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Deadwood, S.D. – Two women were honored at the South Dakota Women in Ag conference held recently in Deadwood, S.D. 

Nominations for these awards begin in the spring of the year. Past recipients and others involved in the ag industry are encouraged to nominate women whom they feel would qualify. 

South Dakota Women in Ag board members and their families are not eligible to nominate or be nominated, and the selection committee is made up of non-board members.

Ag Woman of the Year 

Kris Rausch of Gettysburg, S.D. was named the 2018 South Dakota Ag Woman of the Year, an award presented to a woman from S.D. who makes her living in agriculture and shares her love of the industry across generations.

Rausch and her husband Bob raise wheat, corn, sunflowers and soybeans on 5,000 acres in parts of Dewey, Potter and Sully counties. They also run 400 head of Angus cattle. 

Rausch is the accountant for their corporation and land company, and she also helps operate the business on a day-to-day basis. During spring planting, she supervises the calving, helps with crop harvest and drives machinery when needed.

Rausch has been a member of the Medicine Rock Cattlewomen for 40 years and has cooked the beef for the Gettysburg FFA Chapter awards banquet for 18 of those years. She has been a Potter County 4-H leader since 1999 and volunteers at the county fair in the hobby and horticulture divisions. She and her husband are members of the South Dakota Farm Bureau, and they served on the Young Farmers and Ranchers committee in the late 80s through the 90s.

The Rausches have two sons, Nick and A.J. and their families, who share in the planning but operate separately.

Young Gun of Ag

Nineteen-year-old Darian Roghair of Okaton, S.D. was named the 2018 South Dakota Young Gun of Ag, an award that recognizes a South Dakota woman, age 25 or younger, who embraces the ag industry and encourages others by example to consider a career in agriculture.

A refreshingly polite and confident young lady, Roghair lives with her parents, Brad and Shawna, and five younger sisters on the ranch near Okaton, S.D. Her family raises registered Black and Red Angus cattle in addition to running a commercial herd. 

Roghair was home schooled and always an eager student. At the age of 14, she learned to artificially inseminate at the Cottonwood Research Station near Cottonwood, S.D. She also ultrasounds cattle for pregnancy testing and is building her own business around this skill.

She enjoys selecting replacement heifers, as well as photographing and promoting of sale bulls each year. She said that her family strives to raise good mother cows – cows with maternal ability, feed efficiency, and above all, good temperaments.

Melissa Burke 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..

CheyenneJunior Mikayla Zimmerman brought her swine project for FFA to Cheyenne East High School to help teach the students about the farrowing process. 

“I’ve always been interested in doing a breeding swine project, and the gilt that I showed at fair for showmanship and breeding class had a long enough body for breeding purposes,” says Zimmerman, owner of Pinky Jane. “We decided that this would be an amazing learning opportunity for everybody.” 

Dirty dozen

Pinky gave birth on Feb. 8 to 13 babies via live webcam through a website called Ustream. One of the babies was born stillborn, and the litter included seven girls, named Doc, Twizzler, Jelly Bean, Oreo, Sparkle, Josie and Sammy, and five boys, named Alfred, Spot, T-Bird, Duke and Patches. 

“When Pinky gave birth we almost had 300 people watching,” says Zimmerman. “We also did a poll on Ustream for people to vote for what the babies names were going to be. It was a lot of fun.”

“I’m just blown away that on the morning of Feb. 10, we had over 30,000 hits on the webcam, and we have had such great feedback from people who say they have learned so much,” says Joe Allen, agricultural instructor at Cheyenne East High School and Frontier FFA advisor. “We had about 11,000 hits on Feb. 8 when Pinky had her babies.” 

Hands-on learning

“Instead of me just teaching by showing a bunch of slideshows on artificial insemination, we wanted a hands-on opportunity. We thought we would do the slideshow and then take the kids out and actually do it and show them,” says Allen. 

Pinky was inseminated in October and has been kept at the high school since late September. 

Students also learned about vaccinations and animal record keeping, and they gave Pinky the required shots and tracked her weight. 

“There are about 130 students in my ag classes, and all of them have been actively working with Pinky,” comments Allen. “Our school has approximately 1,500 students, and they also come and visit Pinky.”

Allen adds, “She has become part of the East High family and will have her picture in the yearbook this year.”

Webcam and blog

The webcam will be left up until the piglets are about one month old to show how the piglets are doing, as well as to show some standard procedures that occur after birth.

“We positioned the camera, so people could see what we were doing with the babies, as far as clipping their sharp teeth to reduce harm to Pinky and the other piglets, and giving them iron shots to prevent them from becoming anemic,” describes Allen. “We will continue to show other procedures, like castrating the males and notching the ears.” 

Allen adds, “As soon as we are done messing with the pigs, they go straight back to eating and being happy and very content.” 

The blog portion of the project will also continue once the webcam is taken down, and some of the piglets will be followed as they grow up and are sold as market hogs to be shown at the county and state fairs by the chapter’s FFA members. 

“It’s been a good educational opportunity to let people know about swine,” comments Allen. “Sometimes there’s a lot of negative news that goes on about the swine industry, and this has been nice to have a positive twist on it and get more people involved with it.”

Plans are being made to repeat this project for next year’s students, maybe even with Pinky again. Allen explains that the swine’s gestational period works well with the class schedule. 

Educational outreach

Pinky and her “dirty dozen” piglets have reached people in Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom and France. 

There has also been a K through 12 school in Michigan that followed Pinky and did projects about her progress, also incorporating her into their school curriculum. In that system, high school students researched different events in the process of Pinky’s gestation and then taught the younger kids about it. 

“It’s been awesome to go on Ustream and see someone asking a question and then see one of my students answer that question,” remarks Allen. 

“I also had a lady from Arizona call me who is 70 years old and had never seen anything born in her life, saying this was an incredible experience for her and allowed her to learn so much,” says Allen. 

One Park County 4-H group also held a gathering at their leader’s house to watched the farrowing live. 

Gratitude

Zimmerman and Allen both expressed their gratitude for everyone’s involvement with the project and helping to spread the word about it. 

“We’ve had the opportunity to teach people in France,” says Allen.  “As an ag teacher in Cheyenne, I’d never have had that opportunity without this project.” 

“I would just like to thank Mr. Burket for donating the semen to A.I. and to the school district for helping us promote the project and letting us use their facilities for educational purposes,” says Zimmerman. “It has been quite an experience and none of it would have been possible without any of their support.”

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..


SIDEBAR:

Farrowing timetable

Approximate time

before delivery

Sow characteristics and behavior

0 - 10 days

Mammary glands enlarge and become firm

0 - 10 days

Swelling of the vulval lips

2 days

Mammary glands become turgid and tense and secrete a clear fluid

12 - 24 hours

Mammary glands begin to secrete milk

12 - 24 hours

Overall restlessness, nesting behavior

6 hours

Abundant milk secretion

30 minutes - 4 hours

Increased respiration

15 - 60 minutes

Sow quiets and lies down on her side

30 - 90 minutes

Straining, passage of blood tinged, oily fluid and meconium (fetal feces)

Tracking progress – Mikayla Zimmerman of Cheyenne utilized this table, in cooperation with a veterinarian and her agriculture instructor, to assess Pinky’s progress through labor

 
 

Cokeville – When Scott and Diane Nieslanik moved to Cokeville 15 years ago, both had a background in raising cattle, and they were looking to continue ranching.

“We ranched and farmed in Carbondale, Colo.,” explains Scott, “but we needed to expand. With urban development down there, we decided to get out.”

Scott’s family farms, ranches and runs a dairy in the Colorado town, which sits just south of Aspen.

“It was hard for us to leave because our family is down there,” Diane says. “But if we were going to ranch, we wanted to move to a ranching community.”

Cattle beginnings

On moving to Cokeville, the family ran a large herd of cows and was raising three children under the age of five. 

“Cattle prices were low, and bank payments were high,” comments Scott of their first few years. “We looked at it and decided to put the ranch up for sale.”

A neighbor wanted to buy the cows and rangeland, but had no interest in the hay meadows, so the family took the deal, keeping the hay ground.

Scott also worked to run another ranch in Border, while Diane irrigated their hay meadows. The Nieslaniks sold their hay on the stump. 

When Scott’s employers decided to sell, he returned to their property in Cokeville, and the couple decided to build a house and develop their hay operation.

Making a change

“The biggest change that got us to where we are today was getting away from the cow operation,” comments Diane. “It was huge, because Scott grew up with cows his whole life. It was a hard decision to make.”

In order to stabilize their financial situation and develop a feasible operation, they began to focus on growing and putting up hay, a process they were familiar with, but on a different scale.

Diane adds, “The biggest change for us was getting into the small bales.”

“We’ve always sold hay,” comments Scott, “but when I left Colorado, I swore I’d never put up small bales again. We ended up buying small balers because it’s a niche market.”

“We stumbled into a specialty market, instead of just raising hay,” Diane explains. “A local trucker started hauling hay, and he hooked us up with a buyer in Florida that raises race horses. We started tweaking our hay specifically for these horse producers.”

Because the horse industry is more particular about the hay they buy and feed, Scott notes that they work to provide consistent, quality hay and to target each customer’s needs.

Meeting consumer needs

“Everyone wants something different, so we have different mixes for the different people,” Diane says. 

They have transported hay across the country, from Florida to New York, and today, they load containers, which are shipped by train to customers. 

With their specialty hay being delivered across the country, Diane says it is important to get the hay quality exactly right.

“One thing people don’t understand it that there is a lot of difference between good hay, decent hay and poor hay,” explains Scott. “It is how you put it up and how you raise it.”

In order to achieve “perfect hay,” they have baled whenever conditions were right, whether that meant baling hay at eight in the morning or 11 o’clock at night. 

“There is a short window of time to get it right,” Scott says.

Diane also adds that the quality of their hay is important, and to emphasize their commitment to quality, they guarantee their hay.

“If someone gets a bad bale, we take it back or give them their money back,” explains Diane. “It’s a lot of expense for trucking hay, and we stand behind our bales.”

Additionally, when sending hay to customers, Scott pays careful attention to watch the quality of the hay that is loaded on trucks or in containers.

“I know where I’ve stacked some hay I’m unsure about, and we don’t send the bottom bales,” he explains. “They go off to the side, and we sell them locally to cattle producers.”

Trial and error

In developing the operation, the Nieslaniks note they have tried lots of techniques to find what is right.

“We’ve tried a lot of funky stuff over the years,” comments Diane, laughing. “I’m sure our neighbors think we are crazy.”

For example, when they were having problems with pests and not seeing results from pesticides, Scott and Diane invested in ladybugs. They also handpicked weeds from some of their fields with the help of local youth when herbicides were ineffective.

“It’s trial and error,” says Scott. “The soil on each piece of ground is different, and it’s been hard, but I’ve figured things out.”

He adds that production has increased on the property from barely 1.5 tons of hay per acre to over four tons per acre in some fields. 

“I experiment a bit, here and there,” Scott says. “We are always trying to keep on top of what people want.”

Family and community

Beyond producing high quality hay, Scott and Diane have stayed in the agriculture industry because of the family and community aspects of the industry. They have raised three children on their operation.

Currently, Luke, 19, is attending the University of Wyoming studying agriculture. He works on the farm at home during the summer. Daughter Jessica, 20, is married and seeking her engineering degree in Boise, Idaho.

“We only have Hannah left at home,” says Diane. “She helps out in the balers and moving pipe.”

“Our biggest thing was we wanted to raise our kids on a ranch and in this lifestyle, because it raises good children who grow up to be good adults,” she continues.

Scott adds, “It teaches them responsibility and work ethic.”

By involving their children in every aspect of the operation, teaching them about safety and even the finances, the Nieslaniks have worked hard to instill a love of agriculture in their children.

“Making the crossover to a hay operation, going into a specialty market, finding clientele and taking care of them is the best thing we ever did,” Diane says. “We live a life that most people would give anything to live. This is the life we want to live, and we are living the dream.”

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..

 

Buffalo – “Poisonous snakes, deadly spiders, no electricity, what was I thinking?” asked author and inspirational speaker Rebecca Long Chaney at the Johnson County CattleWomen’s Sixth Annual Women’s Agriculture Summit in Buffalo on Jan. 23.

“It was my husband Lee’s idea,” she continued, describing how she and her husband decided to work at a cattle station in the Australian Outback.

Chaney told her husband that she would go with him, but she didn’t want to tell anyone because everyone would think they had gone completely crazy.

The family ranch was dispersing their herd of Brown Swiss dairy cows, and it was time to do some soul searching, she said. Chaney and her husband planned their trip and included Tonga, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Australia in their plans.

Starting off

“Tonga is a cluster of 173 islands in the South Pacific,” Chaney described. “It is a third-world country, and it was really incredible to learn about their culture.”

The couple stayed with friends and friends of friends all along the way, reaching out to agricultural producers everywhere they went.

“It’s so wonderful how we can reach out to other agricultural communities in other states and places around the world. We make long-lasting relationships, and there are always people who make lasting impressions,” she said.

In New Zealand, the couple stayed on both the north and south islands, and in Papua New Guinea, they headed for the summit of the country’s tallest mountain, Mount Wilhelm.

“I’m not a hiker, but this was Lee’s dream,” she remarked. “I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the summit. At the midway point, we rested to get acclimated to the altitude, and I said, ‘Dear, you’re going to the top without me.’”

Chaney gifted her new wool socks to the porter, who wore them as mittens, and the men continued on to reach the summit.

“After Papua New Guinea, we finally arrived in Australia, the whole reason we went on the trip,” she continued.

Arrival in Australia

The couple spent several days in the city of Perth, looking for a vehicle to take them to the cattle station, and Lee found a Russian vehicle that was 18 years old.

“I think we put 5,000 miles on it. We had to have it towed one time, and by the time we made it back, we had lost two gears and pretty much drifted in on our final drive,” she remarked.

After spending a month at a station known as Juna Downs, learning how to be a “jillaroo” and “jackaroo,” the couple found a job for the next eight months at another station known as Ashburton Downs.

“When we arrived at Ashburton, it was the wet season, so we couldn’t drive into the cattle station because the river was flooded. We had to leave our vehicle parked on one side, and they came and got us in a boat,” she described.

Chaney and her husband lived in an aboriginal hut, lighting a fire every day to get warm water, which meant they had to collect wood for eight months.

“A lot of the cattle stations over there do have electricity and air-conditioned units for their workers, but this was a pretty remote station, and they were just starting to get things going. From what I understand, the station is still like that today. It was a life changing experience,” she stated.

Work on the station

For the first three months, the couple built fence, completing 25 miles for one pasture.

“They call it Chaney pasture. Then we started mustering cattle,” she added.

Chaney and Lee were in their mid-30s when they arrived at the station in Australia, while most of the other help was in their young 20s.

“The boss, Andrew, didn’t think an old lady could do anything, so I was always on the rear of the cattle, pushing. One day, there was almost a stampede, and I was the one who rode out and brought them all back. Finally, I had proved that I knew how to work cattle and I knew how to ride, so my status elevated,” she noted.

Eventually, she was even given the privilege of being the lead horse, giving the cattle a target to follow as they moved out across the Outback.

“There were times I was going to leave the station, but Lee loved it,” Chaney explained, adding, “Almost every aspect of being over there – the time to appreciate so many things, not have distractions and be able to appreciate all of our loved ones at home – was such a life-changing experience.”

Returning home

When the couple returned to the U.S., they knew that they didn’t want to go back to dairy cattle, but they were interested in beef. They found an opportunity in Virginia, where Lee managed Angus cattle and Chaney kept stalls for Arabian horses.

That first step back in the states led them to a series of other adventures as well, complete with tough decisions and life-changing choices.

“If spending a year overseas taught us anything, it taught us that we have to face tough decisions. We have to draw our faith in God, make the decision and dare to make a life change,” she said.

Nebraska

Most recently, Chaney has relocated to Nebraska, with her husband and two daughters – a move she never believed she would make.

“Three days after we arrived in Nebraska was Snowstorm Q. Three days after we arrived, there were 17 inches of snow,” she commented.

Yet, the family has found themselves at home at their new location.

“When we moved to Nebraska, people really thought we were crazy and thought we would only last for a year. We’re coming up on three years,” she stated.

Chaney explained that what other people think or say should not be what drives a decision.

“We have to be brave, have faith and try to take chances in life,” she remarked. “When we were in Australia, it made our marriage stronger, our faith stronger and that all helped in making the transition to Nebraska. Most importantly, we dared to risk life change.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Glenrock – It started out with a rusted out oblong tank, some old barn wood and a few other odds and ends. While most people would look at these items and think dump, Jim Spragg saw something else.

“I’ve had a lot of hobbies over the years,” the Glenrock crafter explains. “I’m not a master at anything, but I dabble in everything.”

“I was involved in team roping when I was younger,” he explains. “We’ve always had horses, and I enjoy the western lifestyle and way of life.”

It makes Spragg sad to see that way of life disappearing more each day, so to help keep it alive, he finds ways to re-purpose old western items into something people can use.

The oblong tank, for example, became a western bench that has become so popular he can hardly keep them in stock.

Learning to create

Before moving to Wyoming, Spragg lived in California, less than an hour outside Los Angeles. While he was there, Spragg had a trucking business.

“I learned how to do things like simple mechanics and welding because I couldn’t always afford to have everything done for me,” he explains. “I’ve always liked making things with wood, and recently, I started blacksmithing.”

Spragg also enjoys working with leather and has made a few saddles.

“Anything I am interested in, I hope I can make because I can’t afford to buy it,” he says.

While in California, Spragg also spent 15 years working in a studio in special effects.

“I was always manufacturing or building something,” he says. “I was the black sheep in the area. I was into team roping and working in the shop and studio making things. No one else did things like that.”

“I always considered myself blessed to be able to have cattle and horses, even though I was only 35 minutes outside Los Angeles,” Spragg adds.

Trash to treasure

Making western décor really appeals to Spragg. He makes small serving trays from old barn wood and accents them with horseshoes and brands to give them an authentic western charm.

Spragg used to work with horses, buggies and wagons, so he has a lot of hames and harness. He uses old hames to make different types of racks, wine racks and lamps.

One of his more unique items is a floral arrangement designed with steer horns as the vase.

“My wife really enjoys making floral arrangements,” he explains. “When I used to team rope, I had access to steer horns, so I would polish them up and make wrought iron stands to hold the horns. The horns serve as the vase, and my wife fills them with flowers.”

Spragg has also used some vaquero-style saddle trees to hold the floral arrangements, which serve as table centerpieces.

“They became really popular for western weddings,” he explains.

Moving to Wyoming

Spragg says a business opportunity brought him to the wide open spaces of Wyoming. A friend had just been awarded a contract for a windmill project in the Glenrock area and needed a dozer operator.

Spragg jumped at the chance.

“I worked on the project for two years, and during that time, I fell in love with the area and the people. We decided to stay,” he says.

Home is now a ranch and shop in Glenrock where his daughter, Stephanie Blackshire, owns and runs the Platte Ridge Equestrian Center, which is a full service boarding and training center for almost 50 horses. She also offers lessons to all ages from the beginner to advanced.

The family also has a retail store called AV Tack, where they sell horse tack, gear and saddles. It also gives Spragg another outlet for his western décor.

Benches

“I just started making and selling the benches in November,” Spragg says. “I’ve made 21 so far, and there are people ordering them most every day.”

When they purchased the ranch, Spragg says there were eight rusted tanks there that he wondered what to do with.

“I hate to throw anything away, so I decided to cut one up and make a bench,” he comments.

The benches have become so popular Spragg says it’s hard to find rusted tanks to make more.

“I have started making some benches out of barn wood, and they seem to go over pretty well, too,” he says.

He also accents them with old tin, brands and other items he finds lying around.

“I’ve had a lot of customers ask if I have a pattern I would sell to make the benches,” he says. “Every bench I make is different. I come up with new ideas to add to each one like a rope border around the top or brass tacks on the arm rests.”

Custom work

Spragg does custom work, too.

“Some customers order items and want their own brand on it,” he explains. “When we go to trade shows, I have pictures of items I have made so customers can look at them and tell me what they want.”

The couple participates in a lot of trade shows in the Casper area, but a lot of their business has been by word of mouth. They also have a store website, AVtack.com, and a Facebook page where customers can see their newest items.

Preserving history

At the end of the day, Spragg feels good about his part in preserving western history.

“I’m a historical buff, and I feel like there are not enough people doing this type of art anymore. It is kind of a dying art, but there are a lot of people out there who still enjoy it,” he says. “I feel like the stuff I re-purpose is a major part of the history of America.”

Spragg comments, “I enjoy the history behind the items, and restoring history and re-purposing these items for someone else to enjoy gives me a lot of pride.”

Gayle Smith 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..