Keeping the tradition alive: Young ranchers continue family operationWritten by Saige Albert
“My grandpa came from Ireland and settled this ranch. His mother, father and five brothers and sisters all died on the boat ride over, so he enlisted in the cavalry and fought in the Indian wars,” explains Garrett. “He was in a battle on Brown Springs Creek just up the road, and always said that if he ever survived, he would come back out and settle this place.”
When his father was diagnosed with brain cancer, Garrett came home from college at the University of Wyoming to take over the operation.
Garrett and his brother Blake run the operation today, which consists of cattle, performance horses and an outfitting business, in the wake of their father’s passing in 2009.
“We have the same ranching business that we’ve always had,” says Garrett. “We run cows, and we just started a horse business.”
While the family always used horses for both cow work and rodeo, the performance breeding operation started only about 10 years ago.
The brothers run primarily Black Angus cattle, with a few Corrientes for roping and steer wrestling.
“When I came back, I just wanted to keep this ranch in the family – that’s the most important thing to me,” comments Garrett. “I didn’t come back with the intention of changing things, but I think there is always room to get better.”
Ultimately, the ranch is run largely the same as his father ran it, with some improvements to continue the operation. Garrett notes that, if he doesn’t make changes or continue to improve the operation, it will deteriorate.
The brothers calve their heifers in March and the cows in April, adding that they provide cake during the winter and spring and supplement with hay prior to calving.
Some changes that Garrett has made include discontinuing the hay operation.
“We used to raise hay, but it was all just the native hay around here,” explains Garrett. “With trying to keep up with the price of equipment and these low-producing hay bottoms, we decided to stop. The cows don’t do nearly as well on the grass hay around here, either, so we buy alfalfa.”
To accommodate their hay, the Henry family is completing a hay barn.
“The price of hay is going up so we are trying to protect it,” says Garrett. “And feeding horses compared to cattle is quite a bit different.”
Garrett also mentions that he largely takes care of the business aspect of the ranch and does cattle work with his brother, while Blake takes care of the mechanical aspects to keep the ranch running.
“We decided we wanted to start raising some horses, so Dad bought some mares and a stud,” comments Garrett. “We really didn’t know quite what we were going into, to be honest with you. At first, we basically wanted to raise some nice horses for ourselves.”
Though breeding performances for their personal use, including the Henrys’ rodeo endeavors, was helpful, the family realized that it wasn’t as profitable as they had hoped, so they started marketing and selling performance horses.
“We really tried to focus on on the bloodlines that were successful in the arena, so we started working toward mares that were bred to run barrels and to rope on,” explains Garrett, mentioning that their first stud was bred for ranching and roping.
After deciding to focus on performance horses, the Henry’s purchased Frenchman’s Easy Doc, a son of Frenchman’s Guy.
“When we bought him, we started breeding all of our mares to that stud,” says Garrett, noting the proven genetics of the line have been demonstrated multiple times at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev.
He has put extra effort into marketing, noting that winning horses are important in the horse business.
“I’ve put a lot of time into getting the right people riding our horses and winning on them,” adds Garrett. “We’ve got a lot of good people who buy horses or breed to our stud.”
Since buying Frenchman’s Easy Doc, Garrett has seen success in the horse business.
“We derbied our stallion, and he did well. We are trying to push him toward any sort of performance event. It’s just gotten better from there,” he says. “Our first colts will futurity this year at the barrel races, so we’re excited to see how they do.”
“All of our mares are proven in one way or another, which I think is important,” comments Garrett. “The mares are just as important as the stallions.”
He also notes that the operation has had to make some adjustments since adding a horse component, including improvement of facilities, construction of more pens and addition of a hay barn.
“We’re getting settled in, and it’s really starting to do well,” comments Garrett. “Our horse business is taking off.”
To supplement performance horse breeding and the cow business, the Henry family also operates an outfitting business.
“We guide on our ranch, and we lease part of the Hornbuckle Ranch to the south and the Patterson ranch to the north,” describes Garrett.
The brothers are able to guide and house both deer and antelope hunters.
“It keeps everything going between the three businesses,” adds Garrett, “but we sure are busy. Sometimes I don’t know which way I’m going.”
Regardless of the busy times, Garrett enjoys the lifestyle and says he wouldn’t want to live any other way.
“Trying to go through the eight-to-five grind, and having someone else telling me what to do, would be extremely hard,” says Garrett. “I can’t think of a better way to raise a family, either.”
He adds, “I don’t think there are too many challenges, but I was born and raised here, so I’m used to it all.”
As Garrett continues to learn and adapt the three businesses to accommodate changing times, he enjoys ranching and strives to have the best operation possible.
“If you’re going to do well, you have to work to have the best that you can have,” comments Garrett. “The mediocre people will never make it.”