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Success Stories | Wyoming

Landowner Success Story, Conservation Campaign
Thaler Land and Livestock Company
LaGrange, Goshen County, Wyoming
Cow/calf yearling operation. Raise small grains.
Submitted by: Nancy Atkinson, PAS, Wyoming.
Phone: (307) 233-6759

October 25, 2007


From a Lonely Dollar in a Pocket to Resource Management in Wyoming

In 1903, 20-year-old Joe Matje left Hungary and arrived in the United States with $1 in his pocket. After working various jobs in Chicago, he moved to Wyoming. Eventually he put down roots on a 320 acre homestead and converted that $1 into a 20,000 acre ranch and farm.

Today, the ranch is known as the Thaler Land & Livestock Company (TL&LC) and is owned and managed by Dennis and Sandy Thaler, their daughter, Brandy, and son-in-law, Kevin Evans. Joe Matje was Dennis Thaler's great-great uncle.

The ranch, located west of LaGrange, Wyoming, is in the southeast corner of the state. Elevation is at 4,800 feet with an average rainfall of 12-13 inches. Thaler says they haven't seen an average amount of rainfall in a very long time due to the persistent drought of the past few years.

The resource management goal for the Thaler Land & Livestock Company is to maintain the health and vigor of plant communities on irrigated, dryland and native range to keep the resource base and support a long-term operation. The TL&LC sustains good health and vigor of all plant communities involved, minimizing erosion. The only farming done is through crop rotation to maintain permanently introduced species for grazing and haying.

Winners of the 2006 National Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP); the 2006 Regional ESAP, Region V; and the 2005 Wyoming Stock Growers Association ESAP, constant efforts to reach their resource management goal are recognized at all levels of the natural resource conservation community.

As far back as the homestead days, taking care of the land and its resources drove the planning process for the ranch operations from year to year. Matje was one of the founding fathers of the South Goshen Conservation District and served as a board member for 13 years. Dennis Thaler said "Working with the conservation district and the Soil Conservation Service, which is now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), was a real turning point for the ranch."

This cow/calf yearling operation has a small backgrounding feedlot, which was completed with NRCS technical assistance and cost share from the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture's Confined Feeding Program. The design of the feedlot ensures that runoff affluent is contained but provides nutrients to an adjacent meadow. A nutrient management plan is in place for the feedlot. The design includes a windbreak to provide trees as shelter for the livestock, to clean the air, and to provide habitat for wildlife.

A partner with many agencies and groups, Thaler said, "He could never have completed this project without all their help."

Small grains, oats, millet, wheat and alfalfa-grass hay are also raised on the ranch. The number one resource is the grass that is grazed by the cattle. A variety of grasses are on the landscape, including western wheatgrass, blue grama, needle and thread, dryland sedge, buffalograss and prairie sandreed.

The family has worked for over 40 years to efficiently use their irrigation water and conserve the critical Ogallala Aquifer. Water conservation measures include land leveling and converting from high pressure to low pressure center pivot sprinklers. Low pressure sprinklers were installed where siphon tubes and gated pipe were previously used to irrigate. The use of sprinklers has turned flood irrigated alkali ground into prime hayground. They have implemented an intensive grazing system under center pivot sprinklers. "The center pivots have helped to ease the stress of the past drought years," Thaler said

Thirty miles of stockwater pipelines and 15 miles of fence have been installed to help the TL&LC manage their natural resources and cattle. Their rotational grazing system contains a total of 82 pastures. "Our cattle are trained to the sound of a whistle," Thaler said. "This saves us a lot of time and labor as one person can move several hundred head alone."

Another resource concern for TL&LC was Leafy Spurge on about 200 acres. To address this challenge, the family began a series of treatment on a 30-acre parcel. Over a period of time the Spurge infestation was reduced to less than 50 acres. "The best horse hay on the ranch is now raised on this ground and the use of chemicals on this field has been completely eliminated," Thaler said.

A leased parcel of land presented the issue of sand dunes. The dunes were gradually encroaching on an adjoining pasture. By blowing 200 tons of hay on the problem area and then crimping it in, the land can now be used as a rotation pasture, but is managed with extreme care. The site is close to foothills that supply prime habitat for mule deer and antelope.

"These natural resource improvements could not have been accomplished without the technical assistance of NRCS and cost share through Farm Bill and other programs, "said Thaler. "With our involvement in several organizations and programs, as well as a number of tours of the operation, we are constantly spokesmen for, and promoters of, stewardship. We can demonstrate, and have shown the general public, that a carefully managed cattle operation can be both profitable and not only environmentally sustainable, but also beneficial!"

The Thaler Family.  Kevin Evans (left) Brandy Evans, Sandra Thaler, and Dennis Thaler. The Thaler Family. Kevin Evans (left) Brandy Evans, Sandra Thaler, and Dennis Thaler.
Dennis Thaler explains how the irrigation diversion box serves to irrigate a number of locations from a single source. Dennis Thaler explains how the irrigation diversion box serves to irrigate a number of locations from a single source.


Updated 10-26-07