Registered, commercial cattle recorded on Buline operation
Crowheart – Jim Buline made his way from a farm in eastern Iowa to his ranch headquarters near Crowheart through a long process – one motivated by the desire to climb the Grand Teton on Christmas Eve.
“I had to be a NOLS graduate to climb the Grand Teton, so I came out on a winter ski trip in January 1972, when I was still in college, where we skied to the top of Wind River Peak with a bunch of old Army surplus supplies,” says Jim. “I came back for another trip the next year, and that led to becoming involved in their summer program.”
Following his NOLS involvement, Jim worked several jobs in a few industries, including a stint in the Antarctic. “On one of my trips I met some guys who worked in the Antarctic, so I went to work there for seven different contracts for the National Science Foundation. I was just a tractor driver – I cleaned the runway off, dug buildings out from the snow and built buildings, along with lots of different projects. That’s where I earned some money, and I came here in 1985,” he says of the ranch at Crowheart.
He initially began working for the previous owner of the ranch, who decided to sell it after five years, giving Jim the chance to purchase it.
Today Jim raises both registered and commercial Angus cattle, extensively using Forest Service allotments at Dubois in his operation. “We have the Forest deal, and a hay farm, and we’re right in the reservation,” he says.
Some time ago the Wind River Indian Reservation had an allotment act, very similar to the Homestead Act, where tribal members could prove up on an allotment and become private property owners. Over time, those have been bought and sold, and Jim says the thing that ties the now-deeded acres to the water rights are all interconnected water rights.
“We go to the mountain above Dubois June 26 and come out the first of October,” says Jim, who has a cowboy to look after the cattle while they’re there. “It’s an open range situation, and we need to have someone there because we’re supposed to be in certain spots, according to the permit, and we stay as close to that as possible.”
Operating according the permit can be a challenge, he says, because of being pushed around by predators, both wolves and bears. “We had a couple bear kills, and we’ve had one confirmed wolf kill,” he notes. “This year has been an active year for us. We’ve seen a lot more bears.”
He expected to know after gathering the first of October the extent of the damage for this season.
The Bulines send their calves to Jim’s brother, who runs the family’s farm in Iowa, for feeding. “They’re really close to an enthanol plant, with distillers grains, and to Cedar Rapids, which is a milling town, so there’s lot of gluten and a lot of guys broker byproducts out of those factories,” explains Jim. “Cheap feed is the reason we go back there.”
He notes this year his family has had the Iowa farm for 100 years. “My grandfather came there in 1910 with my grandmother, and everything they owned was on a hayrack. My great-grandfather had a farm six miles away, so they didn’t move very far.”
The calves are fed for Myers Beef, an all-natural outfit, so Jim says it’s tough for him to doctor calves or use mass antibiotics to avoid some health concerns out West. “I decided we’d take the calves that have been stressed this year and put them right on antibiotics and get them cleaned up and looking good.”
He speculates the wet spring might be the cause of more frequent pneumonia outbreaks this spring.
The Buline cowherd is half registered, half commercial, and they all run together. “I keep a lot of registered cattle because I have so much more data on them,” says Jim.
The Bulines raise their own heifers and synchronize them for AI sires for the convenience. “AI-sired calves are a trial by fire, and if they go up to the mountain and come back alive, we’re happy,” says Jim. “We never know what to think about genetics and conditions, but we have some AI-sired cattle coming into the herd all the time.”
Jim also keeps the cattle in the Angus records service, both the commercial and registered alike. He says one thing he uses the records for is heifer selection, keeping those from the high-ratio cows.
“It’s pretty nice, because I don’t have to have the program and try to run it. I enter the information, tag numbers and weights, and everything else comes back,” he notes. “I can put in the weaning weight of your calf, and if it’s a bull I can enter the scrotum size, height, yearling weight, ultrasound and a number of things. That’s correlated with all the other cattle coming in, and I don’t have to mess with it. It gives me so much more accuracy with more numbers.”
Buline sells a few of his bulls, but he says replacement heifer calves are the most important thing. “I’m looking for calves that ratio above average, out of cows that have ratioed above average for a few generations. I visually check them out, and once I see a couple of what I’ve got for a year, I try to get a number that look alike,” he explains.
Jim’s wife Pam, who works for Senator Barrasso’s office out of Riverton, and his 13-year-old son Robert help him on the ranch. “He’s very helpful, and getting more helpful all the time. He’s doing really well,” says Jim.
Despite a grasshopper infestation that’s hit the hay crop pretty hard this summer, Jim says things grew really well, and the calves are looking really good. “There’s good grass, and it’s been a good year,” he says.