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Lander - Although the Hellyer family has ranched in the Lyons Valley east of Lander since 1972, they consider themselves “newcomers.”  
Originally in the outfitting business for 13 years, Rob and Martha Hellyer purchased part of their ranch in 1972 and have continued to add property over the years.  They bought their first Hereford cattle 1974. In 1980 they began converting to Black Angus bulls, and now run mostly black cattle. They market their calves through video auction and ship in the fall, and Martha also runs a little band of sheep.  
Their operation consists of private land near Lander and on South Pass, and BLM leases on South Pass through both the Lander and Rock Springs BLM offices. They raise pasture and hay, with flood and pipe irrigation and two small sprinklers.
Rob and Martha are progressive thinkers in their operation and have found electronic identification of their calves is profitable. Through Ag Info Link the Hellyers do third-party age and source verification of their all-natural certified cattle. This year they also completed their no-hormone certification.  
“We do all of this voluntarily to satisfy the market, not through any government regulations,” comments Martha. She also keeps up their Beef Quality Assurance program certification.  
For several years the Hellyers diversified their operation through outfitting and running a small sawmill. “You can trade logs and boards for just about anything,” says Rob.  
The Hellyer Ranch is a family operation, including Rob and Martha’s grown children, Jim and wife Timmery, George and wife Amanda, Jessica and husband Dave Fehringer and nine grandchildren.  
“Our kids grew up here, and then went off and did things, and it wasn’t long until they all wanted to come back to this part of the world,” Martha remarks.  
“Then the ranch has to change to make room for more families,” Rob adds.  
Challenges facing agriculture today include much of the population being far removed from the land, predators, frivolous lawsuits, excessive and unfair government regulations, and endangered species.  
“With the Endangered Species Act, we were going to save the bald eagle, now we’re going to save a certain species of mouse we don’t even know that’s there,” Rob explains. “With the Clean Water Act, we were going to clean up Lake Eerie. That’s great, but now they would like it to affect every little puddle. We were going to clean up the smog in Los Angeles and Pittsburg with the Clean Air Act, and now we’re concerned about dust coming off of a field.”  
Martha adds, “It’s the interpretation of the law these bureaucracies, these agencies, will make and enforce that’s killing us.”  
Their livestock have suffered wolf predation over the past four years. “Although the kills haven’t been confirmed, except in 2009,” Martha says, “we’re losing three percent more calves annually than before the wolves were there.”  
Environmental groups also cause increased scrutiny. “Western Watersheds Project (WWP) is on our allotment, but there is no reason for them to be there. WWP files Freedom of Information Act requests with BLM offices, requesting copies of all documents, photos, etc. that go through the offices,” describes Martha. Federal resources are overwhelmed by these demands, consuming dollars, office supplies and commandeering staff from accomplishing their duties.
“WWP is using tactics to impede the process of getting range improvements, because if we do improvements we will continue to meet the standards and guidelines, and they don’t want (that), because they don’t want us to succeed,” Martha explains.  
“We’ve hired legal help for years, just so we don’t get left out in the process,” Rob continues.   
“We have some positive cooperation with the NRCS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program. We’ve also maintained a respectful, professional relationship with the BLM employees and have developed friendships over the years, but the bureaucratic and litigious environment we both work in makes timely progress almost impossible,” Rob says.
“We think our ranch, with its historic trails and thriving grouse population, compliments the landscape. Ironically, their existence on adjacent federal land is used as a hammer against us, so the public loses,” Martha observes.
“We can’t be consumed by this never-ending onslaught,” Rob comments. “We know things are going to change, and we try to adjust. We’ll have to get more out of the private land, because the bureaucracy with the federal land is mounting.”
After learning about rangeland monitoring through UW and Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) in 2004, Martha began cooperative monitoring on their BLM allotments. There are six permittees on one of the Hellyers’ allotments, while they are the only permittee on the other. With long-term annual rangeland monitoring, agencies and permittees have the data to manage and make decisions to maintain rangeland health.  
The Hellyers are active in the community and WSGA. In WSGA Rob serves as the delegate to the Public Lands Council, is a past Region Five Vice President, and past chair of the Federal Lands Committee. He is a member of the Fremont County Cattlemen and the Lander Grazing Board.
Martha has held most offices, including President more than once, in the Fremont County CowBelles, Lander Valley CattleWomen, and the Wyoming CattleWomen.    
Rob and Martha are glad to be ranching, and say if they had it to do over again, they probably wouldn’t do things too differently.  
“This country is great, and we have terrific neighbors,” comments Rob.
“And we love our cows, and our few sheep,” Martha adds with a smile. “We love what we are doing.”  
Echo Renner is Field Editor for the Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Cheyenne – A long-time Hereford breeder, Marvin Berry of Berry Herefords in Laramie County was known for his eye for cattle, as well as his honesty, and that earned him a spot in the American Hereford Association (AHA) Hall of Fame this year.
“The reason we did business with him was because whatever he said was gospel, and the cattle were good cattle,” says Rock River producer Carl Shaffer, who bought his first bull from the Berry family in 1969, when all three Berry brothers were still involved. Shaffer’s father had bought bulls from the family before then.
Marvin began breeding Herefords in the late 1930s as a 4-H member. He, along with his father and two brothers, started the herd and by 1949 they held the first “The Berrys’” production sale in a tent.
The cattle were raised on a ranch homesteaded by Marvin’s parents in 1910. In the early 1970s the sale had grown to an offering of 100 bulls, and in 1980 the family sold its combined herd, and Marvin started out on his own.
“As soon as Marvin started having annual sales again after the dispersal of Berry Herefords we went back, and we’ve only missed a year or two since,” says Shaffer.
“Berry cattle are honest, good doing cattle, and they have good udders, sound feet and good dispositions. We’ve had a lot of success with the daughters out of the bulls being good mothers and raising a decent calf,” says Shaffer adding those daughters also work well with his operation’s Angus bulls. “Their disposition is outstanding, and Marvin, if he told you something, that was the way it was. If he told you that you didn’t want to get into a bloodline, you didn’t want to get into it.”
Marvin’s son Jay Berry says he decided to nominate his father for the AHA Hall of Fame to coincide with the family ranch’s centennial celebration. “I felt like, if we were going to do it, this was the time, and he deserved it,” says Berry. “I was reflecting back on how we got here, and we as a family got to celebrate 100 years, but we hadn’t paid the dues.”
Berry compares the operation to stocks. “I inherited a great portfolio that he and I built together, as partners,” he says. “What he built, first with his brothers and then on his own, was well-respected in the industry.”
In 2001, at 80 years old, Marvin passed away, leaving Jay and Jay’s family to continue the Berry Hereford tradition.
“What made him interesting to watch was that he didn’t have to spend the most money to buy good cattle,” says Berry. “A lot of people will follow the dollars, but he knew to bide his time, because you’ll always run into things you can’t buy in the seedstock industry.”
Marvin attended the National Western Stock Show every year except for one when he was serving in World War II. He showed many champion heifer pens and judged the carload show in the Yards.
“It’s been one continuous set of cattle since they bought their 4-H projects in the 1930s,” says Berry of the family operation, adding, jokingly, that that’s why people should be careful of their kids’ 4-H projects.
Of the resurgence of Hereford popularity, Berry says he has customers returning who used to buy 20 years ago.
“The honesty and integrity of the product is why people still come and buy. The bull you see is what you get. The seedstock industry doesn’t leave many places to hide. If they’re not what you say they are, it shows up really fast,” says Berry.
“So much of what we do in the seedstock business is about the people and not the cattle,” adds Berry. “He knew a lot of people, and was very unassuming. He got respect because they watched what he’d done, not because he was doing something faster and cooler and neater.”
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..

Sheridan – The E Bar U ranch, owned and operated by the Kane family, hosted nearly 150 Wyomingites for the 2016 Environmental Stewardship Tour, where they showed attendees water developments, pipelines and an innovative weed control project on the operation.

The tour was held on June 22.

With miles of pipeline and improved water across the property, the Kanes have dramatically increased their carrying capacity, and at the same time, they have worked to treat a weed that plagues rangelands of Sheridan County – leafy spurge.

“We have a serious leafy spurge problem in Sheridan County,” commented Sheridan County Weed and Pest Supervisor Luke Sander. “It’s our most prolific weed, and bio-control is one of our main programs.”

Through the help of Sheridan County Weed and Pest, the Kane family uses flea beetles, a form of biological control, to tackle their leafy spurge problems.

Spurge biology

“Leafy spurge is a noxious weed that has been a huge problem for us for a long time,” commented David Kane, who owns and operates the E Bar U. “Through the years, chemical application was the only way to control leafy spurge.”

Bob Benjamin, retired supervisor of Sheridan County Weed and Pest who helped to start the county’s bio-control program, said, “One of my main jobs was working with leafy spurge. It is one of the most aggressive weeds in the West.”

Benjamin explained that leafy spurge can grow roots that reach 10 to 15 feet in depth, and when it is sprayed, often the entire root system is not killed, giving it an opportunity to come back.

“It also has an extensive taproot system and has a rhizomatous root that can generate new plants,” he said.

Leafy spurge seed heads also explode when they reach maturity, scattering seeds over a wide area.

“If we leave a patch of spurge alone, it can expand 10 to 15 percent every year,” Benjamin commented.

Traditional control

For many years, weed and pest districts have utilizes herbicides to control leafy spurge, but the control was incomplete.

“We had a chemical program that started in 1982, and we used herbicides in different rates sprayed by backpacks, helicopters and on foot,” Benjamin said. “It worked well, but we also had some difficult terrain. Then, in the late 80s and early 90s, we started using bio-control with insects.”

Bio-control of spurge

Benjamin explained that flea beetles can be used to control leafy spurge. Flea beetles are small bugs that are specific to the leafy spurge plant. They eat the plant, causing stress, and destroy its root system, effectively killing the plant.

“In 1991, we did our first release of the insects and had some results,” he commented. “We have several species that we work with.”

“We have two species of flea beetles here – Aphthona lacertosa and Aphthona nigriscutis,” Kane commented. “The A. nigriscutis is a black beetle, and they are a lot more prolific, from our experience.”

The bugs work by first eating the plant, which causes stress on the system.

Then, the females lay their eggs at the root crown of the leafy spurge plant.

“Females lay clusters of three to 15 eggs at the root crown,” Benjamin explained. “One female can lay 200 to 250 eggs. They lay in the soil for 12 to 19 days, and then they hatch into larvae.”

The larvae hatch and feed on the fine root hairs of the plant, inhibiting its ability to absorb the water and nutrients it needs for growth and survival.

“The larvae are active in the soil during the summer and fall – as long as the soil temperature stays above 45 degrees,” Benjamin said.

When soil temperatures drop, the larvae go dormant, and when the soil temperatures re-warm in the spring, the larvae become active and pupate.

“The adults emerge and generally live a month-and-a-half to two months,” Benjamin said.

Placing beetles

While bio-control using beetles is very effective, Kane also noted that it is a lot of work.

“We can’t just put the beetles out and leave them there,” he said. “We have to move them to new locations because they don’t fly.”

Rather, the bugs hop from plant to plant, so they must be gathered and transplanted.

Benjamin added, “We have to put the bugs out, monitor them and grow them. Then, we have use a sweep net and move the insects to the next site. It’s more work than just turning them loose and letting them do their thing.”

Kane emphasized, “It takes time, but it is imperative that this process continues in order to keep the population of beetles growing and spreading.”

Positive results

Kane said, “In 1998, we began using flea beetles for a biological solution to control this highly competitive, hard-to-control weed. To date, we have controlled thousands of acres of leafy spurge with flea beetles.”

He continues, “We’ve cleaned up entire drainages and only have little patches in some areas. Little patches don’t bother me.”

The bio-control mechanism is long-lasting and effective, Kane explained. He said that chemical control measures had to be repeated every four to five years, but the beetles have persisted on the landscape.

“When we first started, one of my big concerns was when I would have to do it again,” he said. “We’ve got places that we put bugs out 12 or 15 years ago, and when I see the spurge start to come back, I also see the bugs. The spurge will keep growing, but as long as we have bugs, we can keep it under control.”

“We’re always going to have leafy spurge here,” Kane commented, noting that the seed reservoir in the ground is too extensive to completely eliminate the species, “but we’re winning the battle and winning it big.”

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..

“Joe Hunter is probably one of the best brand inspectors I have ever seen in my life,” notes Vern Rayburn, a brand inspector from Torrington.

Hunter worked as a brand inspector for over 40 years, earning respect and friendship from those around him.

Earning respect

“He was well respected by everybody,” Rayburn continues.

Shawn Madden, co-owner of Madden Brothers Auctions, echoed similar sentiments, saying, “We all have a lot of respect for Joe, and we have developed a really good working relationship.”

He described Hunter as even-tempered and a good man to be around.

“We were always able to sort any problems out. I don’t remember anything ever becoming personal or adversarial,” Madden says.

Fond memories

Madden relays a story about one of their trips in the 80s outside of Torrington, looking for some cows.

“A local bank was foreclosing on a guy’s cattle, and I became the appraiser,” he explains.

Madden, Hunter, a banker and a deputy sheriff went out to round up the cattle and look them over.

“The cattle were not on the property, so we headed back into town,” he continues.

The owner, once contacted, stated that Hunter and Madden had recently been out on his place, and, therefore, they must have stolen the cattle.

“We had to go to federal court in Cheyenne to face rustling charges,” Madden says.

Seemingly, the rancher had hidden the animals to avoid foreclosure.

“I know Joe, and I didn’t take them. We were in the company of a deputy sheriff,” Madden laughs.

Luckily, the charges were dropped, and the cattle eventually reappeared.

Working together

“Joe has been a great guy to work with,” Madden says.

Dale Armstrong, a fellow brand inspection supervisor, also enjoyed working alongside Hunter.

“Joe was a good, friendly man,” he comments. “He was easy to work with and we had a lot of fun together.”

Armstrong notes that he has probably worked with Hunter longer than anyone.

“I truly believe that we learned from each other,” he states. “We can always learn from someone like Joe.”

The fall season is a busy time for brand inspectors, with working days starting early in the morning and lasting until dark.

“We would work from daylight to dark, just having a lot of fun and darn sure being busy, too,” Armstrong comments.

They would get to the stockyards no later than 7:30 a.m., work through the day and then catch up on paperwork after the sun went down.

“It was a time-consuming job but a wonderful job,” he adds. “We had a lot of good times together and worked hard together, too.”

Next adventure

Hunter notes, “I enjoyed the time that I was inspector, for the most part. The good days outweighed the bad.”

He liked working with people and explained that finding strays was one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Working with cattle is what I really enjoy,” he says.

Hunter adds, “The livestock industry has certainly changed over the last 40 years.”

Marketing has been one of the biggest changes that he has seen in the industry.

“It’s amazing how marketing has changed and influenced how people sell and buy,” he comments.

Hunter’s last day as a brand inspector was Feb. 2, and now that he has retired, he will be looking for new things to occupy his time.

“I have a handful of cows, and I am going to take care of them,” Joe states. “I am also going to watch the grandkids grow up.”

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..

Lander – “My family has run cows since I was a young kid, and a couple surgery procedures on prolapsed cows got me interested when I was about six years old, and since then I never deviated from wanting to be a vet,” says Lander large animal veterinarian Jake Hall.
“I went all through college, graduated and came back here right away,” says Jake, noting that he received his bachelor’s from UW, then went on to Washington State University for veterinary school. “The large animal program led me there – they had what seemed to be a good program, with a good bunch of professors.”
Following graduation, Jake returned to Fremont County to begin his own practice, known as High Country Veterinary Service, and is based in Lander. A large animal mobile veterinary service, Jake serves the entire county.
“I started that up, and I’m really busy,” he comments. “I spend most of the week out in the country, and work one day a week in town at the clinic, which is my base for small animal types of things.” Jake works with another vet in Lander who handles the clinic four days a week, and they trade emergency call responsibilities.
Jake’s vet service has been operating for just over a year. “I do appreciate reproductive work a lot more with cattle than other things, but for the most part I’m a general practitioner and I take care of everything I have to,” he says of his work.
“You have to have good people skills, that’s for sure,” says Jake. “It does also benefit to have a good background in business. I have a minor in business from UW, so I learned a few things with that, and it does help in doing my financial work.”
As a vet, Jake is responsible for his continuing education credits. He’s also taken advantage of Wyoming’s Vet Loan Repayment Program, which helps food animal vets pay off student debt while practicing in the state.
“One of the biggest challenges to being a large animal vet is having enough time for everyone,” says Jake. “Everybody needs things done right away, and vets can only spread themselves so thin. That’s the biggest problem.”
He says another challenge is the circumstances country vets can encounter. “Some of the calls I go out on, people want me to do reproductive work on a cow, and they tie her to a tree,” recounts Jake. “Those are the fun ones – trying to do procedures like that.”
“No matter where I go, I find different people with different levels of knowledge of their animals, so as a vet I have to cater the information and treatment protocols for those animals, based on what their owner knows about them. I’ve found compliance is hard to get through to people, and sometimes I have to keep calling to make sure they’re doing the things I told them to.”
However, he says he enjoys large animal work, so he has no complaints. “Weather is the biggest thing, in the winter, and getting in to where I need to be. But finding time is the biggest problem.”
“There are a few other large animal vets in the county. There are some in Riverton who are getting up in age and starting to slow down, so I’m picking up some of their business,” adds Jake.
Of course, in the fall Jake is busy with preg checking, Bangs vaccinations and some trich testing. “Spring is calving and those problems, so fall and spring are really busy. Christmastime and New Year’s slows down for a little while, with a lot of horse work in the later spring and summer. It does slow down a little in the summer, but I have had pretty good luck staying busy.”
Jake says some producers in Fremont County who run over in Teton County during the summer have to bleed and brucellosis test their cattle every year.
As far as his time spent on the road, he says, “The easiest way to put it is that I bought my pickup new while still in school, and have 40,000 miles on it this year.”
Looking to the future, Jake says he plans to eventually put in his own clinic as a base for his vet services, but for the most part he says he’ll continue as he is, and potentially bring in another vet to help him out.
Of working in Fremont County’s ranching community, Jake says, “They know what they’re doing, and they expect you to know what you’re doing. They’re efficient with their time, and they expect you to be, as well.”
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..