New beginnings: West Hills Ranch fulfills dreams
Fairview – West Hills Ranch sits in the east side of Star Valley and is home to a herd of Salers cattle that Ryan Jarratt manages for the Hruska family out of Rock Springs.
“Randy always wanted to ranch, so he bought this place and some commercials cows,” explains Ryan.
“Jim Wilson got us some cattle and helped us get started in Thermopolis,” comments ranch owner Randy Hruska. “It was a childhood dream.”
Randy and his wife Pam have five children. He is in the retail hardware business and has been since he was 10-years-old in Minnesota. Today, he continues in retail hardware, trusting the day-to-day operations of West Hills Ranch to ranch manager Ryan Jarratt.
Ryan, who has been at West Hills Ranch for just over two years, says he was hired after he had graduated from North Dakota State University.
“I grew up around Salers cattle, and I love it,” he says. “I love cattle, and I like the genetics side of it.”
West Hills operation
Ryan says his year begins when they calve heifers at the end of March, with cows starting the end of April. By the middle of May, calving is complete and they brand and turn out to pastures.
“We bring our cows in and synchronize and AI everything,” Ryan explains. “Then we turn the cleanup bulls in.”
Each day, the cows are rotated to new pastures – a system called rotational-cell grazing.
“We plan to carry on our pasture development and continue implementing a more intense system by running cows and herd bulls in one complete herd over the breeding season,” says the West Hills Ranch website.
The cows remain on the range until October, when they bring in the cattle to sort and take data on the calves.
“We will sell some steer calves – the bottom end – and we keep about the top 40 bulls to sell as registered seedstock,” he continues. “Right now we are building a reputation. It takes a while to build a consumer base.”
A different breed
After starting the operation with Black Angus commercial cattle, they made the decision to switch directions, selling out in 2006 and buying registered Salers heifers in the spring of 2008.
After starting in the business with Black Angus cattle, with advice from Jim and Willard Wilson, the Hruska’s started utilizing Angus-Salers cross bulls.
Today, West Hills Ranch runs registered Salers cattle, which they started in 2008.
“Randy had some contacts that ran Salers, so he decided to run Salers steers and Salers cross cattle,” says Ryan. “They cover more range and get places better. He was also impressed by the maternal side of the cattle, and that is how he got started.”
“They are a lot more docile,” adds Randy, “and they are a good cross with Angus cattle.”
Randy also mentions that they gain well, and they have had very good luck with the cattle.
In building a strong herd of cattle, Ryan notes they focus on three main traits: structure, docility and birth weight.
“We cull really hard for docility, as well as low birth weight Salers,” he explains.
The West Hills Ranch specializes in offering sound bulls that have not been pushed on feed, according to their website. They also offer their bulls a free choice diet of grass and alfalfa hay and a custom mineral supplement to build sound seedstock.
Feeding is a challenge, marks Ryan, adding that they don’t put up hay, preferring to buy alfalfa, because the challenges of a short growing season.
“We feed about seven months out of the year,” he says, “depending on when we get snow and how the grass is, but in the past, I have started feeding as early as the first part of November.”
He adds, “This country is really good for running yearlings because we can put on a lot of gain in the summertime, but in the winter, it gets a little tough. That is our biggest challenge – bar none.”
The challenge of getting an operation off the ground, adds Ryan, are also present.
“Getting the work out to let people know we are here isn’t easy,” says Ryan. “But we will be here to take care of them in the future.”
Ryan comments, “Right now we are trying to build a reputation, based on standing behind the cattle that we sell.”
“We’re just learning,” Randy mentions. “We’ve never done this before, but we’re straightforward and we’re honest people.”