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2017 Fall Cattlemen's Edition

Hulett – In the small, rural community of Hulett, nearly 50 students spent at least part of each school day in Jim Pannell’s agriculture education classroom, which is a multi-site facility focused on education opportunities that teach students to think critically to solve problems.

“In Hulett’s K-12 school, we have 136 students,” says Jim Pannell, who’s been teaching agriculture education since 2010. “I see 48 unduplicated kids in the course of a day.”

Hands-on learning

For Pannell, the most important part of teaching is engaging students in a hands-on learning process.

“We have a school farm, and our shop program is pretty extensive,” he says. “When I got here, there wasn’t a very strong shop program, so we started them small and built from there.”

They work on a variety of projects tailored to student needs.

“The majority of my students aren’t traditional ranch kids,” Pannell explains. “Many of the kids might live in the country, but their parents work in town. I also have more students who are likely to pursue vocational post-secondary education than ag degrees. We’re looking for ways to engage them here.”

If that means they’re building a history project in the shop, Pannell says he’s willing to work with students to learn the core skills – regardless of whether they are building a trailer or a Roman shield.

Pannell also believes it is his job to expose students to new things.

“My job is to expose kids to the various occupations in the ag industry and help them figure out what they like,” he says.

Ag classes

Hulett School offers seven ag periods, but Pannell says, with the small school, students take whatever course they can get into.

“Every kid has to take English and math, and sometimes, that overlaps with the ag class they would be in, so we give them the chance to be in ag class,” he explains. “Most of my classes have a mix of junior high students through seniors.”

He creatively utilizes technology and peer mentorship to teach students, which are at a variety of levels.

“I’ve got a couple of really good seniors who can help demonstrate and mentor the younger students if I’m working with another group,” Pannell says. “They’ll have opportunities to work on their own projects, too, but I’ll use their help with younger students.”

He also encourages students to use resources like YouTube and the internet to learn new skills.

“For example, one student was working on a trailer,” Pannell says. “I walked into the shop to see him on his phone. When I walked over, he was watching a wiring demonstration on YouTube.”

“I want to teach students how to learn,” he adds. “That is most important.”

Outside the shop

For those students who aren’t as interested in the shop, Pannell also encourages animal science and other projects.

“Our school farm allows us to run trials and incorporate students who aren’t as interested in being in the shop,” Pannell explains, noting that every student must jump in and try every aspect of class, but they are allowed to follow up on their passions.

The farm includes a barn, livestock pens, chicken coop, high tunnel and raised garden beds. The property was acquired with funding from the School Facilities Commission.

“We were able to purchase the land for an outdoor classroom,” Pannell explains. “The field wasn’t being used, and it started as a place where kids in town could have a place to keep livestock.”

Originally, however, the land was leased from the owner.

“We put up a lean-to and corrals because we didn’t own the land,” he says, noting that, after they purchased the land, he set his sights on building a barn. “We finished the barn in the fall of 2014.”

Cash donations and grants were instrumental in putting the facility together, and Pannell notes that in-kind donations in the form of labor and equipment helped make the project a reality.

“Our school district maintenance supervisor Tuffy Peterson was also really important,” Pannell says. “Our kids would go help Tuffy and others build the barn. We even spent Christmas vacation one year insulating it. Parents and students were all involved.”

Growing program

Since building the barn on the school farm, Pannell notes that a number of students house lambs and pigs in the facility.

Austin Butler, a senior in Hulett, says, “Usually, in December, I bring my lambs into town. We ultrasound them, shear and whatnot.”

He comments that it provides him easier access to his lambs, and then everyone can learn from the project.

“We also bring in the elementary school kids to show them more about ag,” Butler continues. “It’s pretty cool to be involved in.”

Taylor Penning, another senior, adds, “It’s fun to watch the kids when they come in. They have no clue about things like shearing sheep or doctoring pigs. Everybody gets something out of the school farm.”

The farm has hosted everything from pigs and sheep to goats and cattle. 

“We have a couple young ladies working on a feed trial to compare different feeds,” Pannell says. “I also have a young man who wanted to learn to freeze brand. Instead of just freeze branding, which we could teach in 10 minutes, we’re going to put together an experiment to see how dry ice works compared to liquid nitrogen and to test how long the brand should be applied.”

“Having the farm available is pretty cool,” he comments.

Garrett White, Hulett senior, says, “It’s really nice that the facility is available.”

Partners

For Pannell, community partnerships are important in helping young people to learn.

“We have people stop in to see what’s going on, and we bring local experts in to teach out a variety of things,” Pannell says, citing the sawmill, carpenters, electricians, veterinarians and more who have all visited the class as guest teachers. “My kids interact with these adults, which helps them learn.”

He adds, “The community is a big part of our program and our school. We’re proud of what we’re doing here, and we want to continue to showcase that in our own community and across the state.”

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..

Carlile – Ranching is a family tradition and way of life for third generation rancher Dan Zimmerschied of the Zimmerschied Ranch in northeastern Wyoming.

“Our family has been ranching over 100 years on this place. The original family came from Edwardsville, Ill., and they had a farm back there,” he explains. “They built the house I live in in 1912, and that was the year my father was born.”

Running the business

Currently, the Zimmerschied Ranch is a long yearling operation, Zimmerschied explains.

“In other words, spring 2017’s calves won’t sell until next fall in 2018,” he says. “The advantage to that is, if we do have a dry year, we can sell them in the spring, and we have the pasture we would have used for them to put our cows on so we don’t sell our cows.”

The yearlings are not usually backgrounded and are primarily grassfed at the time of sale.

“I mostly sell them through a livestock auction barn, but this spring I did sell some of them private treaty,” he explains.

After the passing of his mother, Zimmerschied notes the ranch is in a period of transition.

“I’ll probably only be running 175 to 200 head for a while now until I can build back up a little bit,” he comments. “I’m pretty much switching to all Black Angus with Simmental crossed into them from running Herefords.”

In addition to their yearling operation, Zimmerschied explains the ranch also raises hay for their cattle using dryland field management.

“We do a little farming, but most of the farming we do is to try and grow hay,” he comments.

The ranch grows a mix of alfalfa and grass hay, with the majority of their production being grass hay.

Family and the ranch

Zimmerschied and his wife Mary “DeDe” have been married for 27 years, and he notes she is actively involved in helping care for the ranch.

“She enjoys helping with some of the things around on the ranch and has a big garden she tends to,” says Zimmerschied.

In addition to helping care for the ranch, DeDe also applies her talents to hand crafting, he says.

“DeDe does woodworking, and she builds log furniture, Zimmerschied explains.

DeDe’s two children and the couple’s grandchildren are also involved in the ranching operation.

“The grandkids are getting to an age where they’re pretty good help, and they seem to like it,” he comments.

Zimmerschied continues, “Some of the kids are really good mechanics, which really helps because I’m not as good at that.”

When not working on the ranching operation, Zimmerschied explains he enjoys supporting his grandchildren in their sporting activities, saying, “I really enjoy going to see my grandkids’ football games and hockey games.”

Working forward

As he looks toward the future, Zimmerschied explains he plans to increase his cowherd size.

Finding reliable help for completing ranch work is another focus for Zimmerschied, he says.

He explains that providing optimal care of the land and livestock at all times is his first priority.

Zimmerschied continues, “My goals are to try to keep ranching if we find someone to help care for our livestock. We have to be fair to them, as their care is our first priority in ranching.”

Way of life

“I’ve never really done anything other than ranching,” explains Zimmerschied as he reflects on his desire to ranch.

Zimmerschied notes the freedom of the ranching lifestyle has always appealed to him.

“In ranching, we set our own hours, and if we have to have a day off, we can take it usually,” he continues. “There’s only certain times of year that we’re really tied up, like calving.”

The connection ranching has with the land and wildlife is another part of the lifestyle that Zimmerschied appreciates.

“Just being outdoors, getting to watch all of the wildlife and such, is something I also enjoy,” he says.

Zimmerschied concludes, “We really enjoy it. There’s no better way of life than this. I’m sure some people wouldn’t get along with the ranch lifestyle, but we’ve found it very rewarding.”

Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Alva – Not many things in life are better than sorting pairs out of the calving pasture with a good horse on a sunny, spring day when the grass is green and growing, Wayne Wilson says.

“It’s a quality way of life that I appreciate and value very much,” states the third-generation rancher from Alva.

Wilson, his wife Susan and son Kellen work together to manage the Wilson Ranch. Wayne and Susan’s daughter Lauren lives in Omaha, Neb., where she attends the University of Nebraska Medical Center and will soon earn her pharmacy degree.

A century on the ranch

Wayne’s grandfather Carl settled in Crook County about 100 years ago.

“He came to the U.S. from Sweden, migrated West and ended up here,” Wilson says. “He married my grandmother Lola. They raised their family here and started the family ranching tradition we are continuing today.”

The Wilson family has always believed cattle and farming are both needed to make a well-rounded and economically viable operation.

In addition to cattle, they raise hay and small grains, which can be used to feed the cattle during dry years or as a cash crop when the harvest is more bountiful.

The operation started with traditional Hereford cattle but started changing to Angus cattle in the 1970s.

“Over time, our operation moved from a commercial cattle operation to a value-added operation. We started to place more emphasis on raising better cattle and seeking more value per head,” Wilson explains.

Moving to registered

Wilson took over management of the operation in 1992.

“We started raising bulls in 2010 after we had the opportunity to buy most of the Pannell Ranch Angus cows when they liquidated their herd,” he explains. “The Pannells are long-time friends and previously our neighbors to the north.”

“They had an exceptionally good group of registered Angus cows. When Jim Pannell asked me if I wanted to buy the herd, it didn’t take me long to say yes,” Wilson recalls.

Once they purchased the cows, the family had a decision to make.

“We asked ourselves if we wanted to raise Angus bulls, fully recognizing there were many Angus breeders in the area, or if we wanted to do something different,” Wilson says. “We decided to cross the cows with a purebred Simmental to create an improved solid black, smoothed, polled product.”

SimAngus cattle

The Simmental-Angus cross appealed to Wilson because the Simmental breed is recognized as the highest ranking continental breed for calving ease, weaning weight and marbling. 

“Angus have the highest ranking for calving ease, weaning weight and marbling of the British breeds. Crossing the two breeds yields hybrid vigor and combines these desirable traits of both breeds in a moderately-sized, functional package,” he says.

“Initially, we crossed the Simmental and Angus because there was a good market for the half-blood females, and we knew where we could sell those,” he continues. “We also had an opportunity to buy a semen interest in an exceptional solid black, smooth, polled Simmental bull named WAGR Driver 608T. We artificially inseminated all our cows to Driver that first year.”

“When spring came, the cows produced some really nice heifer calves, as we expected,” he continues. “What we didn’t anticipate was how good the bull calves turned out to be.”

He continues, “We ended up leaving the top calves as bulls and started selling them to a few of our neighbors. It has grown from there.”

“We have been fortunate to have cattle that calve easily because they are moderate birthweight and the right shape. They hit the ground, nurse their mother and perform well, gaining pounds through the summer,” he says. “We have very good weaning weights with no creep feed – just the mother’s milk and grass.”

Raising registered like their customers

Unlike many bull breeders, the Wilsons calve in large pastures on the range where the cows are expected to take care of themselves and their calves with little care.

“We get quite a lot of snow here, so we have to feed four or five months out of the year,” he explains. “We don’t calve anything in the corrals or the barn. They find shelter in the pastures and calve on their own.”

He continues, “We feel it is important to calve these cows the same way our customers do. We don’t feed our calves any creep feed or supplement in the summer, other than salt and mineral. We achieve remarkably high weaning weights through good genetics and Wyoming grass.”

After the bull calves are weaned, they are moved to a 60-acre pasture where they are fed Purina Accuration from feeders and long-stem grass hay on the ground.

“We don’t own a feed wagon or a mixer. It is a lower input range system where the bulls get plenty of exercise,” he explains. “We feed hay on one end of the pasture, and they travel to the other end for water and the Accuration. It seems to be a good way to develop their feet and legs.”

“They grow and build muscle, but they don’t get too fat,” he notes.

Selling bulls

Wilson has found the best advertising comes from customers who have had success with their bulls.

“It is very satisfying to sell bulls to our neighbors and see them work wean higher value calves. It is important to us that our bulls do their jobs in the pasture and our customers get the performance they expect and deserve,” he says.

“Our goal is to keep our customers happy, improve our offering each year and eventually market some of the heifers at our production sale,” he says. “Long-term, we would like to eventually integrate our program with a feeding operation to track the benefits of what we’re doing.”

Wilson adds, “We would like to give our customers an option for a better market for their product and more dollars in their pockets. Often they just don’t get paid a bonus like they should for raising good cattle.”

The Wilson Ranch SimAngus bull sale is held annually on the last Friday in March at St. Onge Livestock Auction in St. Onge, S.D. Learn more about Wilson Ranch at wilsonsimangus.com or by calling 307-467-5550.

Gayle Smith 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.

Hulett – Since 1977, the McDonald family has farmed and ranched on their current piece of property north and west of Hulett, but their history extends much deeper.

“I was born and raised over by Aladdin,” says JO McDonald. “My dad still lives over there, and my wife Rhoda came from Camp Crook, S.D.”

Their families still run cattle, and JO and Rhoda have followed in their footsteps, also expanding and adding diversity to their operation the Northfork Buffalo Ranch.

Cows and hay

“We’re a cow/calf operation, and we put up some hay,” JO explains. “In good years, we can sell a lot of hay, but with drought, it’s been a little bit tough.”

“We like to keep busy doing things, so we do some contract farming, as well,” adds Rhoda, who notes that they keep busy cutting hay on a number of ranches in the county. “We also run a small herd of buffalo, and we have a few horses.”

The cattle on the ranch are black and black baldy. JO explains that the Hereford bulls make a good cross, and they have consistently sold to the same buyer.

“We advertise the cattle on Superior’s country page,” he says. “We’ve tried a little bit of everything in the cowherd, but the black baldies sell really well. People like both the females and the steers, and we’ve been able to get a premium out of our calves.”

In a normal year, the family keeps heifers, but in drought years, like 2017, they’re able to sell early to preserve their feed resources.

Diversified livestock

In the late 1980s, Rhoda says they invested in a small herd of buffalo.

“Buffalo aren’t much trouble, and they survive well,” JO says. “We don’t have to worry about them.”

However, if drought hits and they need to destock, JO says moving buffalo can be challenging.

“We usually sell a trailer load of yearlings each year,” he adds.

Rhoda mentions, “We also like the buffalo meat. When prices are lower, we eat more buffalo than beef.”

“One of the things we do with our buffalo is use the calves to train working cow horses. Our son-in-law trains horses, and the buffalo calves are great for training horses,” she adds.

Rhoda also mentions that they raise a handful of ranch horses that they sell and utilize on the ranch.

“Our daughter Autumn runs barrels, too, and I’ve been running barrels this summer,” says Rhoda, “so we have horses for that, too. It’s fun to get out and have a girl’s day out.”

A year in the life

The year for the McDonald family starts with calving at the end of March.

“We can get bad weather, but we’re lower in elevation and try to winter the cattle near home where it’s flat,” JO says. “We try to calve near our place. We have portable panels and shelters to protect themselves.”

Each year, they move the location of calving to reduce disease incidence.

Part of their cattle herd stays near the home place year-round, but they also run the rest in the hills in the region.

After the cattle head for summer range, they begin farming.

“We used to raise wheat, but when the wheat market got so poor, we planted it back to grass,” JO explains. “This is good winter wheat country, but the grass provides good grazing, too.”

He adds that the family has always sold hay, and strong prices enable the family to supplement their cattle income with hay sales.

The McDonald family also raises cover crops.

“We’ve been no-till farming for 20 years or so,” JO says. “We needed something to rotate our hayfields with, and we used to use small grains. When the wheat market went downhill, we were looking for something to build the soil, so we decided to try a cover crop.”

For three years, they’ve been raising a mixture of turnips, radishes, barley, oats, sorghum, millet, peas and more.

“We’re hoping to raise winter feed and build the soil,” he continues. “It does well when it has moisture, but it’s a little tough when we’re in a drought.”

Family focused

Family has remained  a centric value for the McDonalds.

JO and Rhoda have three children. Daughter Kelcie is married to Justin Lawrence, and the couple has two children, Kagan and Dally. Autumn, their middle daughter, married Zane Dempewolfe and has two boys, Dace and Dempsey. The youngest son Luke lives and works on the ranch with his son Abel.

“JO says we might not be rich, but we’re going to have a lot of experience, and we’ve supported the kids in a lot of different ventures,” Rhoda says. “Kelcie and Justin train horses and have cattle. Autumn and Zane train horses and have cattle, too, and Autumn’s also a hairdresser and trains barrel horses.”

Luke excels as a woodworker and often creates custom projects for people around the community.

“Luke and his dad work well together, and they do a lot together on the ranch,” Rhoda says. “Our family believes is good work ethic. We need more people with good work ethic in this country, and we’ve taught that to our kids.”

Ranch life

Though they’ve moved away from their home ranches, JO and Rhoda both say that ranching and Crook County are close to their hearts.

“I like Crook County,” JO says. “It’s a good county to live in, and it’s diversified. The country is productive, and this is a friendly community to live in.”

Rhoda adds, “I love ranching. I think we could make a place anywhere, but I like our little valley. This is God’s country.”

Luke is also fond of the ranch.

“I was born and raised here,” he says. “When I went to college in Rapid City, I wanted to come back here when I was done. I’ve been here ever since.”

Luke adds, “I agree with mom that we could probably make a place anywhere, but I like it here.”

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..

Sundance – For many years, Crook County’s Natural Resource District (CCNRD) has worked with ranchers, farmers and other landowners in two areas – water quality and forest health.

With a small staff and numerous partners, CCNRD is able to make dramatic progress towards improving water quality and forest health.

Staff and board

Day-to-day, CCNRD is run by Raesha Sell, who serves as office manager. Sarah Anderson coordinates the forest health program, while Carmen Horne-McIntyre coordinates the water quality program.

“We work really well as a team,” Sell says. “Our board of supervisors manage the direction of the district by being a voice for the county and the land. 

The board of supervisors is chaired by Wayne Garman, an area producer.

“Wayne is very dedicated to CCNRD and knowledgeable about natural resource concerns,” she explains. “We’re really fortunate to have Wayne as chairman.” 

“We also have four other members on our board, and all of them represent the county well.” She continues. “Ted Parsons is our vice chairman, Jennifer Hinkhouse is our secretary, Wanda Burget is our treasurer and Lily Altaffer is our member representative.”

Funding

“Many conservation districts across the state are funded by mill levies,” says Sell. “Unfortunately, we do not have mill levy funding, so most of our funding comes from grants.”

As a result, the grants dictate what programming can be offered.

“We also receive funding from the county commissioners each year, which helps us maintain the office as we apply for additional grant funding,” she says.

Forestry projects

Across the state, Crook County’s forest health program is well known for its work to restore forests that were impacted by mountain pine beetles.

“The goal of our forestry program is to establish resilient forests within Crook County. We want our forests to be resilient in the face of a natural phenomenon, such as pest infestations and fires,” Sell explains.

CCNRD applies for grants to offer cost assistance on forest thinning, fire fuels reduction and mountain pine beetle mitigation.

“Reducing fire fuel is similar to thinning, but it’s more extensive,” Sell says. “The trees have to be spaced farther apart, and we ensure that there’s no litter on the forest floor.”

Additionally, CCNRD also seeks to establish fuel breaks around homes and buildings.

“The mountain pine beetle infestation was pretty apparent in the Black Hills area,” Sell continues. “We have done extensive work to mitigate the mountain pine beetle, and it’s apparent how effective our pine beetle program has been in saving trees.”

CCNRD has also worked with the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service to manage pine beetles.

“We have a memorandum of understanding with those groups, so we can share costs and resources to manage these forests,” Sell says.

The district has been awarded numerous grants and has spent several million dollars towards improving the health of our forests.

“Since we’ve done a lot of work to mitigate the threats of the beetle, we are now focusing on establishing resilient forests to reduce the threat of future epidemics,” Sell says. “This program continues to grow as people realize the value of trees, and Sarah Anderson continues to find funding to facilitate forest health improvement programs.”

Water quality

In addition to the forestry program, CCNRD has established a robust water quality program that works to monitor the Belle Fourche River and Donkey Creek for the E. coli impairment.

“Both of the waters are impaired for E. coli and are listed on the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s 303(d) list of impaired waters,” Sell says. “We monitor the waters for E. coli, total coliform, chloride and ammonia.”

CCNRD receives grant funding to provide cost assistance to landowners, which goes toward water developments, including drilling wells and installing pipelines and tire tanks for efficient livestock watering.

“We try to disperse water throughout private property to improve rangeland health and utilization,” she explains. “We’re trying to encourage livestock and wildlife to use those water tanks instead of the river.”

Sell continues, “Our monitoring goes hand-in-hand with water projects, and we’re hoping to see a reduction in E. coli numbers by providing off-stream watering sources.”

Other programs

A unique program CCNRD offers is an electronic recycling program.

“We work with a certified recycling company out of Denver, Colo. who dismantles and recycles all of the components that make up the electronic device. The recycling program consists of an annual recycling event where individuals bring their unwanted electronics – whether it be TVs, phones, microwaves, etc. – to be properly recycled. This past year, we collected 9,000 pounds of electronic waste. ”

CCNRD partners in each town in Crook County helps pay for the costs.

They also focus on outreach through a variety of education programs.

“We try to provide education to ranchers to support them in their work,” Sell says. “Attendance at our soil health workshops has been unbelievable. We have had between 30 and 50 producers at most of our workshops. Producers are hungry for more education and information.”

For more information on CCNRD, call 307-283-2870, ext. 4.

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..