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As fall settles in across Wyoming, those involved in agriculture continue to carry out their yearly tasks, despite increased amounts of moisture and cool temperature.

The Sept. 23-29 Crop Progress Report, released by the Wyoming Office of the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) on Sept. 30, said, “Wyoming experienced fall-like temperatures and precipitation statewide last week.”

Temperatures across the state ranged from a low of 24 degrees in Big Piney to highs of 87 degrees in Torrington.

At the same time, all weather stations in the state received some precipitation, with 10 reporting over one inch of rain and Worland receiving 1.72 inches of rain. At least 13 weather stations are also reporting above-normal precipitation for the year.

Frost has also settled over the state in some areas.

“Farming operations are wrapping up for the year, as small grain harvest is completed,” says NASS. “Precipitation has aided grazing on the hay meadows. Livestock are being moved home from summer ranges. Hay harvest continues for some. Some livestock shipping has occurred.”

With harvests continuing, 95 percent of barley and 89 percent of oats were reported as harvested. Only 67 percent of corn silage was harvested, and 31 percent of corn was marked as mature. Thirty-eight percent of dry beans had been combined, and 19 percent of sugarbeets have been harvested. In addition, 69 percent of the third cutting of alfalfa has been put up.

Here at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, with fall comes our annual Fall Cattlemen’s Edition. This year, we featured ranching operations and businesses from Albany County. Make sure to check out the edition, inserted in this week’s Roundup.

 

Casper – Constitutional attorney Ben Barr serves with the Wyoming Liberty Group, classifying himself as a “professional trouble maker” in his career focused on fighting for what he describes as “traditional Constitutional values.”
“From my perspective, we’re tired of being pushed around in Wyoming. We’re tired of having the grizzly bear shoved down our throats, tired of dealing with wolves, of being told what kind of medical care we can receive and tired of being denied the choice of which standard by which our grandchildren will be taught. We’re tired of the business scams and political leaks revealing what new political scam the government has involved itself in,” states Barr of heavy the heavy federal intervention he feels weighs citizens down.
“Slowly, step-by-step, ranchers are made out to be villains and nuisances by the federal government, and as a nation we have somehow allowed ourselves to be pulled or tricked into being taken advantage of. It’s been a systematic inversion of values,” says Barr.
He adds this attack is working, and the values found in the Code of the West are what he’s fighting for. He calls the Code of the West a “homegrown example developed by free people with values and common beliefs formed to support their way of life, their families and their communities.”
To describe the conservative perspective, Barr borrows a quote from David Horowitz: “In my experience, conservatives are usually too decent and too civilized to match up adequately with their radical adversaries – at least in the early stages of battle. They’re too prone to give them the benefit of the doubt, to believe there is goodness and good sense in them, which will outweigh their determination to change the world and their radical talks of justice and democracy and equality. They can’t really want to destroy a society that is more democratic, liberal and equal than others and that has brought wealth and prosperity to so many people? Oh yes, they can. There is no goodness that trumps the dream of heaven on earth, and because America is a real-world society, managed by real and problematic people, it will never be equal, liberal or democratic enough to satisfy those radical fantasies or to compensate them for the longing of the perfect world.”
When considering conservative and governmental viewpoints, Barr chooses to use parts from the Code of the West as a basis for comparison.
“For example, take the code to live each day with courage. I think the federal code would be to live each day in fear until the government solves your problems. I think that’s the solution of choice to just about every problem.   
“The second code is taking pride in your work. The federal code might be: ‘Leave the hard work to us. Settle for mediocrity, it takes a lot less time and most people won’t notice until it’s too late.’
“The third code says to always finish what you start. I suppose the federal code might say: ‘Please, don’t even start.’
“No cowboy ever quit while his work was hardest and his duties most exacting. Life is hard, and that’s part of the vitality of the Code of the West. There’s an inter-resiliency and work ethic and just plain gumption. That try that makes for sovereign individuals, and that spirit which is under attack,” states Barr.
He suggests a three-pronged approach to combating federalist idealism. The first is to preserve and protect.
“I’ve read hundreds of years of Supreme Court history, and it shows a trend of states reigning supreme in the areas of education and health care. But you have to say no to federal money and yes to Wyoming and the belief that Wyoming is competent enough to run its own health and education markets without President Obama telling you how to do it. If you don’t preserve these key areas now, and if you don’t refuse federal funding, in 10, 20 or 30 years when we’re up against the Supreme Court they are going to ask where the state’s sovereignty was when you accepted that money,” explains Barr.
The second prong on which Barr focuses is common law. He says that with respect to wildlife and public land management, the courts stand against Wyoming. “But we can put that aside for a moment and say to the federal government that we accept their claims, but expect them to hold to standards of acceptable conduct just like any other landowner in the state. We can tell them we expect them to be a good neighbor, and we can start focusing our attention and gathering evidence on all the grievances caused by federal intervention and we might be able to build a case. If the drug dealers and terrorists can do it successfully, we should be able to as well.”
Third on Barr’s list is defending the claim to higher ground and doing what has to be done.
He uses a quote from the movie “Open Range” to make his point. When Charlie asks boss if he reckons if the cattle are worth getting killed over, the boss replies, “The cattle are one thing. But one man telling another where he can go in  this world is another.”
Barr encourages producers to continue as innovative preservers of the Wyoming way of life. “If you don’t preserve this way of life, it will surely be taken path by path, tree by tree and child by child. I say we move forward and take the higher ground and initiative in the areas of sovereignty and the tenth amendment,” he states.
For more information on the Wyoming Liberty Group call 307-632-7020. Ben Barr spoke at the Wyoming Stock Growers Association summer convention in early June. Heather Hamilton 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..

Jillian Balow, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, emphasizes her conservative values and unique background.

“It’s about bringing Wyoming’s conservative values to the office,” she comments. “I am uniquely qualified, as no other candidate is, with strong government leadership skills, as well as an education background.”

Beginning in education

As a fifth generation Wyomingite, Balow grew up in Laramie and Gillette. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and spent the first 10 years of her professional career in the classroom, teaching in Hulett and Gillette.

“After I finished my master’s degree, I was called out of the classroom to be a leader,” Balow continues. 

While working in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Craig Thomas, Balow developed distaste for the federal government, realizing the superiority of Wyoming’s government. 

She then began working at the Department of Education as a consultant and a supervisor.

Balow moved from the Department of Education to Governor Matt Mead’s office, where she served as a policy advisor on his staff. Later, she was appointed to an administrator position in the Department of Family Services, where she is currently employed.

Balow was involved in reorganizing the agency, leaving her with oversight of 200 employees across 28 offices and a monthly budget of nearly $10 million. 

“It is pretty unique to have government leadership and education experience,” Balow comments. “I really feel like this qualifies me to run for office.”

Education priorities

“I’m not a politician, and I never envisioned running for office,” she says, “but I read that people should run for office when they have a fire in their belly and bile in their throat. I am to that point as an educator in our state.” 

Balow notes that if elected to office, she would seek to make education about teaching children rather than politics.

“We need to take the politics out of education and focus on our students’ success and education issues,” she explains. “When we read about education in the newspaper, it needs to be about education, not politics in education.”

Balow also emphasizes collaboration, coordination and consultation in leadership.

“Engaging partnerships and finding new partners that we haven’t engaged in the past who can be a real value to our education system is important,” she says. “We need to really work with our partners.”

Challenges

“This will be a bigger challenge than anything I’ve undertaken,” Balow comments, “but I have really good success to build on.”

Referring to her time in the Department of Family Services, Balow says she turned a $6.2 million deficit to a $0.5 million surplus in only 17 months, introducing efficiency upgrades to accomplish the goal.

She also notes that opposition Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Curriculum present additional challenge. 

Wyoming standards

“Everyone talks about what is wrong with the Next Generation Science Standards,” Balow explains. “We need to have Wyoming standards.”

“Common Core Standards started as a set of standards that were supposed to be rigorous and stand alone,” Balow adds, noting that the standards were adopted in 2012 as the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards. “They present higher standards than we have ever had, and I think that is a great starting point.”

Bringing Wyoming to the classroom – including agriculture and mining concepts – can help to make the science standards Wyoming’s standards.

Balow’s timeline for fixing standards begins in 2015, when the review process for adopting new standards in 2017. 

“We really do have an opportunity to make our standards better,” Balow says. “The Wyoming Content and Performance Standards provide a good starting point, and we will be able to do a lot of work collaboratively to move these forward.”

Outside education

Balow also notes that the position on boards and commissions in the state is also very important.

“I find myself telling citizens, ‘This is why you need to care about this race,’” she says. “It goes so much further than education in terms of the boards and commissions that the top five elected sit on.”

Balow remarks that the boards and commissions are vital to Wyoming’s economic prosperity.

“The process where local governments partner with the states to get grants and loans is a unique process. I don’t think it works in very many states, but I think it works in Wyoming,” she says. “I have faith and belief in the process and think it is an amazing connection for local governments to make with the state.”
On her candidacy, Balow notes, “I am intent and committed to working with people and being an advocate, rather than an adversary.”

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..

Cokeville – Roland Willis’ family started out in Cokeville in the early 1950s, when his father decided to move from Laketown, Utah and purchase land south of Cokeville.

“There wasn’t enough land to expand over in Laketown, so when a parcel of the B. Q.  Ranch came up for sale, we purchased it,” comments Roland. “Today, we raise cows, alfalfa hay, grass hay and barley.”

In 1969, Roland and his wife Linda got their start purchasing the original ranch from Roland’s father, along with 120 Hereford cows.

“Over the years, we started changing to black,” he says, referencing the Angus they now raise. 

Linda adds, “I think the Angus work better in this country, and they are more adapted to it.”

Roland, Linda and their family run the extensive operation. 

Currently, they have three boys on the ranch, and two daughters, Teresa and Trudy, who live away from the area. Jordan, Jed and James and their families play an integral role in the functioning of Willis Ranch. Teresa, Trudy and their families play an active part in the ranch providing additional help when needed. 

Black Angus operation

At first glance, the operation resembles many of those in Lincoln County, but the focus on integrating technology and efficiency to raise cattle sets them apart. 

“We start calving in March,” says Jordan of the commercial ranching operation. 

They begin pasture calving in areas closer to their headquarters. Following calving, the Willis family moves cattle to pastures.

“We summer on BLM and private lands. The cows enter BLM grazing May 11,” says Linda. “We come off Sept. 25, and we start feeding about Thanksgiving.”

The operation, like others in Lincoln County, spends a large number of days feeding. Jordan notes that they usually plan to feed between 150 and 160 days. 

“We have put a lot into the cattle since we started,” says Linda. “It has always been a goal of our to always strive to make them better and use better genetics.”

In attempting to continually improve the herd, she adds that they are searching for better, higher quality cattle that produce and thrive in the their environment.

“We are looking for cattle that sustain themselves and that will wean a big calf,” Linda continues. “That is why we like the black cattle – they work for us.”

Growing crops

“We have also produced alfalfa and barley since the beginning, but not to the extent that we do now,” Linda says.

Roland adds, “We were the first really to produce alfalfa.”

“We pioneered alfalfa here,” Linda says. “We plowed up the sagebrush to start producing. Older generations didn’t think you could produce alfalfa in this climate, but it does well.”

James, who is most passionate about the barley segment of the operation, says, “This is good barley country, because we usually have cooler weather. It makes a good yield.”

Though raising barley is challenging, James adds that the cool weather results in a heavy, plump kernel with a lot of meat.

“In other parts of the country and state, most people’s barley is lighter, so this makes for better feed barley,” he explains. “It’s also a good rotation for alfalfa.”

“I get more enjoyment out of watching the crops grow than working with the cattle,” comments James. 

The Willis Ranch’s barley is sold to dairies for a feed product.

Successful ranch 

encounters challenges

Like many other ranches, short growing seasons and harsh weather are difficult for the Willis family to deal with, but they enjoy the challenge and have worked out how to handle the challenges.

Jed says, “The window of opportunity to grow crops and be productive is narrow in this county, due to climate and limited natural resources”

“The biggest challenge we have here is weather,” Roland notes, “but here, we have our pastures close, and we can keep tabs on the cows.”

“We are prepared for a blizzard, if it comes,” Jed adds. “We get at least one blizzard a year during calving season.”

“It’s also fun to see if what we plan comes out,” Jordan mentions. 

“We try to do better, and we always have the odds stacked against us, it seems,” James continues. “We can learn something every year to try next year. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun.”

Being the best

“In our crops and our livestock, we try to be the most efficient as we can be,” Jordan explains. “We strive to have what we think is a good looking cow and what we think are good crops.”

While they strive for the best cows and bulls across the board, Jordan adds that they have developed length in their cattle, as well as good disposition and carcass merit. 

“We have seen some big improvements over what we thought was good years ago,” Roland mentions, specifically referencing weaning weight. “We used to think it was good to wean a 450-pound calf. Now we get calves between 625 and 650 pounds at weaning.”

The reason they have been able to continually improve is because they have changed how they operate, as well as in the equipment and technology they utilize.

Technological developments

“We have become more efficient, and a lot of that is the machinery and technology that has changed,” Linda explains.

As part of their increasing technological developments, the family utilizes GPS technology in their field equipment, and they utilize electronic identification tags in their cattle. 

“We can keep better files and better records,” comments Jed’s wife Stephanie.

Jordan explains, “I’ve got a handheld program that I use, and it keeps track of everything – all the cow information, the sire information, dates of birth, health comments and any other data we have.”

“I don’t ever think that we can get too much information,” Linda adds.  

“We try to take advantage of new technology,” Jordan mentions. “We want to be the most productive and efficient we can be.”

While the Willis family doesn’t see themselves as being in competition with their neighbors, but rather as competing against themselves.

“It is our goal to keep doing better and to keep improving,” Roland says of the operation.

Ranching for family

Roland mentions that, while they enjoy raising cattle and watching the crops grow, “The biggest thing is that we try to keep our family together.”

“We want to have a family on the ranch for forever,” he continues. “Hopefully the boys will keep it going.”

“The future of Willis Ranch,” says Linda, “is keeping our family tradition intact and passing the legacy on to our children and grandchildren.”

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..