Julian Land and Livestock:Sheep and cattle operation continues long traditions
Kemmerer – “My Grandfather Julian started this,” says Truman Julian of the property his family raises sheep and cattle on. “They came over from England in the 1880s and started over here.”
“He was about 10-years-old,” he adds, noting that his grandfather started working with sheep and later bought a band of sheep.
The area in which the Julian’s run, rich with history, ghost stories and tales of time past, is intermingled public and private lands and allows the family to efficiently graze both species.
Cattle and sheep
“Trudy really likes the cattle,” says Truman of his daughter-in-law. “She likes the Angus, and I like the black baldy.”
Crossbred cattle allow the operation to take advantage of the good genes from both breeds, says Truman.
Usually, they wean calves at about 600 pounds, but he says this year, drought might make them lighter. They also feed the native hay that they raise, which has high enough protein content to keep the animals healthy.
“It’s more natural, too,” he says. “The animals run on these developed plains.”
“We raise high-end sheep,” Truman notes. “We select for twins, gain and grade of wool.”
Because of the way they are raised, Julian’s market their sheep as natural through Mountain States Lamb Cooperative.
Sheep provide lots of opportunity for a return on investment, and Truman says, “If an old ewe doesn’t raise a lamb, at least I’ll get some wool off of her – it gives us two crops. If the old cow loses her calf, you’re out of luck.”
All of their species are grazed on private land, as well as common allotments. They trail their animals between private sections across public land.
“It can be discouraging running on common allotments,” he says, “because we do a good job with managing and we take it very serious, but not everyone else does.”
“We have quite a bit of private ground, but it is so scattered,” Truman explains, noting that public lands connect their private tracts. “We can’t get by without using the public land. It is so important to us.”
On the range
“My dad used to tease mother that a jackrabbit had to pack a lunch to make it across here,” says Truman, laughing.
He also says, however, that sheep and cattle complement each other in the rangelands and are able to survive.
“They complement each other because they eat two different types of forage. The sheep like the forbes and the shrubs, and I never worry about the riparian area with them,” he says, adding that cattle prefer the native grasses. “Years ago, everyone had a bunch a sheep to go along with a bunch of cows, and it’s too bad that more people don’t do it today.”
He also added that the steep canyons and terrain is better for sheep grazing and management, and in dry years, sheep can continue to survive by eating less palatable food such as sagebrush.
“Out here, sheep don’t last as long because the feed isn’t as tender and it wears down their teeth,” Truman explains, adding that they still have value for other producers who feed softer feeds.
On top of grazing preferences, Julian adds that sheep and cattle markets used to be complimentary as well.
“Some years, cattle prices would be off and sheep prices would be up or vice versa,” he says. “It gave a person the chance to continue running the ranch.”
Working with wildlife
Truman also spends time working with hunters and the wildlife aspect of the operations.
“I put 8,000 acres in a hunter walk-in area,” he says. “I thought it would be good because it allows people the opportunity to hunt.”
Accommodating hunters isn’t without its challenges, but he maintains the access. He has also worked with several groups to protect fish species.
“I put in some trout screens,” mentions Truman. “We also put in gated pipe. We spend a lot of money to help out, I have more control of my water, and we have fish now.”
He adds that they are also able to raise more hay as a result of the efforts that are also helping protect fish species.
The efforts working with wildlife groups are more practical than working against them.
“What good is this country for aside from grazing?” asks Truman. “It isn’t the good country that was homesteaded.”
“If they would work with ranchers instead of trying to put us out of business, that we be good,” he says of many environmental groups.
Truman has also spent time in Washington, D.C. advocating for the industry and public lands, mentioning that it is important that in working with the rest of the country, it is important that the agriculture industry learn about compromise.
“We won’t get 100 percent, and we have to compromise,” he says. “If we pick and choose what is most important, and let them think they are winning, we can get by.”
One of the big issues that Truman sees as affecting the industry is labor. In the sheep industry, herders accompany each band of sheep and finding labor proves to be a problem for Julian’s, as well as other operations.
“Labor is still a problem,” he says. “Western Range started in the 1950s in California to help bring in H-2A workers, but they keep trying to get specialty provisions.”
Changing laws are not only difficult to keep up with, but complying with impractical provisions is also challenging.
Generations on the ranch
“Trudy’s girls are the sixth generation to be raised on Rock Creek,” says Truman of his family, “and I’d like to see six more there, too.”
In thinking about working with the next generation, he has worked tirelessly to protect the land and develop it for future use so his children and their children can continue the ranch.
“I think rancher’s have an extra gene or something,” he comments, noting that keeping the family on the ranch and traditions alive are particularly important to members of ranching communities. “It’s pretty important to me, and I feel really strongly about keeping our traditions alive.”