Julian Land & LivestockWritten by American Sheep Industry News
Kemmerer — There is a legacy of sheep ranching in Wyoming. The landscape, with its vast openness, shrubs, grass and sagebrush makes it an optimum area for raising sheep; since the species was introduced in the state, it has played an important role in shaping the economic future of Wyoming, as it has in much of the West.
Along with the rich, agricultural heritage of sheep ranching, a tough breed of sheepmen was forged. They stood for their family, their state and their industry, working to keep sheep ranching viable.
“You see it most in the sheep industry. A lot of people give time and willingness to step up and take on tough issues and make tough calls,” says Bryce Reece, executive director of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA). “There seems to be this underlying feeling that one of the things you are supposed to do is that you are supposed to give back. And some feel they have to give back more than they take.”
These words exactly describe a longstanding sheep ranching family in Wyoming, who for generations, has given what they had and then some to both the national and state sheep industries – the Julian family of Kemmerer.
“They are very plain spoken, they are brutally honest and they have a huge pride first in their family, second in the industry and in this state,” says Reece of the Julians. “They have had a huge impact.”
In a time when most people are two to three generations removed from agriculture, Julian Land and Livestock is going strong, with the fourth generation of Julians now working the land and teaching the fifth generation the ways of sheep ranching.
Truman and Marie Julian, their son Dave and daughter Trudi, and their respective families, run the 10,000-plus head Rambouillet operation, making them one of the largest sheep ranches in Wyoming.
“They’ve tried to get bigger when most were trying to get out,” says Reece.
Their operation is typical of most range operations, summering in the high country and wintering in the deserts of Wyoming. They still trail their sheep between the seasons, with the furthest traveling band making a 300-mile round trip from one range and back to the other.
Not as typical, though, is the Julian’s progressive management of their operation.
“My dad has always been very progressive and tried new things,” says Dave.
The operation breeds its own replacement rams but they are always looking for ways to improve the genetics of their flock, focusing on both meat and wool quality.
“You have two products there. Why just select for one when you can get both?” Dave says.
In addition to their breeding program, the Julians were one of the first families in the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative.
“I think the co-op has saved the whole industry,” says Dave. “It raised the prices for everybody, even those not in the co-op.”
At fall shipping time, the larger lambs, averaging 90 pounds, will go to the feedlot and then into the Mountain States program. The smaller lambs go to pasture and then to market. The Julians specifically breed their bands at different times to provide the lamb market a steady product no matter the season.
“We’ve been trying to stagger the breeding, so we can hit the market at different times,” Dave says. “We really just try to give what the consumer wants.”
Dave, also, is looking into diversifying the operation by capitalizing on the one thing that Wyoming is guaranteed to have: wind. The energy boom in Wyoming is gaining power and windmills for the energy generation are in demand.
It’s this type of forward thinking that has made the Julian family such good leaders in both state and national organizations.
Truman has served as president of the WWGA, president of the National Public Lands Council and sits on the board of directors of the Western Range Association.
Dave is currently president of the WWGA and sits on the board of directors of the Mountain Plains Association. In addition, he is active in the American Sheep Industry Association, attending the annual legislative trip to Washington, D.C., for the past three years in hopes of helping our nation’s lawmakers understand the impact of their decisions.
“Common sense has eluded a lot of people,” he says.
He is especially concerned about both the management of the public lands he runs on and issues that are revolving around predators and sheep herders.
“Of course in this country, we couldn’t run without public lands,” he says.
So far, he has been able to work with the governmental agencies to preserve his allotments – this has been crucial for the Julians’ survival during the latest drought that hit hardest six years ago, as they could move the sheep from allotment to allotment to make up for the lack of forage.
“We have the flexibility of doing what’s right for the sheep and the land,” he says. However, he can name several examples of other ranchers in the state that have had to change their grazing plan because of endangered or protected species and forage issues.
“Once they do get us off the range, it will be subdivisions, and there won’t be any habitat. I can see a lot of subdivisions that were once agriculture land,” he relates, adding that he feels environmental groups and their influence on public land policy is the “scariest unknown.”
In addition, management of predators is a concern. Last year, the Julians lost 800 to 1,000 lambs, even with guard dogs in place, though he touts the dogs as an invaluable tool.
“Between the bear and the wolf last year, it was unbearable,” he says, adding that the wildlife management agencies have been helpful in managing predators.
“Our relationship with Game and Fish has come a long way. We are both in the business of raising animals. They need us for the habitat,” Dave says, adding the Wildlife Service’s (WS) programs, such as trapping and aerial management, are irreplaceable for his operation.
“That’s a great program, and it works real well for us,” he says.
Something else that is irreplaceable to the Julian operation is the many herders they employ to stay with the bands year round, which is why both Dave and Truman are active in organizations that help bring herders into the country.
“We need those herders. Without them, we couldn’t stay in business,” he relates.
The key to protecting those things that are valuable to the sheep business is education and working together, believes Dave, whether it is collaborating with education institutes, promoting products or building relationships with government agencies.
“Education is probably the biggest thing that people can do so others don’t buy into the misconceptions about the industry,” he says.
The Julians are very dedicated to this philosophy, donating sheep for various studies at the University of Wyoming, working with UW researchers to monitor their grazing land and working with public land agencies to make improvements on permits, just to name a few.
But, Dave also stresses that every sheep producer has the responsibility of educating the public, and touts the importance of a unified industry and involvement in the state and national sheep organization.
He says, “We really do need to be fighting these battles together. It’s our way of life, and I know I don’t want to do anything different.”
Article written by Becky Talley and reprinted courtesy of the American Sheep Industry Association News.