Diversification, niche markets | TSLN.com

Diversification, niche markets

All photos courtesy Deer Forks Ranch

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

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The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.

In American agriculture, some of the most successful operators are those who don’t put all their eggs into one basket. At the Deer Forks Ranch, the producers have diversified and looked toward niche markets to keep the nearly 50 year-old family ranch thriving.

Pam Haar is the second generation of Middletons living on the scenic ranch near Douglas, WY. While the ranch used to be a traditional cattle ranch, offering hunting privileges during the year, the progressive family of ranchers have diversified and made the ranch into so much more.

“My parents, Ben and Pauline Middleton, purchased this ranch in 1963,” Haar says. “Immediately, they realized there is a lot of hunting in this area, and recognized that there are a lot of options to do with a ranch besides the traditional ways of running it.”

The Deer Forks Ranch offers full service guides, lodging and food for big game hunting, which is elk, mule deer and antelope. Haar said there is also some limited white tail deer hunting in the area, as well.

“My parents also started summer recreation shortly after they purchased the ranch in 1963. They have also helped a lot of other ranches in the state develop similar programs.”

Haar said the Middletons are members of WHOA, which is the Wyoming Homestay Outdoor Association. The group promotes ranches in the state that have ranch recreation and/ or bed and breakfasts for guests.

The Deer Forks Ranch has two guest cabins to house guests, and offers a full slate of activities including traditional ones like hiking and horseback riding and four-wheeler rides. They also offer more unique activities like llama trekking.

“The llamas can carry the pack through the hills and mountains. We like to use them because they can travel in more rugged country,” she says. “We also have four bigger goats we use if the children who visit here are intimidated by the llamas. The goats are big enough they can carry a small child if they need to.”

Haar said her husband, Ron, also enjoys hosting overnight tipi stays in the mountains and having dutch oven cookouts for the guests.

In addition to the recreation business, Haar said the family also has several other ventures taking place on the ranch.

“We sold our cattle herd a few years ago when the drought happened,” she says. “Since then, we take in neighboring cattle to utilize our grazing land. My brother, Kelly Middleton, takes care of the north ranch and all the neighboring cattle we lease grazing land to. He also has a small herd of his own.”

Haar said the family is in the process of starting a herd of miniature cattle to fit several niche markets, but the process hasn’t been easy. “We are looking for miniature cattle that are shorter than 40 inches in height,” she said. “I have people tell me all the time they have miniatures, but when I go to look at them, they are larger than the size we are looking for.”

Haar said they became interested in the venture after seeing miniature bucking bulls during the events they travel to with their mutton bustin’ sheep. Haar said she has researched miniatures on the internet and has spoken with a Wyoming-based company that has an established mini bull riding circuit in the region. The family hopes the company will purchase any bull calves they might raise.

Haar said although the herd is somewhat small at the moment, they will continue to build on what they have. “We have some black baldies that are about 32 inches tall,” she said. “We also have a miniature Hereford that is 40 inches tall. They are just really hard to find. Our original miniatures were purchased out of Montana.”

Once the herd is increased, Haar said they have four goals for the herd. They plan to sell the bull calves for miniature bucking bulls, and provide butcher beef for consumers.

“Miniatures have all the same cuts as a normal size steer, they just come in smaller cuts and may fit in some people’s freezer better,” Haar says. “We also hope to tap into the novelty or pet market. There are many small hobby farms out there looking for cattle and horses this size. They want miniature lawn mowers.”

Miniature 4-H youth steer shows are also catching on in different states, and Haar would like to see one developed in Wyoming.

“The state 4-H in Wyoming is considering it right now,” she said. “Steers would have to be 40 inches or under to qualify for the show. There are some counties in Montana who have already adopted a 4-H youth miniature steer show, so it is growing in popularity all the time.”

In addition to cattle, Haar also raises club lambs, pigs and meat goats. “I was showing lambs in 4-H, and when I was too old to do it anymore, I decided to buy a flock and raise them for other 4-H youth,” she says. “Then, in the last four or five years, I decided to branch out to pigs and meat goats. We market all of them to the 4-H and FFA kids.”

The family also raises Paint horses and they sell a limited number each year by private treaty. “We use them here on the ranch and for our guests to ride,” she said. “We train some of them ourselves and contract some out for training.”

Haar said her parents, who still make their home on the ranch, like to help out wherever they are needed, but they have a particular love for the horses. “My mom, especially, loves to spend time with the horses. We have always thought she has a special bond with them,” she said.

The family has also looked into some unique ways of building facilities on the ranch and making them more efficient. Almost finished is a new barn made from tire bales. “We had read about them and had thought about putting one in here,” she said. “That process was sped up last December when our barn burned down just before lambing started. I lost pretty much all my sheep equipment, and we needed to get something rebuilt right away. We have ended up building a smaller, but more functional barn.”

Haar explained that the tire bales used to build the barn are made of 100 passenger tires per bale. The tires are put into a hydraulic press and held together by five metal straps. They are 5×4-1/2×2-1/2 and they have 4-1/2 feet of insulative value in them when finished.

Haar said after the tire bales were placed, they filled the voids in the tires with wool from the black face sheep. “Wool from black face sheep isn’t worth much anyway,” she said. The wool is then covered with chicken wire in an effort to make the surface as smooth as possible. Then the entire surface is sprayed with Shotcrete, which is similar to stucco. “It creates a seal,” she said.

Haar said the barn has a gable-style roof that is stick-built, and a loafing shed that is insulated with straw bales. “It is essentially a green barn,” she said. “The tires are stacked on the flat side and don’t require a foundation because they have such a wide footprint. We used lumber to shim the bales. We only stacked the bales three high, so we have eight foot ceilings in the barn, which is sufficient for us. We will have to use a smaller tractor to clean it out.”

In addition to a new barn, Haar said she and Ron are in the process of constructing a new 2,000 square foot home made from straw.

“We knew we wanted a straw house from the first time we read about it,” she said. “They have been around a long time. The first ones were built in Nebraska, but they are very popular in Arizona and New Mexico.”

Haar said they hired a builder from Michigan to construct the house.

“They are similar in cost to a stick-built house,” she said, “but the coolest thing about them is the siding, insulation, exterior framing and interior walls are finished with just straw bales and stucco. We are hoping for minimal utility bills later on. Straw houses are supposed to be able to maintain ambient temperature. It has a passive solar design with a big roof overhang. The architect who designed the house studied the pass of the sun and designed the house to provide the most efficient heating and cooling. The straw bales, stucco and concrete floor work as a thermal mass. We also installed radiant in-floor heat for supplemental heat if we need it.”

One thing the family prides itself on is their willingness to try new things and share those ideas with others. “Our ranch draws a lot of interest from other people,” she said. “I give tours of the ranch and show people the barn and house, which are both nearly completed. We have people here nearly every week looking over the barn and house. People are interested in what we do here.”

Haar said once the barn and house are finished, the family is looking into building a pig shelter and windbreak for the horses out of tire bales. “The pigs won’t be able to move that around so easily,” she said, laughing.