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Buffalo – Of being selected as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Environmental Stewardship Program recipient for the 2011 Leopold Conservation Award, Ryan Fieldgrove, who ranches in northeast Johnson County, says it’s a humbling and rewarding experience.
Sand County Foundation, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. present the state award each year. A selection committee composed of seven representatives from within Wyoming conservation and agricultural organizations chooses the winner.
“It is humbling to know that I am grouped in the same category as the past award winners and in association with this year’s finalists. I am honored to receive this award, as my goal and business focus has always been to operate a financially viable operation with conservation as a basis,” says Fieldgrove.
While Fieldgrove and his wife enjoy ranching as a way of life in which to raise their three children, their primary goal is to sustain and protect the asset passed on to them by Fieldgrove’s parents. That’s not an easy goal, considering Fieldgrove has worked full-time as an ag lending officer for First National Bank in Buffalo for the past 13 years.  
“We feel like we have implemented conservation practices that fit not only our area but also our management style. Everything we do must either save us time and labor or save us money. I can pinpoint one or the other in all the practices on this ranch in the last 10 years,” he notes.
“When my parents retired just over 10 years ago we were given the opportunity to take over a portion of our family ranch. The catch was that we also got the debt. We figured out a way to make it happen, even though we knew it wouldn’t be easy,” says Fieldgrove. “I knew a good conservation plan would be a part of our attempt to take over the ranch.”
He says his first idea of conservation came when he realized that the most successful ranches seemed to be those with grass left over each year.
“Their cattle were in better shape, and their calves were heavier. I also saw that growing up on this ranch – it seemed like when we had a good grass year, everything did better. If that is the case, then grass is something that must be managed,” he explains. “I started paying attention to stocking rates and pasture utilization at that point.”
In 1999 the Fieldgroves’ mission to control the noxious weed leafy spurge began, in effort to better manage their grass resource.
“The weed had been a problem all of my life, and it didn’t seem like we were making any headway. We had always sprayed and did the traditional chemical applications to reduce or eradicate it, but it never worked. We’d gain one year, then shortly thereafter it would be back,” he says.
Fieldgrove says he’d heard of using goats or sheep to control weeds, and he decided to give them a try.
“The first year we went to Texas and purchased some crossbred Boer goats, and we built a test plot of about five acres in heavily infested leafy spurge. We thought it would take a couple months for the goats to do their work on the weeds, but it only took 10 days. They stripped every bit of plant matter and didn’t touch any grass. It was apparent that goats control weeds,” he comments. “It definitely did damage the spurge, and almost controlled it.”
The following year the Fieldgroves developed a project that included their ranch, neighboring ranches and 500 goats for the summer. Test plots were again set up, and again the results were positive.
Through the next five years the Johnson County Weed and Pest helped offset the cost of test plot fencing and a herder to look after the goats. Aerial spraying and biological control using flea beetles were also used in some areas.
“A drastic reduction in leafy spurge occurred, and native forages began to come back,” says Fieldgrove. “We consider the goats a constant and successful tool in controlling the weed and rejuvenating native grass species.”
Although the control of weeds has been a success, the goats haven’t been without their challenges for the Fieldgroves.
“Ten goats seem manageable, but 500 goats is a different story. The first year we thought we would kid 500 goats in January so they’d be old enough to turn out on the weeds in May. Someone forgot to tell me that goats kid like antelope. One day you don’t have any, and the next day they’re all done,” says Fieldgrove.
“That first year I tortured my family and friends, trying to figure out what to do with 500 goats that kidded in 10 days – with mainly triplets – when we only had jug space for 50. While this may have been entertaining, it was a fiasco that wouldn’t be repeated,” he states. “The next year we tried kidding in June in the hills and on the weeds. That year it was very hot and dry and the nannies ended up abandoning many kids due to drought, or they couldn’t remember which sagebrush they were hidden beneath.”
Fieldgrove says that year the fattest eagles in Wyoming were seen on their ranch.
“We finally decided raising that many goats wasn’t within our management ability, so we resorted to buying feeder and replacement goats, which we resell each fall, and that finally worked,” he says.
By the seventh year the Fieldgroves decided to see if fewer goats would work without a herder and that is where the ranch sits this year, its tenth year, with a herd of 100 free-range goats equipped with GPS collars to monitor their location and browsing habits.
“It’s been fun to see the success, because it’s a lot of work. It was very expensive, and a lot of trial and error with different types of goats, and we finally found something that we think is manageable for a labor standpoint, and they truly do manage the spurge,” he adds.
Throughout those years a priority area was created and an EQIP contract established through the Lake DeSmet Conservation District and the NRCS, which paid for the majority of a major cross fence and an incentive payment for rotational grazing for three years.
“The incentive payment helped us afford the improvements to our ranch headquarters, and we were also able to make some improvements to our existing stock watering system,” says Fieldgrove.
Following that, the conservation district asked the Fieldgroves to participate in a Sage Grouse Habitat Improvement Program.
“We decided to participate through additional cross fencing to balance the grazing rotation around leks and brood rearing areas. In addition, we did some rangeland recovery through pasture aeration, a grazing plan was created and we now manage grass and pasture rotation with the idea of improving sage grouse habitat and staying out of their way during crucial times of the year,” he explains, noting that they also added escape ramps to their water tanks.
“Participation in this program has actually allowed us to increase the stocking rate of the ranch, as our pastures are now more efficiently utilized,” he says of the benefits. “This also saves us time and labor, as the cattle are concentrated now and we can better manage bulls and overall herd health.”
However he says a grazing plan is only as good as its variables.
“We knew the plan had to be flexible, but the first year with our cross fence we experienced the worst drought ever and had to sell 100 pairs in the spring. The remaining cattle simply overgrazed the draw bottoms and didn’t touch any of the hillsides, and that is where I learned about the balance of proper stocking rates and that less isn’t necessarily best.
“The next year was good, but the third year entailed the worst grasshopper infestation ever. Rotational grazing was pointless, as the grasshoppers didn’t abide by the plan.
“I quickly learned that rotational grazing works in theory, but the uncontrollable variables can make the worst of the best plan. Nonetheless, it is a mindset and a strategy that we will use as a tool for grazing management,” says Fieldgrove.
“The ranching way of life has provided my children with an education that can’t be replicated. It is my hope that they will understand that you can’t take everything without some form of repercussion. Sacrifice seems painful at the time, but it sure feels good when you finally reap the rewards, and most everything in life requires give and take until you find the right balance,” says Fieldgrove of raising kids on the ranch.
“Programs continue to develop for conservation practices as both agencies and the general public recognize the importance of sustaining natural resources,” says Fieldgrove. “I’m sure we will continue to participate if they make sense for the operation.”
Fieldgrove says he is grateful to receive the Leopold Conservation Award.
“It is my hope that all agriculturists are categorized as conservationists, and that the public looks favorably on our contributions to protect all our natural resources. I look forward to sharing my story further and hosting a ranch tour this coming summer. Until then, I have some fence to stretch, some cleaning up to do and some praying for a nice green backdrop when everyone gets here.”
Christy Martinez 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..

Beaver Rim – When Tom Abernathy’s father began putting the family ranch together in 1962 he started with a few cattle and a sheep outfit south of Lander, later adding Tom’s current location below Beaver Rim in southern Fremont County.
“He worked for ranchers in the Glenrock area and always wanted his own place,” says Tom of his dad. Tom has lived at his location, which used to be the Haley stage stop, since 1974. “It fit right in with the sheep ranch we already had, which was all the way around it.”
Tom says the family operation started with a few milk cows crossed with beef bulls. “He started building a herd and bought a few cows. The place he leased south of Lander had a 90-head permit, and he bought a few Herefords, too. He bought the sheep ranch four or five years later and ranch sheep until the spring of 1973, after which he built on the cow herd.”
A big component of the Abernathys’ operation is the Green Mountain Common. “We have one of the largest cow permits there, part of which we sold and lease back from the LDS Church,” says Tom of the ranch on the Sweetwater River purchased by his dad. “We later did a land exchange for winter range north of there, because the Church really wanted that location, which was the sixth crossing on the Sweetwater. After the BLM harassed us so bad and made us herd our cattle in imaginary boundaries, I was ready to sell, or do something, and it was a good opportunity for winter range. But now we’re still leasing it 13 years later.”
Tom says time has not changed the ability to reason with the BLM. “We still don’t have a valid plan. We’re operating on what they call the ’99 Decision, which has a lot of goals, and one of them is to rotate through the imaginary boundaries and pastures, using stubble height as criteria.”
Tom says last year the permittees did have some success with stubble height, as well as this year. “But they started the plan during the last 11 years, and part of those were the driest years in the last century, so we really had a tough time and only used 36 percent of our permit.”
The BLM had said if permittees would mitigate a permit and not use very much, they’d be moved up on a permit sooner after the drought. “Which isn’t the case,” says Tom. “But we are running 60 percent this year.”
Technically there are 19 permit holders in the Green Mountain Common, but Tom says many are consolidated, so there aren’t 19 different outfits running cattle.
In addition to extreme dry years, Tom says wild horses have been another challenge in living up to the BLM’s goals. “They’re a real problem. They gathered several hundred two years ago, which helped our stubble height last year, but it doesn’t take long for them to get their numbers back, and they’re always hovering right over the appropriate management level, which is frustrating.”
He says two years after the ’99 Decision the permittees weren’t allowed to turn out until June 15, and that year he went up to turn on a well project and found the ground covered with horse manure. “We took pictures and measured with a ruler, and the stubble height was already down below three inches,” he says of the horses’ affect. “I went over the hill to look at the next riparian area, and there they were.”
To get the herding accomplished, permittees in the Green Mountain Common have to hire herders. “They want us to have three people on just the west side, which is five cattle permits and one sheep permit. We have two guys out there this year,” says Tom, adding their herders are locals. “That’s costing us well over $2,500 per month, which is split between permits on that portion of the allotment, of which I hold 55 percent.”
Of the cowherd, Tom says his family runs mostly Angus now, still transitioning from Hereford. “The last three or four years we’ve sold our calves on video with Superior, and this year we went with Northern. It’s expensive, but that’s ok if the market’s up.”
Tom says his area is good for winter country, as there’s quite a bit of wind to open it up. “And, we’ll usually be about 10 degrees warmer than Lander, on average. In the winter of 1978/79 we were about the only open spot in Fremont County. A lot of people refer to it as the ‘banana belt,’ but it can be aggravating with the wind.”
The Abernathys don’t have to feed a lot of hay in the winter, but they do bale the ranch’s meadows and purchase some hay. “It’s a nice place to winter, if you can find a nice place in Wyoming,” he comments.
Tom and his wife Millie, a schoolteacher, have a married daughter Avery, who lives nearby with her husband Joshua Anderson and their son Joshua. Tom and Millie’s son Rhett is on the ranch. Rhett’s degree in range management from Chadron State has led to his responsibility for the monitoring on the ranch. “I’m turning the monitoring with BLM and NRCS over to him, because one guy just can’t do it all. He can’t run a ranch and be here and there,” says Tom.
“I really like living 27 miles out of town,” says Tom. “Our closest neighbor is two miles away, and I like the freedom, open space and being able to do my work at my own pace.”
Although he likes his area, Tom says federal agencies have become so much more intrusive into their everyday lives. “As ranchers we used to get together and talk about ranches and cattle, and now all we can talk about is bureaucracy, the agency people, BLM, DEQ and whoever. When the Mormons bought that place, I should have bought an all-deeded ranch in eastern Wyoming or Nebraska. But everyone says I’d miss the mountains. I like the fact that we’ve got so much room here, and that it takes five to seven acres per month for a cow and a calf.”
Christy Martinez 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..

Worland – It’s no secret that the average age of farmers and ranchers in the U.S. is continuing to creep upward, and that getting involved in the industry isn’t easy.
    At WESTI Ag Days in early February, a panel of young and beginning producers, as well as industry representatives, provided advice from their experience for young people interested in getting started in agriculture .
    “If this is what you want to do, go for it,” said Worland area farmer Steven Snyder. “Get involved in ag, and get involved early.”
    “This is the optimal time to step in and take off,” said Basin area farmer Chris Bolken. “Interest is good and commodity prices are good.”
A good education
    A good education was noted by multiple panel members as being high priority, both in the classroom and on the ground. Ag business, farm and ranch management, accounting and computer classes were among the top classes recommended for beginning producers.
    “I think the biggest plus about college was the bookkeeping end of it,” Snyder added. “It’s pretty confusing, but you need to be able to understand it and see what you are doing.”
    He also recommended taking advanced soil science classes and ag economics to learn about markets and risk management.
    “I advise kids to take business, farm and ranch management, record keeping, macro and micro economics and accounting. Take as many business class as you can,” explained Northwest College Livestock Pavilion Coordinator Quin LaFollette. “Many kids know how to do chores, but very few know about the business side of things. There is more money to be made in the business side.”
Practical experience
    “You learn a lot of the bookkeeping in college, but the day to day operation you learn from hands-on work on the farm,” said Snyder, adding that often times other producers are willing to help out.
    “It’s a good idea to get out there, and, if you know you are coming back to production, try to get a summer job that exposes you to a lot of different producers and operations,” suggested Worland area farmer Vance Lungren, Jr.
    Management skills are also important, noted Bill Morrison of the Farm Service Agency, who said that operations couldn’t get by without cooperating with employees like truck drivers and hired help.
    “I’ve had several producers that have problems strictly with keeping employees,” Morrison said. “In large operations, you need to know about the management of employees.”
    Bolken added that continuing education is also important, and new things can be learned in lots of places. Utilizing UW Extension educators and programs, as well as other classes held around the state, is helpful, and neighbors and operations across the state can also help new producers learn.
The money
    The financial aspect of starting an operation proves to be challenging, and while education is necessary to being successful, Morrison also added that student loans and bad credit could be detrimental to a beginning operation.
    “Start putting a nest egg away so you have some cash to get started,” he recommended to students.
    “Short of winning the lottery, it’s tough to get started,” added LaFollette.
    LaFollette’s advice for people interested in getting started was simple – be realistic.
    “We have a lot of kids come to Northwest College, and a lot of them are fairly unrealistic about their approach,” he said. “Make sure that it’s what you want to do.”
    Getting over-extended financially is a concern, and Snyder commented, “You have to prioritize your first year in farming – you can’t buy everything.”
    He also added that renting equipment from neighbors or family members is a good option. Lungren added that new producers should plan on purchasing used equipment.
    “Unless you have a huge operation, you can’t buy a $300,000 tractor and make it pay,” he said. “You can find some good used equipment out there. There are also some lease programs that are advantageous if you are just starting.”
    Government subsidies and funding for projects can be helpful, and Snyder noted that the government is a big part of the financing for operations. However, with the recession, producers have been receiving fewer subsidies, and some of the funds are drying up, said Lungren, adding, “Farm Bill programs are vital.”
    “With the new Farm Bill coming out, those funds may be changing,” explained Sherri Foust of the Wyoming LEAD program. “We don’t expect to see payments go up, rather we expect to see them go down.”
    Morrison, however, noted that the Farm Bill is primarily food stamps and nutrition programs, and he forecasts that those segments of the bill will only continue to increase at the expense of agriculture. He also added that changes in policy like sugar tariffs or wool incentives could affect producers.
It’s about relationships
    “Young people have to have some sort of a relationship with neighbors or farmers or someone who is willing to lease you land and give you a chance,” said Morrison. “It takes a little bit of knowledge and know-how.”
    LaFollette added that some of the brightest moments for producers are when they can help new or young farmers get a leg up.
    Snyder also encouraged young producers to not be afraid to ask questions of established farmers because their experience can be very helpful.
    A positive relationship with government entities is also important, and Lungren said that cost-share programs have been very helpful for his operation, helping to implement both irrigation improvement and new technologies to improve practices.
    “I’m a first generation farmer,” said Bolken. “The big thing is knowing someone that you can rely on, having a passion for dirt, being outside and for all the elements. It can be done.”
    “If you want to farm or ranch, you need to set goals, and work your way towards those things in baby steps,” said Morrison  “It can be done, and I’ve seen some phenomenal things out there. It is possible.”
    “I think the future of ag looks pretty good, and I think we will see more younger producers getting involved,” commented Lungren. “There are opportunities right now.”
    Saige Albert is editor of they Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lander – The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has leased their Red Canyon Ranch to Rhett Abernathy and Garric Martin. The cousins will be running a cow/calf herd on TNC deeded land, as well as the adjacent state and federal leases.

“We’ll continue what TNC has been doing here,” Martin says. “One of the draws to this place is that it’s not going anywhere. TNC does not want to sell it, and they’re looking for a long-term relationship with someone.”

“We do conservation really well, and we do ag production less well,” says John Coffman, TNC Southern Wyoming land steward. “TNC is not set up well procedurally for us to take advantage of buying feed or selling cattle at the right time. We had the satisfaction of raising high quality beef with Red Canyon.”

Coffman continues, “By leasing the ranch out, we will continue to do so and have the opportunity to partner with ag producers and keep working landscapes productive, as well as free up TNC staff to do more conservation work. In some respects, we are gaining two new land stewards with Rhett and Garric.”  

Identifying opportunities

TNC utilized the Wyoming Agriculture Owner Network (WAGON) to identify young producers and guide the application process for finding lessees for Red Canyon Ranch. 

Martin and Abernathy were selected based on their references, community support, access to winter ground and comparable lease bid.

“All the folks applying were young producers,” Coffman says. “We’re trying to conserve not only the land but also the livelihoods of ranching and farming. The average age of a rancher is 57, and there are not a lot of young folks coming in on the lifestyle. The land prices alone keep most people from being able to do so.”

Abernathy and Martin have a five-year lease on Red Canyon Ranch and TNC’s cattle, maintaining the TNC herd to hold the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lease and are also bringing their own herd into the operation.

“We will re-evaluate the lease in five years, and Martin and Abernathy have an option to extend it,” Coffman says. “I would like to see them out there for 15 to 20 years.”

“If this is just a stepping-stone for them to get their own place, then we’ve met our objectives to support young producers, as well,” he says. “If they end up staying out there, the conservation value increases with long-term lessees.” 

Working out an agreement

“The negotiations were a lot more than the price of the lease,” Martin says. “TNC wanted someone who would live here and take care of the ranch like it was their own.”

He also notes that the opportunity to work with an organization with goals aside from the financial piece is exciting.

“On other land we have leased, the highest bidder got it,” he says. “It is nice to work with somebody who has more goals in mind than the rent check.” 

“TNC holds this place in high regard, and it is nice to be a part of it,” Abernathy adds. “We won’t be changing much as a Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) team manages the grazing rotation. We’ll be working closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish, Forest Service and other lessees.”

Management

TNC recently increased irrigation infrastructure, and Abernathy and Martin are hoping to be able to irrigate the meadows to their full potential. TNC partners with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to irrigate meadows along Red Canyon Road for winter elk habitat on the same system as TNC’s deeded meadows.

Martin and Abernathy, along with two other lessees, will be rotating the common herd every 21 days to a new pasture based on the CRM plan.

“There are around 20 pastures on the rotation but no fences,” Abernathy says. “We’ll be riding a lot to keep them from going up early, to keep them off certain places and then to keep the herd from coming off the mountain too soon.”

TNC has retained Travis Lucas to ride this summer with Abernathy and Martin. Lucas has been riding for Red Canyon for over five years and brings his familiarity of the pastures to the new lessees. 

“We are going to need to get a summer under our belts to see how things operate,” Martin says. “TNC hasn’t been keeping heifers, but we’re going to start doing so and culling out the older cows.”

He adds, “We’ll keep improving the quality of the cattle, the same as our own. We’re always looking to improve and trying to get better bulls and replacements.”

Conservation focus

While Red Canyon Ranch is now leased to Abernathy and Martin, the CRM will remain the governing body. TNC is the private landowner and also has its conservation goals for the land.

“Red Canyon is not just a ranch,” Coffman explains. “There are certain things we spend money on that wouldn’t make fiscal sense if a producer was trying to make a living off the place. Our budget cycles are strange and don’t work well with ag markets. With the lease, we get a flat fee every year, and it will make conservation project planning easier, as there will be an established income.”

“If TNC hadn’t bought this place then it would have sold to a developer,” Martin says, “and it would have houses all over it like the rest of Red Canyon. TNC cut the number of cattle that run on it, but it’s still a viable ranch, and they want to keep it that way.”

Martin continues that TNC leases most of its Wyoming land for grazing, and he’s gained perspective on TNC’s goals in working with the organization since the summer of 2013.

“They have been real good to work with,” Martin says. “They want us here and to succeed with cattle.”

“TNC is conservation-oriented,” Abernathy adds, “but they are keeping the ranch intact and in ag production. They want to show that a sustainable ecosystem and keeping the integrity of the land is possible with good grazing management. We’re for the same thing.”

Melissa Hemken 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..

SIDEBAR:
Classroom for many

The Red Canyon Ranch hosts educational activities for all ages. 

This summer, the Wyoming Conservation Corps will be doing wildlife-friendly fencing and invasive species control. 

Garric Martin and Rhett Abernathy will also be working with a rangeland intern through a partnership The Nature Conservancy has with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts.

“This is a great place for people to learn and experience ranching,” Abernathy says. “I remember when I was in high school, we would shock fish and do range classes out here.”

 

 

LaGrange – Dennis Thaler’s family started ranching in southeast Wyoming in 1916, and today, Thaler continues the ranch as the third generation on the property.

  “What started as a 320-acre homestead has grown into a 20,000-plus acre farm and ranch,” says Wayne Tatman, a former University of Wyoming Extension educator. “Dennis took the reins of the operation in 1965, when the ranch’s goal changed from buying more land to improving what they had and optimizing their natural resources.”

Thaler, his wife Sandy and his daughter and son-in-law Brandy and Kevin Evans, run the ranch, which will celebrate its centennial this year. The ranch runs a cow/calf/yearling operation, along with a backgrounding feedlot.

They also raise small grains, oats, millet, wheat and alfalfa-grass hay.

Lex Madden of Torrington Livestock Auction adds, “Dennis has been a leader and mainstay in many ways in Goshen County throughout his lifetime.”

In recognitition of his leadership and service to the agriculture industry, Thaler will be inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame Aug. 17 during the Wyoming Ag Hall of Fame picnic, held in Douglas.

“Dennis has been a driving force for agriculture in Goshen County and the state of Wyoming for more than 28 years that I have worked with him. He has been involved in many different aspects of agriculture,” adds Steve Brill, retired supervisor of Goshen County Weed and Pest.

Ranching accomplishments

“Dennis, like his uncle and father, has been an agriculturalist, innovator, conservationist and top-notch manager in every sense of the word,” Tatman comments. “He has improved his natural resource base several fold by his efforts to implement integrated management systems to both improve the production of the land base to run more cows while also improving the land resource, enhancing wildlife habitat and conserving and improving the environment.”

Thaler has utilized a variety of available programs to improve water resources and implement new grazing systems that encompass a holistic grazing management philosophy.

Madden adds, “Dennis and Sandy have worked to improve the genetics of their cattle and consistently top the market with their livestock.”

Teamwork approach

In his ranching career, Tatman says that Thaler has worked with a variety of organizations to improve his operation, including the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Weed and Pest and more.

“Maybe one of the most impressive aspects of his management philosophy is that he practices a systems approach, whereby his management team consists of everyone involved in the operation, in addition to other stakeholders,” Tatman explains. “A teamwork approach is truly practiced and utilized to plan and implement management decisions.”

In recognizing his work on the land, Thaler and his family were awarded the 2006 Environmental Stewardship Award, a regional and national award, and he is a member and co-chair of the Goshen County Coordinated Resource Weed Management Program.

Example for the community

While he spends much of his time on the ranch, Thaler is also actively involved in the community.

“In looking at the size and scope of the Thaler operation, one of the most amazing impacts it has on the community, county, state and region is that the family is readily willing to share all their experiences with everyone – from school kids and teachers to fellow producers, agency officials, research personnel, commodity groups and others,” Tatman says.

Robert Ward, a LaGrange rancher who grew up with Thaler, continues, “Dennis is definitely one of the most civic-minded people I know. He has set the bar pretty high for the rest of us on more than one occasion, and his commitment is highly evident throughout his ranch.”

The Thalers host tours, field days and workshops on their operation regularly to inform others about their practices.

At the same time, Thaler has been involved on a number of community boards and is a member of county, state and national organizations, including the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts, Wyoming Stock Growers Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. He was also instrumental in founding the Wyoming Private Lands Grazing Team.

Next generation

Tatman and others also recognize that at the same time he improved the ranch, Thaler also worked to pass it on to his family.

“Dennis has worked tirelessly to improve the graze-ability of the ranch to be able to pass it on to future generations,” says Madden. “He is working to do this by bringing in his son-in-law Kevin Evans to take over the ranching operation.

Big impacts

Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank says, “Dennis is one of those quiet guys who makes a big difference.”

She continues, “He is an example of a thoughtful leader and a true conservationist. He is dedicated to the industry through and through.”

“He is an innovative, sound thinker, as well as a risk taker,” Tatman comments. “A manager on the cutting edge that readily accepts challenges and risks, Dennis is a mover and shaker, a solid businessman and an exceptional manager of natural resources, livestock, crops and human capital.”

Saige Albert 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..