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Producers

Albin – By the time the Malm family made it from Sweden to southeastern Wyoming in the late 1800s, much of the land in the area that contained water and streams had already been homesteaded. There was land east of Albin, however, that appeared to be relatively flat, without too many trees.

Settling Wyoming

“The drawback was, when they started to build, they had to haul water with teams and wagons, and they had to sled logs in from the hills north and northeast of the place to build with,” explains Andy Malm, great-grandson of the original Malm homesteader.

Wells had to be hand-dug, and the family faced a lot of obstacles, but they established their homestead on the plains.

“The advantage was, they got some land, but the disadvantage was, they faced some hardships,” Malm says.

Before long though, the operation was producing workhorses and sheep. In 1951, Malm’s father bought Hereford cows, beginning the cattle part of the operation.

“This was an old sheep ranch that Dad built into a herd of registered Herefords. That turned into what we do now, which is primarily raising bulls to sell private treaty,” he notes.

Developing quality

Malm Ranch now produces Angus, Red Angus, Simmental and Simmental-Angus bulls, in addition to their own composite breed known as Carcass Master.

“About 25 years ago, Dad saw the need for improvement in the carcass and end product,” Malm remarks.

Data from taste tests at the time revealed that beef was an inconsistent product, and consumers indicated that half of their beef eating experiences were not enjoyable.

“We started searching and using our registered lines of cattle for crossbreeding to raise a superior product for the plate,” Malm notes. “From that aspect and from work done at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay City, Neb., we ventured out to find a way to produce a better product and a better steak for the plate.”

Marketability

Looking at the work they have done, the Malms believe that one of the most desirable steers comes from a cross between Angus and continental breeds, resulting in an animal with both high carcass quality and cutability.

“We try to produce an animal that improves a producer’s herd and the end product of their steers using our registered herd and our composite breeds,” Malm says.

“We also try to sell natural cattle that return the highest profit on a grid basis. Our end goal is to make sure ranchers don’t leave any dollars on the table and that they can sell these cattle on the grid and get the most profit potential that’s out there,” he continues.

Family partnership

Although they are two separate entities, the Malm family operates one ranch in Albin and one in LaGrange.

Gordon and Fanny Malm currently reside at the ranch near Albin, as do their children Martha and Howard, along with Howard’s wife Dixie and their four children – Timothy, Bethany, Cassady and Jessica.

Lynette (Malm) Hunter and her husband Ken help when needed with the Albin operation while Malm, his wife Stacy and their three children – Katelin, Karissa and Kaden – take care of business in LaGrange.

“At Albin, the ranch merchandises about 80 to 90 coming-two-year-old bulls annually by private treaty,” Malm comments. “We sell bulls, females and also semen by private treaty.”

Although the family used to host a Hereford bull sale, they found that private treaty sales better met the needs of their customers looking for sets of similar sires for their operations.

Range-ready bulls

“We try to put together a group of bulls that are genetically similar and phenotypically similar, and that’s why we sell them private treaty,” Malm explains.

Most sales are geared toward two-year-old bulls, which are sound and ready to do their job out in the conditions of the Wyoming range.

“We always have bulls for sale at private treaty, and we enjoy trying to help ranchers achieve their goals and change their profitability,” he says.

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

Carpenter – Each year, June celebrates National Dairy Month and the producers who work hard to bring tasty dairy products to the table everyday. From their operation near Carpenter in southeast Wyoming, Burnett’s Dairy works hard to contribute Grade A milk to the market.    
Burnett’s Dairy is run by Jeff Burnett, his wife Kim and brother Jay. Jeff’s children, Layne, 8, and Reese, 11, also help out.
“This was bare ground in 1998,” says Burnett, adding that they built a feedlot and started custom feeding cattle later that year.
“We started milking cows at a small dairy in Colorado in 2004. We moved to Carpenter in September 2005, so it’s been six years now,” says Burnett.
Burnett didn’t grow up on a dairy farm, but rather a cow/calf ranch in Colorado. His grandparents, however, had a dairy farm.
“Now, we’re irrigated farmers, feeders and in the dairy business,” says Burnett.
Burnett’s Dairy owns about 3,000 cows that circulate through the milking parlor three times every day.
“My mom’s parents got up to 60 cows in their operation,” says Burnett. “They couldn’t fathom that we were going to milk 2,500 or 3,000 cows.”
“We also have a full replacement herd, so there are 2,500 to 3,000 replacement heifers on feed at all times, plus whatever we have for beef cattle in the feedlot. That’s a lot of beating hearts,” says Burnett.
For the Burnetts, a typical day doesn’t exist.
“First thing in the morning, I have to get everyone organized,” says Burnett. “But there are different tasks planned for each day.”
“On Mondays my wife goes out with the ultrasound crew. Wednesday we have a hedging meeting where we look at margin control and commodities and lock in our feed prices. Thursday I breed cows, and Friday we have meetings with our consulting veterinarian and nutritionist,” says Burnett.
The hands-on nature of the operation keeps Burnett and his family very tied to the farm.
“I think the most unique aspect of our operation is that we are in our cows a lot. We are so hands on. You get busy with paperwork, financing and government regulations, and it’s hard to stay caught up with the production side of things. Our milk cows are still our number one profit center, so one day a week I’m in the cows. Every Thursday, no matter what, I still go and AI cows.”
“We also farm about 3,500 irrigated acres and do some custom feeding,” says Burnett.
Burnett’s Dairy is a self-sufficient operation, complete with milking parlor, feedlots, recycling facility and feed mill.
As cows leave their pens, they head to the milking parlor, which operates 24 hours a day. The double 35 parallel stanchions allow 70 cows to be milked at a time, explains Burnett.
The milking procedure is complicated, starting with an iodine dip to kill any bacteria on the udder. Next, cows are fore-stripped and dried, and each cow is dried with a clean towel to ensure sanitation. Fore-stripping allows Burnett’s crew to check for mastitis, stimulates oxytocin let-down and milk production. An automatic take-off milking machine milks each cow, and computerization allow Burnett to know and record how much milk each cow produces.  
“Every cow wears a computer chip on their neck with a number. The computer records how much milk each cow produces at every milking,” he explains.
After the cow has been milked, an iodine-based post-dip is used. This dip has various lotions, and is specific for the weather.
“We have one for if its cold or muddy. Or if its really cold, we just use a powder, and we need to make sure there’s enough to make a little droplet on the end of the teat, because it takes about 15 minutes for the orifice to completely close,” says Burnett.
The milk runs through pipes powered by vacuum pumps and through filters, then it is flash cooled to below 40 degrees and stored in large tanks.
“The cows milk about 70 to 80 pounds a day, so that equates to about 220,000 pounds of milk a day. We produce about 4.5 semi-loads of milk every day,” says Burnett.
“We also test every load of milk before it goes for antibiotics. All milk is antibiotic-free. It is also tested for antibiotics three to five more times after it leaves,” he adds.
Every time the cows are milked their pens are completely flushed and cleaned to remove all debris. The wastewater goes through a recycling facility to settling ponds, and the recycled water either goes to pivots for irrigating fields or to flush out the pens again. Manure is composted and blown into pens once a week as clean bedding.  
The cows in the dairy herd are kept primarily in barns, and later lactation cows go outside to open lots until 60 days before they calve, after which they’re moved back indoors to the close-up pen.
Calves are taken to a calf ranch at one day old and heifers return at 150 days and will start milking at two years old.  
“After calving, cows go to the fresh pen,” says Burnett. “The first 10 days after they calve, we have a stethoscope on their side and rumen, and we have a thermometer in them.”
Burnett’s passion for his operation is apparent in the care he takes with his animals, and herd health is top priority.
“We have top-quality feed and we consistently monitor cow comfort,” says Burnett.    
“One of the things a little different about the dairy industry is that we monitor our cows on an individual basis. When that cow needs to be vaccinated, we vaccinate. We don’t vaccinate the whole herd at the same time,” he explains.
The operation’s customized feed plan is determined with a consulting nutritionist. Feed rations include a variety of ingredients, from flaked corn and soybean meal to beet pulp, cottonseed and minerals, and is mixed in the feed mill on site.
Burnett’s brother Jay runs the feed mill, where a stationary mixer in one corner is attached to a computer that tells the loader operator what to put in. The computer also adds eight different ingredients, microbes and two liquid ingredients.
At the end of the whole process, Burnett’s Dairy produces milk that goes to both cheese factories and milk processing plants. The operation runs smoothly, but it’s a very demanding job, says Burnett.
“The scary thing is that every day, we single file 9,000 cows, and it doesn’t matter whether its 40 below or if the wind is blowing 60 miles per hour, you still have to show up, somehow,” says Burnett.
The demanding nature of the job means not many people want to run dairies anymore, explains Burnett.
“Those of us who do have to milk a lot of cows,” says Burnett. “It’s how we keep milk prices down and keep cheap food in America.”
“If we want these cows to take care of our family, we take care of the cows,” says Burnett.  “We take the responsibility to do a good job. We’re feeding America, and our family’s priority is to make a top quality food product.”
Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – “I don’t have a background in agriculture, and neither does my family. When my husband Kem and I moved back to his family’s ranch four years ago I really didn’t know what I was going to do, or how I would contribute out here,” says Washington state native Shelly Nicolaysen, who today owns and operates Cole Creek Wool from her home northeast of Casper. She sells her Rambouillet and Rambouillet/Merino cross wool as yarn, roving and raw fleeces.
“Right after we moved back we docked the lambs. A couple days after docking, Kem’s sister came back from checking the sheep with this little lamb that was on death’s doorstep. She was leaving in a few days and I remember thinking ‘I can’t watch this lamb die.’ Today Bones is very much alive and one of my coated sheep,” explains Shelly of her introduction to the sheep business.
Later that same summer “Bonnie” and “Clyde” joined Shelly’s herd of bum lambs after their mother died.
“Clyde is a wether and when fall came I didn’t have the heart to ship him. Kem’s relative Sharon Brondos is a spinner in Casper and while visiting one day she mentioned that our ranch has really good wool, but it’s dirty, and that’s a problem for hand spinners. She said some people put coats on their sheep to keep the wool clean and that hand spinners will pay a premium for those fleeces.
“That was my way for Clyde to stay on the ranch. I started coating my sheep and it’s worked great. People like the wool and it’s soft and clean,” explains Shelly of how she started coating her sheep.
When Shelly moved to Wyoming she knew nothing about wool and Sharon provided her with several books. Shelly’s in-laws also helped her learn the ropes.
“The first year I read all about wool and learned from Kem’s family. They know a lot about wool from the commercial perspective and are a really good source of knowledge. I learned what the markets for my product were and what a good fleece looks like among other things.
“My father-in-law has a great eye for fleece and he really helps me out at shearing. I’m starting to get more confident, but he will still lean over and nudge me with, ‘Hey, better grab this one’ sometimes. His wife does a lot of hand felting and knows a lot about wool, too. She’s a big help and also very excited about my business,” comments Shelly.
Her increased interest in wool spurred her husband and father-in-law into introducing Merino genetics into their straight Rambouillet herd as a way to bring their wool’s micron count down.
“When we first moved back the herd averaged 21 microns. Today we’re just starting to see the Merino influence and our count is down to between 19.5 and 20 microns,” explains Shelly, who sorts out the choicest fleeces during shearing and reserves them for Cole Creek Wool. While these fleeces are considered “dirty” from a hand-spinning standpoint, Shelly sends them to Mountain Meadow Wool mill in Buffalo for processing. This is her second year processing fleeces and the added roving and yarn products have been well received.
“They do a great job, and I am able to tell them what I want done with it. Some they clean and card and send back as roving and some I have them spin and turn into yarn,” notes Shelly. This year she sorted out just over a dozen fleeces to be processed. One challenge of her business is determining how many fleeces she needs to meet demand each year.
“I’m always worried about having too much and right now I’m sold out of yarn and having to wait for this year’s to be processed. Figuring out supply and demand has been a big challenge. I am only familiar with the sheep side, so the crafting side is something I’m still learning about. Having the commercial herd gives me a huge amount of flexibility. I can grab extra fleeces and if I don’t have the demand for them they can go in the bale the following year,” she notes.
Another challenge for Shelly has been pricing her products. Since she is a low-volume producer, her processing fees are considerably higher than if she was high-volume.
“Figuring out how to price everything was tough because it seemed insanely expensive, partially because of my processing fees. I was pretty uncomfortable with that at first, but people are willing to pay because of the quality of the wool, the fact that it’s made in Wyoming and because Mountain Meadow does such a beautiful job. I was very doubtful initially but am learning people are willing a pay a premium for my product,” comments Shelly.
Her coated fleeces are marketed through Sharon, who is involved in several spinning forums online. “I let her know when I have a fleece available and she puts a post on the forums,” explains Shelly. Cole Creek Wool roving and yarn is currently available at Dancing Sheep and All That Yarn in Casper, Cowgirl Yarn in Laramie or through Shelly.
“Our next step is building a website. This has been a pay-as-you-go business and hopefully this summer we can get a website up and running. Then I will use that as my primary means of marketing,” says Shelly.
Another goal she has is adding to her coated flock. Now that she has an established market for those fleeces she would like to add a couple more ewes to her current six with coats.
“Next year during lambing we will probably grab a couple ewe lambs and bottle feed them. We’ve tried grabbing a couple off the range herd and coating them, but that didn’t work,” says Shelly with a laugh. “They found their way back to the herd and we had to go catch them and get the coats off. So bottle feeding a couple and ensuring they’re easy to handle is the way we will go.”
Cole Creek Sheep Company has raised sheep northeast of Casper for over 100 years and Shelly’s business adds another dimension to the century-old operation.
“It’s been really interesting to watch Cole Creek Wool and our commercial sheep enterprise. The two have supported each other well and there’s no competition between them because they’re using two totally different wool markets. We’re continuing to get better micron counts each year in the commercial herd and having those numbers allows me a lot of opportunity.
“It’s been great. I like marketing it as an all natural, all Wyoming product. I’m trying to get the word out there that Wyoming wool is incredibly high quality. Right now I just want to do more with it,” says Shelly.
For more information email Shelly Nicolaysen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Upton – Myla Mills’ great grandfather homesteaded the family ranch in Upton on what is now the X Ring Ranch. Recently, she moved back onto the place to transition into management of the operation with her husband.

“We’re proud of the fact that the ranch has been in the family for over 100 years,” states Myla’s husband Justin Mills. “We want to ensure that it continues to get passed down to the next generation and that we establish a method of ranching that is profitable.”

In traditional agriculture, he sees that many families remain in the industry because they enjoy the lifestyle but make sacrifices like working in town to support the operation.

“If we want to continue to see agriculture be a viable entity in the future, as it always should be because it provides the food and fiber for our society, people have to take practical approaches from a business perspective for how they want to run their outfits and operations,” he explains. “It should be more about long-term thinking.”

Grazing

The X Ring Ranch has traditionally been a cow/calf operation, and Myla and Justin have some of their own pairs on the place. They are also starting to do custom grazing for additional income to help the ranch run and function.

“One of the things we are in the process of doing is turning into a more high-intensity, rotationed grazing system with our whole operation, and there are multiple reasons for that. Number one, we feel it is what will be the most beneficial, helping to keep the land in a very healthy and natural reproductive state,” he says.

Improved pastures should also increase carrying capacity to increase the profitability of the ranch.

“We are transitioning from a very traditional system with cattle in a pasture for 20 or 30 days at a time to more of a rotational, high-intensity grazing where we split pasture up into paddocks and move livestock every five to seven days,” describes Mills.

Calving

The couple is also transitioning to a later calving season, starting May 1, to reduce input costs.

“About five years ago, we moved to April 1 calving, and this last year, we moved a little bit later to go back to when our cows need the most nutrients. It’s the same time grass is coming up. It can reduce our input costs and make things work,” Mills notes.

For the livestock they own, the Mills’ goal is to produce cattle that require minimal inputs.

“There isn’t one particular breed we are going to focus over another one, but we want cows to average around that 1,100-pound mark. We want something that is pretty functional and doesn’t require a lot of input costs into in the wintertime,” he comments.

Reduced inputs

Due to the grasses that grow at the X Ring Ranch, the Mills believe they can adapt their management to minimize additional inputs for their cattle throughout the year.

“Knowing that there are things that we might sacrifice calf weight, the idea is to have very few input costs and reduce to almost zero hay fed in the wintertime,” he continues. “We want to utilize the grass we have.”

The Mills reviewed the numbers as they make changes from season to season.

“In any business, we should always run the numbers. If it doesn’t work on paper, we can’t expect it to work in reality. Our numbers indicate that everything will work out really well,” he says, adding that the gradual changes they’ve made so far are showing positive results.

Transition

Mills also mentions that it can be difficult to make big changes, especially when an operation has been run for the same way for many years.

“Whenever we’re bucking tradition or the norm and it was the way we were raised, sometimes we have a hard time convincing ourselves that change is going in the right direction. From a psychological standpoint, in the back of our minds, we’re hoping and praying that this concept we have committed to is going to work,” he explains.

The Mills returned to Myla’s home place with the intention of carrying on the operation for generations to come.

“I firmly believe that we can make a living in agriculture. The traditional methods of the way things have been done in the past may have made it difficult for guys to make a living in agriculture, so to make this work, something has to be different,” he remarks.

After 15 years of living in Montana, the Mills are looking forward to continuing a lasting legacy on the X Ring Ranch.

“This is something we have always wanted to do,” states Mills.

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

Torrington – In November George Ochsner was recognized for his family’s quality Hereford cattle with an induction into the Hereford Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was held in Kansas City, Mo. at the American Hereford Association’s (AHA) annual meeting during the American Royal.
“We went to the Hereford show at the American Royal, and it was a big show that took all day, and the Grand Champion Hereford bull was out of a bull we sold. It was really neat to receive such an honor, and have the grand champion bull of the show be one of ours, all on the same day,” comments George.
The champion bull was a descendant of GO Excel L18, whom George credits as the bull that put the Ochsner family on the Hereford map. “He’s done really well, and we were very fortunate to own him. We still have calls from all over, from people wanting semen out of him,” he says.
Today three generations of the Ochsner family live on and operate a diversified operation north of Torrington, where George’s parents homesteaded in 1913.
“Dad lost his father when he was 12, so the work of the ranch was left to him and his older brother. When Dad was 15 years old his brother went into the service, leaving him responsible for running the ranch with his mother and two sisters,” explains George Ochsner’s son, Blake Ochsner “He worked odd jobs around town and received most of his education while working at the local sale barn.”
“I spent all my life three miles south of here, until 1955, when Ruby and I got married and bought this place,” notes George. “We bought our first registered cow in 1956, and have been in the registered business ever since.”
“We ran a lot of commercial cows in those days, too, and bucket calves. Anything to make money to pay the bills,” adds Ruby Ochsner. “George would stay late at the sales and come home and say, ‘Come look what I got,’ so I would go down to the barn and he’d unload a bunch of shabby little calves.”
Today the Ochsner herd is comprised of all registered Hereford and Black Angus cows, and they market about 200 bulls annually. They also have a feedlot operation, irrigated farmland and a heifer development program. Blake explains the expansion and diversification of the operation was the result of he and his siblings’ returning to the ranch after starting their own families.
“Our oldest daughter Tena lives about 15 miles north of here and they have their own operation, but they buy our bulls and we buy back their calves and they are still very involved,” comments Ruby. “Our other three kids are all directly involved in this operation and live nearby.”
“Every morning we all generally sit around the table for about 45 minutes to make our plans for the day over coffee,” says George.
“That is really what holds everything together,” adds Ruby. “They all discuss what needs to be done, and what needs to be done today, and if they will all work together, or go their separate ways. If the grandsons are around they will come in, too. Everyone gets along and knows what is going on, and if it gets too involved I’ll come into the living room and drink my coffee,” she says with a chuckle.
“We really are blessed with an amazing family, and that’s number one to us,” notes George.
“We still do basically the same thing on the calf side that we did in the beginning, except today we buy a lot of calves back from our bull customers and run them over. The lighter cattle go to grass and we sell them off the pasture. The bigger end we fatten in a commercial feedlot in Torrington. We have two irrigated pivots of hay, and two irrigated pivots of corn we chop into silage, and that’s our feed base,” explains George.
“We purchase heifers back from our bulls customers, too. We develop and AI them, then sell them as replacements. We’ve sold heifers to operations in New Mexico, Illinois and Iowa recently, in addition to selling a lot within our region. We even shipped registered heifers to Kazakhstan this fall,” he adds.
“Our bull customers would come and pick out their Hereford bulls, and mention they wanted a few Angus bulls, too, and ask us where they could find some good ones,” explains Ruby of why they added a Black Angus herd 20 years ago. “So when a guy was having a dispersal, George was able to buy some really good Black Angus cattle and we started raising them.”
The Ochsners sell all their bulls private treaty, and Ruby explains their customers like it that way.
“Our buyers love being able to pick. Blake writes a price beside each bull and the buyers can go through and choose what they want. It’s worked really well for us, and our buyers have told us they like choosing and knowing what they’re buying, and they have asked us to please not put the bulls in a sale,” she says.
“We also have a website, and today a lot of our customers call us to buy bulls without ever coming to the ranch. We sell bulls over the internet from here to Kansas,” adds George.    
The Ochsners are also known for their success in the show ring, and have shown cattle for 65 years.
“Tena got us started showing when she was nine years old and had the champion feeder calf,” notes Ruby.
“We have shown cattle and sold bulls at the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas, the National Western Stock Show and the Black Hills Stock Show over the years,” adds George. “My favorite thing is watching the grandkids show their cattle at the county and state fair. That’s a lot of fun. They always show cattle we have raised.”
Blake notes that his parents have been long-standing supporters of all local 4-H and FFA kids, and the Ochsners also sell some steers and heifers as youth projects.
“Dad has always been determined to sell problem-free cattle that perform in the pasture and the feedlot, and his philosophy is to never sell a bull unless he is willing to buy all his offspring,” says Blake. “That philosophy has been a key to the success of all aspects of the operation. One of his favorite sayings is, ‘In the long run you will make more money selling a steer than you will by selling a poor bull.’”
Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..