Madsen Ranch: 121 years of ranching on the Bad River | TSLN.com

Madsen Ranch: 121 years of ranching on the Bad River

Courtesy photoThe 4th, 5th and 6th generations on the Madsen Ranch: The Bierles from right side, Janice and Jim, Kory (in hat), Kim in front of him, Kory's wife Robin to his right, their children (l to r) Kruse, Bailey and Sage.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

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The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.

The rain had darkened the rough shoulders of the bluffs overlooking the Bad River bottom lands, and shrouded the distant ridges. Lowering clouds promised more rain, the lifeblood of ranch land everywhere, and the Madsen Ranch of Midland, SD is glad for the showers, just as it has been for 121 years.

Established in 1888 by Truels Madsen, the Madsen Ranch is today operated by Jim and Janice (Jan) Bierle, and their grown children, daughter Kim and son Kory, his wife Robin, and the sixth generation on the ranch, Kruse, Sage, and Bailey.

Truels Madsen, on a trip through the area, appreciated the rich grass and good protection along the river, so he claimed the ownership of the land on the Bad River where Kruse’s family eventually built a log house and established the ranch.

Kruse Madsen, grandfather of Jan Bierle, had spent his first winter in the area in 1888 in a bullwhacker’s dugout shack along the Bad River with Harvey Ash, though they were both only about 16 years old.

It was all open range and was controlled by the usage of the land. Big cattle outfits, including Murdo McKenzie, the Turkey Tracks, and Scotty Philips buffalo, also used the land and depended on the water in the Bad River.

Though open range days were still going, in 1902 Janice’s grandfather Kruse Madsen filed for a patent on the original land, which was signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. He and his wife Carrie and their children, Harvey and Elsie, lived on the original land settled by Truels Madsen.

The country remained fairly open and the Madsen ranch raised horses for the Remount. They also ran steers, and one bunch of New Mexico steers was quite memorable. Though shipped from New Mexico to Denver by rail, they were trailed to the ranch in South Dakota. After getting them settled on the Bad River, all went well until someone came by with a car and spooked the steers. The Madsens gathered steers all the way to the Dupree area. Cars weren’t a common sight in those days, and the steers had doubtless never seen one.

For many years, the Madsen Ranch summered horses in the Four Corners area and the cattle near Ottumwa, trailing them back to the river for the winter.

The railroad came in 1906 and opened the country up for settlement, bringing not only homesteaders, but supplies and the opportunity to ship livestock and crops from the Midland area. In the 1930’s, the Madsens shipped milk, cream and eggs to Deadwood by rail.

Having come through the hard times of the ’30’s, Harvey felt that he might not be able to hang on to the whole place, so rather than lose it all, he decided in 1948 to sell half of an adjoining ranch they owned. He and Pearl then built a home on the half that was kept, where their only child, Jan, grew up. It was just around the bend of the river from the original headquarters. The big barn on the place was built in about 1949 and is still standing strong.

The last of the Remount horses were rounded up in 1949. After that, Hereford cows grazed the ranch, fences started springing up, and the open range days were over.

In the 1950’s electricity finally came to rural Haakon County, and this enabled the Madsen ranch to pump water from the shallow surface wells along the Bad River, thus easing the water situation somewhat.

Water, a priceless commodity in ranch country, had always been a problem, as the Bad River runs seasonally and usually dries up during the summer. Finally, in January 2005, rural water came to the ranch, once and for all solving the water problems for pastures and houses alike. Available water through pipelines and watertanks has improved the utilization of pastures by the cattle.

After Jan and Jim Bierle married, she taught school in Rapid City while Jim got his education. After moving back to Midland, Jim taught for 13 years while Jan stayed home on the ranch. Education has always been extremely important to the Madsen/Bierle family, as has community involvement. Kruse Madsen was a director in Philip’s First National Bank, and was followed by his son Harvey, who was a director for 50 years.

Daughter Kim, though involved in the operation of the ranch, has also been a teacher for 24 years. She currently teaches in Pierre and also coaches girls volleyball and basketball. Kim lives in the house that Harvey and Pearl built.

In 1966, Jim and Jan built their current home just across the yard from the house Kim now lives in. Son Kory and his wife Robin and their family live on the original place that Truels settled on. Robin’s parents also live in a home on that property due to declining health.

Kory is a school board member and spends a great deal of time just doing bookwork for the ranch. He and Robin express concern over the dwindling enrollment in the Midland school and wonder how long before it will have to close down. Sadly, the younger generation in ranching country has been forced to move elsewhere, thus there are fewer and fewer children growing up on the ranches.

The whole Bierle family is very actively involved in the ranch. The straight Hereford cows were eventually changed over to a crossbreeding program using Angus and Herefords. Their baldy calves, born in late March, are sold at Philip, averaging 560 pounds on the steers most years. Performance testing has improved weaning weights and they have sent some of the steers to Kansas feedlots to see how they would perform.

The cows graze the native Western wheat and green needle grass pastures, and are fed mostly native hay and lick barrels in the winter. The soil is gumbo, with the north side of the river having quite a bit of sand and gravel, to the extent that there is a small gravel pit that they market some gravel from.

They do no farming, and according to Kim, “Kory didn’t like farming and I got tired of it!” The only farming now is a garden.

Like ranchers everywhere, the Bierles are concerned about keeping the ranch in the family for the next generation. Whether Kruse, Sage and Bailey can keep it going, or whether they will want to, is a troubling situation.

“Jan’s dad offered us a chance to be in the business, but, the laws have changed now, and it can’t be done the same way,” says Jim. “It has to come together with the estate, finances, taxes and all that. The government involvement is a huge detriment to ranching.

“Most of these ranches were built with money made in the past generations. There’s no big money to be made in the business,” adds Jim. “Someone will have to be educated in the business end of it to have a chance.”

Kim stressed, “Every ranch is going through the same struggle, trying to pass it down to the next generation. The college education is so important for these kids, not only for the knowledge they receive but simply having something to fall back on.”

“The industry has changed so much. The gross margins have changed,” says Kory. “The work’s still there and due to mechanization, it’s easier, but getting it to make money is the hard part. High feed costs make it very challenging.” He recalled, “2005 was a very hard year. There was rain all around us, but none on the ranch. The toll on the land was tremendous. It’s still trying to recover.”

Jan adds to Kory’s statement, “This year started out wet in the spring, but then we didn’t get any rain in May at all. We have pretty good grass, but not much hay. We have neighbors having a great hay crop, so we’re just in a pocket here, not getting as much moisture.”

The Madsen Ranch has made conservative improvements over the years, investing in necessary machinery for haying and feeding, building utilitarian working corrals, and maintaining the buildings and property to keep repairs to a minimum. Jim remembers, “Harvey always asked, how much did that cost?” Hard work and making do have been traditions that have served the Madsen/Bierle clan well.

Jan’s dad Harvey, lived to be 99 years old. He passed away in 2004 from a stroke after working cattle all day and playing cards that evening. Though he lived five days after the stroke, essentially, he died with his boots on, doing what he enjoyed, on a ranch he loved.

Kory’s children are interested in the ranch, and their aunt Kim says, “Sage is a real cowgirl, has the instincts, knows the cows and calves. Kruse likes to fence. So who knows?” The history is being passed along, both the heritage and the knowledge. The ranch is in a L.L.C., which is a Limited Liability Company. Jim stresses, “With that and the wills, we’ve done what we can. A person has to use all available legal expertise and have a knowledgeable lawyer working on it. Don’t wait until someone is gone to do it.”

The Madsen Ranch cows are raising another crop of big calves on the rich, gumbo grass, just as they have for generations. The sixth generation of the people are growing along with them.

“Ranching is a lifestyle. As hard as it is sometimes, it’s still all we’ve ever wanted to do,” says Kim Bierle. “The history is something you can’t get anywhere else.”

With 121 years of history behind them, they are folks who would know about deep roots in a piece of land, and with the Bad River practically flowing in their veins, surely the Bierles will carry the Madsen Ranch on into the future for more generations.