Duncan RanchWritten by Christy Hemken
Lankisters win lease on state’s newest ranch
Glenrock – While surfing the Internet last summer looking for ranches for lease, Wendi Lankister came across the Duncan Ranch, a find which set into motion events that would lead her family to soon call the Glenrock ranch home.
“We called the next day to find out what the process would be to find a lessee for the ranch and put ourselves on the list to receive an application,” says Wendi, who was living with her husband Keith and three girls on a ranch near Baggs.
Along with basic qualifications, the application required a 20-year business plan. “By the time our plan was done it was a half-inch thick and looked like a Master’s thesis,” says Keith.
“In the plan we tried to address all their concerns through reading minutes from CRM (Coordinated Resource Management) meetings from the last year so we could get a feel for the issues different players and agencies were interested in, including wildlife, recreation and education,” says Wendi. “To completely respond to what they asked for we had to address each of those areas.”
She says she thinks their operation’s diversity was a strong point in their application. “We’re not simply relying on a cow/calf commodity operation. With the current stocking rate - 150 cows - we’d be hard-pressed to support a family.”
The Lankisters direct market grassfed beef and recently purchased a gourmet bean soup and seasonings business. “That complements the beef because now we’re selling two different kinds of food,” says Wendi.
“There’s synergism because we’re already selling one product so if we sell two it’s a better use of our time,” says Keith. The beans will be marketed in stores and at farmers markets across Wyoming.
Keith says their hope is to remain as local as possible in their processing, printing and packing for both endeavors. Wendi adds, “We feel strongly about the local process. Hopefully, with being in central Wyoming, we can have the local population to support us as we support the local population.”
The Lankisters say they plan to begin stocking the ranch in April. “We hope to have the ranch stocked by May,” says Keith, which would be before they calve in May and June.
Of the ranch itself, Keith says the state has already done a lot of clean-up work. “There’s still a lot to do, but they’ve got a great start on it. They say they leased the ranch for 20 years initially because it’ll take the first 10 to fix it up.”
Right now the corrals are set directly over a creek running through the ranch yard, but that will soon change. “The new corrals are going to be very nice, and they’re set up so there’s no runoff to the creek. It will be caught in an irrigation ditch and be taken to the hay fields,” says Keith.
Because the Lankisters have dealt with public lands on ranches in Wyoming, Colorado and Oregon, they’re not too concerned about the public access on their new place. “With the way we manage our cattle, I don’t know that it’ll be a big problem,” says Keith. “Our cattle are going to be managed intensely and they’ll be in a small area most of the time and moved on a regular basis. At this point I don’t see the public access as a hindrance.”
For their planned rotational grazing, Keith says there are some cross fences on the ranch but they’re in poor shape. “The state realizes that to implement a good rotational grazing system it takes time. We’ve got to get to know our resource and where the fences are going to best benefit us.”
Wendi says they plan to utilize electric fence until they’re ready to install permanent fences. “That will be the trickiest thing with the public access – making sure the electric fences are well-signed.”
“We try to build around a 12-month grazing season, having hay on hand for those occasions when we get a blizzard,” he says. The Lankisters plan to graze the north side of the ranch in the winter, which, even if there are eight inches in a snowfall, is generally cleared by wind.
“Another option is to trail the cows to other ground if we can find some to lease locally,” says Keith. “The third option is to buy hay and haul it in.”
Keith says they also plan to use the ranch’s terrain to their advantage. “I think, rather than looking at it as a negative, we’ll use the terrain as a positive and a way to control our livestock and utilize the place without as much costly infrastructure.”
Included in the terrain of their ranch is Boxelder Canyon, on which the Duncan Ranch already held a lease and the Lankisters took over.
“The girls were very much involved in the Baggs ranch and it was big country, so sometimes their days got a little long,” says Keith of daughters Clara, 8, Faye, 6, and Josey, 4. “They’re pretty active and they like to get out and help.”
“One of the biggest draws to ranching for us is that we enjoy it – we chose to ranch,” says Keith. “We think it’s a great place to raise kids, teach work ethic and give the girls real-life experiences.”
“One of our biggest philosophies is to take as many processes out of harvesting beef from grass as we can,” says Keith. “Our ideal is to accomplish getting to an end beef product without starting a tractor. We’re not to that point, and technology is a tool we use, but we try to let the cows do as much work as possible.”
Wendi adds, “We’re capturing solar energy and turning it into food energy for people with as few inputs as possible.”