After much thought and figuring of the costs involved, we’ve established a new goal of maintaining our mother cowherd at its current level through this drought. With the U.S. cowherd being so small, we believe that if we can hang on there will be increased value in our product.

Expanding through a grazing association located on the Wyoming/Montana border in early 2012 has put us in a much better position to meet this goal as that location is receiving moisture this year. Being spread out over 200 miles is difficult during the spring and fall run, but it’s valuable in dry years as we are less likely to be entirely droughted out.

I can’t forget to mention my mother, Randi, whose job of shredding paper all over Eastern Wyoming provides an additional form of non-ag income. She also has an accounting degree, and keeps every one of our enterprise’s budget and balance sheets on the straight and, what is this year, very narrow road. When we sit down as a family to discuss issues and make decisions, we constantly look at the bookkeeping and financial records she keeps to aid in our decision process.

My family is rounded out with my 17-year-old sister, Holly, who has down syndrome. Holly keeps us focused on what’s important: God and family. She reminds us that, in the big picture, a drought really isn’t the biggest issue out there, so we can’t let it depress or overwhelm us.

We all really treasure our lifestyle here, even in the tough years. We love the freedom it gives us and that we’re able to make our own choices and be solely responsible for the consequences. We want to ranch, and we like doing it as a family. We work hard to constantly improve our livestock, land and outside businesses so that we can keep doing what we love – ranching. 

Heather Hamilton is a rancher and freelance writer based in Lance Creek, WY.