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Powell – After B.J. Griffin decided to go back to college to get a business degree, she came out with both a degree and plans for a successful business.
    “In order to graduate, I had to run a bogus business for a capstone project,” says Griffin. “After I was done, my instructors encouraged me and said, ‘You should do this for real.’”
    In 2007, Griffin launched her business by making a pair of pink chaps, complete with a breast cancer awareness ribbon and the Wrangler logo. Her talent for leatherwork and passion for cancer awareness, however, were developed long before.
    “I’ve been working with leather since I was in seventh grade with 4-H projects,” she says, “and cancer has been a really bad major part of my family.”
    Griffin lost both of her parents and her brother to cancer, and she notes, “It is something that is near and dear to my heart to help people that are sick and to help their families if I can.”
Tough enough?
    Griffin’s business, Leather Design, has partnered with Wrangler to increase cancer awareness. She donates a portion of her profits to area charities, local cancer charities and Big Horn Basin Women’s Wellness, and tries to help local efforts.
    “We’ve started working with a couple of rodeo committees that are involved with Cowboys Kickin’ Cancer, too,” says Griffin, mentioning that the benefit raises money for all types of cancer. “They auction a pair of multi-colored chaps every year at the Colorado State Fair to benefit the organization.”
    On a larger scale, Griffin recognizes the importance of research efforts, but says, “I don’t want to play with the test tubes. There are quite a few big corporate efforts supporting research, and I want the money generated from these chaps to help people who are sick. That’s a big thing with me.”
    For anyone who orders a pair of chaps, Griffin keeps materials on hand to assemble chaps, but she also has a pair of pink Wrangler chaps she lends out.
    “They have been to Alaska, and Miss Rodeo Florida wore them for a couple of weeks,” she says, adding that each person who wears the chaps signs and dates them, and they will likely be auctioned in the future to benefit cancer charities.
A family affair
    Griffin’s son Jake, who has been professionally competing as a saddle bronc rider for almost 12 years, also wears her chaps to promote the cause. Jake is also a part owner in the business.
    “Jake wears the chaps for two years and writes where he rode in them,” says Griffin. “Then, we auction them off.”
    Jake’s chaps are donated to a rodeo committee they select and proceeds go to local cancer charities.
    “The chap auctions put money in their own communities,” she explains. “In Riverton, last year they brought $55,000 to the Tough Enough to Wear Pink fund.”
    Since the beginning of her business, Griffin says some rodeo committees have been buying chaps for auction for six years, and over $350,000 has been generated from the sale of chaps and chinks at various auctions.  She has sold cancer awareness promoting chaps to Miss Rodeo America, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Colorado State Fair and others.
Special projects
    One particular story that Griffin is passionate about is that of Tacey Raulerson of College Station, Texas. As an infant, Raulerson was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye. After numerous chemotherapy treatments, both of Raulerson’s eyes were removed to prevent spread of the cancer.
    “Tacey’s mother emailed me and told me her story,” says Griffin. “I thought, I have all of these spare pieces, so I’m going to donate these chaps to her.”
    Griffin says that, at only 13 years old, Raulerson travels around the country, attending rodeos, visiting children in hospitals and raising funds for cancer charities.
    “Tacey is completely blind, but she goes around to rodeos, packs the flag and runs the barrels,” adds Griffin. “She is an amazing child.”
    “There are a lot of different stories,” says Griffin. “If I can be a part of making a difference, even if it’s a few dollars, that’s why I do what I do.”
More than chaps
    Griffin’s business extends beyond simply crafting pink leather chaps; she has launched a line of make-up bags recently and makes a variety of leather goods.
    Custom chaps and chinks, as well as accessories and home décor items, make up the rest of her business, and Griffin encourages people to contact her with questions or ideas, noting that she creates a wide range of products, all satisfaction guaranteed.
    “I’m a perfectionist,” says Griffin, “and the whole time I build a pair of chaps, I am thinking about the person they are for. A lot of my heart goes into every pair of chaps.”
    Visit Griffin’s website at leatherdesign.net to contact her or see her work. 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..

Thayne – Shane Crook, fifth generation dairy farmer, carries on his family’s tradition in beautiful Star Valley. 

Surrounded by the Salt River Mountains, straddling the Wyoming – Idaho state line, the area was often called “The Star of All Valleys” by early pioneers. 

Long history

Shane Crook’s great grandmother, pioneer Annie Crook, moved to the Wyoming side of Star Valley in 1910. William and Annie Crook’s sons, Lyman and Newell, purchased the dairy in about 1950. Lyman’s son, Ronald Crook, purchased the dairy from his father and uncle in 1993, and Shane purchased the dairy from his parents, Ronald and Barbara Crook, in 2011. 

Shane enjoys life in Star Valley, and the intricacies of the dairy. 

In 1998, he earned a degree in agriculture and soil science from Ricks College – now Brigham Young University-Idaho. He then studied aerospace engineering at Utah State University, and earned degrees in finance and economics. His wife, Michelle, earned a master’s degree in economics. The young couple decided to settle in Star Valley, agreeing it’s a great place to raise a family.

Much has changed in the dairy industry in Star Valley over the past 100 years. 

Changing times

Ronald explains, “Twenty years ago, there were 150 dairies – the largest with 30 to 40 cows - and about 10 cheese factories in this valley. There used to be eight small dairies on just the land we farm now. Then, they all took their milk to the cheese factory in Thayne. Now, all the milk is trucked to Idaho.”

“It’s cheaper to produce milk in other places because of warmer climates and better access to feed,” he continues. “Many farmers here have sold out. Now we’re down to about 10 dairies in the valley.”  

Shane adds, “We are over three times bigger than the next largest dairy, milking about 175 head of cows and running about 400 total animals. We’ve started expanding, because we have to make it worthwhile for the truck driver to haul the milk. This spring, we added 36 cows from another dairy in the valley, and we plan to buy more.”

Selling milk

“When the dairy cows are milked, the milk is pumped into large tanks. The milk temperature has to go down to 40 degrees, and then stay below 45 degrees,” Shane explains. “We can legally hold the milk three days, but the truck comes every other day to haul the milk to Idaho.”

He continues, “We sell raw milk to Sartori Company in Blackfoot, Idaho. They produce world-famous, award-winning cheese.”

Sartori is an artisan cheese company, focusing on hand-making great cheese. Sartori’s SarVecchio Parmesan earned Best of Show honors at the 2009 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, then First Runner Up in 2011. The company’s Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano recently took third overall in the 2001 World Cheese Awards.   

Every other day, a truck arrives from Sartori to pick up and transport milk from Star Valley. Back at Sartori, the truck driver tests milk samples for antibiotics before unloading at silos. If there are traces of antibiotic in the milk, the entire truckload is discarded before entering the silos, and the dairy submitting the milk has to pay for the entire truckload of milk.  

“We don’t use rBST hormones,” says Ronald Crook. “We sign papers to that effect.” 

Shane adds, “That’s consumer driven. Pediatric groups say it’s fine, and that adding the hormone does not cause problems for anyone drinking the milk. Cows produce it naturally, but certain groups have made it seem like a bad thing.”

High quality

Crook Dairy is a Grade A facility, meaning the milk is of highest quality, and can be used for fluid milk, cheese or any other dairy product. 

“We drink the raw milk here ourselves,” says Shane, “so we keep everything very clean, and we keep our cows very healthy.” 

He believes, “A healthy, happy, comfortable cow is a productive cow.” 

Cows at Crook Dairy produce about 60 pounds of milk per cow each day.

 If a cow is sick, she is milked separately. Her milk does not enter the tanks, but is used to feed the calves. She may be treated with antibiotics, but that milk never comes into contact with the milk headed for Sartori. 

“It has to be withheld for a certain time,” Shane explains, “Milk is withheld continuously once antibiotic treatments have been administered, and for 96 hours after the last of three treatments.” Sixty days before calving, the cows are pulled from the milk string and rested. Twenty-one days prior to calving, they are moved into the barn and watched more closely. After calving, cows and calves are given medicines and drenches, and separated after a few hours.  

Increasing efficiency and safety

Traditionally, cows are milked from the side. Crook Dairy cows are milked twice a day from behind to increase the number cows milked at a time. 

“It takes less space to milk cows from behind than side-by-side,” Shane explains.

Every two years, dairies are inspected according to federal regulations for cleanliness and high standards in the facility, water, machinery and the milk. 

“The guidelines are very strict,” Shane describes. “They check everything and want to know if the cows are stressed or sick. They make sure the cows are clean. They ensure we have a good, safe food supply.” 

In addition to the federal inspection, Wyoming dairies are inspected every six months.

Family ties

Crook Dairy is a family business. Shane Crook owns the company and keeps records of each cow at the dairy. His wife, Michelle, takes care of the financial records. Prior to their purchasing the dairy, Ronald kept the dairy records, and his wife, Barbara, tracked the financial records. Barbara has bottle-fed the calves for 20 years.  She considers herself their surrogate mother.  

Shane is glad to call Star Valley home and says, “It is a good place to raise a family. In fact, Donnie and Marie Osmond’s uncles had a dairy just across the road. You go away to school, and in the summer time you come back because you just can’t get the valley out of your system.”

For more information, contact Shane Crook at 307-883-6444. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup may be reached at 307-250-9723 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Casper – Dave True has been an active advocate for agriculture and the beef industry since he went to his first National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) meeting in 1978 and says, “I’ve been engaged with the national association ever since.”

Through his tenure, True has served in multiple roles within NCBA and has been involved in all aspects of the organization.

“I’ve been engaged through several different aspects of the organization over the past 35 years,” True says. 

Leadership involvement

True has served in numerous capacities at NCBA since the late 70s, culminating with his most recent post as treasurer.

“I’ve served in multiple roles, whether as a member or chairman of task forces, special purpose groups or standing committees,” True notes.

He also served as vice chairman and chairman of the Marketing Committee, chairman of the Resolutions Committee for several years and has been active in other aspects of the organization, as well. 

In the first year of NCBA, after the National Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Industry Council of the Meat Board merger, True served as policy regional vice president of the organization and remained in that position for a total of four years.

“A little over three years ago, Bill Donald, who was the incoming president of NCBA at the time, called and asked if I would serve as treasurer,” he continues.

After accepting Donald’s invitation to serve NCBA, True also served as treasurer under NCBA President J.D. Alexander.

“Most recently, Scott George asked me to continue serving as treasurer,” he comments. “I’ve served in the treasurer’s role for three years.”

His term ended in February 2014.

Varied experience

With the chance to serve as leadership, True notes he has seen the unique opportunity to be involved in oversight of both divisions of NCBA.

“The treasurer is one of four officers that serves over both divisions of NCBA – the federation division, which is the Federation of State Beef Councils, and the policy division,” True explains. “That gives individuals in those roles the opportunity to see the many facets of the industry.”

Looking at both the promotional and research side of the industry that can be seen in the Federation and the advocacy side with the policy division, he says, “It has been rewarding for me to be able to serve in that capacity over the entire organization, as compared to just one division.”

In his additional experience also serving on the Wyoming Beef Council, True notes that he’s had exposure to both facets of the organization.

“An advantage that I’ve enjoyed over the years is being able to look at both divisions and serve in both,” True says.

Wyoming influence

Each of the four officers who serve NCBA has the chance to bring in the values from their home state and region. 

“This past year, having Scott and I both in that group of four was an advantage for Wyoming,” True says. “It certainly gave Wyoming producers the opportunity to have a conduit both ways – in the form of feedback from the national organization and input to the national organization.”

Wyoming’s influence on the national level will also continue, True says, with Philip Ellis jumping into the president-elect position and Scott George serving as the immediate past president.

“Wyoming still has great leadership in that organization,” he adds. “In the last several years, we’ve had the benefit of great influence through the volunteer leaders who have contributed their time.”

Moving forward

While True’s term as treasurer is complete, he says he will remain active in the beef industry at both the state and national level.

“I’ll continue to be involved in both the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) and NCBA,” he notes. “I’ve served on both the WSGA Endowment Trust Board, and I’m currently serving on the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.”
He hopes to continue serving on both boards into the future.

“Quite honestly, there is a double-edged benefit to continue being involved,” True comments. “From my perspective personally, I truly believe the industry has given me and our family great benefits. I’ve really enjoyed that part of my life.”

As a result, True says he feels it is appropriate to give back to the industry that has been important to him and his family.

“The other side is that I’ve made some great friends and acquaintances through the organization, whether they come from Wyoming or other states,” he says. “I’ve had the real benefit of getting to know people in this industry.”

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..


SIDEBAR:
Beef industry challenges

Dave True, immediate past treasurer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, sees several challenges moving forward in the beef industry, but most notably, he targets consumer perceptions as the make-it-or-break-it factor. 

“From the consumer perspective, we have to look at health and safety issues going forward,” he notes. “We have to make sure that we, as an industry, are constantly out in front of the consumer demonstrating the wholesomeness and safety of the product.”

Because of the increasing number of organizations working against agriculture, True says, “We can’t turn our back on that arena. It would be devastating in the long-term for our industry if we don’t make the investment to be out in front of the consumer, educating them about the product we have to offer.”

The consumer arena is one of the major challenges to the industry.

“On the production side, we also have environmental pressures,” True says. “Regulations fall in that same basket.”

 

Casper – Casper-native Pat Thomas has worked for UPS for 31 years, starting as a seasonal driver in Rock Springs. Today, he works as Senior Vice President for State Government Affairs for the company and serves as the 2016 Chairman of the America Trucking Associations (ATA), an organization that works with congressmen and women from across the U.S. in an attempt to improve the trucking industry.

“Every state around the country has an association that supports the trucking industry, and ATA is our national association,” Thomas says. “This year, I’ve spent traveling around the country with ATA.”

Issues

The trucking industry faces many challenges, says Thomas, including F4A and hours of service.

“F4A, or the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act is a bill that says the federal government pre-empts states from doing anything that would affect rates, routes or services for trucking,” Thomas explains. “The idea behind it is that there would be a uniform set of rules and regulations as is relates to those three things so we didn’t have a patchwork of 50 rules, regulations and laws around the country.”

However, states have started to attempt to enforce their own regulations.

For example, California has implemented meal and rest period laws, as well as what they call a piece rate.

“A great deal of our industry pays their drivers by the mile, so rest and meals are baked into that figure,” Thomas says. “When the driver gets to a shipper, sometimes they have to wait half an hour until the dock is free, for example. California says that when drivers are doing non-driving work, they have to be paid an hourly wage. That’s already included in the mileage rate.”

In addition, Thomas notes that such a system increases the complexity of payroll.

“We may say this is just a California problem, but the reality is, there are 28 other states that have similar laws on the books that could be problematic later,” he says. “We have to get this wrestled in.”

Currently, ATA is working with Congress to clarify the meaning of F4A.

Funding

In addition to concerns about regulations, Thomas notes that highway funding is still an issue.

“We did get a five-year highway bill passed, and State Departments of Transportation took a big, deep breath when that happened,” he says, noting that a long-term bill provides funding certainty to enable projects.

Thomas continues that it is important to have a predictable source of funding to plan for the future, and, while the bill isn’t as much as the industry has hoped for, it is much-needed funding.

“This money doesn’t solve the problem,” Thomas comments. “Most people think we’re about $1 trillion behind in infrastructure development over a decade.”

Infrastructure challenges also introduce concerns like congestion on highways, which costs the industry $49.6 billion a year in lost productivity.

“We are losing $50 billion a year just from sitting in traffic,” he says. “What does that really mean? That’s the equivalent of 265,000 truck drivers sitting idle for a year.”

The bill however, does introduce some positives, included a targeted freight program, which strives to reduce bottlenecks.

“We’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do for funding looking forward,” Thomas comments. “We’ve got to figure it out, and we’ve got to start now.”

Hours of service

Another challenge that is making some headway was a requirement for drivers to have 34 hours off, including two nights between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. every 168 hours.

“Essentially, that puts everyone off on Saturday and Sunday and throws everyone on the highways at 5:01 on Monday morning,” Thomas says. “That doesn’t sound like the safest way to fix our hours of service problem.”

In an attempt to improve safety, Thomas notes that ATA lobbied Congress to roll back both provisions.

“Most people think accidents happen at night, and that’s not true,” he says. “Most accidents happen in the daytime, typically in the morning, so Congress agreed to take out the requirements for breaks between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.”

Thomas continues, “Unfortunately, there was a drafting error in the bill, and instead of reverting it back to 2011 like we wanted, it reverted back to 2003. That is not good.”

Currently, ATA is working to address the problem with Congress.

Another component of the hours of service is  electronic logging devices (ELDs), which applies to specialized carriers, including livestock haulers. A final rule related to ELD requirements was issued in December 2015, with compliance required by Dec. 18, 2017.

While concerns about new technologies have caused concern within the industry, Thomas says, “Technology has advanced so far. ELDs are as easy to run as a smart phone, and drivers tend to really like them.”

The ELDs replace traditional logbooks.

Safety

As an additional top priority for ATA, safety hits the top of the list.

“When we think about our mission at ATA, our number one objective is safety,” Thomas says. “Our job is to do everything we can to help our carriers be the safest we can possible be. We’ve had really good success.”

The efforts of ATA and the trucking industry have resulted in a decline in truck-involved fatalities by 30 percent in just raw numbers.

“Keep in mind that, at the same time, we have more than doubled the number of miles that we drive,” he comments. “Since 1980, the truck-involved accident rate per 100 million miles driven has fallen by 70 percent. That’s real progress.”

“However, there’s still 3,400 deaths per year, which is 3,400 too many,” He continues. “It’s important that we understand the progress we’ve made, but we also have to understand that we must continue to do more.”

Small business

The reality of the trucking industry is that 90 percent of trucking companies across the U.S. have 20 trucks or fewer.

“That figure surprises many people,” Thomas says. “This is an industry of mom and pop outfits. We move a lot of freight, and the forecast is that we will move substantially more over the next two decades.”

However, to continue to operate, Thomas adds that the challenges facing the industry must be addressed in a way that keeps the industry viable.

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.

Dayton – At age 13, Sara Hagel unknowingly stumbled on her future career when she started twisting high quality horsehair ropes.
    “My dad is a saddle maker, horse trader and, at the time, he was ranching,” says Hagel, noting that he taught her the trade. “I wanted a summer job, but it was a long drive to town so he suggested I started twisting rope.”
    “I started twisting rope, and it wasn’t that bad,” she adds. “It was actually fun, so I kept doing it.”
Putting it all together
    Hagel’s horsehair ropes, or mecates, are put together in a variety of patterns and colors, and she starts with mane hair sent from around the country.
    “I’ve gotten hair from friends that know I build rope, and I have had hair sent to me out of the blue,” she says. “First, I have to wash the hair. It needs to be clean, because it doesn’t spin well if it isn’t.”
    Hagel sorts the horsehair by color and shade and runs it through a machine called a picker, which is similar to a wool carder.
    “The picker separates the hairs and makes them nice and fluffy,” she explains. “After I have a nice bun of hair, I spin the threads – just like spinning wool into yarn.”
      Each 24-foot-long, five-eighths-inch rope requires 15 threads that are about 75 feet long and require 15 minutes each to spin. After spinning the threads, Hagel starts the plying process, or putting the threads together to make the final rope.
        “It’s time intensive,” she says, noting that it takes between one and two hours to put together the final rope. “I really like hair work because nothing is really set in stone. It’s always different and I’m learning new things every day.”
Homemade equipment
    In 1995, Hagel acquired a rope-twisting machine that was built in 1929 for a man blinded in a mining accident.
    “Blind Sam Champlain built rope on this machine for 30 years,” says Hagel. “Then he sold it to a man named Bob who was blinded by brain tumors. When I got the machine, I had to replace the motor on both ends, and we replaced all the sprockets in back.”
    Other than minor replacement parts, her machine is identical to the 1929 model. Hagel utilizes the two-ended machine to twist ropes in a climate-controlled shop. When she is twisting rope, Hagel notes that it is important to monitor both the humidity and temperature of her shop.
    “If the humidity gets too high, the hair starts to absorb moisture, and it does weird things,” she explains. “The ropes don’t go together right, they don’t lay right, and they don’t feel right. I learned this all by trial and error.”
Advantages of a horsehair rope
    Hagel’s ropes are used as reins for snaffle bits and rawhide hackamores.
    “The theory is that the prickles on the rope start to teach the horse to neck rein,” says Hagel. “The reason that I like them is because they have a whole different feel.”
    The dynamics of the rope are different than synthetic ropes, according to Hagel, who notes that the twisted nature of the rope allows them to move more easily.
    “They have a life of their own. They want to coil and jump from one hand to another,” she explains. “A braided rope can’t do that because the strands are crossed over one another.”
Leather endeavors
    Hagel also builds strap goods and saddles as part of her business, also based on a suggestion from her father.
    “After I started making ropes, Dad said, ‘You should probably make some slobber straps,’” she mentions. “I started cutting out a few slobber straps and decided that, if I was going to do that, I might as well make a headstall or two. It grew from there.”
    She strives to build functional equipment, including spur straps, headstalls, saddles and hobbles, and she repairs damaged equipment.
    “The economy is hitting everyone in the leather business hard right now, and I’ve noticed that I’m not getting as many orders for new stuff,” she notes. “Instead, I’m getting calls for replacement pieces.”
Marketing mecates
    Hagel notes that she started marketing her hair ropes at a Buck Brannaman horsemanship clinic.
    “It was one of the first clinics he did in Sheridan, and I visited with Buck there,” she says. “I showed him some of the ropes that I had built, and he took almost half of them.”
    After that, calls started coming in from around the country from people looking for Hagel’s ropes.
    “Buck liked them well enough and used them, so he told people where to get them,” explains Hagel. “I don’t advertise – it’s all just word of mouth, and I’m out about a year and a half on orders.”
    She also attends the Californios Ranch Roping each year in Reno, Nev. to sell her work and meet existing customers from around the country.
    “That’s where a bulk of my customers are,” says Hagel. “It’s really the only time that people can walk in and buy one of my ropes because I stockpile them for that event. Everything else is special order.”
     Visit mecates.com to see Hagel’s work or to contact Hagel. 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..