Supporting rural Wyoming: Big Horn Co-op focuses on technologyWritten by Christy Martinez
Greybull – Since being founded in 1923 by local producers, the Big Horn Co-op has not only carried on, but has expanded from that time.
“The co-op started in Basin, and now we have locations in Basin and Greybull, unstaffed facilities in Lovell and locations in Powell, Worland, Riverton and Buffalo,” says Co-op General Manager Mike Hanser.
“We try to support rural Wyoming,” says Hanser of the co-op, which is core in agronomy, crop nutrients, crop protection, petroleum, tire shops to serve producers, hardware stores, animal health, feed, seed and most of the things that livestock and grain producers need.
Big Horn Co-op has between 4,500 and 5,000 members and is overseen by a board of directors composed of 10 members. To become a co-op member, all a person has to do is purchase from the co-op.
“The company is owned by the producers we serve, and they elect the board of directors to represent them,” explains Hanser. “The board is who chooses what areas of the state to serve, and the general direction they want the company to go, and it’s up to management and our team to make sure we implement those decisions.”
The co-op, which employs up to 125 people during peak season, focuses on efficiencies.
“We try to make sure we’re not doing anything double, and we keep up with technological advances in crop production, animal health and seed genetics,” says Hanser, who has been with the company since 1978 and mentions that manpower is always an issue. “Competing against the energy companies is always a challenge.”
“We almost never get to hire a farm or ranch kid, so there’s a considerable amount of training that has to go on. Many people don’t understand the urgency of agriculture – when it’s time to go, you’ve got to go. You have to be there, or you don’t have livestock, and the same goes for planting and harvesting,” says Hanser.
Although many producers already know the co-op and its services, Hanser says the company still advertises and solicits their business.
“We don’t want to be know for waiting for someone to come to us – we need to be aggressive in going out to look for business,” he comments.
Of changes to the co-op through his years working there, Hanser says he sees more changes in the whole agriculture spectrum.
“The number of producers continues to decline, and the size of operations continues to get bigger – they’re the same as any other business, in that they have to look for efficiencies in their operations and look for the methods that will carry them into the future. They can’t operate today the same way they did 25 years ago,” he comments.
Through the years, Hanser says the co-op has implemented many technological advances, like seed genetics and animal genetics and nutrition.
“We use research that’s been tested and proven, like the advances in animal health products that give heavier weaning weights for calf and lamb crops,” he says. “We keep our people trained and informed of them so they can pass that information on to the producer.”
Of the advances in glyphosate resistance and Roundup Ready technology, Hanser says he doesn’t know of any producer who wouldn’t want to plant Roundup Ready sugarbeets.
“Some of the other crop protection products previously used were pretty hard on the beet plant. Roundup Ready yields are dramatically different, and the time and labor put into the crop are a different ballgame,” he notes. “I don’t know of any conventional sugarbeets being raised in our area, and the same goes for alfalfa and corn.”
However, he does note that there will be challenges with Roundup Ready technology down the road, such as weed resistance, but he says there are already dollars being spent to address the problem.
Of expansion beyond their current locations in the future, Hanser says, “I have a very progressive and a very good board, and they’re continually looking at new possibilities.”
“I think we do a good job servicing the customer and trying to have the goods and services they need at a competitive price,” says Hanser. “It’s always a challenge, but that’s what we’re here for. The rewarding part from that labor is that we hopefully make a difference in someone else’s life and make their operations better.”