Farm, feedlot support steben family ranchWritten by Christy Hemken
“We still do the same today, running a few cows and feeding cattle,” says Randy. The ranch takes in some calves to custom feed while the balance belong to the family.
“His father came here as a hired man to the people who owned the place, and he bought it from the original owners,” says Randy’s wife Twila, who came to Goshen County from Hulett. “Then they had their family here, and it’s always been the way of life.”
Along with the cattle the Stebens have land in corn, alfalfa, winter wheat and irrigated pasture.
Randy says he goes to fat with the majority of the cattle. “The difficulty with feeding cattle is predictability, both in weather and markets,” he notes. “We try to be able to market at the right time and in the right market. We’ve tried some different contracting, and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s a matter of getting things as close as we can.”
The Steben operation is a part of North Platte Valley Feeders, a group of farmer/feeders in the area that have partnered together over the years. “We have a manager hired, and he’s the go-between for the owners of the cattle and the feeders,” says Randy. “The association helps find calves or yearlings, or whatever the guys want to feed.”
Right now the cooperative is composed of 13 members, with a total member capacity of 11,000 cattle, with some space for cornstalk cows that winter in the area.
“The co-op does the best it can to match cattle with the right person,” says Randy. “Different feedlots have different types of feed, and some want to fatten while others only grow. Others do only cornstalk cows.”
The cooperative, which began in 1987, is spread through Goshen County and into Nebraska.
Most of the hay produced on the farm is sold, the majority of which goes to dairies. “This year was a little more difficult, with all the moisture, so it was hard to put up high quality hay,” says Randy.
He markets his hay through the video market in Torrington, and also through private sales. “It goes just about everywhere, and through the video sales we ship from Utah and Colorado to Texas and Oklahoma.
Of farming practices, Randy says he does both minimum and conventional till on his corn, and he tries new practices most years, as new ideas come up that look like they might fit with his operation.
“I like the openness of Wyoming, and that there aren’t a lot of people,” says Randy. “It’s an interesting life.”
“I couldn’t see him doing anything else,” says Twila.