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Scott George wears a lot of hats. Come February, the dairyman and beef producer will don that of NCBA president.
A homesteaders' son
George says he’s been most influenced by the example of his mother Evaleen and his late father Arley.
“I watched them all my life and I worked right beside them growing up. There was no quit in them.”
Oddly enough for this day and age, George can lay claim to being the son of homesteaders. His newlywed parents settled in the Big Horn Basin following World War II, when the U.S. government opened land in the Cody/Powell area of northern Wyoming to homesteaders.
“The government had built this storage dam up here called the Buffalo Bill Dam, along with some diversion dams, but the land hadn’t been cleared. My father learned the land would be homesteaded, so he applied and, darn, if he didn’t get a homestead. He and my mother drove up from Utah with my older brother who was just a year old at the time.”
Photo Gallery: Meet Incoming NCBA President Scott George
The small family settled near Heart Mountain, in a picturesque valley at 4,700 ft. elevation. The natural beauty, however, belied the difficulty that lay ahead in scratching out a living.
“They actually moved into a Japanese relocation camp from World War II, which had been abandoned for about two years. My parents say they literally had to shovel the dirt out of the barracks, which had settled up to the windowsills.” His mother still lives in the home they crafted from materials scavenged from those barracks.
The couple cleared the sagebrush off the land by cutting, buck-raking and burning it. There was no electricity at that time. The only light at night was that of all the sagebrush piles being burned around them, George’s mom says.
It wasn’t an easy life. “When they arrived, they had $17 to their name; my mom likes to say they didn’t have the money they would have needed to leave.”
Eventually, however, the young family bought a few milk cows to supplement their income. The dairy was formally established in 1954, the year George was born; the operation now milks around 600 head of Holsteins, twice daily.
Eventually the family grew to eight children. “We were the workforce,” George says. “We had to milk cows every morning and night, as well as help with the feeding and the farming. Vacations weren’t an option because the work had to be done every day.”
George was married and in his third year in the Brigham Young University dairy science program when his mom called with the news that his dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
“I had three young brothers at home at that time and my father could no longer handle the farm work. So I came home, but I figure I eventually earned my degree in the school of hard knocks.”
His father passed away in 1988. Today, George farms with two younger brothers, Lynn and Arley, as well as Lynn’s sons (Adam and Seth), Arley’s son (Spencer), and sister Sylvia’s son Charlie Laing.
The George family operation includes a 600-head dairy, 100 commercial beef cows (mostly Angus-based bred to Simmental), and 2,000 acres of irrigated farmland. They raise all their replacement heifers, and grow their Holstein steers and beef calves to a 900-lb. feeder weight. In addition, the George family sells bred dairy heifers and Holstein bulls.
The Georges boast a dairy herd that produces 25,000 lbs. of milk/cow/year. That’s pretty impressive when compared against a national average that is 10,000 lbs. less. So why venture into beef cattle?
George says the impetus was to make room for more family members coming home. “We didn’t want to milk any more cows. Plus, we love cattle, we understand cattle, and we love the cattle business. So it was a natural fit. We can grow more crops, grow more cattle, and generate more income for the family members coming back to be part of the operation,” he says. “Besides, Wyoming isn’t really a dairy area; it’s a ranching state.”