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2017 Fall Cattlemen's Edition

Rockypoint – Located in northeastern Wyoming, Kuhbacher Ranch has been in operation for 100 years, says third generation rancher Jerry Kuhbacher.

“My grandad homesteaded in 1907 at the place we’re at now,” says Kuhbacher. “We still live on the same 160 acres he homesteaded on.”

Kuhbacher and his wife Gayle, along with their sons and families, operate the family ranch, where they raise hay and cattle.

Evolving

As he reflects on expanding the ranch, Kuhbacher explains the operation has continued to evolve over the years.

“In the 1970s, when I’d buy a place, I would break a lot of that good soil out. I was planting winter wheat,and we had some hay acreage, too,” he comments. “I built to about 5,000 acres under tillage with a fallow wheat program.”

Kuhbacher continued increasing acreage for the ranch through the 1970s.

“We’ve ended up with 11,000 acres,” Kuhbacher notes. “Now, since 1999, we’ve gotten everything put back into grass and alfalfa.”

Through the years where the Kuhbachers were farming a large amount of land, he raised sheep to utilize the remaining land.

“I’d buy a lot of lambs in the fall, and they had good feed through the fall and winter,” he continues.

Now, the ranch has transitioned to cattle and hay production, he explains.

“It’s evolved over the years. There are 5,000 acres of hay ground, and there are 6,000 acres of grazing pastureland,” states Kuhbacher.

Cattle business

Kuhbacher explains the ranch typically runs 300 cow/calf pairs through the summer and has a program established where they sell a certain number of pairs in spring.

“It can go as high as 400 pairs in the summer in wet years, but in the drier years, we’ve been holding back to about 300 pairs,” he says. “We winter at least 400 head of our own cows, and we bring in a certain amount of cows to winter for other people.”

The ranch typically winters approximately 1,000 to 1,200 head each year.

“We’ve wintered up to 1,800 head of range cows, but as a general rule, we're usually in the 1,000 to 1,200 head range,” comments Kuhbacher.

The ranch hasn’t purchased calves in several years but does periodically purchase bred cows to maintain their numbers, he says.

“When we purchase cows, we stick mostly to Black Angus,” he comments.

Hay production

In addition to their cattle business, the ranch also raises grass and alfalfa hay for their cattle, but Kuhbacher notes the dry weather has been a challenge.

“The last two years, we’ve had lower production because it’s been real dry,” he says.

In a typical year, the ranch produces 5,000 to 6,000 tons of hay per year using dryland field management.

While the hay produced is primarily for their cattle, Kuhbacher explains they have also marketed hay in the past.

“Over the years, we’ve sold quite a bit. We always keep enough to maintain our cattle numbers,” he says. “Even with the dry weather, we have got a fair amount of carry over hay, so we’ll be fine this winter. We just haven’t been able to sell much hay the last two falls.”

Love of the challenge

“I was still a sophomore in high school when my grandparents on my mother’s side decided they wanted to retire,” explains Kuhbacher. “I had to make up my mind when I was a sophomore whether or not I wanted to ranch for a living.”

He notes his father didn’t want to purchase the ranch unless Kuhbacher planned on returning to work with him.

“I ended up saying I would, and I guess that’s the end of the story,” he laughs. “I’ve been here all of my life.”

According to Kuhbacher, managing his own ranch over the years has had its challenges.

“I started out real small, and the ranch didn’t have much around then. Dad bought me 400 head of sheep when I came back,” he says. “We had to go through all of the fences and put five and six wire fences around us.”

Kuhbacher continues, “I don’t know how to say it other than it’s been a challenge through the years. Of course, we loved it, and it’s deep in our bones. We wouldn’t do anything else as long as we can keep ranching.”

Looking forward

Kuhbacher explains the ranch is transitioning to his sons Justin and Michael and their families.

“They do the lion’s share of the work and decision-making day-to-day,” he says. “I’m fortunate I’ve got two good boys, and the ranch tradition is carrying on.”

As they look at ranch management strategies, Kuhbacher notes drought management has been a high priority.

“We had a period between 2000 to 2005 that was really dry. By the time 2002 came along, in the fall, we were real short of water,” he says.

Kuhbacher continues, “I started a three-year program putting underground water lines in throughout the ranch. That helped us winter a lot more cattle because we had good water year-round.”

According to Kuhbacher, the family plans to keep continuing and improving the land in coming years.

“Our future plan is to keep on the same program carrying forward as far as I can see,” Kuhbacher 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..

Nestled alongside the Black Hills of South Dakota and north of the Thunder Basin National Grasslands of Wyoming, Crook County boasts a rich history in Wyoming, with agriculture playing a pivotal role in its development and continued thriving economy.

Early history

After years of tension with native Indian tribes, some of the first settlers arrived in Crook County in 1876 to stake mining claims and begin small ranches.

Beulah, then known as Sand Creek, is considered the first settlement in Crook County, drawing gold prospectors in the 1870s.
“The 1876 rush that began in Lead and Deadwood, Dakota Territory, extended west to Sand Creek, and while discoveries of the precious metal dwindled, the lush grass and plentiful water were enough to attract cattlemen to replace the gold-seekers who left,” says Nicole Lebsack in an article titled, “Crook County” at
wyohistory.org.

In 1875, Wyoming’s territorial legislature created Crook and Johnson counties out of the northeastern portion of the territory, but it was almost a decade before a county government was organized and the town of Sundance became the county seat.
“By 1880, many large cattle operations were working the area and claimed all the land with direct access to Sand and Redwater creeks near Beulah,” Lebsack continues.

Blossoming economy

“Crook County’s industrial past dates to the discovery in the 1870s of coal deposits about 20 miles northeast of Sundance, near what would become Aladdin,” Lebsack says.

The Black Hills Coal Company was founded in 1895 and began mining in Crook County. To transport coal more efficiently, the company built the Wyoming and Missouri River Railroad from the Aladdin area to the main Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line in Belle Fourche, S.D.

Bentonite mining also became important to the county’s economy after the turn of the century as the demand for the mineral grew dramatically.

Since the late 1870s, cattle had been coming to northeastern Wyoming from Texas along the Texas Trail

“Once they reached the Wyoming end of the trail, some Texas cowboys from the trail herds stayed, settled in Crook County and went to work on large ranches; a few built thriving ranching operations of their own,” Lebsack notes.

In the 1890s, Moorcroft became the largest cattle shipping point in the U.S., and it remained an important shipping point until soon after the end of World War II.

Sheep production moved into the area, and soon, sheep outnumbered cattle in Wyoming by the turn of the century.

Present day

Looking at the present-day economy of Crook County, ranching and farming continues to play a significant role, with thriving ranches, farms and other agricultural businesses located in the county.

The oil, gas and mining industries also contribute steadily to the economy, with many companies operating in Crook County.

“Uranium was discovered in 1949, and the Homestake Mining Company opened north of Hulett to take advantage of this growing industry. The mine is still in operation,” Leback says.

Logging continues to be a large industry in Crook County, as well.

“Neiman Enterprises, Inc., founded in 1936 and using timber from U.S. Forest Service timber sales on the Black Hills National Forest, still operates a sawmill in Hulett,” she concludes. “In 2005, the county provided 58 percent of Wyoming’s timber, with more than 38 million board feet produced.”

This article is compiled using information from wyohistory.org.

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..

Crook County ranches featured in this edition:

1. Wilson Ranch

2. Nuckolls Ranch

3. Muleshoe Ranch

4. Judy McCullough

5. Crook County Veterinary Service

6. Jensen Ranch

7. Graham Ranch

8. Devils Tower FFA

9. Wishbone Ranch

10. Moline Ranch

11. Diamond 7 Bar Ranch

12. Williams Ranch

13. Rafter H Cattle

14. Neiman Enterprises, Inc.

15. Campstool Ranch

16. Devils Tower Goats

17. Crook County Natural Resource District

18. Warbonnet Ranch

19. Neiman Cattle Company, LLC

20. Ista Ranch

21. Sundance Equipment

22. Zimmerschied Ranch

23. Northfork Buffalo Ranch

24. Wolf Ranch

25. Pearson Ranch

26. Kuhbacher Ranch

 

 

Hulett – Behind Devils Tower, Nuckolls Ranch is home to several thousand head of sheep and cattle, owned by Jw and Thea Nuckolls and their family. The couple has been together since the 1950s, but the Nuckolls family influence extends back to the turn of the century.

“Dad traded 100 head of horses for this place,” says Jw Nuckolls of the location where the ranch sits today. “He’d already homesteaded around Hulett in 1912, but he knew there wasn’t much future of expanding at that spot.”

With a desire to expand, Nuckolls’ father William Swift Nuckolls continued searching for the right place to live, and a week before they were married, Nuckolls’ mother Myra homesteaded on ground near their current headquarters.

Starting a ranch

“Dad was 17 at the time, and he came and started the ranch here,” Nuckolls explains.

The family started running sheep, and their original herd of sheep came from Empire Sheep Company in 1945, which was the largest sheep ranch at the time.

Nuckolls was one of seven siblings. With four older sisters and two brothers, he knew it would be difficult to come back to the ranch. However, when his younger brother passed away as the result of a brain injury at a young age and his other brother got cross-wise with his father, Nuckolls was positioned to take over.

Nuckolls returned home after graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1955, and he met his wife Thea shortly after, when he was searching for Corriedale sheep. He purchased a herd in the 1950s. The couple was married in 1959.

They returned to Hulett, and Nuckolls inherited the family ranch just a few years later.

They’ve continued to add property to the ranch as it comes up for sale. Nuckolls says that some of the properties they’ve purchased hadn’t been grazed for 30 years or better.

“There wasn’t much grass growing in some places because there was such a mat on the ground to grow the grass, but we came in with a large group of cows and calves and grazed it pretty heavy to try to rejuvenate it,” he says, noting that they’ve seen some new growth recently. “This sandy loam soil produces tremendous grass. We run on mostly open country, and it has good grass.”

Sheep and cattle

The Nuckolls are well recognized for the sheep that they raise on their property. Today, the sheep are Rambouillet, but the family has used Corriedales and Merino influence, as well.

“Our sheep have the best of all worlds. They’re the only sheep in our grazing association,” he says. “The worst part is that leaves predators coming in all directions. We use dogs to try and protect the sheep.”

Their Rambouillet sheep lamb in large pastures near the home ranch and have for the last four years. Prior to that, the family shed lambed everything.

“We didn’t have very good luck the first couple years,” says Nuckolls, noting that their first year pasture lambing, they were hit with freezing rain in early June, and the next year, they saw devastating hail. “This year, we did well though.”

They aim to dock a 130 percent lamb crop, and the vast majority of the time, they’re successful.

“When we were shed lambing, we lost 15 to 20 percent of our lambs to predators,” Nuckolls says. “It’s tough, even though we don’t turn out the lambs until May 5.”

The Nuckolls family also raises a herd of Angus cattle, which are rotated through pastures using electric fence and a grazing system.

“My grandson Kyle coordinates the grazing,” Nuckolls says. “He gives the cattle enough room for two or three days, and then they move the electric fences.”

Raising feed

In addition to the sheep and cattle, the Nuckolls have hay meadows and are experimenting with different options for the best feed.

“All our pastures used to be hay, and we’d cut them during the summer to feed in the winter,” Nuckolls says. “This year, my son Will and Kyle have decided that it might be better to graze them in the winter.”

They planted cover crops using a no-till drill, with some success.

“This year was really dry,” Nuckolls explains, “and I think the cover crops would have done better if we got more moisture this year.”

They raised wheat for many years when Nuckolls first came back to the ranch after college, and today, they plant Willow Creek wheat.

“Willow Creek is a hay wheat,” Nuckolls says. “It’s designed for a lot of forage and tonnage.”

The Nuckolls have also used grazing to manage their cheatgrass.

Nuckolls says one pasture used to be solid cheatgrass, but they grazed it right after calving and lambing for about 10 days when the cheatgrass was still palatable.

“They’d mow it off and we’d move out of there,” he says. “They grazed early enough that the cool season grasses would get a jump on the cheatgrass.”

Family

Jw and Thea actively run their ranch today, and their son Will works alongside them, along with their grandson Kyle and daughter-in-law Charlie.

Their other children, Nan, Dawn, Zeta and Sam, are also involved as they can be, visiting frequently.

“We have 13 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, too,” Nuckolls says. “They keep us pretty busy.”

For the future, Nuckolls says Will and Kyle will likely take over the place.

“There’s probably enough here now to support two families,” he says.

“I enjoy ranching more than anything I’ve ever done,” Nuckolls says. “Every season is a little different, and I never stop learning. It’s a great job and a great life.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comment on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Colony – Colony rancher Jim Dacar explains the Muleshoe Ranch was officially founded in the early 1950s after his wife Roxie’s grandfather Thorval Jensen, Sr. purchased the land in the 1940s.

“The bank had repossessed the ranch, and he was the kind of guy who would stick his neck out and take a chance,” says Dacar.

Now, the ranch prides itself in being a progressive, family-operated business with four generations living on the ranch.

Ranching business

Muleshoe Ranch is primarily a cow/calf operation, with a mother cowherd of approximately 900 head.

“The only yearlings we run are for replacements,” explains Dacar. “We run mostly Black Angus cross, with some Simmental crosses in there.”

Dacar says the ranch primarily sells calves through video sales, noting, “We’ve gotten along with that pretty well the last two or three years.”

The ranch also has 1,200 acres of farm ground, which is primarily used to produce hay for their cattle, with approximately 450 acres the ranch is able to irrigate.

“We rotate out into small grains or something we can cut for hay and then go back into alfalfa,” he comments. “We’re a member of the Crook County Irrigation District, so that saves us. We have water most years.”

In addition to their regular ranching operations, the Muleshoe Ranch also has an outfitting business.

“My wife and I started that in the early 80s, and we continue with that now on this place,” says Dacar.

Guiding opportunities

Getting started in the guiding business began as an additional source of income to be able to purchase land and livestock, says Dacar.

“My wife and I were working on another ranch not far from here, and we had to come up with something because we wanted to get into livestock and buy some land,” he comments. “I leased hunting rights from the guy I worked for, and we started up that way.”

He explains they began guiding 60 hunters per year and leased a large amount of land in previous years.

“We’ve gotten older, and there’s a lot of competition on leasing ground. We basically just hunt this ranch and take about 20 to 25 hunters per year,” continues Dacar. “My wife does the cooking. I do the guiding, and my sons might help some on the guiding.”

Muleshoe Ranch is home to a variety of wildlife species, including mule and whitetail deer, pronghorn, turkey and elk.

Rewards and challenges

Growing up on a farm in South Dakota, Dacar explains a life in agriculture was always in his plans.

“I liked horses and livestock and always wanted to ranch,” says Dacar. “I like being my own boss and being out here doing what we want to do.”

Dacar credits the ranching lifestyle for allowing his children to develop care and appreciation for the land.

“The ranch instilled a really good work ethic into my kids, and it’s also developed their love for this ranch,” he continues.

Continuing the ranching legacy in the family is invaluable for Dacar, he says.

“The most important thing for me is passing this ranch on to the next generation,” comments Dacar. “For my wife’s father, one of his last requests was that we keep this ranch together.”

Family involvement

Dacar explains that Muleshoe Ranch is a family affair, with both of his sons and their families actively involved in the ranching operation.

“My oldest son Levi is an engineer at the Department of Transportation in Sundance. He and his wife Lana are weekend warriors for us,” he says. “They’ve got a little girl Ellie, who is 3.”

Dacar’s youngest son Caleb lives and works on the ranch with his family.

“His wife Megan is going to school to be a nurse practitioner, so she’s pretty busy,” continues Dacar. “They have Owen, who is two-and-a-half, and Elise, who is about 3 months. They’re busy with young families and trying to get the work done.”

As he and his family look toward the future, Dacar notes a goal for the ranch is to improve its carrying capacity.

“There is a lot we can do with the existing ranch to improve carrying capacity,” he concludes. “One thing we’ve been working on the past four or five years is increasing our hay base before we try to expand any farther to prepare for high cost hay years.”

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..

Aladdin – “Established in 1889,” says the sign hanging over the ranch yard gate at the Pearson Ranch. It’s a story that pre-dates Wyoming’s statehood by a single year and is intertwined with northeast Wyoming history for 128 years running.

“We had more irons in the fire than just one,” says Charles “Chuck” Pearson of their long-term presence in the ranching community.

Before statehood

Charles “Chuck” Pearson has often said that his family has more than one iron in the fire, a statement that is true of his family in a broader sense since they first arrived in northeast Wyoming in the 1880s.

Among his holdings was the ranch where Charles Pearson lives today.

“When I was two years old,” wrote Chuck’s father Frank Pearson in Pioneers of Crook County, “We moved to a ranch that my dad had bought from his dad. It was made up of several homesteads.”

“Dad cleared several acres of land by hand with a shovel and axe for farm and hay land. The folks milked several cows and sold cream to make a living along with a few beef cows,” he continued.

“I attended school at the schoolhouse that was on the ranch,” wrote Frank. “It was about 100 yards from our house. When I finished grade school, I went four years to high school at Sundance, which was 30 miles away. I graduated in 1930 and came back to the ranch and helped my dad. We farmed and ranched in partnership until 1960 when I acquired the place. My father passed away on April 1, 1961.”

Growing up on the ranch

Chuck attended the same school as his father through the eighth grade, his mom serving as his school teacher for six and a half of those years. Both Chuck and his two sisters attended high school in Belle Fourche, S.D., living in the community during the school year.

Chuck raised his own family in the house that was his childhood home and continues to live in that home today.

“I got out of high school in 1959,” says Chuck. “1959 was kind of dry, ’60 was really dry, and ’61 there was nothing. 1962 was one of the best years I’ve ever seen.”

Chuck worked off of the ranch during the dry years, but he always returned home at night and worked on the ranch full time as soon as he was able.

Swine business

It was a few sows that helped him establish his own presence on the ranch.

“I started with a few sows and ended up running about 25, and we were pigging twice a year and selling twice a year,” he says. “I was making a lot of money while the cowboys were going broke.”

Early on, the pigs were sold at nearby livestock barns, but in later years, he combined them with other producers, and they shipped them out on trucks.

Over time, it no longer became economical to raise and ship the pigs at that scale.

Today, the ranch maintains around 10 sows and sells the pigs directly to consumers.

“Clint is on the place with me, and he does most of the hog stuff,” says Chuck of his youngest son. “I told him I didn’t really need any more experience.”

Clint worked for a while in the timber industry with his brother Wade but prefers the ranch work.

Cattle and more

“Cattle are our main deal today,” says Chuck, “but I’ve logged and thinned on this place, ran hogs and taken in hunters. I’d hate to try and live off of just one deal.”

Hunters still frequent the ranch, most pursuing the whitetail deer for which the area is known. Most today pay a trespass fee and are long-time hunters who know their way around the ranch.

“We do a little farming and try and get enough grain for the hogs and to background our heifer calves,” he adds, noting that winter wheat raised on the ranch is often baled when its green and fed as hay.

“We run all Hereford cows here,” says Chuck. “We breed mature cows to straight Herefords. We breed two-year-olds and some three-year-olds to black bulls. We keep replacements out of the Herefords.”

Chuck likes the disposition of the Herefords, and they’ve had a presence on the ranch for multiple generations.

Calving starts mid-February so that the calves can be branded in April and sent out to summer pasture, some on leases in the area. For several years now, the ranch’s calves have sold on Superior Livestock’s sale in Sheridan, held each August, with an October delivery date.

Reflecting on the past

If he had it to do over again, Chuck says he would have bought more land. Looking back, he says they were busy and living well.

  During his tenure on the ranch, he’s seen real estate prices go from $60 an acre to $1,500 to $2,000 an acre.

“We can’t justify it for ag land,” he says.

Both of Chuck’s sons, Clint and Wade, live on the ranch. Clint works on the ranch with his father. Wade and his family live on the ranch and he works in the timber industry.

Chuck’s daughter Carey and her family live in New Jersey where she does fundraising for a college foundation.

Jennifer Womack 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.