Livestock and Farms in Rock Springs, WY
Today's cattle and sheep industry in Rock Springs, WY includes Blair & Hay Land and Livestock, Green River Livestock, and more.
John Hay has ranching in his blood. He is a descendant of John W. Hay (1864-1907), who was one of Wyoming's most successful livestock men.
“Today, my family owns Blair & Hay Land and Livestock, plus Blair & Hay also has interest and ownership in Rock Springs Grazing Association,” Hay says. “RSGA has been around since 1907, when 200,000 to 300,000 sheep grazed the winter range in southwestern Wyoming. Now, there are about 50,000 to 70,000 sheep. A lot of ranchers have converted to cattle in recent years, but some continue to ranch sheep.”
Sweetwater County's documented agricultural history dates back to the early 1900s, when a land grant created a checkerboard concept, which still exists. The checkerboard refers to the way the land was divided, with every other tract being private, while the other staggered parcels are public and owned by the government.
Present-day ranchers can utilize their private land for livestock grazing and access the government land for their herds at no cost.
“I'm running about 2 million acres, and agriculture still plays a part in the local economy, but it's really just cattle and sheep, along with the hay and grain that is grown to put up for livestock,” Hay says. “The ag industry still remains important, but is certainly nothing like it was in the early 1900s just after Wyoming was first settled.”
As for the sheep industry, it has decreased in recent times due to predation from wolves, lack of sheep laborers and a reduced market demand for wool. Bill Taliaferro, owner of Green River Livestock, is the largest sheep rancher in Sweetwater County.
“Lamb is a popular meat with the consuming public, so we are concentrating on our reproductive levels so we can produce 3,500 or 3,600 lambs out of every 2,500 ewes,” Taliaferro says. “We used to run 225,000 sheep every winter, but now we're down to 50,000. It's a tough business, but still a good business.”
Coal and Trona
Hay says in Sweetwater County, mineral extraction has far surpassed agriculture in economic impact.
“Coal, trona, fertilizer, oil and gas – those industries have changed the nature of our economy so that agriculture, although important to those involved in it, certainly doesn’t hold the weight it once did,” he says. “But there are still many positives associated with agriculture, including that Sweetwater County has enhanced and now accommodates more wildlife than [at] any time in its documented history.”
Wind in the Forecast
As for supplementing agricultural income, Hay says ranchers are pondering allowing wind turbines to be erected on their private land, thereby adding income generated from leasing the land to renewable energy companies.
“Not so much solar energy, but the interest in wind energy is increasing and there are experts looking into the feasibility of delving into such an industry here in Sweetwater County,” Hay says. “It's still in the discussion stages. Time will tell if it comes about.”
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