Way of life, Tolman enjoys ranching way of life
Ten Sleep – Despite the challenges that come with running a ranch, Kirk Tolman couldn’t imagine any other way of life.
His ranch is located 30 miles south of Ten Sleep.
Tolman comes from a long line of ranchers, who started in the Star Valley area in the early 1900s.
His own operation consists of a commercial herd of Angus cows that he breeds to Charolais for hybrid vigor.
Tolman takes advantage of BLM leases and spends much of his time trailing his cattle from pasture to pasture, so they can graze most of the year.
“We basically trail from one end of the county to the other,” he says.
The cattle are currently grazing on BLM permitted land and have been there since the first part of November. Abundant BLM lands in Washakie County make this possible.
Beginning a new year
“We will gather them up and move them down to the river on some pasture about the first of February,” he explains. “They will start calving about the first of March.”
After branding, the cattle are trailed back to BLM pasture the first part of May, where they will remain until July. Then Tolman trails them to deeded mountain land where they will remain until the first of October.
At that point, he moves the cattle to the slope where the calves are preconditioned and sold on video auction around Oct. 15.
The cows then return to BLM land by Nov. 1.
Tolman said he purchases all the hay he needs for the cattle each year, instead of putting it up himself.
“I find it’s easier to trail the cows to the hay, rather than taking the hay to the cows,” he explains, noting that while Washakie County doesn’t see much wind, winters can mean prolonged cold weather.
The way of life
Tolman said he couldn’t see any other way of life for himself.
“I enjoy being my own boss, and I like being outside and working with animals,” he explains. “I really enjoy being up on the mountain in the summertime. Nothing can beat that.”
Despite that, ranching still comes with its challenges.
“I think the biggest hurdle ranchers face is climbing expenses and costs,” he says. “Calves should be worth four dollars a pound the way expenses have gone up.”
At the same time, he offers advice to young people looking to get involved in cattle production.
“For someone trying to get into this business, I would tell them to try and keep their expenses at a minimum,” he comments.
Tolman has also found it hard to hire good help.
“People don’t want to do ranch work any more. They choose other things that pay more,” he says.
Maintaining the ranch
Since taking over the operation years ago, Tolman has made several improvements to make the ranch more efficient and profitable.
“When I started, we got out of the sheep business and focused on the cattle. We have also built waterlines, put in more stocktanks, sprayed brush and repaired the reservoirs,” he says.
Looking to the future, Tolman hopes to turn over the reins of the ranch to his nephew, Cameron Roady, one day, then slow down and eventually retire.
“I am currently incorporating my nephew into the business, which has made another set of mouths to feed,” he says. “The cows I ran didn’t pay the bills, so we have increased the cow numbers some.”