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2017 Fall Cattlemen's Edition

Hulett – Third generation rancher Tom Wolf began managing the family’s cow/calf operation in 1996 along with his wife Donna.

“My wife and I took over the family operation 21 years ago from my parents,” he says.

Current operation

Staying close to its roots, the ranch continues to be a cow/calf operation, explains Wolf.

“We run about 150 to 175 herd cows now and sell feeder steers on Superior Livestock,” he says.

The family primarily raises Hereford cattle, with approximately 30 percent of the herd being black baldies that are marketed as bred cows.

The ranch raises its own replacement animals and sells calves off of the cow in the fall.

“We calve in March, and the calves are delivered in late October,” Wolf notes.

In addition to the cattle side of the business, Wolf explains the ranch also grows dryland grass and alfalfa hay and raises a small amount of small grains.

“We usually put up around 1,000 round bales to feed the cows through the winter months,” he comments.

Off the ranch, both Wolf and his wife work for the Crook County School District.

“I drive a school bus, and my wife is a paraprofessional at Hulett School,” says Wolf.

Rewarding experiences

For Wolf, ranching holds many rewards, both in the day-to-day work and special experiences.

“Seeing the baby calves in the spring and the green grass is something that I enjoy,” says Wolf.

The relationships the couple has built with friends and neighbors in agriculture are another part of ranching they deeply cherish.

“We have a whole host of great neighbors in every direction who are friends we can lean on anytime to help us with whatever needs done,” he says.

Wolf also explains that he and his wife have become acquainted with a few families who show their Hereford calves.

“It’s been quite rewarding and very enjoyable to meet those families,” says Wolf. “Two of our biggest highlights were a grand champion carcass at the National Hereford Show in Oklahoma one year and the grand champion steer in Ohio at a county fair.”

He notes their involvement with the showing first began with Jim Williams, formerly of the American Hereford Association, as Williams began seeking a Hereford steer for his daughter to show.

“He went to a feedlot to pick a steer, and he selected one of ours,” Wolf comments. “He called me wanting to know the information about this steer,  like its birthdate and what all I knew about it.”

After that, Williams introduced the couple to other families interested in showing Hereford cattle.

“It’s been a lot of fun to watch their young people grow up,” he notes.

Land stewardship

“We’re very interested in maintaining soil health and are moving forward with different efforts through our Natural Resources Conservation Service office and education at their field days,” Wolf says.

This past spring, Wolf explains the ranch began planting cover crops to extend their grazing season and allow them to feed less hay.

“I think we’ll continue using cover crops. It helps to nourish the soil as the turnips, radishes and such are doing their job penetrating the impacted ground and allowing moisture to soak in when it rains,” Wolf states.

Improving environmental sustainability is a continued goal for the ranch, he continues.

The ranch has recently added new fencing to improve grazing and is currently working on water line projects.

“We’ve got one project going on right now where we’re putting in a mile of pipe and several tanks to better utilize the pasture we have available to us,” he continues.

Additionally, the ponderosa pine trees are managed on the ranch’s timbered acres to maintain a healthy and sustainable forest.

Eye to the future

According to Wolf, operating the ranch is a family affair, with the couple’s two sons actively involved, while  they also work off the ranch.

“They both went to college and returned to the area. Our oldest Calvin works for the Crook County Road and Bridge Department,” he says. “Our youngest son Shane is an agricultural loan officer at the Sundance State Bank. They help nights, weekends and whenever they’re needed.”

As they look toward the future, Wolf explains the family is also looking to diversify their marketing strategy.

“A friend told me about a guy in New Mexico who wanted some Hereford bull calves, so we’re sending him 10 head in November,” he says. “We’re not in the bull business, but it seemed like a pretty good thing to try.”

As the demand increases for locally raised food, each year, a few steers are fattened on the ranch and sold as beef to local consumers.

Wolf continues, “We’re trying to diversify our income, so we’re not relying just on one thing or another.”

He notes that both sons and their wives desire to continue the family ranching tradition and have started to help with some of the decision making.

“It’s gratifying to have them interested in it. We’ve done some long-term planning to help us be able to pass the ranch on to them, hopefully seamlessly,” Wolf 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..

Moorcroft – In 1916, rancher Thayne Gray’s family began homesteading the land that is now part of the Warbonnet Ranch in Moorcroft.

His great-grandparents originally leased the land out while working in town as the postmaster, which gave the family a unique opportunity to expand their land base.

“As homesteaders would come into the post office and say they were moving, my great-grandfather would ask what they would do with the ground, and they’d say they’d just leave it, so he would give them pennies on the dollar for the land. That’s how he built up the ranch as it is today,” says Gray.

Cattle production

“There are quite a few facets to our operation, and we don’t do things traditionally,” explains Gray.

The ranch is primarily a cow/calf operation with a herd of approximately 225 mother cows and 200 yearlings.

“We graze the yearlings until August, and then we retain ownership into Schramm Feedlot, just outside of Yuma, Colo.,” he says. “As far as the feedlot is concerned, we retain ownership, and then we put the animals on the grid. We’re paid premiums on the carcasses.”

Over the years, Gray notes his family has experimented with a variety of breeds through artificial insemination (AI).

“In 1964, my father got certified as an AI technician, and we’ve experimented with at least 11 breeds on the place, including Tarentaise, Salers, Gelbvieh and Simmental,” comments Gray.

Currently, the ranch uses a two-way cross between Red Angus and Charolais.

“The reason we’ve chosen those breeds is because they seem to do well in the environment,” he continues. “They’re low maintenance and easy doing, yet they do well hanging and provide a good carcass premium.”

Holistic management

The Warbonnet Ranch prioritizes holistic range management, says Gray.

“When I was a kid, on the 4,800 acres, we had eight pastures, and we could run just over 100 cows,” he explains. “Now, we’re running on just about 7,000 acres, but the original 4,800 acres is broken up into about 50 pastures.”

He notes the cattle are rotated through the pastures throughout the year, and the groups never stay in a pasture for more than one week.

This change in management has dramatically increased the carrying capacity of their land, he notes.

“Management changes have allowed us to go from the traditional 30 acres per animal per year to a stocking rate of 22 acres to the animal,” comments Gray.

According to Gray, the native grass on their ranch cures out to approximately seven percent protein, so the ranch primarily grazes the cows on the dormant grass in the winter time with minimal supplementation.

“We used to purchase a little bit of hay and throw five to 10 pounds of hay to them a day, but if there’s sufficient grass, all cattle are supplemented with is fodder, which is a hydroponic sprouted grain,” he explains.

Gray can produce about 1,700 pounds of fodder per day on the ranch.

“Here in a couple months, we’re hoping to put 2,300 pounds a day out with the modifications we’re making,” Gray says.

Other activities

Returning to the family ranch was actually a decision that Gray made after establishing a career in mechanical engineering, he explains.

“I actually went to college and got a degree in mechanical engineering,” he says. “I worked for a defense contractor for seven years and then came back to the ranch.”

Gray continues to utilize his engineering degree in addition to managing the family ranch.

“Every once in a while I’ll do some engineering work to support my ranching habit,” he notes.

Gray also stays active in the community, serving as a school board member, working in the local church and being involved in mentoring activities, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of ranching for him.

“Probably the most rewarding thing about ranching for me is mentoring kids who are my own, their friends and friends of friends who come work on the place with us,” Gray says, “It shows them a different way of life and a different way to approach things.”

Growing

As they look toward the future, Gray notes that continuing to increase efficiency is a top priority for the ranch.

“We’re looking at cutting costs to be more efficient, and get more net income per cow. Cutting feed costs and all other associated labor costs for taking care of the ranch is the direction we’re pushing,” he says.

Gray explains the ranch is also planning to expand the range they’re utilizing in the next few years.

“We currently lease some ground out in the summer for a neighbor to graze, but I think we’re going to try and grow to be able to utilize that ground ourselves in the near future,” he 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..

Sundance – Warren Crawford has been in Sundance for 40 years. After he graduated from Kansas State University, he moved to Crook County in 1977 and started his own vet practice.

“I grew up in southern Kansas,” Warren says. “I worked in Wyoming when I was in college, and I had a desire to come back here. There wasn’t a veterinarian in this extreme corner of the state, and I was looking for a place to go in a rural community.”

Small community

Operating in a small community provides both opportunities and challenges, but Warren says it’s enjoyable.

“We do both small animal and large animal work,” he explains. “Our original intent was to primarily work with large animals, but small animals help keep us busy when there’s not as much going on. They’re an important part of the practice.”

In rural communities particularly, Warren sees the benefits of having a veterinary clinic.

“A vet clinic in a rural community provides a good service. We could get along without one in Sundance, but it’s nice to have,” he says. “There are a lot of vets who travel a long way to do specialized work, but I’d rather stay local and work for our community.”

Holding on to agriculture businesses is important for rural communities, he adds, noting, “Anything rural communities can hold on to as far as business is important.”

Changes over time

As veterinary medicine has progressed, technology has changed dramatically.

“We have to utilize the technology available,” Warren says, noting that they utilize ultrasounds, x-rays, serum chemistry and more to provide services for their clients.

“The basic services we provide haven’t changed, though,” emphasizes Warren. “We certainly do more technical work with each patient.”

Despite changing times, Warren says that their customer base is consistent and steady, and he enjoys working with the people of northeast Wyoming.

The future

“The future looks good for us,” Warren comments. “I don’t know that we’ll continue to expand much, but that depends on how much development we have in the community.”

As more people move into the small towns in the county and more ranches are subdivided into ranchettes, Warren says their business changes slightly.

“Production agriculture isn’t increasing, but the number of people with animals is going up,” he explains. “When people move onto a few acres out of town, it’s not uncommon for them to want some cattle, sheep or a few horses.”

Warren adds, “An awful lot of rural veterinary practices are pretty dependent on small-scale agriculture.”

If the cattle business is successful, he also sees increases in the number of livestock around the region.

“Some of what the future holds depends on the cattle business as a whole,” he says. 

Next generation

In 2013, Warren’s son Wade graduated from veterinary school and returned home to assist in the practice.

“The year before he came, I had about as many clients as I could take,” Warren says. “When Wade came back, it really helped.”

They keep a steady pace throughout the year.

“I’ve been in practice for four years, and it’s exciting,” Wade says. “I always knew that this was what I wanted to do.”

Wade’s love of the ag industry and the people involved led him back to Sundance to practice with his father.

“Our clients we work with are really, really good to deal with and they’re fun to be around,” Wade adds. “I enjoy working with them.”

Eventually, Wade will take over the operation.

“I don’t know when that will be,” Warren says. “At the moment, I’m still here and working steadily.”

While he has considered retirement in his future, Warren adds, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to retire yet. I like this work, and I’m interested in the vet business and the cattle business. I still like the work, and I’ll be around for a little while yet.”

Warren continues that being a vet provides continual education and a new challenge every day.

“The vet business is fun. I don’t like to do everything all the time, but for the most part, it’s a lot of fun,” he says. “It’s always enjoyable.”

The other aspect of the practice that both Crawfords appreciate are the people of northeast Wyoming.

“Northeast Wyoming has been really good to us, and everyone in the ag community recognizes that we have to work together to be successful,” Warren explains. “I feel a sense of responsibility to my clients, and we’ll stick around to serve their needs.”

Wade says, “We’re just here to provide a good, affordable service for whoever wants us to do their veterinary work.”

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 – Bob Yemington was raised in Torrington, and he made his way to Sundance as a young man, where he purchased Sundance Equipment on Dec. 1, 1975.

Bob landed in Sundance after attending college in Laramie, owning a shrimp boat in South Carolina and then working at a nuclear power plant in Florida.

“After we sold the shrimp boat, we came to Sundance,” Bob says. “I ended up cutting pitch posts, and when the opportunity came up to buy this place, a friend and I went in as partners. Later, I bought him out.”

Business model

Sundance Equipment is the only independent John Deere dealer in Wyoming. In 2011, they merged with a dealer in South Dakota, which is another family-run operation.

Bob oversees activity at the store, and his son Will has joined him in business, focusing on customer service and sales.

“Will started here putting away parts when he was in grade school,” Bob says.

After Will attended school in Chicago, Ill. at DePaul University, he wanted to come home.

“Will is very good with our customers, and he has a loyal following,” Bob comments. “I’ve been able to turn things over to him, like our global guidance systems, which comes second nature to him. It’s good to have Will as part of the business.”

Bob also emphasizes that people who work at the company are long-term employees.

“We focus on longevity and a loyal and much appreciated crew,” he says.

Service focused

For Sundance Equipment, service is the top priority.

“We have four mechanics and two salesmen,” says Bob, which demonstrates their desire to serve customers. “When the IH dealer went out of business here, we tried to take care of those tractors, too.”

“This is good country, and it’s conservative country,” he continues. “We don’t want people buying new tractors and then turning them back later when they can’t afford a payment. We want to make sure their equipment works for them.”

“If customers aren’t happy with their equipment, they’re not happy with us,” Will adds. “We want to make sure they’re happy with us.”

“We have to stay up-to-date in the shop and be able to work on everything,” he says.

Bob continues, noting that, even in a pinch, they strive to provide their customers with good quality, working equipment.

“We had a gentleman who called at two o’clock on a Friday afternoon going into a three-day weekend. His hay was cut, and his baler broke down,” Bob says. “We set him up with a rental baler, and he got his hay up. That’s important to us.”

Through the years

For Bob, the equipment business has changed remarkably through the years, and he has embraced the changes to meet the needs of customers.

“When we started out, we started selling round balers,” he says. “They were the first round balers, and virtually every rancher who didn’t have one said they didn’t need or want one, saying, ‘You won’t find one of those hay wasting pieces of equipment on my place.’ Today, round balers dominate.”

He continues that technology has also changed dramatically, from the advent of climate controlled tractor cabs to the influx of computers on board.

“The technology we see in tractors today is unbelievable,” Bob emphasizes.

Technology

Sundance Equipment will continue to grow and change to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, notes Bob.

“We’ll continue to expand as we can,” Bob says.

Technology has become a big part of their business, and Bob says the days of mechanics carrying grease rags in their back pockets are over.

“Some of our tractors have 47 or 50 computers on board,” he says. “Our technicians today have to understand that technology. There is a generation that doesn’t know that, though, which is too bad because it creates labor shortages for the industry.”

“The challenge increasingly on the service side is being able to work on things,” Will says. “It gets more complex every day. It’s not what mechanicing was 50 years ago or even 15 years ago.”

Will foresees that automation will continue to increase.

“I try to keep up on all the automation and guidance systems for our customers, and we provide the service related to those systems,” he says. “We’ll continue to see more auto-tracking and automation in the future.”

Changing clients

Bob also notes that his clientele has changed over the years. Although Sundance Equipment serves many large ranches in northeast Wyoming, southwest Montana and northwest South Dakota, he is seeing a transition to smaller operations.

“If a ranch is broken up, we lose a customer, but we also gain 30 potential new customers,” he explains. “We get a lot of retired people and younger people who move out of town onto five, 20 or 30 acres. They need snow removal, weed mowers and post hole diggers, so we’re here to serve them, as well.”

“When I was in high school, we wouldn’t have had as many Gators and small tractors here,” adds Will. “It was all haying equipment then, but we’ve got both now. We’ll continue to see smaller operations looking for equipment, too.”

Big picture

With his eye toward the future, Bob says, “We’ll continue doing what we do. We work in ag because we love it, not because it always makes good sense.”

He continues, “It’s enjoyable working with the people we work with. We want to see them do well.”

“Sundance is the largest town in the county, but it’s still a small town,” Bob emphasizes. “I like our small town, and it’s a good place to be.”

Each year, Sundance Equipment hosts a street dance and barbeque event to provide a social venue for their clients and the community to get together.

“The community needs us, and we need the community,” Bob says. “We work together to support each other.”

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..

 

Devils Tower – While many in the West today look back on “Lonesome Dove” as a great story to share with their children about how cattle came to the region, the Driskill family tells a similar story of their history.

“The first Driskill that we know of brought cattle to Cheyenne in 1868 when the railroad was coming through,” says Ogden Driskill, the current generation on the ranch. “The Driskills started in the 1840s gathering wild cattle in Texas. They evolved into one of the major suppliers of cattle.”

Through the Civil War, Driskills supplied both the Union and Confederate armies, and Jess Driskill – Ogden’s great-great-great grandfather – was an honorary Colonel in the Army.

“Our family were huge cattle barons. They built the Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas,” Ogden says. “They took Confederate money, and after the war, they were broke, so they started to gather cattle and go north.”

Coming north

Trails first led to Kansas and Oklahoma, but the Driskill family longed for open spaces and freedom from neighbors.

“In 1878 when Custer came through, Jess Driskill headed towards the Black Hills,” Ogden says. “He was an old man by then. We’ve still got a handwritten letter that said he was looking for a place that didn’t have a house within 30 miles.”

In 1879, he arrived in Moorcroft, and Jess continued following buffalo trails to the D Ranch, which was their first place.

After picking the ranch location in the area, Jess returned to Texas.

“Between the 1860s and 1910s, they trailed around 1 million head of cattle to Wyoming,” Ogden says.

Before the winter of 1886-87, they were huge players in the cattle business, says Ogden, but the devastating blizzard that winter resulted in the death of over 50,000 head of cattle.

“That storm broke them, and they never ran on the same scale again,” Ogden says. “They continued to raise cattle, though. We know they shipped the most cattle to Omaha, Neb. to the stockyards of any producer at least one year.”

“Our family also had the first grazing permit from the U.S. Forest Service,” he continues. “The permit was for a minimum of 5,000 head. We held those permits until 1985. Today, we run all on private land.”

Moving the ranch

“We lost the D Ranch in the 1930s during the Great Depression,” says Ogden, noting that the ranch they operate on today was acquired in the first decade of the 1900s. “The Campstool Ranch where we’re at now was a series of about 70 homesteads owned by the MacKenzie family, who were wealthy Scottish nobility. The MacKenzies went broke in 1910, and the Driskill family bought their ranch off the courthouse steps.”

Early documents of the ranch dictated that the range of the Driskill’s operation was the Upper Belle Fourche River tributaries.

“Until the turn of the century, we ran roughly from the edge of Gillette to Bear Lodge to Alzada, Mont.,” Ogden says. “That doesn’t mean that other people weren’t in the area, but if it wasn’t homesteaded, we ran on the land.”

Generations of Driskills

To date, eight generations of Driskills have been on the ranch.

“Eight generations have ranched in Wyoming since Jess Driskill picked our headquarters and took herds of cattle from Texas,” Ogden says, noting that the family history is rich with colorful stories of the Old West.

Ogden, wife Zannie, brother Tobe, son Lincoln and daughter-in-law Ashley live and work on the ranch.  They are also helped by Matt and Andrea Driskill Wood who ranch nearby. They run a highly diversified cow/calf operation.  Brother Tobe has retired to the ranch from a job in Arizona.

“All in all, Lincoln runs the ranch now,” Ogden says. “I was given the opportunity to start running the ranch when I was in my 20s, and I think that’s important for Lincoln, too. He’ll have pretty much full control of decision-making by the time he’s 30.”

As challenges exist for transitioning the ranch from generation to generation, Ogden says it’s important to make sure the ranch is operational for the future.

“We want Lincoln to have the experience to operate the ranch today, so we know he has the knowledge to run it when we’re gone,” Ogden says.

On the ranch

The cattle on Driskills operation are black.

“We try to raise a 1,000-pound cow, and we want her to wean a 550-pound calf,” says Lincoln. “They do well.”

Ogden explains that, in their challenging winter country, larger cows go through a lot of feed, so by raising smaller cows, they can be more efficient.

Over the last 20 years, they have fenced enough winter feed to run on pasture until early January each year without worrying about pine trees. They supplement pasture with hay raised in both irrigated and dryland settings.

“The irrigated ground is phenomenally productive, and it has kept us out a wreck during the drought years,” Ogden says. “Lincoln has done a really good job with our farm ground.”

Tourism

In addition to the traditional ranch, the Driskill family built a campground and café at the foot of Devils Tower following Steven Spielberg’s film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“Tourism has been a big part of our family through the years,” Ogden says. “Our family has been involved with tourism for three or four generations, and it goes hand-in-hand with the ag part of the operation. After Spielberg came in, my mom, Ellen, built the campground.”   

Ogden’s brother Matt ran the campground until his untimely death six years ago.

The ranch and campground run hand-in-hand. Today, Zannie runs the campground, and Ashley oversees the café.

“It’s an important part of our operation,” Ogden says.

For the Driskills, Odgen says diversification means that day-to-day work is never the same.

Ogden comments, “It’s pretty fun, and it keeps life interesting on the ranch.”

Looking to the future

Today, the Driskill family is working to stabilize the operation and continue to improve the land on the ranch.

“We’re working to continue building a solid base that is profitable,” Ogden says. “That is key. We have to maintain a system that works.”

He adds, “We’ve been here for eight generations, and we’re always looking at how we can keep it for the next eight generations.”

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..