Diverse operation: Peternal family extends beyond cattle
Kemmerer – Bob Peternal has lived in Kemmerer all his life, and now operates a small ranch west of town with his wife Shirley and son Steven.
Bob’s grandfather started the family ranch that he now runs in 1934.
“A long time ago, when my grandfather first bought the ranch, he opened the Union Meat Market in Kemmerer,” Bob says. “They raised and slaughtered beef and pork to sell in the shop.”
After Bob’s grandfather died, his father and two uncles took over the ranch, and they acquired two additional ranches.
Peternal Brothers Inc. also ran pigs and sheep, but Bob notes that his father sold the sheep in 1957. The Union Meat Market remained open until 1985.
“My grandma died in 1979, and the brothers decided that they would dissolve the corporation,” Bob explains. “Each one of the brothers got a ranch.”
On the property they now occupy, Bob’s father ranched for a number of years. Bob took over the operation of the ranch in 1990 after the death of his father.
Bob hasn’t always been strictly a rancher, rather working for Utah Power and Light for 27 years. When he retired early, he came back to the ranch to have a few cows and put up some hay.
“Our son has an ag engineering degree, but he decided that he wanted to be involved in the family ranch,” says Bob.
Hams Fork operation
Today, Bob, his wife Shirley and son Steven run 300 Black Angus cows in the valley of the Hams Fork River west of Kemmerer.
Steven’s wife Laurie, who also helps on the ranch, is a teacher. They have two sons Wyatt and Tucker.
“About one-third of the cows are our sons,” says Bob. “We also put up around 600 or 700 tons of hay. It is all wild hay, so there is no second crop.”
“We used to have some Red Angus, but black cows bring a better price,” Shirley notes.
Because of the high altitude, Bob notes that feeding usually starts around Dec. 15 and continues through the middle of May before they turn out on BLM or private rangelands.
“We feed hay half the year,” Shirley says. “The cows don’t care if it is Christmas or not; they still want to eat.”
Each cow eats about two tons of hay each year, explains Bob, who notes that because of their crop they occasionally have to buy hay.
An average year
“An average year starts when we calve in the spring,” Shirley explains. “We don’t start calving until mid-March.”
Heifers calve two weeks before the main herd and calving continues through the early parts of May.
“After May 15, we turn out to various allotments,” she says, noting that they have higher land in the mountains. “After we turn out, we start irrigating the fields, followed by haying which begins around the first of August.”
In order to maintain a healthy calf herd, Shirley notes that they vaccinate calves twice each year.
“It gets too cold at night and too hot during the day,” explains Shirley. “We give them a viral shot and 8-way combined with pneumonia in the spring, and then repeat the process in the fall.”
At the end of October, they sell calves by private treaty.
“We begin feeding when the snow comes, and the year starts over again with spring calving,” she says.
“We make some adjustments,” Shirley adds, saying that, for example, last year they fed liquid supplements. “That was really costly, so this year, we are going to buy alfalfa to supplement our hay crop instead.”
Because their cows are important and the lifeline of the business, Shirley says, “We are very particular about how our animals are handled.”
By providing particular care for the animals, Shirley says their treatments are more effective, noting that shots, for example, are most effective when given correctly to animals that are calm.
“Our cows aren’t rushed through the chute, and we make sure things are done exactly right,” Shirley continues. “We also keep intensive records.”
In their records, the Peternal’s note all details, from the demeanor of the cow to data about her calves. They also age and source verify their cattle through the Wyoming Business Council.
“We’ve had emus for a long time,” Bob mentions. “They were supposed to supplement the cattle market.”
With emu marked as the next potential lean, red meat, the Peternal’s invested in the market and intended to sell the emus for profit, until the market fell out.
“We had 50 emus at one time,” Shirley says. “We only have two remaining pairs.”
Shirley used to decorate and sell emu eggs as well, but today she keeps the emus as pets to live out their lives.
They also have llamas on the property.
“More than half of our llamas are rescue animals,” Shirley says. “They patrol the area around the chicken and emu pens keeping predators away.”
In addition to helping run the ranch, Bob also participates on a number of local board and organizations, particularly those related to conservation efforts. As a member of the Lincoln County Conservation District Board, the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Area V Board, the Coalition of Local Governments and the Senior Citizens Board, as well as a Farm Bureau member, Bob stays busy.
Leaving a legacy
The Peternal’s son, Steven, and his family currently live on the ranch property. He manages the operation.
“Steven will take over the ranch,” says Shirley, “adding a fourth generation of Peternal ownership to the property.”
“The reason we have stayed on the ranch is so we have the legacy of the land to pass on to our son – that is the main object,” she continues. “Some springs after a rough calving season, we wonder why we keep ranching, but we do it for the future generations.”
Shirley adds, “The land is a legacy that must be preserved because once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”