King of Heartsof a good cowboy crew

I am at the NCBA National convention this week doing demos at the trade show,then fly to Saskatchewan tomorrow to do a demo, then back home for a few days, then on to the next one, Wife Tammy’s production in Phoenix, Arizona “The Art Of The Cowgirl “.  Check it out on the inter web and come buy a horse or see the show.  It’s going to be great.

I just feel so fortunate to get to saddle a horse and work cattle in front of lots of Cattleman and right in the middle of New Orleans.  Not much different than my day at home, but a little, like 500 people watching.



I just had breakfast with my good friends Todd McCartney and Dean Fish.  We discussed our jobs and how great it is.  It is so good to be part of a good cowboy crew.

Today is a real special day for us.  The King of Hearts ranch is located near Bozeman, Montana and is getting a new owner today.  I have agreed to hire on to manage the ranch for him.

I am so excited to get to really implement the skills I have been working on and apply them to the every day and overall operations of a good ranch operation.

I still get to do some work off the ranch, and we will explore doing some training and schools at the ranch.

So Tammy and I are entering another stage of our great life in agriculture.  I am very serious about profit and sustainability of the ranch and am proud to work for an owner that appreciates the land.

It’s going to change my lifestyle a lot and I will have to make decisions on the limited events I can do in the future.

I have always had the goal of running a place and am glad I get this chance.  I will keep writing and sharing ideas.

Life is great!


I had a very interesting situation shape up that took place last week.

A few months ago, I was contacted and asked to give a stockmanship presentation for a conference in Lewistown, Montana.  It was not a demonstration but a talk, and for the American Prairie Reserve.  I thought it was a great idea as it was just an hour and a half from home.  I like giving stockmanship presentations for grazing organizations.

As the time for the program got closer and they must have started advertising, I started getting emails and phone calls from folks that are against what the American Prairie Reserve is doing.  They were all very professional in their opposition, but didn’t think I should be associated with the group.

First off I didn’t know what the group was, I thought it was a livestock grazing association.  Second, I have never been into the political side of agriculture and can’t be because of my goals as a teacher of stockmanship.  Third, I had given my word that I would present and I would not go back on my word.  I would have said yes even if I had known, as I will present my thoughts on stockmanship to anyone who will listen, as I believe in it and want to help people and animals.

I was very nervous about all of it though.  The title of the conference was “Living With Wildlife “ and that was a whole different topic that I was normally used to presenting.


So when I got there I was more nervous than normal, and the first thing I saw was a livestock trailer and a pickup with round bale and sign “Save the Cowboy” as a protest to the organization I was working for.

The ironic thing is the last time I had presented at the Yogo Inn, I had presented stockmanship to the very people that owned the trucks and were against this group.

I sat in on some sessions and learned some things about predator/human interaction and there were people on both sides trying to figure out solutions for livestock producers and wildlife enthusiasts to come up with for each to get what they needed.  Not an easy subject.

Well it ends up I’m the keynote after dinner speaker.  As always I had no power point presentation and really no plan of where my talk was headed.  I let the presentations and the people I listened to around me set it up in my mind what my talk was going to be.

I have always followed the advice I heard many years ago from David Nelson with Purina Mills fame.

The Three E’s.  Educate, entertain, and touch people’s emotions.  If you can do that your speaking engagement will be a success, and that’s what I always try to do.  I stepped up there with my best Greeley hat, a vest and a neck scarf, and I don’t know if I am a cowboy, but I think I at least looked like one.  The first thing I said is I am involved in and believe in production agriculture.  The next thing I said is I had presented to the folks that we in protest of this conference.

I used some humor and humility to get everyone relaxed and having fun.

I then related this experience that I had been a part of.

When I worked for Sieben Ranch Co there were two government trappers that would take care of predators that became a problem on the ranch.  Just before Easter or sometime I had a mountain lion causing problems.  I told the boss and they contacted the trappers, Jim Stevens and Carter Niemeyer. They didn’t wait, but came on the holiday and got the lion.  They were so good and really cared about the rancher and really helped me learn how to manage for less loss and conflict with coyotes and mountain lions.

Cater became a very well known wolf biologist and a big part of the reintroduction efforts of the wolf in Yellowstone National Park.  He also was a consultant for the Nicholas Evans(author of the “Horse Wisperer”) book “The Loop”.  I new him as a guy that had helped me and the ranch I worked for and he would do whatever it took to protect out livestock and had seen him do it many times.

I got to know Conrad Burns at the Jordan Match Bronc riding as he and Taylor Brown announced and auctioned the Calcutta.  When he was running for the US Senate I was announcing rodeos and ended up spending a lot of time with him.  He has been friends with Wife Tammy’s Mother for many years.  He was an old time get er done how ever you need to politician, and would do whatever he had to for the rancher and farmer.  I really liked him and got a big kick out of how he campaigned and served.

One day I was flying from Helena to somewhere.  I was standing there visiting with Carter Niemeyer as he was on the flight.  We were visiting and up walks Conrad Burns and shakes my hand and asks how everyone is.  I asked him if he knew Carter and he doesn’t miss a beat and says yes he knows this wolf loving son of a bitch!

I’ve got to look up to Carter to visit with him.  I had to bend my neck down to visit with Conrad.  He Banty Roostered there for a minute and then went on.

I got such a big kick out of it.  As luck would have it I was behind them and they both ended up sitting across the isle from each other and Conrad gave it to him the whole ride.  When we deplaned I was walking with Carter and asked if he got his mind changed and he said he didn’t even try. 

The lesson was that these issues between  ranchers and the rest of the public are very difficult as they create a behavior that is the same behavior we are trying to overcome in animal handling.  You can force animals to do things, but you are much more apt to create conflict and give up some success, whereas if you can change an animals mind and make it his idea or at least resist a little less,  the chance for success is much better.

I new Carter as a friend of the rancher and had received help from him to make the ranch I worked on succeed. Conrad’s only thought was as an enemy to the rancher as a wolf lover.  I think it was a case of two people very passionate about the job they were given, but didn’t have the right pressure to work together, so they just were in conflict and forcing the issue up the chute with a hot shot if you know what I mean.

I spoke of lots of other little story’s and examples to make my points.  I felt good about the talk and I think I made it easier for the people that are not involved with agriculture to see our point of view and not be offended.  I enjoyed visiting with them after and got some nice compliments.  I don’t think there were people there trying to ruin or steal or whatever.  Just people trying to solve and understand a problem, and use the land for what THEY think is right.

I’m glad I spoke.

The next morning I went to breakfast at a local restaurant.  I heard the coffee talk table commenting on the trucks with the banners.  From what I could get out of their conversation was that they didn’t necessarily like what the American Prairie Reserve was doing, but they figured if they had the money and someone wanted to sell to them they had every right to buy it.


I’m just telling you what I heard.  We all have our wants and needs.  My mother and Stepfather went broke in the area in the 80’s because they paid to much for land and interest.  Someone else ended up with it.  That’s the way it is.  Supply and demand.

So we have a conflict that I ended up in the middle of.  I have not even really given thought to who is right or who is wrong.  What I have given thought to is is what pressure to use to make progress.  I would much rather be halving them tipped back in their chair listening and enjoying my thoughts and having a chance of  understanding my point of view just as I will have a better chance to see things from theirs, rather than fighting and protesting.  

I feel it is the exact same thing I do when I am riding my horse away from the barn.  He might not want to go, but I try to change his mind and get him to decide to go, and pretty soon he understands.  I could whip him down the leg and spur him in the belly and if I’m handy enough to ride him through it he might leave the barn pretty fast.  But what if I can’t win and he learns how much power he has and how weak I am?

When I got back home I went to help Son Rial move back home.  I got to hold “Neo” the new grandson for the first time as last time I saw him I was sick.


I got the same feeling as when I held his Dad the first time 28 years ago.  I had a long ride home to think about it.

We have been in the “cowboy” business in my family for a long time and many generations.  If he chooses I hope this boy will carry right on with it. I think the world is very different than when my grandfathers were cowboys, and I think it will be much different when Neo gets the chance.  So I really agree that we need to “Save the Cowboy” but feel we really need to be careful how we go about it.

The world is changing.  It’s changing faster now than ever before.  If we can’t go with the change and help create the change the way we will benefit most we lose.  Don’t fight a battle you can’t win.  Do the right thing for your Grandchildren and Mine, the “Cowboys” of the future.

When Work Is Play, Life Is Good!

As I was getting on My flight in Billings, I told Dave the United gate attendant that I was on my first paid vacation of the year.  He thought someone was paying me for vacation time.

I flew to Tampico, Mexico, stayed the night there and then rode down to the town of Tamuín and went right to work the next morning.  I had been to both feedyards that we would work at a year or so ago, so I new the operations and some of the workers.

I was told they both feed 150,000 head in each yard, graze 25,000 to 50,000, and both have slaughter plants that kill 1100/ day.

We went to all the processing areas, hospitals, slaughter facility’s and grazing cells.  They had made some of the changes we visited about last time.


It was four intense days of work that started early and working with lots of people in lots of different styles of facilities.  I’ll share some things that were interesting to me.

They are using an US feedlot model and a Brazil style grazing system.  I think they are making lots of money per head as the cattle are cheap and very green (thin).  The grazing system gets the cattle straightened out and going and the feedlot puts the finish on.  They don’t have the quality of cattle we do to finish like we want in the US and Canada, but the Mexican customer doesn’t use that kind of quality anyway.  Labor is cheap, cattle are cheap, and they have management in place that understands how to get the most out of the system.  From what I can see, it is like having a printing press for Mexican money.  I asked if drug money was involved.  They said no way, this was much better and they were against that.  The feedlots are separately owned by two brothers that compete with each other.


I went with the shipping crew to bring cattle to slaughter house.  It’s about a half mile, and you take the cattle out of the pens and in an alley back to the plant.  It was fun to get horseback with a fellow that doesn’t speak English and trot off in the dark in the middle of Mexico and just go to it.  I have been working on my Spanish and could communicate a little.  This guy was a good hand and we both rode back after the first pen went into the slaughter pens with no problems,  we new we could both work together well even if we couldn’t talk much.  A good hand is a good hand, and it doesn’t matter where you are and what language, it makes working so much better to work with a good hand.

They doctor most of the cattle in the pens, except in the hospital area.  All the pens have shade, so there are posts in the middle of the pen.  The cattle are more gentle than you would think, so it’s easy to get them roped.  They neck them then take them to a post and get the neck on one side and the rope on the other and hold them, sometimes they take a wrap on the post.



The other guy has his medicine all in a homemade sack on his saddle and rides up and gives a injection of treatment in neck, ear tag, and a chalk mark(all done horseback) then takes a hook and puts it under the rope and hooks to post or his horn and the roper turns his dally’s loose and the rope comes off and he goes to get another one.

They switch each day from roping to doctoring. They use a Mexican charro style saddle with no back chinch or breast collar and long ropes that are not the greatest quality.  They throw regular overhand  and Houlihan shots, miss like anyone else, but they have to take a good shot and set them up as their horses are not going to get them in position to do much fancy stuff.(more on that later)

I feel this is a very effective way for them to treat sick cattle.  They don’t have drovers alleys so they have to take cattle to the feed alley and there are always bunches of cattle being move somewhere so they would be mixed.  The type of cattle, even when close to finish are not as strong and don’t fight as much as our cattle  in the north.  It saves so much time not having to take the animal out, take to hospital, treat and then go home.  They never leave the pen and are treated very quickly, and if things went right, they had less stress than one in a chute if you look at the whole picture.

I think backgrounding lots could use this same method if they had the right crew that could get her done right.

I really wanted to get in on the action in the pen.  Next time.

Another part of the feedlot is on the other side of the highway and there is a guy there that I watched last time and he is very good at all his jobs.  He didn’t say much, but appreciated some of the changes I got done for him last time and asked for some more this time.  He knows what he needs and how to get it done.

We went to a processing area with a tub and they were working real well.  They put the correct number in the tub at the correct time to really get a nice flow.

They were the only tub that I didn’t suggest taking less cattle to the tub.

We visited a processing area that had a Bud Box and Danials double alley system.  The guy that was bringing cattle was the best I ever saw in the box.

He really worked great and if one was a little on the fight he would just work from the outside.  It was a pleasure to watch him and I told him I was a little nervous to work it as I couldn’t work it as good as him.  It was like the cattle wanted to walk by him and up the chute.

Ithink the place we had the biggest impact was the plant and taking cattle from the holding pens to the know Box.  They were taking 15 head and having lots of trouble.  I got the new manager to let me try some different ideas.  I got them to wait until there was  room out of the tub and brought five.  We put about twenty drafts in and they worked real good.  I showed the bow that was bringing them from the pens how to put more pressure on from the side and the cattle really responded.  When we were done they were real happy as they had been having lots of trouble.  I told them I was getting the credit, but I really was doing what Temple Grandin says all the time.


We had been at a Bud Box the day before and they weren’t getting along as good.  I asked if I could do it and took less than half as many cattle and it worked good.  We had everyone that had come to watch work the box and they really did good.  There was one zebu bull that was on the fight and kept running back and putting them on the fence before they could get the box gate closed.

I asked if I could work him and they had no problem with it.  I actually took a few more cattle to use them as a barrier and help get him in the box and the gate closed.  I sent some cattle between me and the hookey one and he was forced to go in the double alley.  Just as he was about to be past the no back and I was pressuring the other cattle so he couldn’t come out and get me, another one hit me from the back with one horn and and about knocked me down.  He ran right up and in the lead up.  The only thing that happened was my nice Greeley Hat ended up in the manure, and I don’t think it will ever be the same color.  I had a little welt on my back, and was much more aware of the other cattle as I loaded the box.

We finished up the last day going to some of the grazing units and watching them treat cattle.  They did one bunch in the center of the pivot.  Mexican common sense was used by tying a las rope to the gate and guiding the cattle to treat in with it as they were all electric fence broke.

The next place we went didn’t have a chute and they head and healed everything.  They would get them roped, tie off short and doctor.  Their horses just put there head down and ate and held.

That is really the only disappointment I had.  The horses are wore out and have cinch sores and open wounds from spurring them.  They don’t move and aren’t very handy to stop and turn.  

I don’t like it from an animal welfare side, but also you can’t have good stockmanship if you can’t get your horse in the proper place at the proper time.

The guys on foot are much more effective. I told the bosses last time and again this time that the horses were a problem and it was not right.  If you can’t move you can’t be a good stockman and you resort to noise and fear.  Bad becomes normal.

Every one at both yards were great to work around.  I try to show a lot of respect to them, because I really respect them and the work they do.  I think we made some real helpful changes, mostly in the number of cattle they try to work.

The Zoetis Team led by Horacio Herrera, with Estaban and Alberto always helping and working with the crews.  We worked hard, laughed hard, and ate really good.  The food at the restaurants was good, but I really enjoyed it when they would bring breakfast and lunch out to the feedyard .  They always had a big metal pot of coffee.  It is so good as it is boiled in the pot and the grounds strained out.  They boil sugar right with it so it is sweet.  I just about foundered on Gorditas and and home made salsa verde.  At lunch one day they brought tamales in a big old metal pot.  One kind was in banana leaves and another in corn husks.



It wouldn’t work without Lulu Rivera.  She is the interpreter.  She has these ear pieces that she gives to everyone and then she says what I say(at least I think she does).  She is great at her job and fits right in with everyone and has lots of fun.

I know there are lots of opinions and thoughts on Mexico and the wall right now.

They think it is crazy, but I told them they should be in favor of it.  I don’t think they will improve their quality of life by coming to higher wages.  They are such committed family people and are happy to get by with what they have.  They are poor in one way and rich in other ways.  I really admire and enjoy the Mexican people I have got to be around.

Maybe we should become more like them where Faith and Family are more important than the car you drive or the jeans you wear.

I feel real safe because of the people I am around take care of me.  I’m not so sure it would be if we were in a big city or I had know idea of good or bad places and people.

I hope I get to go back soon and learn and share some more.  They are really good and strive to be better.

So back to the paid vacation.  If you are having fun, seeing new things, learning about another culture and eating real well and enjoying what you are doing all day, I call that a vacation, and I was lucky enough to get payed.  It’s going to be a good year!

Circle In The Sand


Have you ever had one of those days that was real special that you will never forget.  I did last Saturday.

I started the morning having a real nice ride moving some cattle and my pups worked real nice.  Then I had a a drive through some of the most spectacular mountain ranch country you can imagine.  If you ever get the chance to drive from Martinsdale, Montana to Bozeman do it.

I stopped and had a visit with Tim Zupan, of the King of Hearts Ranch, a great high mountain ranch(more on that some other time.)

I went on to Three Forks, Montana to Headwaters Livestock Market where my Son Rial is employed.  The vet was there to bleed and preg check different pens of cows, and it was fun to work with Rial and see how much he enjoyed his job. 

They were some older weaker cows and they were going down in the chute as it was slick, so Rial got a skid steer and dirt and we made it better for the cows.  He’s a good stockman and really cares.  

He worked there when he was being homeschooled several years ago, and seeing him work shows how much he enjoys working livestock and I’m proud he is good at it.

I then headed to The Brogger’s to have an old partner fixed up.  Mark made a saddle for me many years ago, and I bet it’s been more miles, been on a colt for it’s first saddling and roped and layed quite a few cattle down in front of an audience more than lots of saddles that are built.  The sheep skin is good, but the horn and the seat have seen lots of different places.  I don’t make big circles, but there is plenty to do when I’m in the saddle.

I really enjoy visiting with Mark about the cowboy trade, and think a lot of he and Lola.  If you are considering having a saddle made, I highly recommend his saddles.

I headed back to the sale barn to give Rial a ride home.  I have been trying to find a song that was on an CD we used to have from KNON radio in Dallas Texas.  I asked Rial and he knew exactly the song and found it on my IPad.

I always liked the song and have wanted to hear it again for years, but I had the wrong artist in my mind, so I could never find it. 

We got to his house and I got to experience the main reason for my trip, to see our new Grandson.

When I saw that baby it was one of those moments in life when you feel the circle of love.  It was so great to see Rial and Mary Kate as parents.  It took me right back to when Tammy and I had Rial and all the joy and fear we had at the time.  I just couldn’t have imagined how it was going to feel to see the kid.

I’m sure they will get through all the fear and advice they are experiencing.

They have lots of ideas, opinions and good and bad habits like everyone else, and they are getting lots of advice and opinions from Moms and Grandmothers, just like we did with Rial. 

I think it’s a great time to be alive.  Just think of how good the baby’s of today are going to have it.  My hope is that the boy gets the values and love of the land and animals we in agriculture have, and enjoys a much easier and safer life as technology takes us forward.  He needs the balance of the past and the present, and that’s the role I would like to help with.  I can’t wait to see him horseback!

As I was driving home in the dark, I had a lot of time to think of all the good times ahead.  I listened to “Leo and Leona” a few times, and I’m not sure it’s a coincidence that I got reunited with the song on this special day.


This is a great love song and it reminds me of Rial and Mary Kate

Being a grandparent is real special, a circle in the sand.



Reflect and Plan

The last day of the year is a good time to do a little reflecting on the past twelve months and doing a little reality check.  

It’s really good to do today as it’s cold out.  I was horseback at first light and moved my livestock to feed and shelter so they will be the most content and productive, have plenty of wood stacked up to keep the fire going in our cozy little cabin, and my wife  had a great breakfast of hamburger steak and eggs(I added Hatch green chili) prepared for us when I got back to the house.

The first thing I checked was water.  When it’s cold like this there is nothing worse than frozen water, and it always starts the day right when the waterer is working.  I chop ice on the Musselshell River when livestock are in that pasture, and it’s not near as fun.  By pre feeding for a week it allows me to get my horses rode with a real job to do, and I only have to operate equipment once a week, and it distributes manure and urine equally on my pastures.  I also am getting the most of my feed as the steers/ bulls get the first chance at the feed and the cow/horses clean it up.  This way they all get plenty to eat and I don’t waste any feed.  The exercise and handling are good for me, my horses and dogs as well as the cattle.

That’s my little world when I’m home, and it is just a great way to finish a good year and start a new one.

As I look back on 2018 it was very good.  The first day of paid work was in a feedlot in Nebraska, and the last day of paid work was at a feedyard in Canada, with demonstrations and consulting all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico in between. I stayed in lots of nice motels, ate lots of good meals, flew on lots of airplanes (over 110 flights) and worked with a whole bunch of great people and livestock.  I will say it one more time-I have the best job in the world.

At the start of the year I committed to reading a daily bible.  I chose a chronological, easy reading version and read the last day today.  It was a good way to start each day.

I also committed to learning more of the Spanish language.  I have an app that I study on every day and am getting better.  I have a difficult time learning and remembering but I am getting better at Spanish and learning.

I started the year working out (my wife calls it Yoga) and about three months in I had trouble with my sciatic nerve and had to quit and never started again, so that was somewhat of a failure.

All in all it was a good year,  work and health wise.  I am very content at home and on the road making a living.  The best part of both are the animals, and most of all the great people I get to interact with.

I’ll share an experience we just had on how great the people in the livestock world are.  I watch a lot of rodeos on the “Wrangler “ network.  I’ve become a big fan of J.R. Vervain for his try and great attitude as a world class bareback rider.  He married one of the Newman girls, and they don’t live to far from us, and I have always admired the horses they rode and the bucking horses they made.  He became a favorite bareback rider to watch.

Well he had a horse flip over on him and he broke his back and has lots of medical bills.  They had a benefit for him that we went to and seeing all the ranch, rodeo, and business people that went all out to help anyway they could was very inspirational, just as his try and attitude are.

It was so great to be a part of the crowd that are people that can live this tough western life, yet be so giving and caring.  We were surrounded by people caring and sharing and having fun all at the same time.  It just reminded us of how great the western folks that live the life of cowboys are, and how fortunate I am to be in the livestock business.

I want to do better.  2018 was great but I want to get better in 2019.  I am going to try to figure out ways to become more valuable in my job.  That’s my goal.

I did this interview a while back.  It was something real different for me as I had to think about my business model.  There might be some things in this that get you to thinking about some things in your business, or it could be a good way to get a nap.  Either way it would be beneficial.

I really encourage you to shut everything down and spending a little time reflecting and planning in the next day or two.  Maybe it should be something we do all the time not just at the end of the year.

Do your best in 2019!

A Touch of Evil

When we were at Christmas Eve dinner at Rial and Mary Kate’s, the movie  a Touch of Evil was on.

Wife Tammy and I don’t have tv, but watched it a few nights later on the computer.

Its a different show, but we enjoyed it.  The reason we wanted to watch it was because of this song by my favorite singer Tom Russell.

Hope you like the song and maybe the movie.


Away in a manger

It’s been a real nice Christmas.  We went to our Son Rials and his best girl Mary Kate’s place Christmas Eve.  Her Mother Kelly fixed some real southern food as in Black Eyed Peas, Corn bread with jalapeños and real good sweet potato something.  It was good eating.

It was a great time and they are going to have a new addition to the family anytime so it was real special.  It was nice spending time in “their” place.

It wasn’t fun driving home.  The roads were terrible part of the way and we had a trailer on, so it made it extra fun.  People driving on black ice seem to want to die, even if it is Christmas Eve.  I can’t imagine anything is worth getting too and taking those chances.

We had a very quiet day here in good old Ryegate.  I have always really enjoyed taking care of animals on Christmas.  When I was in third grade I remember writing a thing about being with animals like Jesus was on this day, and it always has been what I liked.


I had a corriente bull that I got with some mini cows I bought last year and he kept jumping the fence so I hauled him to the sale about nine months ago. Well he gave me some Christmas presents.  I had three new calves when I went out this morning! I had one about a week ago and then three in one night.  Good thing we are having nice weather.



The thing I really enjoy is how all the animals get along around here.  Cats and dogs eating and sleeping together.  We have two young dogs and they were so curious about the calves and the cows didn’t seem to mind much.

I’ve got these two barn cats that rub on my horses legs sometimes when I’m saddling.  At first I was pretty sure they were going to get pawed or kicked but they have got my horses pretty cat broke.


So it was just Wife Tammy and me and all our animals.  For me a real nice way to spend a very special day.

I feel those of us that have animals as a big part of our life have a real opportunity for peace in what we do.  This is why I like stockmanship so much.

I believe Jesus would have been the kind of stockman that took good care of his animals and would have a real nice pressure that would create harmony with the earth, animals, and man.  If that’s true we had a little piece of it here today.  I hope you did too.

Merry Christmas