Flock Brothers specialize in stockers, suffolk ramsWritten by Jennifer Womack
He was ready to give up farming and try his hand at ranching. He purchased a ranch north of Lingle. “After about 15 years he had to come down and buy this little farm,” says his son Gary Flock of the farm that lies between the family’s rangeland and the town of Lingle. Three years later a farm that lies adjacent to the property was added to the Flock operation.
Gary and his brother O’Leary, along with their nephew Shawn Ryan, operate the family business today. “It’s a family operation,” says O’Leary. “We have two sisters. Everyone has a share and it’s family owned and operated. It’s family that keeps it successful.”
“He didn’t get very far from farming,” says Gary of his father.
“He just wasn’t happy if he wasn’t turning soil and improving it,” says O’Leary. “He liked to have his irrigating boots on.” The family leveled, improved and worked to increase production on the farm ground.
When the Flocks first arrived in Wyoming they had a cow-calf operation. Over the years, and with the addition of the farm ground, they built a feedlot and began buying calves in the fall, growing them and selling them in the spring and early summer.
“We buy calves in the fall. We buy about 1,050 head of heifers and steers and we feed them to 900 to 950 pounds,” says Gary of the present-day operation, which is largely a continuation of management from his father’s days on the ranch. “In 1966 I came back from the Army and you could buy calves cheaper than you could raise them. We turned the north end pastures into running yearlings to fall and we went to buying calves.”
“We raise corn, hay, silage and earlage,” says O’Leary of the crops that are fed to the cattle they purchase each fall.
The farm is flood irrigated. “The whole place is gated pipe,” says Shawn.
“The next step is sprinklers,” says O’Leary, but notes the shape of the fields, powerlines and more that currently make that impossible.
“We put some of the lighter calves on grass,” says Shawn.
“We buy all of our calves,” says O’Leary. While they used to attend sales in Douglas, Glenrock, Harrison, Neb. and Crawford, Neb., the brothers say they now purchase the cattle closer to home. “We used to be on the road almost all week.”
He continues, “A long time ago when our dad was alive he did most of the buying, If he bought a 400-425 pound calf he was a big calf.” The Flocks try to purchase calves that average 450 pounds and sell them by early June.
“I think there have been more lighter calves than normal this year,” says O’Leary.
“We’ve had some good years,” says Gary, “but these last five or six have been tough. Calves have been high and everything else has been high. But, you don’t want to deny the cow-calf guy, because he’s not making a fortune either.”
“Overhead, when you consider fertilizer, corn seed and more, has really gone up,” says O’Leary. “But our prices haven’t gone up accordingly.”
“We usually sell them through Torrington Livestock,” says Gary, but notes there have been times when they’ve taken different approaches, such as retained ownership.
“We fattened some down at Dinklage and some at Millers,” says O’Leary. “They don’t get very far from home so we can go look at them every once in a while.”
Upon graduating from high school Gary was called to duty in the military. “I’ve been here all but about 22 months of my lifetime,” he says.
When O’Leary graduated from high school in Lingle he went on to attend the University of Wyoming where he studied agriculture and was one of the earliest handlers for Cowboy Joe, the college’s Shetland mascot. O’Leary remembers the first Cowboy Joe as quite a horse. “When they played Cowboy Joe he came to attention. When the cannon went off he was going and we were off,” he recalls.
“We also run 180 head of Suffolk ewes,” says O’Leary. Many Wyoming sheep producers have seen the Flock Brothers rams for sale at the annual Wyoming State Ram Sale. “We used to sell better than 100,” says O’Leary. At the 2009 sale he says they could have sold close to 100 head if they had them.
O’Leary says he and his wife Beverly do most of the lambing. “She’s the best,” he says. “Gary and Shawn help, but we lamb them out up here at the ranch where Beverly and I live.” During lambing he says someone is with the sheep around the clock.
“This deal with the Mountains States Lamb Cooperative, I think it’s helping,” says O’Leary. “Sure there’s a little more work to it, but we belong to it a little bit and I don’t think we can complain about the lambs that we raise, fatten and sell them.”
As for the future of their family’s operation, O’Leary says, “I hope it can keep going, not only here but for everybody who loves to do what we’re doing and what they’re doing in farming and ranching.”
Gary adds, “But things are going to have to change to bring the kids back. When you can go to town and make twice the money in half the time, this isn’t that appealing to young people.”