Maintaining tradition: McKims keep business in the familyWritten by Saige
Manderson – The McKim family, made up of Doyle McKim and his sons Alan, Jim and Don, run three operations just outside of Manderson.
The McKims run a true family operation, and work to keep that tradition alive.
“We don’t ever have any hired hands. It’s just the family,” says Don McKim. “My brothers and I run everything. Our dad Doyle is still a partner, too.”
In 1971 the family started their operation with the purchase of McKim Ranch. They had farmed for a few years prior to that near Worland on a piece of rented property before deciding move to Manderson to start their own operation.
“We bought all this together and started farming,” says Don. “My dad has farmed all his life.”
When he was growing up, Don says his father leased and farmed land for other people in the area. They even once farmed the land they now own. When they bought the property, the McKims improved it with a number of new buildings, as well as a feedlot.
Don explains that, in order to farm the number of acres they do, the family has divided their land under three entities are Doyle McKim and Sons, Inc., Orchard Bench Ranch and McKim Cattle Company.
The McKims run what they describe as a traditional farm, but they use some minimum tillage practices.
“After we take the corn off, we chop it. The next year, we just go right in and plant the malt barley,” he explains. “We don’t plow it up or tear it up any when we plant.”
They grow corn, as well as malt barley for both Coors and Budweiser. They also grow alfalfa and maintain pastureland for their cattle operation. As a whole, the brothers farm nearly 3,000 acres.
Because they plant earlier than many people in the area, McKim says by the middle of August barley harvests are complete.
“We haul our barley to Powell, and we’re the only ones hauling,” says McKim. “We have our barley done before anyone has started hauling.”
Most of the land is gravity irrigated from the Big Horn canal.
“We lay pipe every year,” says McKim. “It’s a lot of pipe.”
“All this ground could be farmed, but we just raise cattle on it,” explains McKim.
In all their ditches and roadsides the McKims keep healthy grass, which they mow and utilize in an attempt to use as much of the land productively as possible.
“We run an intensive management program because we have to move our cows a lot more,” explains McKim. “We don’t have the mountain pastures, so we run on our pastureland and BLM leases.”
McKim runs primarily Charolais, but also has Black and Red Angus, as well.
“We probably have the longest-running and biggest Charolais herd in the area,” says McKim. “We have a little bit of everything.”
During the summer the cattle are pastured on land near the Big Horn River. The marginal land of the property is all used for pasture, as well. For two months in the early fall, McKim runs the cattle on BLM land.
“After we take the calves off we run on BLM,” says McKim. “The water out there has been rough for the last eight years or so. We have hauled a lot of water out there. This year we won’t have to because we’ve had a lot of moisture.”
The McKims also have their own feedlot, where they feed up to 3,000 head of cattle in the winter months.
“We built this feedlot since coming here. Right now we’re stockpiling straw and cleaning out all the corrals,” explains McKim. “We stuck every single one of these posts in the ground ourselves. Getting rid of all the manure is a big operation.”
McKim composts the manure for future use after getting it out of the corrals.
To get all of their cattle to market, the McKims also have their own trucking equipment they use to haul cattle to Riverton.
Just one of the challenges of operating a farm and ranch is working with the government organizations, such as the BLM. Working with the railroad companies to maintain fences that run through the property is also challenging, says McKim.
“Right now the price of fuel and fertilizer is getting pretty high,” says McKim. “Even though we are making a little more money for our barley and corn, it just doesn’t keep up with the price of the inputs.”
He also adds that the grasshoppers have been bad in his pastures and will decimate the grass. The irrigated pastures don’t suffer as badly, but McKim still sprays to alleviate some of the problem.
“The mosquitos here are also really bad because of the river,” says McKim.
With all the successes of the operation, there are plans to add more partners to the program.
“My nephew Shad and my son Cannon will both be made partners,” says McKim. “We keep expanding a bit and just keep working up.”
Don’s son-in-law Austin came to work on the ranch in 2009.
For the next generation, McKim isn’t worried because his and Alan’s grandsons have taken an interest in the operation, helping him with much of the day-to-day work when he can in the summer and after school.
Of farming and ranching in Big Horn County, McKim says, “I love it, and I love the lifestyle. You’re around your family, and that is pretty wonderful.”