Grants continue ranching traditionsWritten by Saige Albert
“I wouldn’t say we are doing anything really extraordinary here,” comments Rachel modestly, adding, “We’re just raising cows.”
From the beginning
William was raised in the area where they now run Herefords and black baldy cattle on land the Grant family homesteaded in 1886. With the home ranch sitting at 7,000 feet, the property is the last on Boxelder Road.
After growing up on the family ranch, William attended college for four years to study agriculture. It was at Dordt College in Iowa where the couple met.
Rachel, a southeast Iowa native who studied theology for two years, says, “We’ve been married and living here 10 years this fall.”
Along with running a cow/calf operation, the Grants raise hay to feed during the winter months when snow is deep and weather can be harsh.
Living in the mountains
William says that the winter can be challenging at the high elevation where their ranch sits.
“We do get snowed in, but it’s better than it used to be 30 years ago,” he says. “This year it wasn’t for more than a couple of weeks, and there were days we could have gone down.”
The elevation and additional snows also makes their feeding season longer.
“Winters are long sometimes, and we have to feed a lot,” William comments. “Last winter was pretty bad. Depending on the weather, we feed November through May.”
To accommodate the high elevation and late spring snows, William notes they calve later, starting in May, to ensure a healthy calf crop.
“We get lots of groceries in the winter,” adds Rachel, “but that’s something you just get used to.”
It’s no short trip to town for the Grant family, either, which has created some challenges.
“With kids, ensuring that there was a rural school was important,” explains Rachel. “If the rural school hadn’t been opened, we would have probably homeschooled because it’s just not feasible in the winter.”
The Grants have four children: Anna, 7, Cora, 5, Daniel, 3, and Jess, 10 months, so educating the family was important.
“Our school district out of Glenrock was really good about working with us to get the school open,” she adds.
Large elk herds in the area are also challenging, but the Grant family has supported Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) programs to attempt to address the issues.
“The elk come down onto our hay meadows at night and eat a lot of hay in the summer,” says William. “We are involved in hunter management areas, and have been in the Deer Creek Hunter Management Area since it started.”
Rachel mentions that the WGFD has made a number of attempts to decrease elk populations, including hunter coordinator programs and early and late season hunts to obtain higher harvest rates on cows.
Despite the challenges, Rachel and William enjoy the ranching lifestyle and the area. She also notes that there are benefits for the family.
“Our kids are growing up knowing that, in the winter time, things happen and sometimes aren’t feasible, but that’s just how life works,” says Rachel, noting that the lesson her children learn is how to adapt to changing environments.
“We also end up doing more things as a family because we’re all here,” she adds.
“We toe the line as to what’s been done and works, and we change things when we need to,” comments Rachel. “Things have certainly changed since the beginning, and we do things a little differently than even 10 years ago.”
For example, they adapted from baling hay in small square bales to round bales. In making small changes to the ranch operations, they have worked to improve the property, including adding water lines.
They also continually work to learn about policy issues that affect ranchers.
“We’ve been a little more involved in the policy-type things,” notes Rachel. “Farmers and ranchers need to know all there is to know about property rights, water law, oil and gas and wind development, because it’s approaching us. I think that is different than the things William’s dad dealt with years ago.”
At the end of the day, by continually improving the ranch, William and Rachel are able to continue longstanding traditions and hope to offer the choice to continue those values in the future.
“We’re here to keep the ranch going and alive,” says William.
“We hope that some of our kids do the same thing,” continues Rachel. “We feel a responsibility to maintain this ranch and be a good steward of the land so it’s available to the kids, whatever choices they decide to make.”