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Meeteetse – Kasey and Ondi Shepperson were tempted two years ago when a hunter offered to buy their ranch outright. When they hesitated, he then offered to purchase a 50 percent share. “We turned it down,” states Kasey.
The Sheppersons were faced with making huge land payments and trying to make it work with cows, says Kasey. While the hunter’s offer was tempting, it reduced the Sheppersons’ control over their land and operation.
Soon thereafter Kasey and Ondi discovered the Wyoming Stock Growers Agricultural Land Trust (Land Trust) and applied for an easement through the program. “We felt it would be safer for us and give us more breathing room,” explains Kasey.
The operation is located five miles north of Meeteetse and is exclusively in Park County. The family runs a cow/calf operation and puts up 400 acres of hay. The Sheppersons opted to put all 13,858 deeded acres into the proposed easement as a means of getting some equity back out of the land, explains Kasey.
Out of all the applications submitted in 2008, the Shepperson easement was the only one funded by the Land Trust due to available resources. “Because of the mission of our land trust we are especially interested in working ranches and in the next generation of working ranchers,” explains Land Trust Executive Director Pam Dewell.
The Land Trust also looks at the ability of an easement to receive additional funding. “At this time the only funding opportunities available are to support wildlife habitat,” Dewell explains, adding, “There are a number of sage grouse leks and breeding grounds on the property and a mile of the Greybull River.”
The river is habitat for a variety of fish species, including the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, which is currently on the Endangered Species List.
All of these aspects made the Shepperson easements very appealing to the Land Trust and other potential funders. “When you add the fact that Kasey and Ondi are young ‘generational’ ranchers committed to making their living in production agriculture, it was a project the Land Trust was very excited to take on,” says Dewell.
“A significant source of funding for purchase conservation easements is Farm Bill funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS),” states Dewell.
Funds are primarily received from the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), which will cover up to 50 percent of the cost of a project based on the value of the easement. However, in order to utilize those funds, 25 percent of matched money must be cash. Thanks to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT) there were cash matching dollars available.
“We are fortunate in Wyoming to be able to utilize WWNRT dollars because without a significant cash match we would be unable to take advantage of the Farm Bill dollars,” says Dewell.
The Shepperson easement applied for $280,000 from the WWNRT in cash match money. Since they fall into the “large project” category the project will go before the Wyoming legislature during the February session to be approved.
The FRPP awarded the project $560,000 and Dewell explains while the project is still in the process of appraisal, the proposed purchase price will likely be around $1 million. “One of the most important aspects of these grants is how much money they bring in from out of state that can be used to support agriculture,” she says.
The value of an easement is determined through an in-depth appraisal of the property prior to the easement and again with the easement regulations and limited development potential taken into consideration. The difference in the two appraisals is the value of the easement.
“It does devalue the land a little,” says Kasey, “That can be a positive when you’re putting everything into an estate plan.”
While the easement is still pending approval and the Sheppersons haven’t seen any tangible changes to date, they are optimistic about the future.
“The biggest thing is that we will be able to pay off some of the improvements we’ve made over the years,” Kasey explains. “During the drought I drilled several wells, put pipe in the meadows for irrigation purposes, implemented grazing systems and brought in solar panels.”
“With the advanced technology today there is no excuse for not utilizing systems like solar-powered wells,” he says, also explaining that with solar wells he is able to leave water on even when cattle aren’t in a pasture, which provides a constant water supply to wildlife. “When you take the cows out the wildlife have free range,” he adds.
The Sheppersons have been working with Trout Unlimited for several years to preserve river habitat for fish species, notably the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. “We have one mile of Greybull River frontage and large amounts of water rights, both in the river and stored. That is something that will be a of great value to this place in the future,” says Kasey.  
He and Ondi would also like to consistently expand every year if they are able. “We’re looking to increase capacity without increasing labor,” he says, adding, “We’d like to implement a grazing system that won’t pound the land to pay for it.”
“We purchased this place in 2003 and this is where we plan to spend our lives,” states Kasey. “It’s hard to find large deeded acreages and when you do they’re a drawing card to the millionaires, so you’re playing with the big boys. It is so capital intensive; basically you live below poverty all your life so you can have a piece of ground. Maybe this will help us increase our cash flow.”
The Sheppersons have three children who will have the chance take over the operation should they want to. While the process has been slow and steady, the ability to pass the operation on was a drawing point as well.
“There are a lot of things you would never think about that (an easement) limits you from doing. But is also opens up some other areas. We’re all interested in the same long-term goals and we have met a lot of great people,” says Kasey.
The Sheppersons, the Land Trust and WWNRT are all working together to see this conservation easement into reality. While the process is far from over, the future looks bright for this progressive young family and their ranching operation.
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Sheridan — The Sheridan College Machining department provides students with a cutting edge, practical education that can be tailored to personal interests and talents.
“You can’t put your hands on anything that a machinist didn’t have something to do with,” explains instructor Randy Whyte. “Everything on a welding machine a machinist made and any tool a mechanic uses is made by machinists. I’ve had students make everything from fly-fishing reels to steam engines.”
The program begins with Technology One (Tech 1) classes where students learn the manual side of machining. This includes learning how to run manual lathes, mills and surface grinders. “All projects they make in Tech 1 are tools they put back in their toolbox for future use. Tech 1 is designed to capture a student’s interest and show where they can take their skills. Once they get in the shop they figure out the machines and get comfortable and often decide to pursue machining. If they continue and take Technology Two (Tech 2), it gets a little more technical,” says Whyte.
Tech 2 is entirely project-based and everything students make goes in their toolbox for use in the industry. “Technology Three (Tech 3) is where I really incorporate the job shop. Students are given a project where they have to conduct research. They are given a part and have to draw it up and figure out the tolerances on their own. They gather all the information they can, then I take the part away because that’s relevant to the rancher who has to feed 500 cows. He needs his part back until a new one is made. In Tech 3 students are incorporating strict tolerance levels, print reading classes and everything they learned in Tech 1 and 2,” explains Whyte
A tolerance level is a measurement that has to be within certain parameters. “In Tech 1 it’s plus or minus ten thousandths, which if you stack three pieces of paper together you might get that. In Tech 2 it’s plus or minus five thousandths. To relate that to something, the hair on your head it about two or three thousandths thick,” says Whyte.
“In the end, when you go to engineer something all parts have a relationship. If we build a mechanical part and it’s 95 degrees here and we want to send it to the moon where it is well below zero, the part still has to function. We have to know what parts will go through and put down tolerances so that if one swells or shrinks the other can still operate. That’s what tolerances are based on,” explains Whyte.
In the print reading class students draw parts from a variety of angles. “They end up drawing 24 different parts showing different views. It develops their hand skills. Toward the middle of the class I give them a print and list of questions and they have to find information from the print,” states Whyte.
Students learn to operate multiple machines including the lathe, which is primarily used on round surfaces to turn, thread, taper and cut parts. Nurling, which is the gripping surface for fingers put on tools, is also done with the lathe. “Students learn how to turn a part within a couple thousandths,” says Whyte.
The mill is another machine that is generally used on square surfaces. The surface grinder is considered a precision tool and isn’t used a lot in Wyoming, but students are introduced to it because of it’s relevance in parts of the industry.
Students are taught machine layout skills and how to sharpen tool bits, drill bits and router bits in addition to just about anything else they can think of. “They can even sharpen a pair of scissors if they want to,” comments Whyte.
After mastering the manual side of machining, students are introduced to Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining. “CNC started out with a scenario similar to if I asked you to make me 1,000 writing pens. By the time you got the to the 50th one you would be pretty sick of it. That’s where manufacturing was going in the late 1800s and early 1900s because people needed more parts.
“The computer controls it all. You basically program it, put it into the computer, proof it, set your part up, tell the machine where your part is and hit cycle start. It comes down and does all the machining. You can make just about anything with one,” says Whyte.
There are CNC lathes and mills. Students are taught the manual machines first because they cost $10,000 to $15,000 and a CNC machine is worth around $85,000. “They learn all the basics in the Tech 1, 2 and 3. Then they go into the CNC side and they already know the machining operations, they just have to learn the programming, setup and technical stuff,” explains Whyte.
CNC machines are operated using G-Code. According to Whyte if you understand G-Code you can run any CNC machine. “There are probably 30 to 35 different G-Codes and each one makes the CNC machine do something different. It responds differently to each code. There are CNC sewing machines and CNC plasma cutters and people don’t know how to run them, but machinists who understand G-Code do,” he adds.
“Sheridan College is pretty special in the state of Wyoming. We have some availability to funding that is of great value to our program. We are able to have both state of the art machines and those from the 1940s, so the students are well rounded. They aren’t too spoiled with state of the art stuff but still have access to those machines. It’s also a big, bright shop,” comments Whyte.
In addition to classes, students can participate in the Machine Tool Club and Skills USA. Whyte promotes both to his students and feels Skills USA prepares them for life after college. “It’s competition-based and participants must be dressed in a black tie, white shirt and black pants during the awards portion. They have to bring a resume, take written tests and compete on the floor. It combines all their skills and really exposes them to future employers. You never know when an employer is going to walk up, hand you a card and say, ‘Give me a call,’” comments Whyte.
The college also offers co-ops where students can get an industry job and also get college credits. “My advisors I used to work for said to get the resumes in for the co-ops. They don’t have any jobs currently open, but are confident this economy is going to turn around and when it does they want these students prepared to work in their shop. Even today employers are interested in people with this kind of education,” says Whyte.
Students with a machining education can be found operating manual or CNC machine shops, working in hydraulic shops or large industrial shops. Others return to the family farm or ranch and contribute there, or opt to start their own business. They can also further their education in specialized areas such as gunsmithing or machining for high performance racing engines.
Sheridan College works hard to help students find their niche in the machining industry and has a job placement rating in the high 90 percentile.
For more information on the Sheridan College Machining Department contact Randy Whyte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-674-6446 ext. 3506. 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..

Laramie – After nearly 36 years of teaching, researching and being a part of University of Wyoming Extension focusing on assessment and monitoring, grazing management and behavior and livestock systems, professor Mike Smith is retiring.

Smith’s experience and commitment to various research opportunities over the years has had him dealing with rangeland issues such as managing wild horses,  riparian management problems, forage productivity as related to seasonal precipitation and changing calving dates to late spring to just name a few. 

Some of Smith’s more recent work has been with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, conducting presentations and helping with drought management planning programs. 

Saying farewell

Through all of Smith’s teaching, research and Extension work, he has met and worked with some incredible people all along the way. 

“I can’t help but emphasize how much I’m going to miss working with ranchers, folks from various agencies and, of course, the Extension people I’ve worked with for so many years around the state,” says Smith.

“It’s a whole shift in life to not be talking to those folks all the time now,” he adds. 

Once retired, Smith’s plans consist of traveling with his wife throughout Wyoming and being involved with a few rangeland management consulting opportunities, as well. 

“I’m looking forward to summer and the fall and having more time to get out to camp, hike and chase after some elk,” states Smith. 

Reminiscing 

“It’s always entertaining to look back on the number of students that I’ve taught over the years and see how many of them are still working out in the state with agencies, are ranchers or are involved with some other type of professional activity,” comments Smith.  

When asked about the most challenging part of his career, Smith replies, “In the short term, it’s hard to see the progress that is being made.”

He continues that, over the long run, things start moving in the direction managers want, which is when progress is more apparent. 

Progression

“There’s been a significant shift in focus in the rangeland management arena over the years,” states Smith. 

From strictly trying to raise more cow feed to the much broader issue of overall ecosystem management, incorporating wildlife and recreational values with other kinds of land uses into rangeland management, Smith marks a general trend of change within the subject area.

“We are not just in the business of trying to raise cows anymore, but instead, we’re trying to manage the overall system so it meets the contemporary needs of society,” he continues. 

“We are making progress, but there’s still a long way to go,” comments Smith. “More people need to get involved in monitoring rangelands because it can mean so much to them, particularly to their public land grazing permits.” 

Changing calving dates

Along with teaching students, Smith has also been part of numerous research projects. 

One of his favorites dealt with changing the traditional time period of calving. 

“One of the most interesting projects I’ve been involved with was from the grant I received from the Sustainable Agriculture Program to look at the benefits of calving in the late spring,” explains Smith, “as opposed to calving in the middle of the winter like a lot of people do in the West.” 

Smith notes that this project really made a significant shift to his thinking process as it relates to the overall business of rangeland and livestock management and the integration of those two areas. 

The research showed late spring calving facilitates integration of livestock management system practices into rangeland management by synchronizing livestock nutritional needs with the seasonal ability of the range to provide those resources. 

Publication and awards

Through the years Smith has been awarded prestigious range management awards and has been published nearly 200 times in various newspapers, bulletins from UW and scientific journals.

Awards Smith has received include an achievement award and the Fellow Award from the Society for Range Management (SRM). The Wyoming Section SRM presented a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association presented Smith the Outstanding Range Professional Award.

USDA Forest Service Wyoming and Range Service Team recognized Smith and associates for assisting with a permittee monitoring program on the Bighorn Forest.

Choosing range management 

Smith has been involved with range management since he was a child growing up on a ranch in central Texas. When deciding on a major to declare at college he knew that he wanted to incorporate ranching and agriculture into his academic career. 

He tried looking at wildlife management and animal science, but they just didn’t seem feasible to him. Smith only knew one person who had a job at the time in wildlife management, and after growing up on a ranch raising cows, sheep and goats, he figured he already knew enough about that. 

“The third thing that came to mind that still had to do with ranching and agriculture that I could understand then was rangeland management,” declares Smith. “I started out in college with a major of rangeland management, and I’ve never left.” 

Madeline Robinson is the 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..


SIDEBAR:
Journey to UW

University of Wyoming professor Mike Smith started college at a smaller school in Stephenville, Texas and then later transferred to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas to finish his undergraduate degree. 

While at Texas Tech, Smith had a summer job with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that gave him some practical experience in what range management was all about at the time. 

“Once I graduated, I spent three years in the Army. When I came back from the Army, I didn’t have a job with the NRCS anymore, but I did have an offer to go to graduate school at Texas Tech,” says Smith.

After finishing his graduate degree, Smith went on to gain his PhD at Utah State studying food habits of deer in relationship to livestock grazing. Once Smith obtained his PhD, he returned to Texas and taught for two years at Angelo State University. 

“It was during my second year at Angelo State when I saw a position at UW had become available, so I applied for it. UW was in the process of creating the Range Management Department at the time, and I thought that was a good thing,” comments Smith. “I came to UW, and I’ve been here ever since.”

 

Shoshoni – Steele Pingetzer can trace the roots of his FFA projects, a Red Angus cowherd and family ranch work, back through his family to his great grandfather’s arrival in Wyoming. Pingetzer was named the State Star in Ag Placement at the Wyoming FFA Convention in Cheyenne on April 18.
    “I got into raising cattle when I was younger, when my dad talked me into buying my first cow. That’s how the whole thing got started, and I kept breeding and adding to my herd until I reached my current herd of 30 head of cattle,” says Steele, who says he was nine years old when he purchased that first cow.
    “We needed to pay Steele for irrigating and raking hay when he was young, and I suggested he use the money to get a heifer and start a herd, whether he wanted a red one or a black one,” says Steele’s father, Bob Pingetzer. “We thought he should start to build some cows so when he got to college he’d have some income to support his schooling, and it’s grown from there.”
    In addition to managing his cowherd, Steele also works for his family’s 6 Iron Ranch, which is co-owned by his parents, Bob and Paige, and his grandparents.
    Both the cowherd and the ranch work have earned Steele recognition within FFA, and this year he takes them to State FFA Convention as entries in Beef Production Entrepreneurship, which is the cowherd, and Beef Production Placement, which is his ranch work.
    “What I do with my cowherd is research the bulls I want to use and figure out which bull I want to use to breed my cattle. Any calves that I don’t like are fattened and sold to a Wheatland feedlot, while I keep the bull calves I like and sell them in the Wyoming Beef Cattle Improvement Association sale. The heifers I like I keep to breed in a couple years to keep expanding my herd,” explains Steele.
    In 2009 Steele’s bulls ranked in the middle of 45, but in 2008 he placed in the top 10. “He was right in the top end of things last year,” says Bob. “This year his calf was bred a little different than last.”
    Steele is a senior this year at the Shoshoni high school, and next year plans to attend Central Wyoming College. He’ll study there for two years to obtain a pre-engineering degree, after which he’ll transfer to the University of Wyoming to earn a mechanical engineering degree.
    “I’ll probably also minor in rangeland management and take some ag classes,” says Steele, adding that he’d really like to return to the family operation following school.
    “In the summer with 6 Iron I do a lot of haying, helping with most of the swathing and the baling. I help out as a hired hand on the farm during the summer, and the last few months we’ve been calving,” says Steele.
    “For the ranch he’s put in over 200 hours of time each of the last four summers cutting hay,” says Bob. “He helps set water, move cows, plant corn and work fields. He’s very capable with any job on the ranch.”
    In the future, Steele says he’ll continue growing his cowherd, looking at different bulls and the potential to AI some of his cattle. “I’d like to try some AI instead of using bulls that are available because they’re close by to access a greater variety of cattle,” he says.
    “Steele has a great work ethic, and he works really hard and spends a lot of time on his projects,” says Shoshoni FFA Advisor Crystal Woehlecke, adding she expects him to be very strong at State in Beef Placement, with as many hours as he’s put in. “He’s got well over the maximum amount of hours they need to compete.”
    Steele estimates that over the five years the application covers he has several thousand hours on the ranch between the 6 Iron and his cowherd. “That’s what I do and how I make my money,” he says.
    “I’ve worked with Steele the last four years, and I know he puts in the time on his family’s ranch and I’m very proud of his accomplishments,” says Crystal.
    Christy Hemken is assistant 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..

“It is an honor and a privilege to lead such a dedicated and talented group of farmers,” said John Snyder of Worland in his acceptance speech after becoming the newly elected president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association (ASGA) for 2014.

“I am excited about the future of our industry,” added Snyder. “There are challenges in the U.S. market and on Capitol Hill, but this industry has worked hard on both fronts and will continue to do so.” 

New president

Representatives of ASGA unanimously elected Snyder as their president on Feb. 8 in Tampa, Fla. at their association’s annual meeting. 

For the last two years, Snyder was the Vice president of the association and has served on the Board of Managers for Wyoming Sugar Growers. 

Snyder has also been the president of the Washakie Beet Growers Association for the past 11 years.

“These are leaders from all over the country and to be chosen as their leader is humbling,” replied Snyder. 

“When my time is over for this, the beet grower’s organizations around the country are going to be in better shape than what they are today,” commented Snyder, “or at least I’ll work very hard to try and get them there.”

ASGA represents approximately 10,000 growers in 11 states, and the industry as a whole creates 372,000 direct and indirect jobs in 42 states and contributes $21.1 billion in positive economic activity each year. 

Farm Bill

“As we look ahead to the implementation of the new Farm Bill, we need to work with members of Congress to assure that a strong domestic policy is retained and will serve farmers, consumers and our customers for the next five years,” explained Snyder. 

“We worked on the Farm Bill for the last five years, and we want to make sure it gets implemented correctly, in the way that it was written and the way it was meant to be,” stated Snyder. “This is important not only for our growers but for our factories, as well.”

All of the sugar factories in the U.S. are 100 percent owned by their growers. 

“Wyoming has three of the remaining 22 beet factories left in the U.S.,” said Snyder. “These factories are extremely important to our communities. The sugarbeet factories in Wyoming are in Torrington, Lovell and Worland.” 

Snyder noted that the sugar policy established in the 2008 Farm Bill continues in the 2014 Farm Bill, and it has served growers, consumers and taxpayers well.

Mexico’s sugar

“There are a lot of international trade issues that affect sugar,” explained Snyder. “We have 41 trading partners under the World Trade Organization (WTO).”

One of the biggest trade concerns with sugar is Mexico’s extreme importation of the commodity to the U.S., flooding U.S. markets. The oversupply drives the price of U.S. sugar down. 

“Mexico has unrestricted access to import to the U.S., and their sugarbeet acres have grown substantially in the last four to five years,” stated Snyder. “We are looking at different plans on how we might take care of this.”

“Producers in the U.S. can only sell so much of their sugar into the market,” said Snyder. 

Trade

Another trade agreement that has the attention of ASGA is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“The TPP is a big deal for us right now. We must ensure that we don’t get too much sugar into the country,” replied Snyder. “We are importing a lot of sugar already.”

The U.S. is the biggest importer of sugar in the world, and Snyder is cautionary about sugar’s sensitivity to price worldwide.

“When the sugar market is out of balance, it affects the prices very quickly and can last a very long time,” cautioned Snyder. 

“Our prices today are basically what they were in the 1980s,” explained Snyder. “Obviously, our input costs aren’t what they were in the 1980s. 

Consumer demand

Snyder also notes the industry deals with meeting consumer demand, biotech issues and addressing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“The sugar that comes from those beets is no different than the sugar we produced before,” stated Snyder. “It’s been tested, and it is absolutely no different than cane sugar or sugar from anywhere else around the world that has been processed into white sugar.”

Snyder is a fourth-generation farmer. Snyder has farmed with his wife Janet for 33 years, and they currently farm with Snyder’s father-in-law, brother-in-law, son Steve and his wife Jamie. 

They raise malt barley, corn and sugarbeets. 

Madeline Robinson is the assistant 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..