help the company support both him and his father without borrowing additional money. 

“They offered to sell the company to AT&T for one dollar,” he continues. “AT&T sent an engineer to look at the system, and they said it would cost too much to upgrade the physical plant of the company.”

Woody says his grandfather countered by applying for loans from the Rural Electric Administration to upgrade and build more lines. 

“We kept growing in that manner, trying to keep up with the technology as we grew,” he adds.

Going wireless

In the 80s, Union entered into the wireless arena by submitting an application for the wireless lottery frequencies.

“We were lucky enough to come away with two licenses – one in southwest Wyoming and one in northwest Colorado,” Woody explains. “We started building cellular sites and offering services.”

The cellular aspect of the business grew quickly, he notes. 

“In the early 2000s, we bought more spectrum in the rest of Wyoming and expanded our footprint,” Woody comments. “We’ve been building and upgrading ever since.”

Current service

Today, Union Telephone Company offers landline telephone and DSL, as well as wireless, voice, text and high speed data services.

“In some areas we are also working to continue upgrades,” says Woody. “We are currently turning on our LTE sites. Though we have some up already, we plan on having more operational this year.”

Technology edge

“We always try to stay with the leading edge of technology,” Woody emphasizes. “While that is a hard thing to do some days, we work hard to accomplish those goals.”

Keeping on top of the increasing needs of customers and equipment presents a persistent challenge.

“We are trying to do the best we can to keep up with the needs of our subscribers,” says Woody. “We are building out our areas to meet their needs, so we don’t have to do it over again.”

Woody notes that Union Telephone works to serve the needs of subscribers across the state, particularly in areas that aren’t served by other providers.

“This is more true in southwest Wyoming because there isn’t coverage from other providers there, but there are very few places in that region that customers won’t have coverage from Union,” he notes. “We also launched an effort several years ago to accomplish the same thing in Laramie County.”

Woody explains that Union Telephone made an effort several years ago to improve service to customer in Laramie County in areas where they weren’t being served before.

“Ninety percent of Laramie County has coverage from Union, even in Albin and Carpenter where there isn’t coverage from anyone else,” he says. “That is what we try to do everywhere.”

Union Telephone continues to strive to provide service to those customers with no other options.

Enjoying the job.

For Woody, being a part of Union Telephone is something he has always wanted to do.

“I remember as a very young boy going to the switches with my dad,” he explains. “Back then, it was a mechanical switch, and we could hear the relays opening and closing. It was almost like music.”

Since his childhood, Union Telephone has been part of Woody’s life, and he hopes to continue the business into the future. 

“I worked away from the business a couple years and spent some time in Kansas City, Kan., and it was great, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t the same as working for the family business,” Woody comments. “I really enjoy that I can help my neighbors and our customers by guiding them the communication and services that they need, and ultimately, we can do it at a reasonable cost to them and to us.”

Into the future

Moving forward, Woody says they continue to keep the latest technologies in focus.

“We are trying to keep up with demand and continue to get more coverage out there in places that don’t have any other option for those services,” he says.

Rural customers, says Woody, rely on cellular communications as much as their urban counterparts but have fewer reliable options available. He works to ensure Union Telephone can meet that need.

“Our goal is to keep expanding and to keep up with technology as it evolves,” Woody says.

Woody looks forward to the next generations of Union Telephone, commenting, “This year, we will be celebrating 100 years of Union, and we hope to see another 100 years or more.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at saige@wylr.net

Shirley Basin – After reviewing the ranch’s dedicated, ongoing range improvements, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association has named Ron and Linda Heward’s 7E Ranch as the 2010 Environmental Stewardship Award recipients.
In partnership with WSGA, the Sand County Foundation of Wisconsin also awards the Leopold Conservation Award simultaneously.
With rangeland improvements including fencing pastures, water development and the protection of riparian areas, the Heward family is constantly working on projects to improve some area of their cattle and sheep operation.
“We wouldn’t be able to have the ranch and operate it all these years without each of our six kids helping us,” says Linda of the ranch improvements. “They’ve helped us since day one, have always worked beside us and been there.”
“Ever since our kids were big enough to go out and go with me, they’ve gone and helped and they grew up working,” says Ron. “They know how to work, and they enjoy doing it.”
In 2009 the ranch celebrated its 100-year anniversary, with recognition as a Wyoming Centennial Ranch – a recognition given to places owned and operated by the same family for over 100 years – and a celebration that included 250 people at the headquarters.
“We have about 140 miles of fence to maintain, and we’re building more,” says Ron of the ranch’s rotational grazing system begun three years ago, joking that there must be something wrong with them.
“We have five pastures, and we’re looking to get three more in the system,” says Ron, adding that this summer one pasture will remain untouched all season.
The ranch has installed electric and three-wire suspension fence to divide its pastures. The suspension fence has posts every 80 feet, with twisters to keep the wires separated. “We’ve had one of those fences for 25 or 30 years, and it’s worked really well,” says Ron, adding it requires less maintenance than his other fences. “The key is getting it tight to start with – if it’s not, you’re in big trouble.”
To accommodate the additional pastures the ranch has put in five solar water systems and intends to install two more. Ron says he’s got two trailers outfitted with solar panels, which are moved with the cattle. He plans to build another this winter.
Today the ranch has nearly 20 miles of river that’s completely fenced out and used sparingly. “Up until that point about four miles were where we wintered, and the rest was grazed all summer long,” says Ron. “I’m looking forward to seeing some good things happen on the river, where we can control grazing now.”
In addition to the river several riparian areas on the north end of the ranch were also fenced out. “We can control them now, where before they were just hammered,” says Ron. “We were having some erosion problems, and now we try to leave them at least one full year, and try to leave two, to get some grass built back up.”
With the goal of improving sage grouse habitat the ranch has brush-hogged around 120 acres of sagebrush. “That project’s in its infancy stages, but so far I’m really excited about what I’m seeing out there with grass re-growth,” notes Ron. “It’s making a dramatic difference.”
He says one area where the brush was over five feet tall he was concerned about the four to five inches of mulch that were left behind by the mower. “But that grass is coming back through that, and you know that stuff will lie there for years, rotting and creating fertilizer.”
In the past the WGFD planted 45,000 fish in the Heward’s section of river in a three-year program. In a survey the fourth year they only found one fish from each year. Ron acknowledges that was discouraging, and adds the WGFD wants to try some river enhancement. He says pelicans are a big problem for the fish population.
“They want to go in and fence some of the river to see if we can create some better bank habitat,” says Ron. “I’m excited to do it, but not excited to maintain that fence on the river.”
He says some willow areas will also be fenced to reestablish willow colonies. “They’re there, but they get eaten off every winter when I put my cows in there,” he says. Both the fish and willow projects are expected to go in Summer 2010.
Ron says hunting on the ranch is limited to hunters he knows and welcomes. “We had a guy this year that it was his 52nd year hunting here, and for another it was his 47th,” he notes. “Some hunters came clear from Kansas to our 100-year celebration. The hunters are something we enjoy and we look forward to.”
Of his grazing plan, Ron says, “When we get to where we can leave some of those pastures and not hit them for a full year, I think we’re going to see incredible things happen.”
Another new thing the ranch will do is run its sheep and cattle together in 2010. “For the last 15 to 18 years we’ve run our sheep in one pasture and the cattle in another, but now we’re going to rotate the sheep right with the cows,” says Ron. “The sheep and cows complement each other, but I don’t know how this one-wire electric fence will work with sheep. We may have to go in and do something to make it work.”
In the future Ron plans to split some BLM ground the ranch leases, but that won’t happen for a few years. “I’ve built so much fence lately, I’m tired of building fence,” he laughs.
Of the ranch’s future, Ron says his two oldest grandsons, at 10 and 12 years old, have started to work in the hay field and enjoy working with the operation. Add to them 18 other younger grandchildren, and the ranch’s future looks to be secure.
But first, the Hewards look forward to welcoming 2010 Environmental Stewardship Tour participants to their ranch this summer.
See more information on award finalists on Page 2 of this edition. Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Jackson – A July 2012 report by IBIS World noted that the landscaping industry boasted an economic footprint of $61 billion. Furthermore, NASA mapping shows turf grass is the number one irrigated crop in America, covering 35 million acres. Wyomingite Todd Graus, owner of Yellowstone Compact and Commodities Corp (YCC), sees potential for harnessing the value in this industry and connecting it to livestock feeding. 

“I’ve owned a chemical lawn care company for 33 years,” Graus says. 

When the economy melted down in 2008, he was asked by clients to mow their lawns, as well as fertilize, so he bought a few mowers, thinking, “How hard can it be to mow lawns?”

“The first day we mowed, my guys finished up at the end of the day by taking the lawn clippings to the dump to get rid of them,” he explains. “It took two hours for two men to make the roundtrip to the landfill – or four man hours.”

With landfill charges reaching $90 per ton, in addition to the $80 in labor per person, disposal of lawn clippings cost his business $370 per day.

“I didn’t expect that kind of expense,” Graus continues, noting that at that point, he immediately began pursuing a system to produce silage from lawn clippings.

Jumping in

Today, Graus has a patent pending on his packaging and unique biological system, which creates silage from grass clippings, and at the same time he has research that this process has the ability to breakdown pesticide residue previously applied to the lawns. 

Graus’ device, called a BioPac’r, facilitates the packaging of grass clippings generated by residential users, landscapers, golf courses, municipalities, etc.

“Throughout the day, landscapers can throw clippings inside the BioPac’r, which fits in the back of a pickup truck or trailer,” he explains. “It has a capacity of 2,000 pounds of clippings.” 

The machine then compresses grass clippings, eliminating oxygen from the bale. 

“The clippings are then packaged into a poly-lined sack that prevents air from getting into the mixture,”

The bag is zip-tied closed and stored. 

Graus says, “Once the little bit of oxygen is depleted by a minor amount of heat production, the bag goes anaerobic, and the lawn clipping ensiling process begins.” 

“The BioPac’r system is the world’s first portable ensiling system,” he adds.

“Last year was our first year building and distributing machines nationwide,” he says. 

Graus also eluded to the fact that they are actively looking for potential distributors to carry the BioPac’r line.

Finding a market

Graus notes that, after producing the lawn clipping silage, YCC connects with farmers to provide a viable, local feedstuff for cattle.

“When we sell a machine, we locate farmers in the area, show them the feed analysis and ask if they are interested in feeding this,” he says.

Lawn clippings, Graus explains, are similar to the grasses found in mountain meadows and pastures across much of the state, with the difference being that lawns are fertilized more regularly, providing a higher density of nutrients.

The lawn clipping silage also has a high water content, so environmentally speaking, “This is also a good way for us to reclaim irrigation water,” he says. “When our cows eat wet feed, their water demands go down.” 

In addition to providing a source of water, Graus notes that feed analyses that have been completed show similar nutrient concentration to alfalfa, with energy almost as high as corn.

On a dry basis, one feed analysis provided showed 19 percent crude protein and 65.1 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN), with a Relative Feed Value of 135.

Market-changing product

“God willing, this has the potential to change the world,” Graus says. “Lawn clipping silage is an entirely new commodity market.” 

Graus is currently working on a USDA grant to continue to improve product distribution and prove the benefits of their supply chain. 

“We are going to prove how this supply chain can help a small farmer,” he adds. “A young couple can get started on just a little bit of land with this silage.”

A two-man mowing crew can process up to five bags weekly but most companies have several crews, Graus says, which could easily supply a small feeding operation.

Lawn clipping silage is an inexpensive feed because homeowners pay to seed the crop, feed the crop, maintain the crop and then pay a landscaper to harvest their crop and cart it off.  The best aspect to this crop is that lawns get watered even during the droughts, which makes this particular product sustainable, he adds.

“From a marketing standpoint, this beef could be marketed as local, grass-fed beef,” he explains. “Local is one of the most sought-after marketing claims lately.”  Graus also emphasizes that lawn clipping silage has the potential to compete against distiller’s grains for a high-protein, affordable cattle feed product.

“I can also see the turf industry reinventing itself,” he says. “Grass isn’t just something we stand or play on in our backyards anymore. Let’s view it as any other crop, harvest it and assist farmers to become more sustainable.” 

This opportunity also provides benefits for landscapers who are currently paying landfills to dispose of grass clippings. Graus says they will now be able to market livestock feed and turn grass clippings into profit rather than a liability.

Connecting the public to ag

At the same time, turning grass clippings into livestock feed connects urbanites to the agriculture industry, a connection that many beef associations are also trying to make, Graus says.

“This really creates a relationship between landscapers and farmers,” says University of Wyoming Extension Educator Hudson Hill, “and it may even provide opportunities for smaller farmers to diversify and add a landscaping component to their business.”

“A farmer or rancher might buy a $16,000 machine and give it to the landscaper, who saves between $12,000 and $15,000 a year just from not going to the landfill,” Graus says. “Here in Jackson Hole, the transfer station receives about 3,000 tons a year of grass clippings from landscapers. It’s not unrealistic that small towns across the state could generate 1,000 tons of lawn clipping silage per 5,000 population.”

Golf courses, landscapers and municipalities all provide potential sources of feed.

Graus comments, “This is a big opportunity, and it’s got lots of traction and potential.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie – Paul and Nell Kenehan began raising cattle when they were young and didn’t even know each other. Years after they met, Paul and Nell leased the ranch Paul’s folks owned near Laramie and took over raising commercial cattle when Paul’s parents got older and thought about retiring.

Paul and Nell eventually bought the ranch in January 2015.

“I grew up on this place,” says Paul. “We’ve always had cows.”

Cattle herd

Their commercial cattle are an Angus-cross cow/calf herd. They start calving their own cattle in mid-February, continuing calving until the end of May with a herd of leased cows.

“Most of our calving of the leased cows is in April and May,” he continues. “This is the first year we’ve taken on leased cattle on a seasonal basis, but with the opportunity to lease good ground and add to our program, we had to take the chance.”

Their cattle weigh around 1,200 pounds.

“A good cow can wean as close to her body weight as possible with the least amount of input and less feed,” Paul says. “They have to keep in good condition through the winter, so they don’t have to fight to survive.”

He adds, “We are an old-school operation. Everything we do is done on horses. We run very traditionally.”

Adding an enterprise

While the cattle are run traditionally, the Kenehans have taken a less than traditional route to diversify their operation.

“Nell and I purchased Chem-Dry several years ago,” Paul says. “At the time, Nell was working as a nurse, and I was driving a school bus. We were trying to make our operation work financially, and this opportunity opened up a doorway to work for ourselves.”

Previous owners of the business offered the Kenehans the chance to buy them out.

Paul notes, “It is a sound business that has been in place since 1977, when it was founded. Franchises are individually owned by people in the community under the parent umbrella company.”

Inside Chem-Dry

Chem-Dry, a company focused on cleaning carpet, upholstery, tile and stone, utilizes natural products with no soaps or residues.

“Chem-Dry is an environmentally clean company,” explains Paul, noting that the process is “Green Certified.” “The solutions we use don’t contain phosphates, detergents or toxic chemicals.”

The cleaning agent they utilize is similar to sodium bicarbonate, and the cleaning process uses only about 25 percent of the water that other cleaning companies utilize.

“In our cleaning process, we inject the bicarbonate at 250 degrees into the items we’re cleaning,” Paul explains. “When we heat up the soda water, it bubbles faster, which pulls the dirt out.”

After the dirt is removed, continued bubbling of the cleaning compound allows carpets to dry more quickly. In fact, Paul says they can clean a house in less than three hours, and floors are typically dry an hour later.

“When we clean, we remove 98 percent of allergens from carpets and upholstery and 89 percent of airborne bacteria,” he says. “Overall, this is a good, clean product that is good for our environment.”

Diversifying the ranch

Chem-Dry provides the Kenehans the chance to grow their ranch while also diversifying the operation.

“We are able to really balance the two operations,” Paul says.

Chem-Dry is a seasonal business, he continues, adding that the busy times at the ranch are opposite the demanding periods for Chem-Dry.

“During the winter months when we have to spend more time with the cows and calving, Chem-Dry is traditionally slow,” he explains. “In late April, May and June, as summer gets here, Chem-Dry goes really strong.”

By the time they are transitioning to fieldwork, the cleaning business slows down.

“Our ranch and Chem-Dry have really fit together like a hand and a glove. We didn’t think it would, but we have made it work well,” Paul says.

Positive business

Paul also comments that he enjoys owning Chem-Dry because of the benefits they see through working with the people involved.

“The franchise owners we know are a lot like the farmers and ranchers I’ve met in the ag industry,” he says. “We are a team and a family. When someone needs help, the others are always there with suggestions.”

The company has 3,500 franchises in the U.S., with a network in more than 50 countries worldwide.

He also notes that they are working to promote a positive image for their positive product.

“Chem-Dry is similar to ag in a lot of ways,” he says.

Paul also notes that they can take a more hands-off approach to Chem-Dry since they have trustworthy employees who are actively involved.

Continued growth

Since first purchasing the business, the Kenehans have expanded to include new territories, and they have built strong relationships with the agriculture industry through the company, as well.

They clean a number of guest operations and ranch houses, as well as urban homes and businesses.

“As a producer in the agriculture industry, one of the things that stands out in my mind is that we are concerned about keeping the land, as a whole, safe and clean. We are concerned with what we put into our animals, and we want to keep our ranch business as green as we can,” Paul says. “With our cleaning company, we do the same.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sheridan – “We do a lot of surgery here,” says Ted Vlahos of Sheridan Equine Hospital. “Everything that your horse might need, we do it at Sheridan Equine.”
    Vlahos’s passion for working with equine in his vet clinic has driven the success of the business, as well as that of his second equine hospital in Cody, and he is well known for his work with artificial equine limbs.
Back to the roots
    Vlahos grew up in Ohio and attended The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio for his undergraduate and graduate work, as well as vet school.
    With 24 years’ experience as an equine veterinarian, Vlahos comments, “It has been my passion since my youth. It’s a huge privilege and gift to work with horses. I got my first horse when I was 12 years old and that was it. There was no other option for me.”
    He moved to Wyoming in 1997 to buy a veterinary clinic.
    “I’d been coming to Wyoming since the early  ‘90s to hunt and fish, and I just fell in love with Wyoming,” says Vlahos. “I thought, ‘My life is too short to not live here,’ so I came out and ended up building this facility.”
    His practice in Sheridan takes care of all needs of horses and serves animals from around the country.
    “We do a lot of orthopedics, fracture and arthrodesis, or fusion, surgeries,” he says. “We also do a lot of arthroscopic and colic surgeries, but we do all the routine stuff as well. We float teeth and dig out abscesses – it’s not just specialty stuff.”    
    He adds, “We also work with vets all over Wyoming.”
    Vlahos says that when other veterinarians have tough cases, he steps up and accepts the challenge. Horses come from across the country for Vlahos’s equine expertise.
    “We do tackle hard cases that people wouldn’t otherwise do, or would give up on, and it’s worked out pretty well for a lot of horses and for us,” notes Vlahos. “It’s fun.”
World travels and tough cases
    Vlahos started working with artificial limbs for horses almost 13 years ago when a horse came in that needed either an artificial leg or euthanization.
    “I did my research on things that were being done and worked with two of my colleagues,” he says, speaking of the procedure for a prosthetic surgery. “They walked me through my first one. It was great and we have been doing them ever since. We do a couple every year.”
    In January, Vlahos had the opportunity to tackle a tough case 8,000 miles from his hospital when a request for his services came from the south Asian country of Bhutan.     
    “We had a horse that got hit by a truck out there, and a lady found out about us because of our work with artificial limbs,” Vlahos mentions. “It was a big, bad open fracture on a back leg. There is no vet clinic in the country that works on horses, so we brought basically our whole hospital to Bhutan.”
    Vlahos says he and his staff fly all over the country, but that trip was the first overseas. To go to Bhutan Vlahos had to get permission from both the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Ministry and the Prime Minister.
    “We sent 10 flight cases of equipment to Bhutan, and fixed the horse,” he says. “We’re about six weeks out of surgery, and the horse is doing fine.”
The cutting edge
    When he’s not busy tending to patients, Vlahos keeps up on new technology and the latest developments in equine medicine.
    “When we aren’t working we are reading,” he says, “and we all attend a lot of meetings.”
      Some of their research has revolved around helping to ensure success in their prosthetics.
      “As a group of patients, we have some challenges, because, until very recently, a lot of the implants we were using were human implants, so they have a potential for failure,” explains Vlahos. “We now use a screw-locking plate system that has been around for about two years for horses.”
     The new screws allow treatment of a wider range of animals, including those with open or infected fractures. In the past, infection would loosen screws, leading to failure of the implant.
     “Infection is a huge deal in horses. Historically, if a horse had an open fracture, we would not be able to save them, but with some of the new implants we have a better chance,” he adds.
The next generation
     On top of tackling hard cases, he also works to train young veterinarians by taking new graduates as interns.
     “We usually have one or two interns, and usually they stay a year,” he explains. “The profession has evolved, and, as cities have gotten bigger, horse populations have decreased and the ability to train students in the universities for horses has really declined.”
    As a result, private practices take new graduates and train them in a hands-on environment. This year Megan Hayden, an Auburn Vet School graduate from Baton Rouge, La., has joined the Sheridan Equine Hospital team.
    “Meg is really sharp, and we are grateful,” says Vlahos of his intern. “I tell all the young vets that if you absolutely love what you are doing a quarter century from now, that is what you should be doing,”
    Vlahos comments, “We are just humble servants. There is nothing special about us, other than we love what we do. It’s a blast.”
    Visit Sheridan Equine Hospital online at sheridanequine.com/contact. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..