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Strong ranch woman: McCullough continues long ranch history

Written by Rebecca Colnar

Hulett –  Judy McCullough never thought she’d be running a ranch by herself, but when her husband Curt passed away in 1995, the rancher pulled her hat down tight and decided to keep on ranching.

“When Curt died in 1995, cow prices were terrible. I couldn’t bring myself to sell two men’s life work for peanuts,” she says. “Then, by the time the prices came back up, I wanted to keep ranching.”

McCullough admits to being “scared half of the time those first five years.”

“I never worked harder in my life,” she continues. “I had to do everything I expected my partner to do. But I had good advisors.”

“My dad was still alive, and he was a good stockman,” she says.

She credits her father and neighbor Skip Waters for being her greatest supporters and teachers.

“I got a university education from those two,” she admits.

Even though she had a hired man to assist with the work, there was still plenty of learning to keep the ranch running.

On the ranch

Today, the ranch has Herefords with a twist. 

“We put Longhorn bulls on our yearling heifers,” notes McCullough. “first for the calving ease. Then, those Longhorn bulls keep the neighbors’ bulls out.”

She continues, “In addition, those Longhorn-cross calves sure teach a young cow to keep a calf with her at all times. We don’t have 200 calves in the back when we’re trailing them. We put them through the gate, and in a couple of minutes, there is no bawling.”

She admits the Longhorn calves aren’t worth as much in the fall, so they keep them and sell them as yearlings.

“They are worth as much as any other yearling,” McCullough says.

She uses Hereford bulls on the second-calf heifers and the older cows. 

Work on the ranch

McCullough calves the April 15 until around June 15.

“We calve later because we calve all of the cows in the open, except for the two-year-old heifers,” she explains. “It’s rare we need to pull one, but things happen, and sometimes, we’ll need to have them close.” 

Hereford bulls are purchased from Largents out of Kaycee, Fawcett Herefords from Ree Heights, S.D., Mrnak Herefords from Bowman, N.D. and Micheli Herefords out of Ft. Bridger. The Longhorn bulls are purchased from The Wyoming Longhorn Ranch at Cowley.

“Because our entire ranch is contiguous land that we own as private property plus a small BLM allotment we own, we have it easy moving cattle from pasture to pasture,” McCullough says. “We will put about 250 pairs from the calving pasture into the first pasture.”

“Once they are in there, we move into the next pasture where they get branded. The late ones are calved and put them with the two-year-old heifer pairs and brand those with the late ones,” she comments. “We hold them in the first pasture and move one herd ahead of the other. This way, the young cows don’t have to compete for the grass with the older cows.”

Love for cattle and ag issues

The hard-working widow says she really enjoys being with her cattle.

She reminisces, “We’ve come through bad fires, bad droughts and some terrible winters. I remember one winter was so bad, I called Skip and said, ‘Someone like me shouldn’t own cows in a winter like this,’ to which he responded, ‘Nobody should own cows in a winter like this.’”

After Curt died, McCullough became increasingly involved in property rights issues.

“In 2007, a state legislator who is my neighbor told me the Wyoming Legislature’s ag committee was going around the state having meetings to see if they could improve the rights of property owners with the eminent domain laws,” she says. “I was a member of R-CALF USA and decided we needed a Wyoming organization.  Charlie Stevenson, Vanna Waters and I held a meeting in Casper to establish the Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming.”

She continues, “We decided to only focus on a few critical issues as not to get overwhelmed. We focus on property rights and ranching issues. Because of my involvement with the R-CALF animal identification committee, I’ve gone to Washington, D.C. to testify for R-CALF, representing our cow/calf producers.”

McCullough admits she’s done a lot to speak up on western issues.

“As one rancher said about getting involved, ‘I’d rather stay home and fence, but what good is a fence if I don’t have my land?’” McCullough emphasizes.

“We can’t complain if we don’t try to make a change. I’m very concerned about packer concentration and about the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB),” she says, noting that R-CALF’s annual meeting addresses such issues to educate their members. “We’ve got to get everyone educated about what’s coming down the pike.”

Rebecca Colnar is a correspondent to 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..