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Graduate continues contributions to state

Written by UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Gillette – A rancher who obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming (UW) before World War II and continues to be involved in his family’s ranching operations at 94 is a recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Charles “Bud” Christensen built a ranching enterprise that grew to include properties in Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska and totals approximately 156,000 deeded acres. The ranches are operated by CJR Ranch, LLC, a successor to what was originally CJR Christensen Ranches, named for Charles, his daughter Janet and son Robert.

He’s a sought-after resource for not only livestock and ranching but also mineral industry issues.

Bob Innes of Innes Ranch in Campbell County says Bud is one of the most informed persons he knows on agricultural-related issues.

“Very early in my profession, I learned that Bud was one of the most intelligent and informed individuals I would ever meet,” he says. “As a result of that understanding, I knew I should listen well when Bud was visiting with me. I was never disappointed.”

Early graduate

Bud entered UW at age 16 and was a three-year letter winner in swimming and diving. He graduated with honors at age 20. His father Fred had built the Gillette ranch to 65,000 acres. Bud and his brother split the ranch in the 1960s and after developing his own Gillette operation, he began adding additional places.

“My granddad is part of a generation that worked hard and built Wyoming,” says grandson Mark. “They set high expectations, worked hard and lived their lives with integrity.”

His grandfather had the vision to develop a vertically integrated operation across three states, he says.

All calves are brought back into the herd as replacements or fed in a retained ownership program for the packer market, notes Brett Befus with the University of Wyoming Foundation, who supported the alumni award nomination.

Heifer and bull calves from all ranches are shipped to the South Loup River Ranch near Broken Bow, Neb. in the fall. The best are developed into replacement heifers and herd bulls for the cattle operation. Cull heifers and steers are sent to commercial feedlots for finishing.

The majority of the herd is Salers and Angus crossbreds.

Contributing to the ranch

Though ranching operations have been continued by Mark’s father and aunt, “The success of the ranches lies with Bud,” Mark says. “To this day, at 94 years of age, he is still involved in the day-to-day operations of the ranch. He still pays the bills and handles the financial matters of the Christensen Ranches.”

Bud insisted that, even though there were monies derived from mineral development, the ranches always operated as a separate enterprise that made their own ways, says Mark.

Involvement

Bud served as director of the American Salers Association from 1983-88 and received the association’s President’s Award in 1996. He was named an honorary member in 2002 because of his early use of the Salers breed and his two terms of service to the board of directors, says Jim Wilson of V Ranch near Thermopolis.

“Bud has provided more carcass information on the Salers breed than any other producer in the nation,” notes Wilson. “He continues to promote the maternal aspects and range utilization capabilities of Salers and has been featured in testimonial advertisement for the American Salers Association.”

He’s also a 70-year member of the 143-year-old Wyoming Stock Growers Association. The membership boasts three generations of his family, says Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the association.

“Bud’s long, successful career as an agricultural producer is a tribute to his own abilities as well as to the education he received in the college of agriculture,” notes Magagna in his nomination.

Success

Bud's success can be measured by the number of distinct ranches he has brought together in a vertically integrated operation, Magagna says.

“However, a better measure may be his effectiveness in integrating family members from multiple generations into the business. There is no lack of words to describe Bud Christensen. Perseverance, determination, foresight, strategist and risk-taker all come quickly to mind,” Magagna adds.

Bud has become a respected expert on oil and gas leases and surface use agreements, notes Mark.

“He was one of the first landowners in Wyoming to negotiate annual surface use damage payments as opposed to just a one-time flat fee. In later years, Bud was asked for his advice on oil and gas development negotiations by many in northeast Wyoming,” he says.

Bud also gained a reputation for his fairness and integrity.

“I remember being told by an individual from whom we acquired a ranch that they were amazed at how my granddad negotiated the deal and his focus on fairness,” says Mark. “My granddad’s concern was the long-term relationship and how they would get along on the street in later years, Wyoming being the small state it is.”

This article is courtesy of the UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.