Current Edition

current edition

2017 Fall Cattlemen's Edition

Aladdin – Before the Moline family homesteaded their ranch, the area served as a trail from Deadwood, S.D. to Miles City, Mont.

“In this area, there was a corral where horses were kept for relays,” says John Moline, the oldest of the seven Moline boys involved in the ranch. “This place was homesteaded in 1886.”

Today, the Moline boys are all peripherally involved in the ranch. David manages the ranch full-time, and John and Kevin help regularly. Ted also lives down the road and spends much of his time at the ranch. Ted also works for Crook County Road and Bridge.

Dan lives in Riverton, and Galen lives in Big Piney. Brett, the youngest of the family, lives in Laramie and works for Wyoming Farm Bureau.

The family didn’t move to Aladdin until 1959, though.

“When Margaret, my mom met Dad, she was in Spearfish, S.D. at a teacher’s college,” Kevin explains. “My Dad, John, was stationed at Fort Mead. When they got married, he started a farm in South Dakota where his mother and siblings were.”

When their uncle in Aladdin passed away, Margaret was the only surviving child, so she moved the family to Aladdin to operate the ranch.

Cow/calf operation

Today, the Molines run cow/calf pairs, favoring black baldy cattle for their hybrid vigor.

“Dad was one of the first in the area to run black baldies,” John says. “I think if one were to look at it, black white-faced cattle would probably make more money more often than any others.”

They calve in March, starting early in the month with heifers and moving through the mature cows later. After calves are on the ground, they begin to move out to summer pasture. The cows are split to the north and south of the home place.

Overall, they keep their management simple and low stress, a strategy that allows them to maintain a health cattle herd.

Kevin adds that everything is cake-broke to make their livestock easier to handle, and they see benefits in weaning and when working.

“We try to keep things low-key and low stress,” John says. “The calves in the pasture aren’t tagged usually.”

The Molines sell calves in October, usually at the Belle Fourche Livestock Auction in Belle Fourche, S.D. They emphasize consistency in their steers.

“We’ve kept our genetics very consistent over the last 20 years,” Kevin says. “We can market the calves better and get a better price if we can sell a uniform truckload of steers.”

They sell 700-pound calves weaned as they leave the ranch. All calves are pre-conditioned 45 days before reaching the sale barn.

“David has done a nice job increasing the size of our calves and retaining the quality that we have,” John says.

The heifer calves are kept as replacements until January or February, when they heavily cull the heifers and sell them.

“We’re working to develop a stronger market to sell our heifers as quality replacement animals, instead of them just going to the feedlot,” John says.

Good place

Despite the remote nature of the ranch, John emphasizes that one benefit of ranching where they do is the tight-knit nature of the community.

“If anything happens here, like a fire or something similar, within a half hour, at least a dozen neighbors will be here,” John says. “We work together and take care of each other.”

They also emphasize good water quality and quantity, and good grass most years.

Though there are benefits, the brothers mention that they have to be self-sufficient, since electricity and phone service can be unpredictable during harsh winter storms.

“We survive out here pretty well,” Kevin says.

Community involvement

The tight-knit nature of the community also means that the Moline brothers have all been involved on different boards and commissions.

“Our folks were pretty involved,” John says. “Dad was on the school board, church council and county commissioners.”

“I was a county commissioner for many years,” he continues. “Kevin was on the medical board, and David was president of the weed and pest.”

They all also serve on the volunteer fire department, which has been strongly supported in the region.

“Even though the ranch is so isolated, it’s been important that all of us got out and saw the world at some point or another,” Kevin says. “We realize that we operate in a world market, and we change and adapt based on what the market demands.”

“We’re aware of how politics and ag are continually changing,” he emphasizes. “We’re not so remote that we’re disconnected from how the industry is changing.”

Next generations

One of the concerns for the Moline family is transitioning their ranch to the next generation.

“There are 10 grandkids after us, and most of them use the ranch only for recreational purposes,” Kevin says. “It worries us a bit to think about how we’re going to keep the place going.”

Currently, the sixth generation of Molines lives in Buffalo, Dayton and Thermopolis, and Kevin says, “We’d like the ranch to continue into the future.”

The brothers comment that they appreciate the work ethic that comes from an ag background, and though they worked away from the ranch, the agriculture industry was always home.

Kevin says, “I’m a retired banker, and I always looked forward to coming home. I always wanted to come back to the ranch.”

“I like to be independent,” John says. “We do as much as we can here on the ranch – from mechanic work to taxes and marketing. I hate an eight-to-five job. I’ve done it, but I prefer it out here.”

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..

Hulett – “Most of my great-grandparents came to Crook County in the 1880s and were involved in agrarian pursuits with varying degrees of success,” says Merle Clark of the Wishbone Ranch.

He explains that his great-grandfather began a sawmill and raised sheep and cattle until the 1930s, and then Clark’s grandfather took over the operation.

“My father and mother, Dee and Barbara Clark, worked on ranches and gradually put together a dandy sheep and cattle ranch,” he comments.

While every generation of his family has been involved in agriculture, Clark notes that each individual made their own start and took a different path.

“I worked at a heavy construction company and sideline ranched until 1989, when a widowed Jesse Pearson, sold me her two section ranch. That was the break that got the ranch started,” he continues.

Current operation

According to Clark, the family ranch has gradually built to 5,000 deeded acres with shares in the Rocky Point Grazing Association and private and government leases to allow the ranch to run 300 cow/calf pairs and replacements.

“We’re primarily a cow/calf operation,” he explains. “At different times, we run yearlings, and we raise our own replacements. I winter graze out about 50 percent of the cattle.”

The Wishbone Ranch primarily runs Black Angus cattle, with strong genetic influences from Redland Angus in the Big Horn Basin.

“We have 1,275-pound cows that get by on what the sun grows and don’t require work calving in May to June,” says Clark. “We now select bulls from our calf crop and from Ryan Neiman.”

Clark notes the ranch strives to continually improve efficiency and remain low input.

“We try to keep our costs down, our efficiency up and make the cattle take care of themselves,” he stresses.

The Wishbone Ranch raises approximately 800 acres of dryland hay to feed their cowherd.

“It’s a grass-alfalfa mixture, and we seed our fields about every 10 years,” notes Clark.

Rewards and challenges

While he worked in the construction industry for 20 years and enjoyed it, Clark explains it was always his desire to return to ranching.

“I enjoy doing ranch work and the day-to-day activities of taking care of the cattle and the range,” he says. “I just enjoy what I do.”

He continues, “I look forward to getting up every morning, and it wasn’t always that way when I had crews to take care of and construction work to do.”

Clark notes one of the most rewarding parts of ranching is being able to raise his family to be stewards of the land.

“Living on the land seems to instill young people with timeless values and a grounded outlook,” comments Clark. “No matter the resource, it all boils down to being a people thing. Good people will make good decisions.”

According to Clark, there are always challenges in life, with some of the most difficult being beyond control, such as politics and markets.

“However, once a person gets everything paid and begins to feel confident in their abilities and station in life, they develop a confidence that they can meet just about any challenge,” he continues.

Next generation

“Susan and I are proud to send four quality people to lead productive lives,” says Clark. “They’ve developed their life skills at the ranch level, but they went out and made their own paths in the world and continue to do so.”

He notes their son Spencer and his wife Karyn are involved in education, their daughter Sydne and husband Tim are in the medical field and their son Mitchell is pursuing his education at Black Hills State University.

“Our daughter Lauren is on the ranch and plans on taking over the ranch,” he explains. “She is also involved in livestock marketing.”

As he looks ahead, Clark notes he plans to increase and better the ranch to leave it to the next generation better than he found, and to continue to help the next generation prepare for upcoming challenges.

“I think it’s important for the next generation to develop a certain mindset. We need to give them confidence, so they can meet the challenges that are going to come in the future,” concludes Clark. “The world is changing at an ever-faster pace, and we’re going to have to have the resources to deal with those coming challenges.”

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..

Hulett – In 2013, Ryan and Sonnie Neiman took what they call a leap of faith, purchased the registered cattle from his family’s Neiman 77 Ranch and started his own operation – Neiman Cattle Company, LLC.

Starting as Neiman 77 Ranch and later continuing as Neiman Cattle, they held their first bull sale in 2007 and have continued building their operation as a well-recognized and highly respected operation.

Today, Ryan, his wife Sonnie and daughters Kaycie, 2, and Sutton, 4 months, live and work at the ranch and strive to continue to build their family-focused operation.

Love for cattle

Ryan’s love for cattle started when he was very young.

“When I was nine years old, I started my own herd from a futurity heifer selected by my uncle at the 77 ranch,” he says. “I had those cows through high school and college.”

After college, he continued to pursue a hands-on education by working for Sinclair Cattle Company and Cow Country Genetics.

“I moved home in 2006 and started managing my family’s ranch, the Neiman 77 Ranch,” he says. “In 2004, my family bought some registered Angus from Ohlde Cattle Company in Kansas, and we started selling bulls with the Pannell Ranch. When they sold their ranch, we kept building.”

Sonnie’s passion for the industry was also developed in her youth.

“I was raised north of Hanna in the Elk Mountain area,” she says. “My parents, Casey and Nellie Palm, ran commercial cattle. I grew up working on the ranch.”

When she was in high school, Sonnie’s mother recommended she earn a college degree not related to the ag industry.

“Mom told me I could always come back to the ranch if I wanted to. I’ve always loved the healthcare industry, so I went into athletic training,” Sonnie explains. “After I graduated, I got my first job in Hulett. I said I was going to live in Hulett for one year, and then I met Ryan.”

The couple was married in September 2013, and they run Neiman Cattle Company north of Hulett together.

Working with families

After they were married, Sonnie’s parents moved to Hulett from Hanna.

“When they got here, we decided that, if we were going to work with both families, we needed to have our own operation,” Ryan says. “We needed to be able to be completely open with everyone, so we bought out the Neiman 77 Ranch Angus herd of about 100 cows, and we leased another 150.”

Today, they have grown to a herd of nearly 300 owned and leased cows.

They begin calving in April, and Ryan explains they keep nearly all their heifer calves.

The bulls are sold as two-year-olds and developed on a ration that contains absolutely no starch, Ryan emphasizes.

They strive to produce bulls with moderate birthweight, moderate size and easy fleshing ability.

“On the maternal side, they’ve got to be protective enough to keep their calves alive but gentle enough to handle,” Ryan says. “We like to keep all of our heifers and calve them once to find out how they are going to work out as mothers.”

Everything is weaned in the fall and held over through the winter.

“Then, we decide what we’re going to keep as far as the bulls. The rest are fed out, and carcass data is collected as often as possible,” Ryan says.

Working for the customer

Ryan’s passion for the registered cattle business starts with livestock, but he also enjoys working with the people.

“For me, a lot of the reason why I wanted to be involved in the registered business is for the people,” he says. “I like people and helping to solve their problems.”

He continues, “We’re not selling bulls. Really, we’re servicing cows. I enjoy the problem-solving end of finding a bull that works for the commercial producer.”

Ryan also sees value in looking back at what made producers both registered and commercial successful in the past and using similar strategies.

“Sometimes I think cattle genetics can move forward too quickly. I think it’s easy to forget that what really matters is the cow,” he explains. “The success of our customers is what matters. Our customers need to be solvent by producing cows that breed, raise calves, breed back and do it again with the lowest input cost possible.”

The satisfaction of ownership is also a big part of why the couple has stayed in the cattle business.

“Right now, we’re hopefully building something for our kids,” Ryan says. “We’re going to continue building efficiency and improving our uniformity throughout the cowherd. We’re continuing to build our genetics and we’re going to continue to improve.”

Records and data

To provide the best quality, Ryan says, “We think that collecting relevant data and information is really important.”

This year, they sent a set of bulls to Lingle to the University of Wyoming’s bull test station for forage efficiency testing.

“This is the first year we’ve efficiency tested our bulls,” Ryan says. “We thought it was a good opportunity to see if we can learn something more. We’re not looking for a magic bullet, but we’re looking to find a line of cattle that is superior to the rest and move ahead with those.”

The Neimans have also begun to collect additional data from their bulls at Sonnie’s parent’s ranch.

“Sonnie’s parents have allowed us to test our genetics on their commercial cows, and this is the first set of calves that was 100 percent sired by our bulls,” Ryan says. “We run their cattle as if they were our registered cattle, so we individually identify and take individual weaning weights on everything.  Later we hope to extend the data collection to the feed yard and slaughter.”

They will DNA test the calves to determine sire and then use all the information they collect to make sure the cattle provide a profit for the commercial cattle businessman.

Working for the future

As Ryan and Sonnie look out over the next several decades, they see continued development in their future.

“Hopefully in 20 years we’ll own a little bit of land, in addition to the cattle,” Ryan says. “We lease everything now. We don’t need to own a bunch of land, but we’d like to have enough to have a home place.”

He also notes they will continue to work to improve cattle going forward.

“Every year we want to make our cattle a little better, so our customers can put more money in their pockets. That’s what matters,” Ryan says. “I don’t have any grand delusions that we’re going to make the perfect cow. We’re not trying to change the world. We’re here to raise the best cattle we can and raise a family while doing it.”

Visit Neiman Cattle Company online at neimancattle.com for more information. This year, their bull sale will be held on Feb. 15, 2018 in Belle Fourche, S.D.

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..

Colony – Located along the Belle Fourche River, Jensen Ranch prides itself in their quality cattle production and management of the land, says rancher Janet Jensen.

Jensen, her husband Thorval, Jr. and the couple’s children Lee and Tami manage the family’s operation that has been in business for over 70 years.

Rich history

Jensen Ranch patriarch Thorval Jensen, Sr. grew up the son of a Danish Lutheran minister who was a traveling trouble-shooter for the Lutheran church in Nebraska.

In the 1930s, Thorval, Sr. and a friend made their first marks in Wyoming and began the roots of the Jensen family in Wyoming agriculture.

“They came to eight miles south of Moorcroft on Buffalo Creek on the homesteader train filled with farming supplies from Cozad, Neb.,” says Jensen.

She explains that Thorval, Sr. was able to make a profit selling corn and hogs to oil field workers who preferred the taste of corn-fed hogs to slop-fed hogs.

An enterprising businessman, Thorval, Sr. purchased land for alfalfa production and later acquired ranches in the area as he had opportunity where he broke into sheep and cattle production with his wife Lillian.

“In 1946, Thorval, Sr. heard of land for sale along the Belle Fourche River, which belonged to three VVV ranches that had gone bankrupt,” Jensen says, noting that the current ranch is comprised of part of that land transaction.

Coming back

Thorval, Jr. and Janet assumed operation of the land in 1966, spending their working career developing the resources the land had to offer. Nearly 1,200 acres of land were cleared, leveled and finalized into useable hay land and crop land.

Jensen also notes numerous miles of canals and irrigation works were developed, with large impoundments constructed to provide supplemental irrigation water.

Jensen explains that the couple’s two children Tami and Lee originally pursued careers outside of ranching before returning to the family operation.

“Tami went to the University of Wyoming (UW) and got her degree in accounting. She worked in Arizona, Texas and Idaho with a helicopter crew doing firefighting contracts,” says Jensen.

She continues, “Lee went to UW and got his bachelor’s degree in range management and master’s degree in water resources management before working in mining for Black Thunder Coal Mine in the eastern Powder River Basin.”

Tami returned to Wyoming to take over the bookkeeping of Jensen Ranch and Jensen Construction.

After Thorval, Jr. suffered health complications in 2009, Lee managed the family businesses while still working in mining for three years.

“In 2012, he came home with his wife Heidi and their children Tucker, Hadlie and Gunner,” she comments. “We will always be thankful for the support Lee received from Black Thunder Mine.”

Current operation

The Jensen Ranch is primarily a cattle operation, with both Thorval, Jr. and Janet, as well as Lee and Heidi bringing in herds to the ranch.

“Lee and Heidi put together a cowherd while he worked at Black Thunder Coal Mine and brought them into the operation,” Jensen says.

Both fall-calving and spring-calving herds are managed at the ranch.

All first-calf heifers are artificially inseminated (AI) with no bull service and opens from this period are re-inseminated as fall calving first calf heifers with bull service. All second-calf heifers are AI-bred, as well, Jensen explains

Most pregnancy testing is conducted by Lee, and AI breeding is now done by Lee’s son Tucker and long-time employee Jeremiah Aurand.

Because of the irrigation available on the ranch, Jensen explains they typically hold their current calf crop over as yearlings to take advantage of the feed base, using the feedlot and feed bunks in pasture conditions for the cattle.

“We use water from our three storage dams onto diked and leveled land,” says Jensen. “We own shares in irrigation water storage in Wyoming via Keyhole Reservoir, as well.”

In addition to their range operations, the ranch also manages a feedlot where they care for clients’ cattle for turnout to summer grass.

“We use the feedlot and feed bunks in pasture conditions for these cattle,” Jensen continues.

Rewards

According to Jensen, Thorval, Sr. and Lillian were passionate about their agricultural pursuits, with Thorval, Sr. preferring land and irrigation management and Lillian preferring livestock production.

“Lillian A.M. Jensen introduced the first Angus and Charolais cattle in Hereford cattle country,” explains Jensen. “She introduced Suffolk and later Cheviot sheep for meat production and not the wool usually bred for in this area.”

Jensen continues, “They passed this love of land and livestock to their children and grandchildren.”

She notes Thorval, Jr. always thought his parents did jobs on the operation in the most strenuous way and therefore worked diligently to make improvements to make the ranch more efficient.

“He vowed to do things the easier way by engineering facilities and designed irrigation systems to be less labor intensive,” she states. “Thorval, Jr. was always rebuilding equipment to stand up to vigor’s of the agricultural process.”

As she reflects on their life in ranching, Jensen says the most rewarding aspects for her revolve around her family and stewardship of the land.

“I enjoy being able to work with our children and grandchildren. Our goal is to always try to leave the Jensen Ranch and our livestock better than how we received the land,” she concludes.

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..

Hulett – The Neiman family values hard work, family and community. James S. Neiman started working in the family’s sawmill at age six, and Jim Neiman, current president and CEO, did the same. Today, the family still works together under the various entities within Neiman Enterprises.

“Eighty-one years ago, my dad bought an old sawmill, and we moved from Nebraska to Upton,” says James S. “In 1939, that mill burned down, so we moved to Hulett and rebuilt. We’ve been here ever since.”

Prior to the Neiman family moving to Hulett, they were corn farmers in Eades, Colo. A.C. Nieman started the sawmill in 1936. In 1958, Jim bought his brother out of the sawmill, and they’ve continued to build ever since.

Embracing opportunities

“In the last 20 years, we’ve gone from 100 employees to almost 500,” Jim says.

For many decades, Jim says the sawmill business wasn’t easy.

“We were the smallest of seven major sawmills in the Black Hills for quite some time,” Jim explains. “In 1997, we made our first acquisition when we bought Rushmore Forest Products in Hill City, S.D., which doubled our production.”

In 2008, Spearfish Forest Products in Spearfish, S.D. was acquired, which again doubled production.

“We also acquired a pellet operation in 2008,” Jim says. “Heartland Wood Pellets produces pellets for wood burning stoves, and we do a small amount of horse bedding.”

In 2012, Montrose Forest Products, a stud mill in Montrose, Colo., was acquired.

“We continue to look for opportunities to grow,” Jim adds. “We’re not done building yet.”

Neiman Timber is also under the umbrella of the Neiman family and provides the logs for three sawmills in the Black Hills. 

“Our timber company buys and sells the timber to the three sawmills,” Jim says. “Big logs are sorted and brought to Hulett.”

Devils Tower Forest Products

Devils Tower Forest Products in Hulett manufactures ponderosa pine lumber, producing over 40 million board feet of ponderosa pine lumber each year.

“We bring our bigger logs to Hulett,” Jim explains. “Our three biggest customers from this mill are Pella Window, Anderson and Marvin Windows. We’re one of the top suppliers of wood for these companies.”

In addition, they provide lumber for home improvement stores, like Menards and Home Depot.

All of the by-products from the sawmills – including bark, sawdust, chips and planer shavings – are utilized. Bark and sawdust are burned in boilers that power the kilns to dry the lumber and heat the buildings.

The shavings from the planer are bagged and sold as livestock bedding. 

The logs with nails or other metal are provided to the community for firewood at no cost, since the metal is severely detrimental to the mill.

Partners

One particularly important aspect of Neiman Enterprises is their partnership with ranchers.

“We use a lot of timber from the Black Hills National Forest,” Jim says, adding that private lands are interspersed, as well. “Timber from private lands owned by ranchers really helps to supplement our supply.”
At the same time, the trees provide an additional “crop” for ranchers.

“Some ranchers look at their trees as a crop, rather than just a weed,” he explains. “Thinning trees is important, and it benefits both ranchers and us. A good relationship between our business and private timber lands is really critical.”

Family involvement

Jim emphasizes that family is incredibly important to Neiman Enterprises. He is supported by his wife Christy, and his son Marcus will eventually take over the operation.

His dad, James S., works at the sawmill and the ranch, and his mother, Sally Ann, is integral, as well. Sister Sheri Stinson manages the office. Brother Rick manages the Neiman 77 Ranch. Jim’s brother Kent works at the coalmine in Gillette, and Jim’s daughter Sonja and brother Kent both live in Gillette.

“One person can’t do it. This is a family operation, and our general manager and the team we’ve all put together is extremely important also,” he says.

Tom Shaffer serves as general manager of the company. Chad Voyles serves as CFO, Dan Buehler is head of Neiman Timber, and Mike Stevens works as sales manager.

“We also have plant managers at each location,” Jim says. “None of this would be possible without our team.”

Challenges

Despite positive working relationships, Jim says that there are challenges that go along with operating the sawmill.

“Environmental issues are a big concern,” he explains. “If some endangered species hits the Black Hills, what are we going to do? We are facing the long-eared bat right now, and there are 90-some other listed or concerned species.”

Additionally, technology and the related expense is a continual challenge for the company.

“We experience a continuous transition in technology, and we have to stay up on it,” Jim says. “We have to upgrade our computers every few years, and we use state-of-the-art camera equipment for grading, trimming and more in the sawmill.”

“It’s an ever-changing world,” he emphasizes.

Supporting the community

“Our core emphasis is on the community, and our philosophy is to take care of family members and the people in our community,” Jim explains. “We can’t fail because it would be devastating for too many people, so we’ve had to figure out how to survive.”

“We have to have a community view,” he continues. “Now, our mills take care of four communities.”

After observing the impact of the spotted owl on the West Coast, Jim and his father looked at what helped communities survive, despite the challenges. The mill provides employment for many, but Neiman Enterprises pursued developing an airport and a golf course in Hulett to continue to enhance the community.

“My commitment to my dad and mother was to take this company two more generations – both the ranch and the sawmill,” Jim says. “My ultimate goal is to pass it on to the next generations. I’ve got a commitment from my son to do the same thing.”

“You get sawdust between your ears, and it penetrates, so I’ve always stuck around,” Jim says.

He continues, “My dad told me one day, we come into this world naked and we go out naked. What we’re remembered for is up to us. It’s not about money, it’s about how we give back and how we help people.”

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.