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Wyoming People

Askin jumps in to new operation

Medicine Bow – When an opportunity to lease land came along, Sage Askin took a risk and jumped in to the beginning of his own cattle operation – a chance that Askin says he couldn’t miss.

“I thought, ‘I don’t have anything to lose, so I might as well give it a shot,’” says Askin.

Prior to leasing his current operation, Askin worked for Dennis and Linda Isakson southwest of Lusk. Before that, he was a college student at the University of Wyoming. 

In the industry

Askin grew up south of Douglas on an old family homestead.

“My parents, Perry and Terry Askin, never had their own ranch,” he says, “but my grandfather ranches north of Douglas and on the Laramie Plains, and I grew up helping there quite a bit.”

He was also very involved in both 4-H and FFA and says he learned a lot from working with his father on ranches in the area.

“I’ve worked on ranches my whole life, pretty much,” Askin comments.

After graduating from high school, Askin moved to Laramie, where he studied range management at the University of Wyoming.

“I got out of school and worked for a year for the Isakson’s in the WAGON program,” he says. 

“I had a chance to lease this place at Medicine Bow, and I had a decision to make,” Askin continues, noting he started the lease in May. “I went ahead and did it and jumped out on my own.”

As a result, Askin Land and Livestock, LLC was born.

Making a start

Askin currently runs stocker cattle on the leased property.

“If a guy is willing to work, stockers are easy to get, and it’s easy to have flexible contracts,” he explains. “I started with nothing, so I brought in stockers and leased the land.”

“The stocker business is a good way to make some money,” he continues. “It comes to a matter of people fulfilling their obligations on time, and everything is ok.”

By charging a per head per day fee to run the stockers, Askin says he has figured both his income and payment schedules to make things work.

“Eventually, I’d like to get into a cow/calf operation, but one of the things you have to have is some operating capital,” he explains. “Coming out of college, I didn’t have a whole lot of capital.”

Starting with only a little bit of collateral, Askin hopes to build his financial base and get into a cow/calf operation, maybe as soon as this fall.

“I think it is good to run a combined operation, with both cow/calf and stockers,” Askin mentions. “I would also like to diversify into sheep, or even goats, as an alternative enterprise.”

In the long run, he notes that sheep and cattle complement each other, allowing ranchers to be more profitable on the same land base.

Lofty goals

“I’ve got some pretty extensive goals,” says Askin. “I want to have optimal, sustainable profitability and a good ranching enterprise that is productive.”

Askin marks superior grazing management, range restoration and range improvements as his other interests.

“I’m using a lot of my college education in this,” he adds, noting that his experience with range management will prove to be helpful. “I feel very strongly that a ranch has to be run from a grass-based standpoint. It has to be run from the ground up.”

In the future, Askin also aims to move into more specialty markets and continually develop his operation.

“I’d like to run a commercial operation and eventually have a seedstock operation where I can raise my own bulls,” he says. “Then, later on in life, I’d like to move into the grassfed market, but I’m not going to do that until I can develop a market for it.”

Ultimately, he hopes to raise a family on the ranch and continue doing what he loves – working on the land.

Advice to others

Getting started on a ranching operation isn’t easy, and Askin says it’s the people who supported him and his education have been most helpful. 

“I wouldn’t be here without all the wonderful people who have helped me,” Askin says. “I have a lot of older role models, including my grandfather, a gentleman by the name of Walt Whitaker and Dennis Isakson. All of the people who have encouraged me have been fantastic role models.”

The older generation, he continues, has inspired him to jump in and really take the risk.

His college education has also been helpful, though he says that if he could do it all over again, he’d have taken more business classes.

“I think a business education is important,” he says. “I didn’t take accounting or finance, and that would have been a real benefit.”

He also notes that he encourages other people to just jump in and take the risk.

“More than anything for young people, I would say, just do it and don’t be scared,” Askin says. “We have our whole lives ahead of us and a whole life to build back up. Even the richest people in the country started with nothing.”

“This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” says Askin, “but God never gives us anything we can’t handle. My strong faith has been the only that has kept me going this long and is the only thing that will help me be successful in the long run.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at saige@wylr.net.