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Land and Livestock, Lungrens stay busy on diverse operation

Worland – The Lungren family came to Washakie County in the 1922, and they have continued to make an impact in the county’s agriculture world since.

“My Grandpa Adam and great-grandfather came to Washakie County in the 1920s,” says Vance Lungren. “He hoed sugarbeets for a living.”

Before long, Adam Lungren was able to buy the property where the farm’s headquarters sit today. 

Adam’s son Lloyd took over the operation, who has further handed it on to his son Vance. Vance’s sons, Vance, Jr., known as Vanny, and Clint, run much of the farming and ranching aspects today.

Four generations of Lungrens are able to make a living on the operation today. 

Lloyd and his wife Ruth and their son Vance and wife Debbie are the oldest generations on the ranch. Vanny, Jr., his wife Kim, sons Kaden and Tristen and daughter Lily are also on the operation with Clint, wife Sara, son Owen and daughter Paige.

“Vanny and Clint have taken over the farm, and things have changed so much since then,” says Vance. 

The family farms and raises cattle today, and each operation benefits the other. Clint works largely with the farming aspect, Vance works with the cattle, and Vanny does the bookwork, while also helping out in both operations.

Farming endeavors

The farming aspect of the Lungren family’s endeavor operates as South Flat Land and Livestock.

“Our primary crop is sugarbeets,” says Vanny. “We also grow malt barley, seed alfalfa, pinto beans, hay and some corn.”

Sugarbeets

Sugarbeets are the crop that started their family’s legacy in Washakie County, and Vanny says, “Sugarbeets have been a very good crop for us. They have been in our family for a long time, and we have a lot of good history with the sugarbeets.”

In addition, sugarbeets are integral in the cattle aspect of the operation.

“We’ve been able to blend the sugarbeets in well with our cattle operation, whether we are talking about feeding the beet pulp coming out of the factory or grazing cattle on beets tops in the winter.”

Because the crop and cattle work so well together, Lungrens look to continue producing, or even expanding, their acreage.

The Lungrens own shares in Wyoming Sugar Company, the local grower-owned sugar factory, which ensures that they have both the right and obligation to grow their beets.

Making changes

Other crops have been added strategically to the Lungrens rotation to accomplish their goals and capture market value.

“We sell malt barley to Coors,” Vanny says, “and corn is an occasional crop for us. Sometimes we plant it, if the market is good.”

Their malt barley also works well with the cattle end of the operation.

“The cows are able to utilize the resources that the farm has,” he says. “After we harvest a crop of barley, we follow the combine with the grain drill again.”

By planting an additional barley crop, they are able to graze the second crop during the winter months. 

“That has been a very good way to double crop some of our acres and provide some much needed fall pasture through these high feed price times for cows,” Vanny says.

Vance adds, “We don’t have to feed hay to our cows anymore with the fall pasture we have.”

“It is very affordable,” Vanny notes. “The farms makes some money on it, and it is the cheapest winter feed going for cattle.”

Adding crops

Seed alfalfa is a newer aspect of their operation that started as a result of Vanny’s senior thesis project. 

“I knew it was a good crop from my studies,” says Vanny. “It took a few years, but a seed company emerged, and we made a commitment to sell seed.”

The challenge with alfalfa is in the requirements for pollinators. 

“It takes 21 days to incubate the bees, so we have to plan when the bloom of the crop is going to come,” he continues. “Bees are also expensive. They are worth about $100 a gallon right now, and it requires about 3.5 gallons per acre. We have quite an investment in bees.”

Pinto beans are also a newer crop for the family.

“Last year was our third year growing pinto beans, and we enjoy them,” says Vanny.

Farming challenges

Farming in the Bighorn Basin leads to a number of challenges, says Vanny.

“I think the biggest challenge that we face around here is the limited resource of farm ground,” says Vanny. “We also deal with the economics of farming.”

With increases prices of equipment, land and improvements, he says that they continue to search for more farmland.

“We are dependent on leased ground for the acres that we need to farm to survive,” he explains. “If we were to lose a lease, that could be devastating.”

To attempt to combat those challenges, the Lungrens have tried implementing longer term leases.

Ranch

Lungren Land and Cattle Company is the livestock end of the Lungren’s family operation.

“Our ranch sits 33 miles south of Worland on the headwaters of No Water Creek,” says Vance. “We run a cow/calf operation, and sometimes we run yearlings over, as well.”

Their Black Angus cattle are trailed to the ranch from the farm property in the middle of March and are kept there until the beginning of December. They calve in the late spring and early summer each year.

Lloyd notes that labor is the primarily reason for switching to a later calving date.

“We start calving about the first week of May,” Vance explains. “They do so well calving on their own that time of year.”

At the same time, he further notes that they have to worry less about feeding high quality feeds during the winter months. 

“When they get out in the hills, things start greening up, and the cows do really well until calving,” he says. “The calves hit the ground running, and the cows are producing a lot of milk.”

Heifers are calved on the range with the older cows.

Challenging aspects

While range calving provides opportunities, Vanny also notes that it presents challenges, as well.

Since calves aren’t tagged, he notes, “One of our biggest challenges is in selecting replacement heifers.”

They have begun to implement a series of measures to improve heifer selection, including use of DNA testing.

“We started DNA sampling a large group of heifer calves that look appealing,” he says. “We can make a final selection based on a weighted set of characteristics.”

With later calving dates, Vance says they have also had to adjust their marketing to reflect lighter calves at the beginning of the year. 

Range calving also means they must watch for coyotes and wolves, and they have installed numerous pipelines on their rangeland. 

“We also do range monitoring,” says Vance. “We have to watch what the range is doing. 

Continued ranching life

Ranching is a way of life for the Lungren family, and they hope to continue ranching into the future.

“We love the challenge of ranching,” says Lloyd. 

Vance adds, “It’s a good way of life. It’s not a real moneymaker, and since we have both the cows and the farm, we don’t see much relief as far as getting a break during the year.”

To be successful in the industry, Vanny comments, “With the amount of risk involved in the industry anymore – whether we are talking about farming or ranching – we really have to love it. If we look at the risk to reward ratio, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a good life.”

Vance says that his boys compliment each other in their strengths, and with their dedication to the operation, he sees that both Lungren Land and Cattle Company and South Flat Land and Livestock will both continue to work into the future.

“It’s amazing how well these entities compliment one another,” Vanny says. “They really go together well in a lot of aspects, and it helps us to be successful.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at saige@wylr.net.


SIDEBAR:
Using technology

Their crops may adjust from year to year, but Vanny Lungren notes that they have been able to streamline their operation and utilize the latest technology to improve harvest.

“We’ve started doing a little strip tilling, and we are about 75 percent sprinkler irrigated,” he says. “We also use GPS on most of our tractors, and we have spray control systems that run off of GPS.”

Keeping up with technology has enabled the family to continue to be successful. 

“They used to plant beets really thick and go back through and thin them,” Vanny explains as an example. ““Last year, we got a planter that we can link with NRCS soils maps and using GPS technologies, can adjust the seeding rate for each soil type on the go.”

“Margins are so thin right now that, if we can harness these technologies and make them work for us, we can eek a living out here,” he continues. “But with those advancements came a price. We need to make sure we are getting the best bang for our buck.”