By ROBERT WAGGENER
Ranchers are typically an ingenious lot, doing what they can to make ends meet.
Northeast Wyoming rancher Robert Ligocki feeds cattle with a team of Belgian draft horses. To get the work done more efficiently, he had a neighbor handcraft a round-bale hay handler that can be pulled by the horses.
Western Wyoming rancher David Pape turned a water control structure into a small dam, which keeps 50 feet of stream open for use by cattle during winter.
In southeast Wyoming, Newton Russell learned mechanic skills and saves thousands maintaining a fleet of old equipment.
• Wyoming producers save labor and money by doing own construction, repairs.
• Robert Ligocki, David Pape and Newton Russell share their handiwork.
• All it takes is a little ingenuity and elbow grease, they say.
For years, Ligocki hand-loaded small bales of hay onto his horse-drawn wagon. The task was time-consuming and, as he grew older, became more difficult. He got the idea of building a hay handler that could be pulled by his horses after watching a neighbor feed with a round-bale handler mounted on a flatbed truck.
Ligocki took the idea to a craftsman, who attached two metal arms to his old hay wagon. He now backs a team into a 1,200-pound hay bale, and pins are driven through the arms into the center of the bale. A small hand winch then lifts the bale and helps unroll it.
Ligocki has two teams and says that after some training, each knows exactly what to do when he says the commands “back” or “whoa.” He jokes, “It’s easier to back up two horses than a truck. If you say ‘whoa’ to a truck, it won’t stop.”
Putting an end to ice chopping
Pape and his family got tired of chopping ice for cattle on their ranch near Daniel, which typically has long, bitter-cold winters, so he started exploring ways to keep open a small stream below an earthen dam.
The idea came after inspecting a water-control structure that was installed by a professional firm at a neighbor’s fish pond.
Pape bought a 4-foot culvert and sank it into the dam. A little welding and concrete work completed the project. Water from the bottom of the pond now flows up through the structure and under the dam.
“It works well and saves a lot of time chopping ice,” says Pape, who invested about $500 into the project. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is a good resource for ranchers wanting to install similar structures, he adds.
Russell, who grows about 50,000 bushels of winter wheat annually, puts pencil to the paper when it comes to his farm operation south of Wheatland. For example, he’s saving money by doing his own combine work instead of hiring a custom combiner. He does this by personally maintaining a fleet of older equipment.
“As you can see, most everything in this Quonset is older — 1974, ’78 and ’84 trucks, 1987 and ’91 combines, and a 2001 tractor.”
The Quonset was new when Russell bought it, but he got a good deal because it was sold at an auction. He then erected it himself with the help of family and friends.
Isn’t there an old saying about one man’s junk is another’s treasure?
Waggener writes from Laramie, Wyo.
This article published in the April, 2012 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.