Kaycee Cutter: Slicing through winter feeding dilemmas
Wyoming winters can be harsh, and ranchers dress accordingly. Several layers of winter clothing can make finding, extracting and successfully using a pocket knife to cut bale strings difficult. This reality led rancher Tony Armstrong to invent the Kaycee Cutter, a winter wardrobe-friendly device that can cut bale strings with ease, and which has proven useful in a variety of other arenas as well.
“My husband Tony came up with the idea while feeding cows near Kaycee, Wyo., where we ranched for 16 years. It seems to always be cold when you’re feeding, and he thought there had to be an easier way to cut the strings off each bale than taking off your gloves, getting your pocket knife out, opened, used then put away,” began Milisa Armstrong of what lead to the creation of the first Kaycee Cutter in 2003.
The Armstrongs did some research and found Legacy Molding in Riverton, Wyo., who they worked with to make a prototype. The prototype worked, leading to the creation of a plastic injectable mold used to make the cutters in bulk.
“Initially we contacted a few feed stores around Wyoming and Montana, and started sales that way. Then I did a little more research on the internet and learned about Tractor Supply,” began Milisa of the couple’s biggest break to-date with their product.
Roughly a year into selling Kaycee Cutters, Tony and Milisa met with Tractor Supply, who decided to put the product in all their stores.
“From that point it really grew,” noted Milisa. “Big R stores picked them up, as did Runnings and a southern farm and ranch supply chain called Orschelns, as well as several more small, local farm and ranch stores.”
Today, the cutters are still made in Riverton using the original design. The finished product is then shipped to the Armstrongs, who recently moved to Oklahoma, where they are individually packaged and shipped to retailers from the family’s home.
“We do this as a family. We have three boys; one is in college, one is 16 and one is 9, and they all help,” noted Milisa.
Of the response to the product, Milisa said it has been overwhelmingly positive from the beginning.
“Most people really like them. I think a big selling point is that it filled a need – the best inventions seem to be those things that fill a need you didn’t have filled before. Plus, they’re safe. You can hand one to the kids and not worry,” explained Milisa.
Many people ask why they can’t change the blades on the cutters, and Milisa explained that doing so would result in a much higher cost of production, and consequently retail cost as well.
“We didn’t want it to be an expensive item, and we do use the heavy duty blade to ensure it lasts a long time,” she continued.
The biggest reward for Milisa is talking to people who call saying they have no idea where they bought their first Kaycee Cutter, but they love it and need one for every vehicle on the place.
“It’s also fun to talk to people who have found other uses for the product outside the agriculture industry. We’ve had people in the oil and gas industry use them for cutting the big tarps they line pits with, and landscapers love them for cutting landscape fabric,” she said.
The Armstrong’s biggest challenge has been finding the right stores, and the right people within those stores, to talk to about their product. Milisa said some advertising initially in combination with just talking to people until the right person at the right store was found is what worked for them.
“We really enjoy doing this as a family. We strive to work together and like that we can be together, make plans and see changes happen, be it in our business or on the ranch. It’s always great to get to do it together,” concluded Milisa of the most successful aspect of creating and marketing an agriculture product from rural America.
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Nebraska’s Big Rodeo put Burwell on the map, and now in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.