Veteran Salute: Jim Lynn
for Tri-State Livestock News
Vietnam veteran Jim Lynn and his wife Teena both grew up in agriculture, and worked hard to return to the industry following Jim’s time spent fighting for our country. Today the humble, hardworking couple raise registered and commercial Rambouillet sheep, in addition to recently getting back into the cattle business with, “good, black cows,” as they explained it.
“I grew up on ranch north of Newcastle, Wyoming. When I was about 13 years old my family sold all but a few acres, so when I got into high school I was able to have FFA calves and sheep, and that’s when my interest in ranching began, explained Jim.
He went on to work for the AU7 Ranch during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, then worked with Malcom Wallop in Big Horn, WY, the following two summers riding polo horses with Bill Sterns and Paul Pollat.
“I met my wife when I was a junior in high school. She showed the grand champion steer at the Western Junior Livestock Show, and I bought the steer,” said Jim with a chuckle.
Following high school, he attended dental school and went to work in a dental lab in Rapid City, SD.
“Then I was drafted into the army, and I spent two years with them. First I went to Germany on a NATO trip for a month, and that was actually really fun because we got to tour the entire country. I really enjoyed it.
“When I returned home, they said we weren’t going to have to go to Vietnam, and Teena and I were already engaged, so I thought, ‘Well, lets get married.’ So, being crazy kids, that’s what we did. We were married about two months and I had to come down for a levy for Vietnam. I was sent there for about 11 months, and she worked at Mount Rushmore during the time I was gone,” continued Jim of he and Teena’s first married year together.
Jim modestly left his military career at that, but Teena proudly added that he came home with multiple awards, including a shooting award, Bronze Star and the Army Commendation Medal, which states Jim, “distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious achievement in support of military operations against communist aggression in the Republic of Vietnam. During the period March 1970 to August 1970 he astutely surmounted extremely adverse conditions to obtain consistently superior results. Through diligence and determination he invariably accomplished every task with dispatch and efficiency. His unrelenting loyalty, initiative and perseverance brought him wide acclaim and inspired others to strive for maximum achievement. Selflessly working long and arduous hours, he has contributed significantly to the success of the allied effort. His commendable performance was in keeping with the finest tradition of the military service and reflects distinct credit upon himself and the United States Army.”
Upon returning safely home, Jim got out of the military and went to work for Barber Transportation for 10-and-a-half years. Then, in the spring of 1983, the opportunity presented itself to purchase Teena’s mother and stepfather’s ranch, located just west of Edgemont, SD.
“Ranching is something we both grew up with and liked. We were always looking for the opportunity to do it again,” explained Jim of the reasons for purchasing the operation.
In the beginning the couple purchased old, short term cows to make the operation cash flow.
“Jim worked really hard with those old cows all year, and we would get a calf crop out of them, then would sell the calves and the cows and purchase a new bunch. Then we got into the bad winters of 1984 and 1985. We had those old cows and so much snow that it took all day to get across our yard to the barn with hay to feed them. We lost several head, despite our best efforts, and were beside ourselves.
“At the same time I had this little bunch of old ewes I had purchased from George Eck that were my ‘retirement sheep project.’ They made the winter just fine that year and went on to lamb the next spring. Meanwhile our cows were really struggling. When the snow finally went down enough, we took the whole bunch of cows to town and sold them, then bought more sheep,” said Teena.
Jim added another reason for the switch was during those years an older ewe would nearly pay for herself in one year, and would do better than that if she had twins. An old cow had to be carried two years to pay for herself, and it took a young cow four years.
“It was just the economy of ranching at the time, so we went with it,” said Teena.
Since their initial sheep purchase, the couple has put extensive work into improving their herd and raising the type of ram that would improve their customer’s herds.
“One way we’ve improved is by purchasing certified rams that meet our production record criteria from the University of Wyoming ram test, and other sales. We look at all the ram test information, and when we buy a new ram he has to have an Average Daily Gain (ADG) in excess of one pound per day, a fine fleece of 62-64 microns, a long staple length, and an above average loineye,” explained Teena of what they consider a complete package ram worth using on their flock.
Jim continued, explaining a ram will be used on the couple’s registered herd, and his offspring will be both sold and used on the commercial side of their own operation. Registered rams are marketed private treaty from the ranch, and through the Douglas Ram Sale. The couple has also exhibited rams at the National Rambouillet Show.
Registered ewes are shed lambed, and the commercial ewes range lamb. Jim explained that the ranch’s location is ideal for sheep with its early grasses and protective sagebrush. Unfortunately, the environment is also ideal habitat for sheep predators.
“There was a time it was so bad we almost sold out. We kept track, and from docking to weaning we would lose 65 or more lambs, which ended up being about a lamb a day. Then, right when we were about to quit, Marve Dunstra brought some guard dogs to the Douglas Ram Sale. We bought two, and quickly realized that for us it’s either two guard dogs or no sheep,” said Teena.
Jim added that a quality trapper has also significantly reduced the predator problem, and the combination of the trapper and guard dogs resulted in zero lambs being lost from docking to weaning last year.
The decision to get back into cattle came in the last couple years, which were challenging for the sheep industry due to weather-related loss and unstable markets. Having the two species adds diversity to the operation, and Jim commented that while Teena loves the sheep, he personally enjoys the cattle more.
“My favorite part would have to be just doing it. We just like it, and that’s the way it is in ranching, isn’t it? You just like it, and that’s what you do,” said Jim of what enjoys most about his profession.
He continued, stating he is also glad he served in the military when he was called upon.
“We are also thankful to all those serving today, and thank them whenever we see and unknown person in a uniform. Thanks for serving our country, and best of luck in your future endeavors within or outside of the service,” added Teena.
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