The Sims Family
Medicine Bow Conservation District
The Sims Family owns and operates Sims Cattle Company in southeast Wyoming. The family has been living on the land for five generations. On the ranch’s 26,000 acres of mostly upland pasture, they run 700 head of Angus/Simmental/Gelbvieh cross-bred cows and 300 yearlings.
As they only harvest one crop – forage – they find soil health to be crucial to the sustainability of their operation. To preserve their soil, they consider the water cycle, the mineral cycle, energy flow and community in every decision they make.
Using high-intensity, short-duration grazing, each pasture gets grazed once per growing season, allowing some pastures to receive as much as 800 rest days. Their cattle are rotated through their 140 pastures 1-14 days at a time.
For over 20 years, the family has also been practicing windrow grazing, allowing windrows of hay to be eaten by the cows starting in late November. They have found that this practice keeps the nutrients from unconsumed hay in the same place it was harvested. It also allows bypass nutrients from their cows to be spread uniformly throughout the meadows without the need for fossil fuels and/or chemical fertilizers.
In fact, they have eliminated the use of chemical fertilizers on their ranch. This elimination and an intermittent flood system have caused long dormant seeds within their soils to awaken, increasing their plant diversity. They have found this practice to be extremely beneficial for their soil, as well as the health of their cattle.
Through stockpiling forage on a third of their pastures, the Sims can withstand drought better than most of their neighbors. The family saw this first-hand in 2012 and 2013, when a significant drought caused many ranchers in their area to destock, while they were able to utilize their stockpiled forage to keep their herd together. This allowed them to also reap a financial benefit, as they had a fully intact herd when calf prices raised over $3 in 2014.
Another added benefit of the diversity of their range pastures has been the satisfaction of their cattle. They noticed, through experimentation, that their calves were extremely discontent and had contracted summer pneumonia when grazing a monoculture in their hay meadows. Once these calves were moved back to diverse range pastures, their health improved, and they were much more content.
The family continues to work hard to achieve a ground cover of 80 percent on their range land, 100 percent on their irrigated pastures and 100 percent on their riparian areas. Through their dedication, the Sims have improved both their operation and the environment around them.
Please visit the Sims Cattle Company website to learn more about the operation, their story, goals and more.
Updated July 2019.