IamA Wyoming Rancher AMA!
Hello Reddit!!! I am a Wyoming rancher and creator of the YouTube Channel OUR WYOMING LIFE.
Joining me is my wife, Erin, a Master Gardener.
My Proof: https://youtu.be/cPm0Yw4FNsI
Wow, what an awesome response, and I lived through it. I am going to go eat dinner with the family. I will check back occasionally so if you feel like asking a question go ahead, I'll answer when I can. Thanks to everyone who asked questions and thanks to everyone who followed along, it was really awesome.
Check our our subreddit https://www.reddit.com/r/OurWyomingLife/
best question so far.....I've tried to wrangle 1 duck...it can be a fight. A horse sized one would scare the crap out of me. I think I'd take the duck sized horses...unless they bite.
Oh they bite
can i curl up in a ball and cry...haha
Have you ever been on an escalator?
yes but not in Wyoming
Which weather condition is worse for ranching: snow or rain?
Snow is tolerable as long as the wind doesnt blow too hard...getting pelted by little frozen crystals blows....rain isnt too bad but the mud is annoying, I have lost many boots in the mud.
Rain snow mix...the worst. Throw in a few cows having calves in the middle of it and we end up with calves in our bathtub getting warmed up!
Snow is tolerable as long as the wind doesnt blow too hard
I lived in Wyoming for 15 years, some of that time on a cattle ranch in the Converse/Campbell county area. Is there ever a time when the wind doesn't blow too hard?
I have seen the snow fall vertically once this year.....I take anything under a 20 mph wind as almost calm
Is there anything to do in Wyoming besides ranch?
Honestly ranching keeps us pretty busy, now that we have kids we definitely try to take one vacation per year, and it usually lines up between branding and haying. Last year we went to yellowstone for a week, and this year we are planning on a few days in Denver.
Up in the NE corner they have a place where UFOs sometimes go.
I have yet to see one
What do you think of the Bundy Boys? Do you support their cause, or do you think they're clowns?
I understand some of Cliven Bundy's deal, but when it came down to it he did graze on public land without a permit...we jump through hoops as land owners, sometimes you just have to make the best of a situation and do what you have to do to preserve your way of life. He chose a path...didnt work out so great.
Thanks for answering. I'm here in Portland, so it's still a very real thing we're dealing with.
Im curious....what is your opinion?
Well, there are a lot of things going on. I understand that there's frustration on the rancher's part. Grazing is necessary and large swatches of land is required, but everybody has to deal with government regulations, so filing permits and jumping through hoops is the way it should have been done. Taking up arms instead of doing paperwork is idiotic, but it's their right. Taking over the public building in Oregon is where the Bundys crossed the line. They kept people from doing important work. They hurt locals.
Yeah I hear ya. I think at this point they just keep diggin a hole.
Do your cattle graze on public land? Just wondering?
The land agency I work for allows for all kind of agricultural permits. While I don't deal with them directly, it doesn't seem like it's all that complicated. Most of the animosity comes from people who disagree with how we use our land. They want to hay or graze every acre of grassland we own whenever we've been dedicating a lot of it to restoration. If I'm correct, didn't the Bundy's have a permit but refused to actually pay it for several years while the BLM tried their best to not be forceful?
I also used to work for an outdoor outfitter that does bike and fishing trips all across the country. It took 3+ years for them to get permits for recreation with BLM while resource extraction permits have to be decided within like 6 months. Seems a little messed up if you ask me.
There are public land permits here, I dont mess with it. There are a ton of rules and regs.
Well, what do you think of the hoops? The way the extent of federal land has always been justified to me is that improper land management can have seriously negative effects on surrounding plots but I have no concept of how much sense those regulations make in practice.
I agree...improper land management can have bad effects, a few bad apples have driven alot of regulation into place
Do you really hate wolves, or is that a media thing?
I dont really have to deal with them here, thats more of a western wyoming thing. We do have coyotes and they will take a calf if they get a chance and foxes that will eat chickens. They are a predator that will take money out of our operation.
How do you handle those problems?
Is it fencing? Do you have hands that do patrols, or guard duty?
Mostly guard duty...chickens we can fence in, with calves it becomes a us vs them type situation
Do you or your wife have a career outside of the working on the ranch?
Most of our lives revolve around the ranch, and 95% of our time revolves around it. Erin gardens and attends farmers market. She also is the president of the local Master Gardeners group. I occasionally help a neighbor with his construction business when I have free time....not often
Tell us a little about your operation? How many head? What breed? What stage of production? :)
Good question...we are a cow/calf operation. We raise and sell calves primarily. we run about 160 breeding cows. They are mostly black and red angus. Cows are bred then we raise the calves with their moms until they reach weaning age at which point we sell them at auction to feedlots. I guess you would say that we are the front line of production.
How much land do you own?
We have a few thousand acres. We definitely aren't considered a large ranch.
What is the funniest moment you have had in the field?
Erins going to kill me but a few years ago we were haying, she was driving a tractor and had to pee...she got out and almost sat on a dead snake...jumping up and running around the tractor. The other has Erin in it too. We were calving and we were trying to tag her calve. The cow charged Erin and she screamed at the cow...SCREAMED! That cow stopped, looked at her and walked away. Scary but screaming I think saved her.
Would you say that you were quite a happy kinda guy?....A jolly rancher, if you will?
How's the view?
We live quite aways from the mountains, in the plains. The views you are used to seeing from wyoming don't feature our side much. Here its rolling plains and medium sized hills. It is beautiful in its own way.
Where is the ranch located in Wyoming?
We are located in northeast wyoming, think Devils Tower and not to far from Mount Rushmore
so right around hulett?
Campbell County.....i guess i should say that around here 100 miles isnt that far
What is one of the worst accidents you guys have had on the ranch? Was there anything that could have been done to prevent it? What did you learn from the accident?
Accidents happen. We had a guy that was working out here loose his thumb in a garage door a while back, but overall we have been pretty lucky. Most accidents can be avoided by thinking ahead and planning. Sometimes you don't have that luxury though. I have been kicked by a few calves in a place you dont want to be kicked...that put me down for a few minutes.
Your wife is cute. How did you meet?
Actually we worked together in radio. I was a DJ and she sold advertising. One night after work a bunch of us went out...after a litter karaoke she was putty!
EDIT: She says thank you :)
That's really cute! I'm not the OP but I have a follow-up question: what kind of music did you play as a DJ? Also, if you don't mind me asking something a little more personal, did you two sing any songs together at karaoke?
Well I worked at a number of different stations. Country, rock, oldies, pop and classic rock.
I dont think Erin could get drunk enough to sing. Haha
For real. She be mirin' that boy.
On a personal level, what are a few of your favorite films?
Good question, seeing how I just found out Bill Paxton died, I would have to say Twister and the flying cows!
Fuck. Bill Paxton died?
What is one life lesson you have that you wish non ranchers knew?
man these questions are tough....I'll give you one my dad gave me a long time. If something needs done and it is going to take less than 5 minutes...do it now. Doesn't matter what it is but do it. Could be as simple as paying someone a compliment or fixing a fence...doesnt matter.
fixing a fence takes you 5 minutes? can you fix my fence plz and thank
if its one strand...yes
Would you mind explaining your views on supporting local producers? And how buying and eating locally produced vegetables and meats effects your family?
This is Erin here. I'm going to jump in and answer this one. We are local producers so we definitely support the local food movement 1000%. I started growing vegetables and selling them when I was pregnant with our oldest child. I wanted to work and help provide for our family but be at home. After a few years we expanded into local beef and pork. The money we make from local food sales helps us directly provide for our family. It buys school clothes and shoes for our kids. Also allows us money to go on the occasional vacation if we can get away. One unexpected thing that we did't anticipate is how we would become known within the community. Mike and I are recognized all over town and people look forward to seeing us every Saturday during farmers' market season. The relationships we have made in the community were so unexpected and we truly enjoy them.
How did you begin ranching? I heard to get good money you have to start with a few million dollars.
Thanks for the answers!
Check out our story https://youtu.be/32R0RME-T_I
its a family ranch.
Have you watched Longmire?
No I havent. Its on our list....have you watched The Ranch?
Trucker here who's driven along I-80 too many times. Do you have problems with the wind being a rancher?
All the time. Try laying out hay for cows when the wind is blowing 50mph....as soon as it hits the ground its gone.
Interesting! Thanks for the reply! I always wondered how people in Wyoming were affected by the wind and at what speeds. Much respect, I don't think I could cut is as a rancher. I nearly pee myself every time I have to go on I-80.
so do I haha
I am thinking about taking a trip to the US.
Would you take in a Dane for a day and show him the ropes?
(Turist stuff is boring)
I recently took a road trip from Indianapolis to Jackson Hole (Came into the state on I-80 from Nebraska). As someone from the most densely populated state in the US, I was astonished at how spread out all of the people in WY were and how entire towns were just a 1/2 mile of road. It's definitely a different way of living than what I am used to. So my question is, what are your and your families reactions going to more densely populated areas? I saw a comment you made about how trees have made you claustrophobic but what about being around so many people?
We can be around a ton of people, not sure for how long though. I might start to twitch. Honestly sometimes Walmart gets to me.
What's the best and worst parts of living in wyoming?
Well the theater just got 3D....thats cool....I'll tell you what, the worst thing is that we are kind of behind in some things....the best is that we are kind of behind in some things.....
The wide open spaces are amazing, I have family in Oregon...all the trees make me claustrophobic.
I once watched a film at a gallery in Germany. The film was nothing but a man putting in a corner fence post on his ranch. It was totally mesmerizing and took quite a while to do. How much time do spend building and repairing structures?
Edit: the film was called "Setting a Good Corner" by Bruce Nauman. Here is an interview with Bruce, but I couldn't find the video online.
Its an ongoing project. Fences always need fixed and after this winter (weve had alot of snow) we have a miles of fence that need attention.
How do you connect to the internet and at what speeds?
We fell in love with Wyoming and have considered retiring there but fear that we're too spoiled by the fiber-optic internet here to go rural.
we connect with radio internet...we can get speeds up to 50mbps but it depends on weather.
How harsh do the winters get up there? How much does it affect the work?
They can get pretty bad, nature is the equalizer of all. I've gotten tractors stuck many times. I've been stranded, I've been really cold.
My husband and I have this fantasy where we move away from our jobs, buy a little house on a piece of land in Wyoming, grow our own food, and write our books. How naive are we?
We do it...aside from the writing but our channel is a chance to tell our story. Dream away
What are your thoughts on wind energy/wind turbines in Wyoming and the politics that surround it?
We actually have a wind turbine on the property, its a small one that my father in law bought and installed before he passed. You can see it in our video https://youtu.be/TPIKDf8d_eE
It produces almost a third of the power we use here on the ranch. The politics? Thats a rough one being in a coal producing area. can i plead the 5th?
How long have you had the turbine? How long will it take before it "pays for itself" in utility savings?
They say 10 years.....we got it in 2009
Are there any current or upcoming technologies (ranch related primarily but any if they affect you) that you are looking forward to; and any you are wary of?
Actually i just found out about this product that we are hoping to test, it basically straps to a cows tail and it can call you or text you when she is close to calving. It measures contractions somehow and looks very neat... at the same time any new technology is risky when you are relying on it to save a calf.
That is very interesting and helps with cattle in a way I hadn't even thought of.
Guess it would literally be a 'push' notification too.
Stop it, dad.
I'm British and my number one place to visit in the US is Wyoming..
My question is what's it like living somewhere that looks so beautiful? The reason I want to visit is the stunning landscape and wildlife - do you get a chance to take advantage of visiting the mountains that surround your state?
Its amazing, we do live a ways from from the mountains but we visit when we can. We did vacation in Yellowstone last year. It was a blast.
How many cows have you punched?
More than I care to admit, but i've only punched in self defense. A good whap will stop them in their tracks and give you enough time to get the hell out of their way.
What's the story with the Foreclosure sign? Is business that tough?
Erin said this morning that I might have to explain that. Erin actually painted that sign when she was in high school. Gilbert, my father in law, had her paint it as a joke. He would hang it up on the fence. He's passed now and I'm not sure how funny it was.
Are you hiring?
Sorry no...but i do offer the ranch experience for free
I would like to live in Wyoming, but I'm afraid of the scarcity of jobs/places for rent. How valid are these fears?
Not valid at all...lots of jobs in Wyoming. We say if you aren't working in Wyoming you don't want to work. Homes and apartments are abundant.
Do you preg test your own cows?
Yes we do, actually we now have a vet that does it. They use ultrasound, its amazing they can tell us all kinds cool things about the calves. Sex, twins all that stuff.
And its much better that sticking your hand up their ass.
As a Wyoming Rancher, what your opinion on Winona Ryder?
haha. i liked her in Beetlejuice
How large is your ranch? Me and my brother always look at lots for sale in Wyoming online, we would love to homestead out west. You mentioned your wife is a master Gardener, do you do any homesteading yourself? What's the local hunting and produce scene like?
We manage thousands of acres. My wife grows produce and we raise beef and pork to sell at the local farmers market.
Hunting here is limited to deer and antelope.
Do you regret leaving your career as a DJ ever?
There are moments...freezing my ass off in a snowdrift trying to help a cow have a calf...then the calf is born, moos and flips its ears and it passes
How do you feel about recent efforts to give away Wyoming's public lands?
I know ranchers that depend on public land, if it gets sold out from underneath them it would make their lives very hard and possibly even drive them out of business
ever watched brokeback mountain? :P
howd you get into ranching? (thats a word... right?) was it your family's ranch?
Check out our story https://youtu.be/32R0RME-T_I
I've never seen brokeback mountain, haha
Hey Mike, I know you were grandfathered into the farm. But for an average joe how does one even begin to fathom starting/owning/running a farm?
Thanks for the answers!
You need money...I would also say get experience somewhere....volunteer at a local farm or ranch. You really need to be built for this type of work.
Nice tractor! What do you think about the right to repair bill Wyoming is considering to require John Deere make it easier for equipment owners to repair their own stuff?
Right to repair has been an active topic on reddit lately, and farmers in Wyoming are leading the charge.
Im all for it...I love fixing my own stuff. I do think that alot of the tractors have unnecessary bells and whistles that just are a pain when they break or a sensor fails.
I recently had to replace the starter on my gator, although it was a pain, I got it done.
Is your stock hereford?
There is hereford in them...we run registered angus bulls but there is that hereford blood in there and it keeps popping out. We dont mind too much, a little variety is nice.
Hi Mike and Erin,
I'm in Wyoming too. Not into agriculture as a career, but I did pull my first calf last winter. Interesting to say the least.
Do you do any type of advertising/marketing for your youtube channel? Do you have any partnerships that help spread the word about you?
I ask specifically with the #ThatsWY promotion in mind. It's the marketing campaing that the state department of tourism is currently doing. I think your youtube channel falls right in line with what they are doing.
If you have facebook or instagram you should tag your posts with the #ThatsWY to see if you can get some free promotion from the state.
http://www.travelwyoming.com/ (I am not affiliated with the state dept of tourism in any way. Just proud of the state and support the sharing of how awesome it is.)
We have done some local press releases and K2 radio in Casper has done a couple stories for us.
We hadn't thought of the #ThatsWY promotion but we will check into it. Thanks!
Would you rather fix fence in the cold, or stack hay in the heat? I always hated both growing up haha
Thats a good one, but I cheat...my hay bales weigh 1500 lbs each and I use a tractor to stack, with AC
Hello, thank you for doing this.
First, I loved you in Heathers.
Secondly, Was it difficult finding meaningful work in Hollywood after the shoplifting scandel?
I wasn't in Heathers.
What is an average day for you like?
Average is a subjective term....everyday is different. I usually have a plan, it never goes the way I plan it. Everyday, I feed the cows, that usually takes an hour or so. I go check on the horses, I might not ride everyday but I make sure I spend some time with them. I let out and feed the chickens. I gather eggs. I feed the steers, clean the pigs and feed them. I make sure everyone has water. That usually takes me up til noon.
I have afternoon projects like cleaning the chicken house, washing eggs or mechanicing on some broken piece of equipment. In the middle of all that, I have to be a dad and a husband.
Who is the primary buyer for your cows?
Our cows go to auction in October or November. A number of buyers come to the sale and bid on the calves, its different every year.
Do you get many wolves out in northeast Wyoming? I live in northwest Wyoming and there's perpetual controversy surrounding wolves out here. Wolves get a bad rap, especially from ranchers, for livestock predation. Do you find yourself or other ranchers you know around the state suffer substantial losses in your herds, or are otherwise financially affected by wolves? I'd be curious to hear your perspective on the issue because as someone who loves to observe wolves in the wild, I'm always saddened to hear when Wyoming Game and Fish has rounded up another handful of wolves to be killed, which seems to happen once or twice a year at least. Thanks for doing this AMA!
I have heard of the stray wolf over here although I have never seen one. I can feel from both sides. Its not easy to be a rancher and its even harder to lose money and realize that theres nothing you can do about it.
How are you guys set for water? Do you use windmills or are you on a.... disbursement? Or irrigation scheme? Do you have water tensions? How's the water table?
On a Cultural note: You're on reddit, but people support you and your lifestyle nation-wide. I like steaks. I also lived in Wyoming. I'm the opposite of a Wyoming rancher, in terms of loud mouth and personality (but I'd love to own an operation!) But realize, people do know you're the center of the country, in a very basic and essential way. I wouldn't attend your Church but I'll stand up for you to live Wyoming no questions asked, anytime.
We are, in a way, having church right now.
We have multiple water wells, some are shallow, 35 feet, and some are very deep, up to 650 feet. It just depends on what part of the ranch you are in.
We dont do any irrigation at the moment aside from the gardens.
We also utilize windmills and solar wells.
How big is your land, and are you folks having any issues with coyotes? Thanks for staying American!
coyotes suck... i have a video i took the other morning while i was out feeding...the coyote was watching me feed and was staying about a hundred yards from me in the tractor. Coyotes will take a calf. We have a county trapper that tries to keep the population down.
Do you get any seasonal help from migrant workers? If so, how do you think the current administration might effect the ranching business?
We do not use migrant workers. In previous years we have taken advantage of the H2A program where we paid and legally hired workers, however due to the economy we havent been able to do that in the past few years and its all been on my shoulders
What is your favourite brand of detergent?
Why do the chickens lay their eggs in the little box then leave them? Wouldn't they sit on top of them to nurture them?
They will but we take them everyday. Plus we dont have a rooster right now, a fox got him, so they are not fertilized right now anyway
Hey Mike, how often do you have to fix fences?
Fences is an ongoing project...we have miles and miles and miles of fence. I think when i get to the end, i start over.
8 mph but our high wind for the year so far was 55....and thats nothing, last year our high wind was 70.
Can I come hunt turkeys on your ranch?
We acutally dont have turkeys.....we do have antelope.!
How did you come to own your ranch? Did you buy it or was it passed down a generation?
check out our story https://youtu.be/32R0RME-T_I
It was in my wifes family.
Whats your favorite cheese?
I have hunters from Wisconsin who come to the ranch every year, they always bring me string cheese or cheese curds.
What would you say/advice would you give to someone who wanted to start up a ranch in the Wyoming/Dakotas area ?
Marry someone who has a ranch in Wyoming. :) Be prepared to work and make sacrifices for your dream.
I can't believe no one has asked you this:
Would you rather wrangle 1 horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?
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