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Producers

The new Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R) state chair is looking forward to the opportunity to be an active voice for agriculture and Wyoming.

“It is a great honor and responsibility,” states Cole Coxbill, referring to his new one-year leadership term. “There is a great growing experience ahead.”

Opportunity

Cole and his wife Sammie have also been appointed to one of 16 positions on the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) YF&R committee. Coxbill explains that he and his wife are excited about learning and growing as advocates for agriculture.

“As a young kid, I was involved in 4-H and FFA in Wyoming,” comments Coxbill, saying that he chose not to run for State FFA President in high school.

“I kicked myself for that, but this opportunity arose, and we were selected. We are honored and humbled,” he says.

Since Christmas, Coxbill has been an agent with WyFB, traveling to meetings and conferences throughout the country.

“Every time we talk to people, it’s endless learning. Everyone has a different perspective,” he notes.

Water

Coxbill was also selected to be on the AFBF Advisory Committee for Irrigation, which recently took him to Washington, D.C.

“I got to talk to gentlemen from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, where they get too much water,” he explains.

It was quite a contrast to how water is discussed in dry, western states such as Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

“Water is such a unique topic, because each state has different laws, and they all treat water differently,” he comments.

The irrigation committee meets four times a year to discuss water issues throughout the country.

“We are tasked to share the issues that we see as the most important and help keep the government headed in the right direction,” Coxbill states.

Nearly 500 members attended the latest conference in Washington, D.C.

“We all went to Capitol Hill, and it was really neat to go to our delegation’s offices as AFBF members,” he notes.

Grassroots promotions

As an organization, the AFBF promotes policy that comes from growers and producers, shared through the local, state and national levels.

“All of our policy comes from producing farms and ranches across the nation,” explains Coxbill.

In the 1940s, WyFB saw an opportunity for insurance, which is a flourishing business today. 

Although many people think of the insurance company, WyFB is a membership organization that promotes the interests of agriculture in American policy.

“We are a true grassroots organization,” he states.

Discussion meet

Another activity that Coxbill has recently been involved in is the Farm Bureau discussion meet.

“The discussion meet is a committee meeting,” he explains, noting that the event is not a debate. “The discussion meet is more like sitting around the table with cups of coffee and adding to the conversation.”

Participants in the meet are provided with five discussion topics before the competition, and one of the topics is chosen when the meet begins.

“The group talks about the issue on both sides, working to come up with a solution,” he says.

Each competitor must make a 30-second opening statement, and then there are 20 minutes of open discussion and a multiple round.

“Then each contestant gives a one-minute closing statement,” he comments.

Judging is based on the quality of information, how well participants work together and the group’s ability to involve more reserved speakers.

“It is not just based on who is the most well-spoken or who is driving the conversation,” he says.

Participation

There is both a collegiate level competition for college students, as well as a YF&R level, for participants between the ages of 18 and 35.

“The collegiate discussion meet is really growing in Wyoming,” he notes.

Meeting at the school with the most participation, this year’s meet was held at Sheridan College, where the WyFB Annual Meeting was also being held.

“We wouldn’t have been able to accommodate everyone without partnering with the annual meeting,” he comments, adding that they were lucky to be able to work together.

“We had 29 contestants signed up, and then we had a big snowstorm, but 16 of them still showed up,” he says.

More Wyoming participation is encouraged at the YF&R level of the discussion meet.

“We are going to work on that and see what we can do to improve participation in the future,” he explains.

Winners of the national round take home scholarships and a new pickup truck.

Advocacy

“I always look forward to meeting new people and growing as an advocate for ag,” Coxbill comments of his experience so far.

Although he recognizes the challenge of taking time away from his operation and his three children, he looks forward to filling his new role.

“We have to get off the farm and be more diligent about addressing wrong information and bad policy,” he says.

Agriculture is shared most accurately by those who are directly involved and who understand how different pieces are integrated.

“It is important for all agriculturalists to speak up. We have to tell our story or someone else is going to,” he states.

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..

Sweetwater Station – Rob and Carla Crofts currently manage a merger of two family ranches on an operation headquartered along the Sweetwater River. They’ve made the transition to Angus from Hereford-cross cattle, and the operation includes allotments to the north of their Sweetwater headquarters and on the south end of the Wind River Mountains. All the work is done horseback, and there are no ATVs on the ranch.
“My family homesteaded in the area in 1883, and Carla’s family came from Nebraska and Gillette in the 1930s,” says Rob. “Her dad first worked for George and Donna Flagg up the river, then bought this place from the Scarlett Estate and we bought it from her dad in 2007.”
Rob says their two families ranched in the same allotments, although he grew up on what was initially a sheep outfit now converted to cattle. Today Rob’s brother, Joe Crofts, runs cattle on the part of their family’s outfit that lies north of the Gas Hills highway.
Rob and Carla married in 1984 and Rob worked for several farmers in the Riverton area including Carroll Riggs, Pinces and Huelles. In 1990 they moved to Farson to work for Radosevichs on a cow/calf operation and came Sweetwater in 1994, bringing 100 mother cows with them.
“We’re scattered over the county, with places on the mountain, down here, and under Beaver Rim. We couldn’t do all this without the help of Rick Wilmes, he helps us and runs his own cows with ours,” says Rob. “We run all our calves over to sell as yearlings which we sell in early October. We can leave our cattle out until the middle of November, so we don’t wean until late. Over time, the yearling market is a lot more stable than the calf market.”
“We’re not exempt from any of the federal issues,” says Rob of their allotments. “The biggest thing we face now is sage grouse. We don’t run a cow anywhere that isn’t a core area. We have a lot of grouse here, and I think the thing that’s been so overlooked in the process is why they are here. They can’t say livestock are the problem, because it’s livestock country where people graze and hay that you find concentrated populations of sage grouse. The focus should be what worked so well, and why we still have them.”
Another management issue is wild horses. “People refer to them as wild horses, and we call them feral horses,” he says. “Between grouse and horses, and now the wolves on the mountain, we have some challenges. We have a lot of environmental pressure, and we’re under the gun every day.”
“My great-grandfolks were homesteaders and our commitment to Wyoming has been there since it was a territory,” says Rob. “We’ve been in the livestock business for a long time, and it’s important for the public to see the way we value the land. I feel fortunate to do what we do.”
Rob describes their ranch as an “intermingled outfit,” with state, federal and private lands. “We’re scattered over 70 square miles, with a little under 5,000 acres of deeded land, but everywhere we have land there’s water, and that’s where we get caught on all the issues. Wildlife is important to us, and we take care of it like it’s our own.”
Of the fall roundup, Rob says, “We go on the fall roundup in the Big Pasture, where we spend 12 days riding to gather the yearlings, bulls and canner cows. There are six operations running in that allotment.”
Rob adds that it’s important to him that the ranches in the area still work together. “They have a cook and a cook shack, and all the horses are mixed together, the horse herd and the beef herd are both trailed from camp to camp. On the beef roundup we’ll move in the afternoon to the next camp, Rick and I live in a teepee during roundup.”
The cattle gathered in early fall are taken to a pasture running from Sweetwater Station to Ice Slough, where they stay until they’re divided for shipping. “It’s all a community effort. It’s excellent, and we couldn’t do it without our neighbors,” notes Rob.
In the Atlantic City Common on South Pass, Rob says the permittees were innovative and didn’t wait for the BLM to encourage them to fence major riparian areas. The Crofts run with five other ranches in that allotment. “If we wait for the BLM to encourage us to do things, it’s too late and we’re behind the curve. That’s why we’ve gotten along so well through the years in that allotment,” he comments.
“We have winter,” says Rob of the area along the Sweetwater. “We get snowed in, and it gets to where we can’t get in and out. We have a lot of wind, and that’s good to move the snow around and open it up, but we still have to feed.”
The Crofts put up native hay, purchase some hay and winter their mother cows on Dan Pince’s farm in Pavillion. “We bring them home a week before they start calving, and that cuts down on wintering costs.” They winter their calves at the home place on Sweetwater in two bunches, riding through them each morning to check for sick calves in the first two months after weaning.
“There are a lot of things to like about ranching here,” says Rob of his area of Fremont County. “It’s important to have wide open space – that’s the best thing.
Until you’re over here on the west side of Wyoming, you don’t realize how vast it is or that Fremont County produces the quantity of livestock it does.”
Looking to the future, Rob says all three of his kids are interested in coming back to the ranch, but he encourages all of them to leave for at least a little while before coming back. “When they come back, they have their hearts set on making it,” he comments. “That’s part of the industry’s downfall – a lot of generations haven’t been anywhere but mom and dad’s place. Some don’t even go to college, but just stay there and take care of home.”
Rob says of his neighbors, “The families have been here for years. They’re closely associated, and there’s turnover in the ranches, but it’s from one generation to the next. You don’t see that as much other places. It’s still livestock and cattle country here. We have very little recreation or oil and gas.”
Rob currently serves as Region 5 Vice President for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, something he feels is an honor and a duty. “I do not take it lightly. Ranchers really are the reason why it’s still the way it is – the wide open space and everything Wyoming’s about. With only 1.5 percent of people in the United States involved in agriculture, it is vital that we all be active in our community and in agriculture organizations.”
Rob served on the Fremont County Cattleman’s Association as an officer for six years, served two terms as the chairman of the water committee for Wyoming Stock Growers, currently serves on the Fremont County Fair Junior Livestock Sale Committee, the Fremont County 4-H Council, and as a Fremont County delegate to the board of directors of Wyoming Stock Growers.
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..

Riverton – The Dechert family settled in Fremont County in the 1930s. Over time, succeeding generations also became involved in agriculture and the family farm, which eventually led to the present-day alfalfa hay cubing business.
“John Deere used to make a field cuber that my grandfather and father used in the ‘70s,” says Jerry Dechert, who today runs Wyoming Hay Cubes with his father Lloyd who founded the business. “They’d sell to local ranchers, and over time that increased to around the state.”
John Deere discontinued field cubers in the 1980s, and Jerry says that spurred the switch a dozen years ago to a stationary cuber. “Now, instead of making cubes in the field, we bale the hay, bring it in and run it through the cuber when we find the time.”
“We make a better quality product, and we can handle a higher volume with the stationary cuber,” he explains. “With the big baler systems and stacking we can handle a lot more volume. The field cubers could run at about four tons per hour, requiring five people to operate them, and would cover fewer acres with a lot less tonnage.”
He adds a benefit of being able to hay faster is that hay needs to be really dry to cube, so without field cubing the operation can roll through the hay in a hurry when it’s in the proper condition. “This time of year there’s a window between 1 and 2 in the afternoon until 8 or 9 at night when I can bale,” he notes.
Following baling season, the Decherts will cube for a few months until winter gets cold, cubing again in the spring. The stationary cuber they have sits under a roof and a conveyor takes big square bales to the grinder, where it’s first hammered out, after which it moves up through a box  to smooth out the hay. A little bit of water is added, then the hay drops into a big drum with die blocks and an augur pushes it all through.
“We add heat and water – that makes a cube,” says Jerry. “Then we take it off and store it in buildings. It’s a one- or two-guy operation now, to monitor it and adjust the water, which adjusts the quality and how hard the cube is.”
“We’re able to make a better quality cube and bale the hay under better circumstances, and we can also monitor the cubes as they’re coming off the machine, so we started getting into the bagging market,” says Jerry of their expansion from bulk cubes. “Over the last five years we’ve gotten serious about bagging more of the hay we produce.”
After cubing, the cubes are stored in sheds with concrete floors. “When we pile them, we’ll get a layer that weathers over time, but four or five inches deep the hay is just like it was when we put it in there,” explains Jerry.
When the Decherts get ready to bag the cubes, a gravity wagon is filled with cubes and a conveyor brings it into a building to the bagger, which is computer controlled by weight. The bag is released at 50 pounds, tagged and stitched before being sent up a conveyor to be stacked on a pallet.
“It takes five people, plus somebody adding hay outside, but we can bag about 10 tons per hour,” says Jerry. “We usually go through about 1,400 bags when we bag, which is for three or three-and-a-half hours at a time.”
Jerry says they bag once or twice a week in the fall, especially when they start to move more hay to packers and outfitters. “All our hay is certified weed seed free, and we work with Fremont County Weed and Pest so it can be taken into the National Forests.”
Before any field of hay is baled, the weed and pest district makes a visit to the location. “We’ve done that since we started bagging,” says Jerry. “It’s one of the keys of marketing our cubes. Locally it’s important because everyone wants to take it to the mountains, and when we ship it elsewhere we can tell them it’s certified and clean hay.”
“The kind of hay we want to cube will be relatively weed free, anyway,” says Jerry. “If it’s got a lot of weeds it won’t cube well, so the quality is already there. We can deal with hunters and outfitters and ship to other places as a high quality product.”
“We do a lot of work with feed stores around the area,” notes Jerry, adding they also deal with Ranch Way Feeds, which transports to the entire Ranch Way system. “We also deal with a horse farm in Kentucky and ship to Texas and Iowa.”
Comparing shipping hay bales to shipping cubes, Jerry says it’s easier to make a full truckload of cubes. “When we send a truck to Kentucky, we make sure it’s at maximum weight. Sometimes with baled hay you can have trouble getting the full 22 tons,” he says.
In addition to their own hay, the Decherts do purchase area hay as needed, and those producers are also certified weed free.
“In a typical year, 80 percent of our production will be bagged,” says Jerry, adding this year’s first cutting was baled without any rain. “Even though yields are down with last spring’s weather, we’ll have about the same amount to bag.”
“We decided when we started, if it’s going to be in a bag, it’s going to be good,” says Jerry. “We’ won’t pawn off marginal hay. We watch everything coming out of the cuber, and decide whether to keep it. We’ve done that the whole way through, and people buy it because they know what they’re going to get. They get what they pay for.”
“When you get it, it’s good, and you can take it anywhere,” adds Lloyd. “We get a lot of repeat customers, and we like knowing people are satisfied with the end product.”
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..

Riverton – “Young people are great, you just have to expect them to be great,” says Patti Stalley, Central Wyoming College (CWC) Equine professor, of her students.
    Stalley has been with the CWC equine program for 31 years and was awarded the honor of the Certified Horsemanship Association’s (CHA) 2012 Instructor of the Year.
Equine beginnings
    Stalley credits her success with the CWC equine program to her wide range of horse experiences. She grew up on a working cattle ranch near Valentine, Neb. and worked cattle, bred racing Quarter horses and trained reining horses.
    “In college I saw a class that you got physical education credit for English riding,” Stalley remembers. “Being 18 I thought I knew quite a bit and took the class because I thought I could keep my barrel horse legged up in it and get credit for it.
    “That class was taught by a gentleman named General Lee, and he opened up a whole new world for me. I had never had formal lessons up until then. I ended up working for him training cross-country and stadium jumping horses. It provided me with a totally new way with horses and what you can do with them.”
Honors
    The International CHA certifies instructors to teach riding, therapeutic riding and inspect facilities for safety. The Instructor of the Year award is by nomination and supported by documentation from employer and students.
    The award was a complete surprise, and Stalley almost didn’t attend the award banquet at the annual conference in Oregon.
    “I was going to visit with my brother and his family that night,” Stalley explains. “I happened to mention my plan to some friends, and they panicked. One called one of my daughters, who called my brother, and so he suggested to me that we all attend the banquet.”
CWC program
    The CWC equine classes have both classroom and lab components. Students tell Stalley that she packs more into one semester than larger universities do in three.
    “I only have the students for two years, and I want them to know something when they graduate,” Stalley says. “I require my students to have good posture and correct grammar usage. When you work with horses, you work with people, and you had better know how to talk to them.”
    Students are required to obtain their own horses for classes. Stalley does help them find suitable horses to lease, if needed. By not owning horses, CWC saves on overhead costs, and the students are learning on better horses.
    “I’ve had college faculty tell me, ‘You can’t train a student and a horse at the same time, and you can’t take a beginning student and place them in the same class as a more advanced student,’” Stalley recounts. “I think that is false, because you get what you ask for.”
    “I can take a student that is learning to ride the trot, at the same time I have one that is learning to post on the correct diagonal, at the same time I have one learning to collect their horse and develop more cadence in the trot,” she continues. “The ones that are just beginning are ahead of the game because they are hearing you talk to the others.”
    Stalley sees students going into all types of fields within the equine industry from journalism to selling pharmaceutical supplies.
Broader perspectives
    “The equine industry is larger than the motion picture and tobacco industries,” Stalley explains. “Like any other lucrative field you need to be very good at what you do.
    “I had a student call me the other day and the people he trains for in Oklahoma have him accompanying shipments of horses to Mongolia. The horse world has become international in every facet.”
    During her tenure at CWC, Stalley says she has had a student from every state and most European countries.
    “The international students come here for western riding,” Stalley explains. “They look for horse colleges, and come here because we’re in Wyoming and predominantly western.”
    “A former French student called me the other day and said the most embarrassing thing had happened to him. A friend of his had contacts at the racetrack in Paris. He went to interview and told them his riding experience,” Stalley says. “They took him into the tack room, and he realized that he knew what everything was – in English. He did not know what the tack was in French! He said he almost didn’t get the job, but was able to go home to study and come back the next day.”
    “I love the international students as they add diversity of experience and culture to the program. It is the same with our community participants, as they are great examples of how to be life-long learners,” she also adds.
    Never one to rest on her laurels, Stalley is currently researching the potential to provide courses to military veterans that combine the equine program with the psychology department to assist in their healing from the experiences of war.
    “I could keep three arenas booked with the classes I would like to offer,” Stalley says. “We out grew this facility 25 years ago.”
    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..

North Portal – “It’s a good farm, and there are very few people in the world who get the chance to farm a good farm. It’s a pleasure when it happens, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Dennis Horton from his location on the Cottonwood Bench north of Riverton. “This is as good a place as there is.”
Dennis’s operation includes corn, pinto beans, hay and alfalfa seed, as well as a cow/calf aspect, and he calves early to finish up before spring fieldwork begins. Originally from Greybull, he moved to the area in 1979.
“I used to work for the Federal Land Bank as a branch manager in Casper. I’d been looking for a farm, so I bought one and started out 100 percent in debt 30 years ago. I’ve never been afraid of work, and I’ve worked at it for a long time, and still do,” says Dennis. “I bought this place in 1986, and the guy who owned it before did a tremendous job setting it up.”
“My cows calve in January and February in sheds, and the last couple years I’ve fattened my calves, primarily because I produce a little bigger calf, and they don’t particularly like them at the sale barn. I was putting in the time to raise them, so there was no reason to let anyone else take that benefit,” says Dennis of his calves, adding he only feeds the top end of his calf crop. “In past years I’ve sold to different people, but primarily through Riverton Livestock.”
Dennis started putting his cowherd together 30 years ago with 30 cows. “I try to keep a cow around 1,250 and 1,300 pounds, and I save from 50 to 70 heifers each year. I don’t have much problem with pulling calves, because I try to use good bulls. The moderately-framed cows generally wean a 580- to 600-pound calf, and they feed good and I don’t have much trouble with diseases.”
Dennis’s cows summer on Kirby Creek near Thermopolis, and he says the North Portal area is good for wintering because it doesn’t get a lot of moisture, and hardly any snow sticks around.
“One good thing about the water supply here is that everyone’s equal. We all have the same water right, and no one guy gets more water than the other guy,” says Dennis of the Midvale Irrigation District. “They have a good system, and the system they put in was put in right. We’ve got a really good manager, and they’ve done a really good job.”
The area was short on water from 2000 to two years ago, but Dennis says the last two years have been really good. “All the snowpack comes from the Wind Rivers, and we have a reservoir at Bull Lake, and some water comes from Dinwoody,” he explains.
“I feed a lot of silage and hay, beginning the first of January to the first of May. It’s a little more expensive operation than some, and it’s quite a bit more intense for management,” says Dennis, who feeds almost all of his corn on the place. “We use a lot of straw, and if we had it, I’d use as much manure as I could get.”
“It’s a little more intense as far as cost per calf, and our break-even costs end up being a little higher, but we generally have a lot bigger calf. If they ever start paying us for the weight we put on them, I’ll be fine. This year they’re paying a lot better,” he says. “As the price of corn goes up, the weight we actually put on will be worth more. What we do is sell pounds, and I’ve always thought it’s crazy to raise a 250-pound calf and get $1.50 per pound, and 80 or 90 cents for a 600-pound calf. That’s part of the reason I started feeding.”
Because Dennis shed calves, he hires a Peruvian worker to help with the cattle and general farm work.
“I’ve had him for three years through Mountain Plains Ag Service,” he says. “He’s a good guy. They come here to work, and that’s what they do – the jobs that are hard to get Americans to do. To stay up all night calving cows is something it’s hard to get a person to do – even if you pay enough. Anymore, people don’t have the gumption to do a job they don’t like. It’s sad, and part of that’s because they’ve never gone hungry. Most of them have never been put in a situation where they work or they starve. We, as a country, have made a terrible mistake by making it too easy for a lot of people. No matter what they do, we will never let them go hungry, and at some point we’ll break ourselves because of it.”
Currently Dennis’s worker is back in Peru for two months, before hopefully returning to the operation. “I’m not positive I can get him back, and that’s part of the deal. If they won’t give him a visa, he doesn’t get to come back,” says Dennis.
Dennis’s daughter Emily was a National FFA officer, and she’ll soon move back to the family place with her husband and daughter. “Emily and her husband Scott would love to farm at some point, so we’ll figure out some way to try to make that happen,” says Dennis, who used to own part of the elevator north of Riverton, which is now known as Wyoming Ag Marketing. “We sold that to them, and her husband will run that, and she’s got her John Deere office there, too.”
Emily’s sister Nikki also lives nearby, working in Riverton as a hairdresser.
“It’s been a good move, and I never regretted a minute of it,” says Dennis of coming to Fremont County. “There’s a tremendous community, with good neighbors. Fremont County’s a good ag area, and Riverton supports ag fairly well.”
“Hopefully I’ll leave it better than I found it,” says Dennis of his farm ground. “It doesn’t have a bad spot or bad ground. If you farm it right and take care of it, it’s good to you.”
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..