Zero to Two: Introduction

Zero to Two: Introduction

Lonetree, WY

SECTION No1 Lonetree Ranch
A Brief History

Frank and Ivy Wadsworth began homesteading in Lonetree, Wyoming in 1918. Over the course of 60 years Frank, Ivy and their son Glen, and his wife Fay, assembled 18,300 deeded acres plus 49,000 acres of Federal and State grazing leases to create Wadsworth Ranch; one of the most progressive and respected ranching empires in the Cowboy State. From their pioneering start, the Wadsworths managed the land and animals for generations with little modern agricultural inputs and a focus on land health.

 

Things were good until 1989 when Glen Wadsworth turned 80 and was no longer able to work the ranch himself. For various reasons, some of them tragic, Glen found himself in an untenable situation: he had no obvious heirs and nobody to take over day-to-day operations. Things declined. After his death many years later the ranch was willed to his wife Fay who, though her decision to do so was both unpopular and contentious within the local local community, divided the land up and sold it to various buyers bit-by-bit, thereby dissolving a ranching empire.

 

In early 2009, Colorado ranchers Bob and Maggie Taylor purchased the deed and moved to Wyoming. They had owned the Cuchara Valley Ranch, a 4000+ acre ranch at the base of the Spanish Peaks in southern Colorado, and operated Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, a very successful veterinarian business that was also the focal point of Animal Planet’s Emergency Vets, a popular reality TV show of which Bob Taylor was the star.11Animal Planet courted-asked-begged Bob for three years about a show focused on him and Alameda East Veterinary Hospital before finally, begrudgingly, he agreed to do their show. And then only because they made him an OHCR—Offer He Couldn’t Refuse. Let it be known: Bob Taylor is infinitely more proud of the level of Healthcare and Science practiced at Alameda Vs. anything and all things related to Show Bizz.

 

While Bob and Maggie worked to restore the property and build from scratch a progressive grass-finished cattle ranching operation, all with the help of ranch foreman Zac Schofield, they were in constant talks with their International MBA-having daughter Marissa Taylor about coming back to the United States to live on and one day own/run what was now Lonetree Ranch. At the time, Marissa was living in Australia and working for a mining company as a Social and Economic Analyst, “The purpose of which was to assess the social or anthropological and economic impacts of a large-scale mine on the local area and its residents.”

 

The general idea was to amalgamate Bob and Maggie’s extensive experience providing animals with state of the art health care and their knowledge of owning and operating a profitable cattle ranch, with Marissa’s progressive business acumen and interest in land management and environmental/ecological stewardship, in the form of a modern, organic, free-range, grass-finished, progressive, multi-dimensional ranch governed by both Art & Science.

We want to push the envelope of American ranching. To do this we practice what we call the Art & Science of Ranching, which basically means we use a considered and thoughtful blend of age-old practices mixed with progressive (science-based) practices.”- Marissa Taylor

“Age-old practices, ancestral ways passed down from one generation to the next, are hard to learn; they come from years and years spent working the land and caring for animals. The science piece is about drawing from an educated and informed understanding of agricultural studies, veterinary medicine, and business. How we work can be summed up in three ways: 1.) Do Our Best by the land, the animals, and the people we work with. 2.) Be Safe, always. 3.) Get Better every year. Our management focus always considers the preservation of natural resources and protection of natural ecosystems—because it is the right thing to do, and because it is the best business practice.”—Marissa Taylor

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SECTION No2 Zero to Two

FOR REASONS RELATED TO A MACKINAW,2 we (Emiliano Granado and Daniel Wakefield Pasley) needed to get with a bona fide Cattle Ranch in the spring of 2010. To that end, a mutual friend introduced Emiliano and I to Bob Taylor by way of a phone number with a 307 area code, and some assurances that yes he knew we would be calling, and yes he was open to speaking with us about a visit to his ranch, even though, or maybe because, he was a medium-to-large-sized celebrity in Ranching and Veterinarian circles. That first call was pleasant if not a moderately surreal having everything to do with going from worlds-apart strangers—Bob, a salt-of-the-earth hardworking Wyoming Rancher and Daniel, a white Vans-wearing Hot Springs photographer in Portland, Oregon—to Yes, come on down we’d love to have you don’t worry about a thing well take care of everything including a place to stay gotta go just text when your close in the meantime my daughter will email you our address, see you in three weeks, in less than two minutes.

We left Salt Lake City in a compact rental car at 8:00 PM on a Thursday night in the middle of January straight into a blizzard primarily made up of lots of snow and poor-to-straight-up-dangerous visibility. By that point we had Bob’s daughter’s mobile number and were in text contact. She said it would take three, maybe four hours in this weather and to watch out on the I-80 just past Evanston because there was sure to be packed snow and ice on the Three Sisters. There was packed snow and ice on the Three Sisters so we chained-up our rental car and continued on in spite of flashing signage and the dozens of 18-wheelers pulled off and waiting on the side of the freeway like Circled Wagons—I mean derailed Box Cars.

When our traction chains broke for the second time and a five-inch tail of links started smacking the passenger-side wheel well with each rotation, we stopped and repaired the chain cold-forged-style with a Gränsfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet. We left the I-80 at Fort Bridger and continued south on WY 414 through Mountain View (pop. 1200) on a rolling, narrow two-lane road covered in sideways-blowing wind and snow.

Well after midnight, after having passed the Taylor’s place twice, we pulled in their driveway and parked between a frozen puddle and a snowdrift. Before we made it onto the porch Marissa had the front door open. She had two aluminum foil-covered paper plates (leftovers for us) in her hands each containing a big stack of thick-sliced ham, a pile of mac-n-cheese made with cream of corn, and a plop of hot mustard. She nodded to her dually pick-up and said “Hi, hello, how are you, how was the drive, follow me.”3 After exchanging niceties we followed her down the road a mile or two to a loaner cabin where we stayed for the next three days. During those three days we met and fell in love with the whole family, several hundred cows (no rancher will tell you the exact number), a pack of well trained Kelpies and some other misc. dogs, and hundreds if not thousands of acres of frozen-but-clearly-fertile-bottomlands. We also talked. Over several full-scale, kitchen-wide family dinners. On our daily 4X4 Ranch Tours. While Zac trained a horse in small circular ring using nothing but his voice, a small switch of leather and several generations worth of horse knowledge. While Marissa took two of her dogs, walked to the end of a very long pasture, and through shouts and whistles separated a cow from the herd, in less than twenty minutes. Every time we got out of a car to open a gate (estimated at 12 times per day). While bob grilled hamburgers and cheeseburgers. While Maggie taught us to saddle a horse. When we broke the Kubota by driving it too hard and too fast and causing to to overheat. On the back of a pick-up, periodically throwing hay at cows. Over homemade chocolate malt milkshakes. We talked and talked about everything including but not limited to fly-fishing in South America, hunting, animal welfare, land stewardship, the State of Wyoming, the state of ranching, applying for organic certification (which they had recently done, and which process they were in the process of complying with), etc. By the end of our visit we had life-long friends, a place to stay in southwestern WY, access to best-in-class beef, and one rather large and involved question with a project-shaped objective attached to it. The question was this:

In practical terms, if the business of Lonetree Ranch is to sell grass-fed, organic beef from ”from tip to tail”, in a sustainable X Art & Science X profitable manner, what does that look like? What does it take to raise a cow from Zero to Two (the age at which a cow is heavy enough to be sold and/or slaughtered for meat)? What are the benchmarks?”- YJ

The attached project-shaped objective was simple. We agreed to return to the ranch at various times over the next two years in order to document the key benchmarks, which key benchmarks were and are:

  1. Calving
  2. Branding & Castration
  3. Weaning
  4. Grazing
  5. Slaughter

 

And at the end of two years we agreed to publish Zero To Two somewhere on the internet.

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Bob Taylor, ranch owner.
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Maggie Taylor, ranch owner.
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Marissa Taylor, ranch manager.
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Zac Schofield, ranch foreman.
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Zero to Two
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Calving
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Branding
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Weaning
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Grazing
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Slaughter
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Zero to Two: Introduction