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Joe Broadbent: Ranching, life take ‘patience and perseverance’

Written by Jennifer Womack
Evanston — A yearling cattle and sheep operation with headquarters in Evanston, the Broadbent Ranch is one of Uinta County’s largest and most diversified operations.
    Managed by twin brothers Joe and Ray Broadbent, along with Joe’s son Vance, the ranch dates backs to early in the 20th Century. “My grandfather and his brother came here in 1915 and 1917,” says Joe. Married to sisters from Utah, the brothers’ father-in-law was insistent on ensuring a quality life for his daughters.
    “He didn’t want to see his daughters scrubbing floors or doing maid service,” says Joe. “He wanted them to enjoy the comforts of life.”
    Of his great Grandfather J.R. Murdoch, Joe says, “He got the brothers, Sylvester and David Broadbent, started in the sheep business.” Originally named Murdoch and Broadbent, Joe says his great grandfather was a very ambitious man. The ranch’s first sheep may have stemmed from two ewes the Murdoch family led behind their buggy during the pioneer trek from Navuoo, Ill. to Utah.
    Mr. Murdoch’s ambitious approach to business has been carried on by subsequent generations of his family. Sheep have been a cornerstone in the ranch operation throughout the many years and multiple generations of family.
    “We run Rambouillet,” says Joe. “It’s a fine-wooled sheep. We need to get the most money we can out of our wool. The Rambouillet is big and has a pretty good clip and the wool is in demand.”
    Joe continues, “Years ago in the sheep business the wool would pay all of your bills. What you got off the lamb was pure profit. Now it takes wool and lamb and sometimes that doesn’t stretch far enough. Then you have to go smile at the banker and say, ‘Give us another shot.’”
    Traditional sheepherders tend the Broadbents’ sheep. Among their permits, says Joe, are allotments surrounding the highest point in Utah, King’s Peak. “We have four permits that surround King’s Peak, one of them southeast, one southwest, northeast and northwest.” The future of grazing in that area, as well as some others, may prove increasingly difficult as environmentalists call for the removal of domestic sheep and the expansion of Bighorn sheep.
    Lambs leaving Broadbents’ southwest Wyoming ranch are shipped to the family’s Imperial Valley, Calif. lamb feeding operation. “Sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss,” says Joe. “It’s just like going to Vegas.”
    “The sheep are his love and passion,” says Vance of his father. “He’s tried to do everything he can to make it work.”
    Unlike cattle, Joe jokes, “With a sheep you can pick them up, kick them, cuss them and pull their ears and they turn around and walk off. You can’t do that with a cow or a bull.”
    Joe’s father first began taking lambs to the Imperial Valley in 1936. “He missed 1937 and went back in 1938 and we’re still there,” says Joe.
    “We used to buy out of the Utah and southwestern Wyoming area, we’d buy probably 100,000 lambs. There were three feeder lamb operations in California, which we owned.” Joe says they’d sort in the fall, sending the fat lambs one direction and the feeder lambs to the Imperial Valley. Locals say J.R. Broadbent could sort the lambs two ways while maintaining a tally on both cuts.
    Joe lived in the area for a portion of his younger years. “When I started the lambs were weighing 102, then 106 and then 109 and 113 and 120 and 125. Now they tell me they sold some lambs weighing 140, but they’re trying to bring the weight back down.”
    Ray spends the winter in the Imperial Valley. “He’ll go down there in November,” says Joe. “We’ll ship lambs down there in September and October.”
    In the mid-1950s Joe says his father, J.R. Broadbent, first brought cattle to the ranch in the form of yearlings from Mexico. “I think he brought in 300 and they worked. He shipped them back to California and marketed them and the ranch got a little bigger.”
    Eventually the ranch added mother cows, but six years ago switched the cattle portion of their ranch to yearlings. In the early 1960s, Joe says the ranch was trailing all of its livestock to the railway at Aldamont for shipping.
    “We had an exciting time on one occasion,” laughs Joe. “The cattle did well until the engine came by and blew its whistle. We finally did get them all gathered back up.”
    “I didn’t realize at the time,” recalls Joe, “that where we trailed cattle is on the old Mormon Pioneer Trail that went through here. We’d get up to the crest of the hills and we’d have all the hands and the cook pushing the steers. As soon as we’d hit the crest of the hill all the hands and the cook got up front to hold them back so they wouldn’t get away from us. One year we didn’t hold them and my father was extremely unhappy.”
     On a ranch he’d purchased early in the 1960s, J.R. Broadbent built a set of corrals and installed a 65-foot scale, the first of its kind in the area. “Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not,” says Joe, “but a trucker told me it’s the only 65-foot scale, between here and Cheyenne.”
    “That’s where we got our impetus in the cattle business,” says Joe. The ranch was the first in the area to ship livestock out on trucks. They’ve also built their corrals in unique style with dual chutes – one to load through while a truck is backing up to the other for loading. “We can run 1400 to 1600 head through in a day and be done by 2 p.m. It’s a real time-saver,” says Joe. “I’ve never seen another corral like this one.”
    The Broadbents’ innovation also reaches to the crops they grow and the waterlines that ensure stock water supplies. “We’ve put in 25-40 miles of waterline to get water from here to there instead of hauling it in a truck,” says Joe. “We’ve built over 100 miles of fence.” He says they’ve also planted forage kochia in one of the ranch’s fields.
    “It is high in protein in the spring and early summer,” says Joe noting 22-24 percent protein. “In the winter you take that back to about 12 percent protein, but the nutritionists say if an animal has seven percent protein you don’t need to supplement.”
    Haying on the Broadbent Ranch is now limited to one of their properties near Manilla, Utah. As a result of alkali concerns surrounding Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Joe says the federal government put up 75 percent of the money to put in the sprinkler irrigation system.
    Joe was living in the Imperial Valley when his father called for his return to Evanston. Joe recalls, “He said, ‘Joe, as you know, our foreman in Wyoming would like to leave. He’s a great person and he’s done a great job.’ I replied, ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’” J.R. Broadbent’s next statement to his son was, “I hope you enjoy Wyoming this winter.”
    “I really enjoyed what I was doing in the Imperial Valley,” says Joe. “You only needed one set of clothes.”
    One of the things that Joe says makes their operation unique is that so many of their employees speak Spanish. “I’m fortunate to be able to speak the Spanish language,” says Joe. It isn’t, however, a skill that was easily learned. Like so many things in life, Joe says it took “patience and perseverance.”
    “When I was in high school, in the 9th grade, I took Spanish I and Spanish II. In the 10th grade I took Spanish III and IV.” Joe’s teacher discouraged him from continuing further, saying the language was too difficult for him. He followed her advice, but life has a funny way of working out.
    “About four years later I graduated from high school and got out of college,” recalls Joe. “I was sent on a mission to Central America by the LDS church.” Originally Joe says he was dreading the trip, concerned he’d never be able to converse with the locals. “I thought, ‘Good grief I’ve got to go learn Spanish and I flunked almost four semesters in the U.S.”
    He says, “I went down there and I learned Spanish. When I came back from Central America, I still regret not seeing that Spanish teacher and speaking to her in Spanish.”
    Vance, the eldest of Joe’s 10 children, returned to the family ranch three years ago. He says two of his brothers are involved in the livestock industry with a hay farm near Riverton.
    “After I graduated I worked for a natural gas pipeline company for 14 years,” says Vance. “I had the opportunity to come back and this is what I wanted to do. Through the years all of my brothers worked on the ranch in the summers to help pay for college. It was in my blood, I always enjoyed it growing up. I like animals more than farming. I enjoy the sheep, the cattle and the horses and being out.”
    However, Vance says, “It’s not just sheep, cattle and horses anymore. My dad has done a good job of trying to look down the road at new opportunities. We have timbering that goes on, hunting and wind turbines. It’s a lot more than it was before.” The ranch’s hunting rights are leased to an area outfitter who recently built a lodge on the southern end of the property.
    “I have two boys and my younger son, 14, has been helping me all summer long,” says Vance. “That was one of the other advantages of this job — I get to spend more time with my boys and that’s important.”
    What’s kept the ranch successful all these years? “Patience and perseverance,” replies Joe, “patience and perseverance.”
    Jennifer Womack 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..