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Laramie – The University of Wyoming Ranch Horse Versatility Team started in November 2011 with six members, and they achieved top three national placings in 2013 in all of the events at ranch horse competitions. 

“The team is a recognized student organization with UW and is open to any student who wants to be involved,” describes Ranch Horse Advisor and UW faculty member Doug Zalesky.


Members of the team can compete in three different divisions, which consist of novice, limited non-pro and non-pro at the collegiate level of the American Stock Horse Association (ASHA). 

“The novice division riders don’t have to do as much as the limited non-pro riders or the non-pro riders in terms of demonstrating their cattle handling abilities,” states Zalesky.  

One competitive team consists of six riders, with two of the riders in the novice division, two limited non-pro riders and two non-pro riders. 

Currently the UW team includes of 15 active members who attend shows and compete. 

Within those three divisions, members can compete in four events that remain consistent from show to show and abide by ASHA rules. The events are ranch riding, ranch trail, reining and working cow horse, with some cutting involved at times.


“The judge scores each rider in each event with score sheets that have guidelines on them to deduct or add points for the various things that they are looking for in a particular event,” describes Zalesky. 

“Within each class, a contestant is judged on each maneuver on a zero to 10 scale. A competitor can do really bad on one maneuver but still do really well on all the other maneuvers and come away being competitive in the class,” explains Brian Moore, president of the Ranch Horse Versatility team. 

“The four classes, for the most part, are the same at shows, and members are not judged solely on a class as a whole,” adds Moore.

The ranch trail class is the primary class that may vary slightly with a different course and maneuvers. The judge of the class sets the course. 


The UW team competes in three to four shows in the fall and spring semesters in the surrounding states of Wyoming.

“We have an affiliate of the ASHA called the Colorado Wyoming Nebraska Stock Horse Association (CoWN), and we work most of the shows in the Wyoming area,” says Zalesky.

In April 2014, the UW team competed in their first National Finals, which was held in Loveland, Colo. 

“In the short time we’ve been in existence, we’ve done pretty well at shows and have remained competitive,” states Zalesky. “We’ve had a student that was the regional non-pro champion two years ago and another student who was the reserve champion limited non-pro rider.”

Being prepared

“Preparing for a show is never really a complete task,” states Moore. “We are always preparing, and there is always something for us to work on. We learn from the mistakes that we make at shows, and we take those mistakes and work on them at practice.”

The team works to continually develop their skills and improve from event to event.

“I think that each member of the team is always learning something new that they need to work on,” adds Moore. 


“Being a young group, we don’t have a lot of money, and the kids end up paying most of the expenses themselves, such as entry fees and travel expenses to shows,” says Zalesky.

The UW team partakes in a number of fundraisers to offset some of the costs. They help serve food at the Ag Day Barbeque the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources hosts in the fall, and they sell tickets and help out with the UW rodeo during the spring semester. 

“We are looking for funding and sponsorships, and all of the officers of the team have been working on creating a business plan for the team that we can take to various businesses,” comments Moore. “Right now, our goal is to be able to pay for a traveling team to attend shows – maybe even the College Finals that will take place in Oklahoma next year.” 

He continues, “We are a collegiate competitive team, and we want to have as many people as are able to join the team to do so. When we do go to shows, we compete at them as a team.”

Madeline Robinson 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..

Casper — As rodeo cowgirls at the 1959 College National Finals Rodeo, Wyoming ranch women Sally Shepperson Ramsbottom of Buffalo and Clara Sedgwick Wilson of Newcastle were among some of the first women to compete at the national event.
    Traveling to Klamath Falls, Ore. for the rodeo, they say a lot has changed in college rodeo, and rodeo in general, since their days on the road. The sport has gotten faster, the horses more specialized and the women’s events more numerous. Sally and Clara are among those college rodeo alumni who will be recognized during the June 14-20 College National Finals Rodeo in Casper.
    According to Sharon Adams with the college rodeo alumni group, the first women’s all around award was presented in 1951 to Jo Gregory Knox of Texas. Women’s teams began competing at the event at the 1961 finals in Sacramento, Calif. with the team from Sam Houston State winning the women’s team honors. Sally and Clara were also competitors at that National Finals held in Sacramento.
    The men’s team from the University of Wyoming — Frank Shepperson, Leon Cook, Al Smith, Fred Wilson, Jim Moore and Jerry Kaufmann — took men’s team honors at the 1961 rodeo. Members of the team will be inducted into the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in September of this year.
    Unlike today, Sally says competitors used the same ranch horse for multiple events. At the time women competed in two college rodeo events — goat tying and barrel racing. Heading down the road with a pickup pulling a two-horse trailer with the manger above and the tack compartment below, Clara says the University reimbursed them for mileage at a rate of 10 cents per mile.
    Sally says there were a dozen or so rodeos each year. Much like today, members of the rodeo team would travel to the rodeos on Friday and return home on Sunday. “Getting a college education was my top priority,” says Sally. Rodeos for the region were held in Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. Two of the rodeos were held in indoor arenas.
    “We didn’t have any practice facilities like they do today,” says Clara who studied physical education. The team did have Carrol Schoonover, a teacher in the college’s agricultural department, as an advisor. “We were on our own to practice,” says Clara.
    “I learned to goat tie on a chair leg in my dorm room,” laughs Sally, who studied biology in the College of Education at the University of Wyoming. “I’d never even had a hold of a goat.”
    Both the Sheppersons and the Wilsons have a long history at the CNFR. Clara’s husband Fred won the bareback riding in 1962 and was a member of the 1961 champion team from the University of Wyoming. Their daughter, Lonnie Farella, also competed at the event.
    Sally, who took fourth place for all-around in 1959, was one of many from the Shepperson family to compete at the event. Her brother Frank Shepperson won the steer wrestling championship in 1964 and her niece Amy Shepperson won the breakaway roping in 2000.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of 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..
Savery — Ladder Livestock is one of Wyoming and America’s premier sheep operations. Its founding tale, a story shared by ranch patriarch George Salisbury, is laced with work ethic and a commitment to remain on the land.
    George’s grandfather, A.W. Salisbury, came into the country seeking gold at Hahn’s Peak.  He and his partner decided that true wealth lay in raising horses.  A.W. and his wife, Anna Louise, established a ranch at the confluence of Battle Creek and the Little Snake River. Their oldest son, George Sr., bought the homestead across the road, built a barn and a home, and started a family.
    Salisbury’s tenure on his family’s south central Wyoming ranch began in 1921 when he was born in the corner bedroom of that house which he still calls home.
    Running horses and milking a half dozen milk cows, Salisbury says they worked their way through the Great Depression. He and his older brother, five years his senior, began picking up bum lambs from area sheepherders who historically trailed 30,000 sheep a year through the mountain country around Ladder Livestock. The brothers’ efforts built the foundation for what has become one of Wyoming’s leading sheep operations as proven by their high level of performance in the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative (MSLC). Ladder Livestock is one of MSLC’s founding ranches.
    “We could get about four lambs a day,” recalls Salisbury of the bums that were often too much of a burden for the herders who tended the large bands of sheep that grazed the surrounding area. Two wether lambs, he recalls, could be traded to a Rawlins rancher for a ewe.
    “We got 300 or 400 sheep that way,” says George. In 1934 he says he lambed over 300 head of ewes on a meadow on the opposite side of the river from his home. Age 13 at the time, he says the school district didn’t have the money to pay a teacher for the entire school year so he was out of school early. It’s 1934 that Salisbury counts as the family’s full-fledged entry into the sheep business.
    The family had gotten their start in the cattle business when fellow rancher Abe Stratton came by and offered Salisbury’s dad a loan. Despite the Salisburys’ uncertainty of their ability to repay the loan amidst times of economic instability, he says Mr. Stratton had a lot of faith in his father as a stockman. The cattle were branded with a double horseshoe until the note was paid. Since that time the cows and calves raised on the Ladder Livestock operation have carried the family’s Ladder brand.
    Looking back on years that were less than plush, George says he’s found receipts in his father’s old desk that show steers in Denver selling for five cents a pound.
    “I was 16 when I got out of high school and I went to CSU and took forestry and range management,” says Salisbury. “I was in one of the first classes where they gave you a major in range management.” At age 21, George was drafted by the U.S. Army and in 1941 sent overseas to World War II as a Second Lieutenant. Prior to his deployment he’d been involved in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).
    Upon honorable discharge from the military Salisbury says he went to work for the Taylor Grazing Service, the predecessor agency to the present day Bureau of Land Management. His service there, combined with the education he received at CSU, provided the knowledge necessary for the then-cutting edge management practices he put in place when he returned to the family ranch.
    “We’ve been practicing rotational grazing since 1954 or 1955,” says Salisbury. At the time, he says it took a while and a change in forest managers for the Forest Service to approve the proposed changes. Over the years he says they’ve expanded their forest permits as others in Carbon County have exited the sheep business.
    “We’re one of the last range operations in Carbon County,” says Salisbury. Several Peruvian sheepherders, with the help of the Border collies and the livestock guardian dogs raised on the ranch, are employed to tend to the flocks. Spending most of the year living in sheepwagons, a couple of the herders take to the higher country with tents to spend a portion of the summer months.
    “When I was a county commissioner,” recalls Salisbury, “there were 320,000 sheep on the tax roles in Carbon County. I bet there aren’t 10,000 left. Lots of sheep also came here out of Natrona County to graze.”
    Salisbury was a county commissioner, a position that he began in 1950 and required a 103-mile trip to Rawlins for meetings, for 20 years. “After that I was out of politics for a while and in 1974 I was appointed to fill a vacancy in the State House of Representatives. I survived that about 13 years,” he says. During his tenure in the legislature Salisbury played an instrumental role in formation of the Wyoming Water Development Commission. He also worked on the legislation directing mineral severance tax money into long term “trust funds” for the state budget.
    “After that Governor Herschler appointed me to the Board of Agriculture where I served for four years. Then, I came home and tended to my own business. I made a lot of friends while I was in the legislature,” says Salisbury. “I probably got more votes because I was Laura’s husband than because of me,” he says of his late wife of 63 years, Laura. “I had a wonderful wife.”
    “Forest health, from a vegetation standpoint, has improved,” says Salisbury looking back over his tenure on the ranch. “At one time it was overstocked.” From a timber standpoint, given the orange-covered hills of trees killed by pine bark beetles, he doesn’t believe the forests are healthier.
    Certain species of wildlife, particularly black bear, have become more numerous over the years. Salisbury says grouse populations in his area declined in unison with the tools available to manage the coyote population. “If they’d put a lot more effort into coyote control it would be a boon to the sage grouse,” he says. “As a kid, about once a week we’d have enough sage chickens to make a meal for the hay crew of five to seven guys.” Deer, he says, were most numerous in the 1950s when the state issued multiple licenses to return the population to management objectives.
    Ladder Livestock’s modern day story contains an equally thick thread of innovation and work ethic. George and Laura’s daughter, Sharon, and her husband, Patrick O’Toole, live and work on the Ladder Ranch where they raised their three children — Meghan, Bridget and Eamon.
    Meghan and her husband, Brian Lally, have returned to the ranch where they’re raising their three children. Meghan has added guest operations to the ranch catering to hunters, trail riders, fishermen and bird watchers. “The Battle Creek corridor,” says Sharon noting what appears to be a growing number of species, “has a lot of birds.”
    “I like the overhead,” laughs George of trail riding and the bird watching aspects of the operation.
    “Our son and his wife Megan are also back at the ranch,” says Sharon. The family is in the beginning stages of launching a landscape reclamation business. She says the sheep are brought into an area where they’re fed and contained to stomp in the organic matter. To date, she says the effectiveness of the livestock approach has surpassed traditional seeding and hydro-mulching.
    George is justifiably proud of his six-generation ranching operation.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of 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..
Mountain View — Quintessential American success story. Those are the words that come to mind after hearing Bridger Valley entrepreneur and community leader Howard Woody’s story. As a World War II veteran, a rancher and a pioneer in the telecommunications industry, Woody is a man who has repeatedly made admirable choices.
    Consistent with the “American dream” he personifies, Woody’s story is laced with commitment, generosity, community leadership, challenges, tough choices and a desire to do right by his family and his community.
    “I was born and raised in the Bridger Valley,” shares Woody from his office at Union Telephone headquarters on the outskirts of Mountain View in southwestern Wyoming. Woody’s dad and grandfather arrived in the area to work on the Oregon short line, a spur of the Union Pacific stretching from nearby Granger to the ports in Portland, Oregon.
    “They were able to save enough money that they could buy a little ranch here in the Bridger Valley,” says Woody. The original family ranch was located near Mountain View, but over the years was moved south to the Robertson area where it now exists as a cow-calf operation and a point of pride for Woody.
    “I was at Fort Lewis, Wash., Corvalis, Ore., and from there we went to Camp Carson, Colo. and from there we went overseas,” says Woody of enlisting in the Army after graduating from high school. Among the first to arrive on the beaches of Normandy in France, Howard recalls, “It wasn’t a pleasant situation.”
    He continues, “We were kind of fortunate. We landed and went up on Omaha Beach, through the rocks, the willows and the brush and they didn’t even know we were there until we were quite a ways up the mountain. We were in where we had a little protection. It was a tough go, but we won. We lost a lot of people, but we didn’t lose too many in our company. Some of the companies that came after us were almost wiped out.”
    “I enlisted before the war started. They were trying to get recruits to join the Army. I didn’t have money enough to go to college and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just go to the Army for a year, save money and maybe I can go to school when I get back.’ But, it was five years before I got back.”
    As Woody made his way back to the states, he says he just wanted to go home. “After five years of war I guess I kind of had a degree from the Armed Services. I just came home where I wanted to be and started building a telephone company.” Upon his immediate return he spent nearly two years working for the Union Pacific Railroad, a company that offered to fund his long-desired college education. (see sidebar).
    Woody’s father, John D. Woody, launched Union Telephone around the turn of the last century. “In 1914 he incorporated it,” says Woody, “but when I came back from the service he only had about 110 subscribers and that wasn’t enough to make him a living. They were all right here in this Valley. I could see it had to grow in order to survive.”
    After reviewing the books, Woody made a call to AT&T in what at the time was an effort to preserve telephone service in the community. “I called them and I got a guy by the name of Lyman Spalding, he was head engineer for Wyoming,” says Woody. “They sent him in to look the company over and we’d offered to give it to AT&T for a dollar. They came in and they drove all over and looked it over. They went back to Denver and we didn’t hear any more. I called them up and got Lyman Spalding on the phone.”
    The AT&T engineer told Woody that AT&T thought the company cost too much. “Boy that made me mad,” says Woody. “I told my dad we’re in the telephone business, we’re going to do it and we did.”
    It was time to borrow money and rebuild. “We built a dial system here when Rock Springs, Green River and Evanston were on common battery,” recalls Woody.
    The quest for growth, despite his father’s questioning, sent Woody on the path to the bank to borrow a half million dollars to fund the company’s growth. “My dad said, ‘You can’t borrow yourself rich,’” recalls Woody. “I said, ‘No, Dad, but we’re broke now and if we can borrow it we have a chance of making it.’” John Woody would sometimes remind his son of the advice, but in his elderly years his son recalls, “He was sitting on the porch one morning watching the sun come up. I went out and took him a cup of coffee and sat down. He said, ‘There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. About borrowing that money, you did the right thing.’ That took a lot of courage for him to say.”
    Howard says, “It’s grown to what it is today.” It’s now one of the 50 top employers in the State of Wyoming with around 300 employees.
    Growth opportunities have frequently been associated with challenges, but the Woody family’s tenacity has repeatedly won out. Woody relates one such story surrounding the construction of the dam at Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Union wanted to provide the circuits and telecommunications infrastructure for the dam, but a competitor company cautioned the Bureau of Reclamation that bonding would be wise since they believed Union was too small for the job.
    Woody set out to secure $125,000 in bonds; it’s a sum he says was quite hefty at the time. After finding little success in Salt Lake City, Utah he headed to Denver, Colo. where he found a bondsman who seemed likely to issue the bond. Woody stayed in Denver and visited the man’s office daily until he had the bond in hand. “I brought it back and took it to the Bureau of Reclamation,” says Woody. “We’re still serving that area.”
    First considering cellular phones in the late 1980s, Woody recalls that a young man who grew up in Mountain View and went on to be a colonel in the armed forces returned to visit. A former summer employee of Woody’s, he stopped by for a visit, posing the question, “What about this cell phone thing? Are you going to get into that?” Woody pointed out the equipment was costly and the return on investment questionable.
    “I kept studying it and thinking about it and getting all the information I could,” says Woody. “I got to thinking that here in Wyoming is where we need cell phones, not in Washington, D.C. or New York where there’s always a phone within a few steps.”
    Woody says, “I kept looking into it and I told my son, who was a graduate engineer, to go ahead and make the application. We did it and it worked and I still believe this is where we need cell service, out here in Wyoming.” That philosophy has been a driving force behind Union’s expanding presence in parts of Wyoming beyond the southwest corner.
    Of the state’s ranchers, Woody says, “It’s really important that people can call if something goes wrong.”
    The young man from Mountain View later returned to Woody’s office. “You must have changed your mind?” he asked. “‘Roger,’ I said, ‘a wise man will change his mind, a fool never will. I’ve had some time to think about it.”
    From ensuring the presence of telephones in rural homes to bringing cellular phones to areas where national companies see limited economic opportunity, Woody is a Wyoming innovator and pioneer.
    Jennifer Womack is staff writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Savery – In 1881, AW and Anna Louise Salisbury established the original Ladder Ranch near the confluence of the Little Snake River and Battle Creek. 

“Ladder Ranch has been raising cattle since the 1920s,” says Sharon O’Toole. “We also raise commercial sheep, horses and working dogs.”

Sharon O’Toole grew up on the ranch and now runs the operation with her husband Pat, son Eamon and daughter Meghan and their spouses. Daughter Bridget helps with promotion and communications.

This year, Ladder Ranch was selected as the 2014 Environmental Stewardship Award and Leopold Conservation Award winner.

“It is an honor to even be considered for the award,” says Pat. “We are very honored to receive the award.”

“The Ladder Ranch was chosen as the 2014 Leopold Conservation Award winner for many reasons, including the family’s ownership since 1881, their public service to ranching and Wyoming, proper grazing techniques and for the conservation easements that support long-term ranching and protect an extremely important big game wildlife corridors and significant water resources at the junction of Battle Creek and the Little Snake River,” says Randy Teeuwen, a representative of Sand County Foundation.

Sand County Foundation sponsors the Leopold Conservation Award. Peabody Energy is also a major sponsor of the award.

“Ranching is fortunate to have a creative and powerful voice in the O’Toole and Salisbury family that promotes the conservation values and benefits of ranching and private land ownership in Wyoming and the American West,” adds Teeuwen.

Jim Magagna, executive director of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, adds, “It is a real pleasure to have an Environmental Stewardship Award winner that is a family ranch that continues to bring the next generation into ranching.”

Conservation ethic

“I believe that there isn’t a contradiction between conservation and production,” Pat says. “As we look into the big picture of what we are trying to do on the land, it fits right in to what we are trying to do raising food.”

Pat adds that in looking to achieve balance on the ranch, rather than work for an extreme, they are able to accomplish more and balance conservation and production.

“My father always used to say, ‘Natural resources are too important to manage generically. They must be managed specifically,’” says Sharon. “It has always been the ethic in our family to manage our resources.”

Managing natural resources also makes financial sense, she adds.

“Growing up, I always took the landscape for granted, but if we take care of the land, it takes care of us,” Sharon continues. “Some years it is harder than others, but we try to keep things as healthy as possible while still making a living.”

Landscape activities

Ladder Ranch is involved in a wide variety of conservation activities, and their efforts extend to every aspect of the ranch.

Battle Creek was recently named an Important Bird Area by Audubon Wyoming, and the ranch is enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

“George Salisbury helped establish a rotational grazing system utilizing private and Forest Service lands in the 1950s,” explains Sharon. “We have continued this tradition, implementing rotational grazing on all parts of the cattle and sheep pasturage.”

Cattle and sheep are trailed from pasture to pasture, requiring extensive coordination and innovative thinking to keep the tradition alive.

Riparian areas

The O’Tooles have also worked with Partners for Fish and Wildlife, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Little Snake River Conservation District and others to improve their fisheries and irrigation practices.

“I am particularly impressed with the work Sharon and Pat have undertaken to address riparian issues on their ranch,” comments Magagna. 

Their efforts have included the instillation of rock and wood structures on Battle Creek and the Little Snake River, as well as installation of structures to divert water.

“Ours was the first major creek project in our community, assisted by the Conservation District and other public and private partners,” she mentions. “We wanted to demonstrate that conservation and production can go hand-in-hand and educate those from outside agriculture on the role that ranchers and farmers play in protecting natural resources.”

“There is no inherent contradiction between production and conservation” says Pat.

Conservation partners

In their conservation efforts, Pat notes that they partner with public lands agencies to make the largest impact.

“We’ve had so many great partners,” he comments. “We’re lucky to be in the right place at the right time to accomplish these goals.”

“We are utterly dependent on our public lands leases, so we work closely with the Forest Service and BLM,” Sharon adds. “They work with us and recognize that we are trying to do a good job on the landscape.”

One of the most important things the O’Tooles try to do is show up when issues are being discussed.

“If there is an issue, we show up so we can try to figure out how we can fix it,” Sharon says. “We never know what is going to come up.”

Continuing conservation

With a long history of conservation, Sharon notes that they will continue to manage the landscape and implement conservation measures.

“One of the things we are working on right now is a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) on sage grouse,” she explains. “We are part of the Sage Grouse Initiative, and our private lands are enrolled in the program.”

Because sage grouse are such a large part of managing their widespread ranch, Sharon adds that they have begun a mitigation project on their lands.

“Our largest contiguous piece of land is the best habitat that we have for sage grouse,” she continues. “We are working on the mitigation process because companies want to drill on our split estate lands.”

“The sage grouse has the potential to be the spotted owl of the Rocky Mountain West, so we continue to work on that issue,” Sharon adds.

Team works

Pat and Sharon’s work on the ranch is something they both remark couldn’t be done without the other.

“Our family prides ourselves on being a good team,” Sharon says. “We are really fortunate that two of our children are back on the ranch working with us, and their spouses are here, too.”

Each person working on the ranch is responsible for a different segment of the operation, but everyone works together to accomplish necessary tasks.

“Generally, Eamon has more of his responsibility focused on the cattle, Meghan and I work with the sheep and bookkeeping, and Pat works with every aspect, plus he is a good farmer,” she explains.

Sharon adds that every morning, the family has breakfast together to discuss ranch operations and keep in touch.

“It’s really key that everyone tells each other what is going on,” she mentions. 

Ranching pressures

The agriculture industry is facing challenges, says Sharon.

“Where we live is very rural, even compared to much of the state,” she explains, “and we are under tremendous pressure. The home ranch is very scenic, and we have lots of wildlife. We have a resort ranch up the road, and a nearby forest inholding has been subdivided.”
Ladder Ranch focuses on keeping lands as intact as possible while making a living and working with the different partners involved.

“It’s often said, ‘You shouldn’t love something that can’t love you back,’ but this place has taken good care of our family,” Sharon says. “It is our goal and responsibility to take care of it, as well.”

This summer, the Environmental Stewardship Tour will be held at Ladder Ranch. Look for more information in the Roundup in June. 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..

Involved family members

“Community and political involvement is something that was certainly modeled by my parents,” says Sharon O’Toole of Ladder Ranch. “Mom was a 4-H leader for 32 years, and she was a community leader. My father was a county commissioner, president of the Wyoming Board of Agriculture and a Carbon County Representative.”

The O’Tooles continue the family tradition and remain active in their community and within the state.

“Pat served in the Wyoming Legislature and is presently the president of the Family Farm Alliance, which represents western irrigators,” explains Sharon. “He is also an advisory board member for AGree, a national think-tank that grapples with food and ag policy issues in an international arena.”

Pat is also active in western water issues, and the family works with the Partners for Conservation and the U.S. Forest Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife—groups which advocate for private and public partnerships which enhance habitat.

At the same time, Sharon actively advocates for agriculture and natural resources through her blog at, and has been published in regional and national publications, including the Washington Post.

Pat and Sharon’s daughter Meghan Lally was the youngest member to serve on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, has served on the local Conservation District Board and was recently appointed to serve on the Wyoming Environmental Quality Council.

Meghan’s husband Brian is a Carbon County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Son Eamon O’Toole returned to the ranch after graduating from the University of Wyoming. His goals include improving the genetics and production of the cowherd, and he serves on the Carbon County Planning Commission. Eamon’s wife Megan is a registered nurse.

Bridget O’Toole, Pat and Sharon’s youngest daughter, works to help the family promote the recreation part of the business. Bridget’s husband Chris Abel works out of Denver, Colo. for Shamrock Foods in their meat department.

“Participation is an important part of keeping the community functioning,” Sharon explains. “There is a lot to living in a rural community. Everyone has to play a role and be involved.”

Ranching operation

Ladder Ranch is a balanced sheep and cattle operation.

“We believe rotational grazing of both species is the best way to manage our resources,” says Sharon O’Toole. “We pride ourselves on the quality of our cattle and sheep.” 

The operation runs primarily Angus cows and heifers that are artificially inseminated by Angus and Hereford bulls. They also raise replacement heifers.

Their sheep are Rambouillet ewes, and the O’Tooles raise their own Rambouillet and Hampshire rams, as well as the replacement ewes.

“Our lambs and calves are marketed to a natural market,” Sharon says. “We also raise hay and alfalfa to feed our livestock in the winter.”

Additionally, Ladder Ranch raises Quarter horses and Border collie and livestock guardian dogs.

“We like to say that we raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children,” says Sharon.