| TSLN.com

Nebraska ag producers pay nearly 50 percent more than the national average in property taxes

Nobody likes taxes, but Nebraska farmers and ranchers have even more to dislike than many others around the country.

According to a study by J. David Aiken, Nebraska agriculture property taxes are among the highest in the United States. Over the last three years, Nebraska farmers and ranchers have paid nearly 31 percent of their net farm income as property taxes (47 percent in 2017). Aiken, an agriculture and Water Law Specialist Department with the agricultural Economics University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said that when state and federal taxes are factored in, this represents an effective tax rate of more than 50 percent (over 60 percent in 2017.) Nebraska property taxes on agricultural land as a percentage of net farm income are 146 percent of the United States average (1950-2017 data). The twenty year average is 150 percent, the ten year average is 147 percent, the five year average is 164 percent and the three year average is 188 percent. Property taxes are the single largest tax paid in Nebraska accounting for 38 percent of total state and local tax collections.

The study revealed that sales taxes make up 29 percent of total taxes, and income taxes are 26 percent. Sixty percent of property taxes go to K-12 education funding. All property taxes fund local government—cities, counties, and local school districts. All income taxes and 84 percent of sales taxes are used to fund the state government. Currently with high ag land values across the state, 85 percent of state aid goes to non-agricultural areas and 15 percent is distributed across the board to all school districts. Two-thirds of Nebraska school districts (largely rural) receive little to no state aid.

In Nebraska in 2017, 42,502 farmers paid $686.5 million dollars in property taxes. On a per-farm basis, that breaks down to $16,151 each, second only to California with the average there being $17,229. The national average in 2017 was $4,902, according to data from the 2017 ag Census collected by Chris Clayton, DTN ag Policy Editor.

John O’Dea lives near McCook, Nebraska with his wife and sons. They are feeling the high tax rate, paying 9 dollars a year per acre of grass. More of his tax dollars are given to support Mid-Plains Community College than he can afford to give his own son, who is putting himself through Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. This for him was a cheaper option than Southeast Community College in Nebraska.

“My sons were talking the other day and they agreed “The expense of being a Nebraskan is getting too high,” O’Dea said. “The state has turned into two liberal cities that expect the rest of the state to support them. Folks are having to work off the place to support the ranch. Who will feed and pay the taxes if they force everyone out. It is having a ripple effect on small towns and communities. Every ag producer that has to take a job in town is taking that job away from someone else. I’m 43 years old and I’m paying more for property taxes now than I did for rent when I started. Land in Nebraska is a liability.”

O’Dea feels that there will be some major changes made as producers attempt to refinance land and cattle in the next few years especially with land values going down. The O’Dea family is seriously considering moving their base of operation to a more ag friendly state in the near future.

“The death losses in Nebraska alone will more than offset what USDA estimated what the calf crop was set to increase in 2019. If calf and yearling prices are not considerably higher this fall, our supply and demand market is broken beyond repair. The cow calf expansion phase was at or near its peak, so these losses will pull us back into a shrinking phase in the cow calf sector,” O’Dea said.

Another Nebraska rancher, Karina Jones, said that on top of weather-related disasters, her state’s property taxes are overwhelming.

“Property taxes are like a second mortgage,” said Karina Jones.

The Jones Ranch in Custer County Nebraska has been hit hard by nature and in a way kicked repeatedly while they were down.

“Our situation is unique. We endured the hailstorm in August of 2017 we had to wean calves immediately and start feeding cows on August 13. We didn’t have a blade of grass left on this ranch,” she remembers. By early December of that year, they were running out of feed, and they were forced to send all of the mother cows to be fed by someone off the ranch. “We fed cows from Aug 13, 2017 to June 1, 2018,” Jones said.

Jones believes the state is taking advantage of ranchers like herself and her husband.

“You would think the government would value people like us. We have a particular skill set that can not be taught in a classroom. You can not learn how to be a rancher from Google. It is generations of DNA intelligence. When they put us out of business, it is all lost. Society won’t be able to get that back. We have a particular skill set to feed the world and I can not think of a more noble profession than that,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if you own the ground or lease it. The cost of these high taxes is carried by the producer, the cow/calf man or the yearling guy. With the poor cattle markets the last few years we cannot support this tax burden. I do not know the last time I bought my girls a special sports drink at the supermarket line or convenience store. I cannot afford extras!”

The Jones are not a multi-generational operation. “We do not have the working capital of the generations before us to lean on. It all falls squarely on our shoulders, just like many other operators around us. It is a big load to carry,” Jones said.

The Jones’ had insurance on their home but hay loss from the hail storm was not covered because hail is a non-covered peril. The same with destroyed grass, trees lost, poor weaning weights on the calves that the cows had at side and poor performing calves that they had in utero. “We just want to raise cattle and kids. That’s all. We don’t want to take from anyone else. We want to give back and better our communities. We want to contribute fairly to our tax commitments. We want to feed our neighbors with a high quality product that we are proud to feed our own families.”

Jones would like to see some producer support meetings where others like her could share ideas. “We all need some good education and a place to be positive and focus on solutions. And yet we need a safe place to be heard. The bankers need us to stay in business,” said Leah Peterson of Custer County, Nebraska. “And none of us want easy; we just want a fair shot. Taxes take that away. As someone says, it’s like paying taxes on a 401K every year.”

Jim Scott, branch president of Bruning State Bank in Broken Bow, Nebraska said, “High property taxes are definitely a major issue due to the current ag economy and high expenses. There has been a depreciation of land values in the last 12 months, due to more land being sold and less profitability, people are looking to reduce debt load.”

“We need to even the tax burden on all citizens, like with a sales tax increase; we are waiting on the legislature to help. Producers need to get involved and pay attention to how money is spent,” Scott said.


September 16, 1937 – October 2, 2021

Gregor Byron McFarland, 84, died at his home, Saturday, October 2, 2021.
Gregor Byron McFarland was born September 16, 1937, in Sturgis, SD, to Gladys (Holst) and George B. McFarland. He was the 8th of 10 children and was raised on the family ranch. He attended Sturgis Elementary, Bend Country School, and Morse Creek School. He graduated from Sturgis High School in 1955, and often said that high school and playing football were some of the best times of his life. He attended SDSU for 1 year before returning home to help his father on the ranch.
He winked at Ardith Kay Strong at a dance in Whitewood, SD, and the rest is history. They married November 18, 1960, and created a life together for the next 60 + years on the ranch he bought from his father. This ranch had been homesteaded in 1879, by his great-grandfather, James McFarland. There they raised their 5 children: Kristina (Tim) Todd, Kenny (Kelli) McFarland, Brenda (David) Janovy, Darla (Kevin) LaVallee, and Gerald McFarland. This ranch holds many special memories for their grandchildren: Courtney (GB) Fischbach and their children, Tucker, and Addie; Casey McFarland; Melana (Jeremy) Walston and their children, Ryder, Beckam, Teagan, and Saylor; Travis (LeighAnn) Todd; Breanna, Michael, and Nicholas Janovy; Mariah Sievert and her children Tommy and Wyatt; Cody, Carsen, and Maddie McFarland.
Gregor’s hobby was “work” and his favorite place to be and visit was “home”. He was always happiest working his cattle and land, growing his ranch, working with his “helpmate” (as his mother referred to Ardith once), and with his children working by his side. He was never too busy to pick up petrified wood or pick sweet peas to take back to his partner in life. These flowers were more appreciated than the crawdads, baby bunnies, turtles, and even baby fawns that he brought in to her at times.
He was always humble and the hardest working man anyone knew. He never wanted to ‘put on the dog’. He always wore work clothes into the bank because he ‘didn’t want them to think he had money’. Any extra pennies (and many borrowed ones) went to building the ranch. There were many happy memories of swimming breaks during the heat of haying, fun vacations (that he was usually more than ready to get home from), and many fun times enjoying friends, family and nature; especially memorable Sunday afternoon adventures after church.
He is survived by his loving wife, Ardith (who cared for him in their home until his death); his children; grandchildren; and great-grandchildren; along with many special relatives and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, George and Gladys; his parents-in-law, Blanche (Blake), and Ralph Strong; his grandson, Casey McFarland; four brothers; three sisters; many in-laws; and special cousins, nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends. They are now reunited in heaven celebrating his life.
A memorial has been established to Rainbow Bible ranch.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.kinkadefunerals.com.

Obituary: GARY D. FISHER

October 3, 1943 – October 7, 2021

Gary D. Fisher was born in Rushville, Nebraska on Oct. 3, 1943, to Buford and Florence (Sandoz) Fisher. He was welcomed home by big sister, Karen, who spent their childhood trying to force him to take his cod liver oil, throwing scissors at him, and running the pedals of the Jeep while Gary steered, raking hay in the Sandhills meadows before either was big enough to see over the dash.
A few years later, Gary’s ally was born: “Little Brother,” “Shorty,” Wayne William. The two boys built a relationship–and a lot of stack movers–that stayed as strong and steady as anything they manufactured: Fisherbuilt.
One day after he graduated high school, Gary went to Fort Robinson to shoe a horse everyone else was afraid of. On the way home he worked up the nerve to call a girl from Crawford he’d seen once or twice. He stopped in Hay Springs and called the Moore household long distance, hoping he remembered the right sister’s name. He asked for Nancy. She was the right sister.
They were married August 18, 1967 in Rushville, Nebraska.
Nancy taught math and science in Crawford and Gary went to college at Chadron State College. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in wildlife management and geology.
Gary and Nancy lived and worked in and near Crawford and Harrison their whole lives, except for a summer on the shore of Lake Superior, where Gary worked in a research lab. They moved back because Gary didn’t know what to do with a job that required only eight hours a day.
Gary worked at the fish hatchery in Crawford, delivering fish, and night-calved heifers at the USDA Beef Research Center at Fort Robinson. He started Fisher Welding and Manufacturing, which moved from the Table to West Ash Creek, then a mile north of Crawford, then back to West Ash Creek.
While they lived north of Crawford he added White River Carriage works, where he built wagons and wagon wheels and learned silversmithing and blacksmithing. A freight wagon he built is at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.
They were “Uncle Gary and Aunt Nance” to nieces and nephews, starting with Mick Freimuth, who loved spending time with them, milking the cows, feeding the chickens, having water fights, “helping” in the shop and playing with the dog.
In 1976 they got a phone call telling them they would be Mom and Dad to a baby boy. A few days after Nancy’s 30th birthday they adopted and brought home Matthew Wayne, who somehow had Gary’s blue eyes and way of looking at, and solving, problems.
Fifteen months later, Levi Dwain joined the family the traditional way, with Gary’s face, Gary’s hands and love for cattle, horses and family.
A baby girl completed the family four years later, when Maria Ellen was born. The day she was born Gary bought a Browning .22, which he gave to her for Christmas when she was 12.
When the kids were little, Gary and Nancy walked to the front of the Nazarene Church in Crawford and accepted Jesus as their Savior. Gary was more often in the shop than in church on Sunday morning, but his mission field was a 50-by-54 red steel building where he patched his neighbor’s livelihoods back together with fairness and integrity, and shared his wisdom, laugh and favorite jokes.
Gary and Nancy always worked toward moving “home,” on West Ash Creek Road, where they lived not long after they were married, and brought home their two boys as babies. Just before their 25th anniversary, they moved home.
The family worked together running cattle, riding and driving horses, caring for the ranch, planting trees, building and fixing in the shop, and spraying weeds.
Gary tried hard to balance the need to provide for his family with his want to be there for their big moments.
He was always there to offer his callused hand as Maria walked down the steps at the 4-H style revue, went shopping by himself for her gifts–sometimes a pocketknife, sometimes a frilly doll–and checked the oil and air in her tires before she left.
He and Nancy never missed the Nebraska State Rodeo Finals any time Levi made it there, wearing the spurs Gary had made for him.
Matt always lived within half an hour of Gary and Nancy, and spent many evenings and weekends helping with anything they needed to have done, fishing in the dam and just talking to Gary about life and projects. Anytime Matt was stumped he could call Gary and figure out an answer.
With Nancy’s support, Gary served on the school board, was a 4-H leader, on the Natural Resources District Board, founded Running Water Ranching Coalition and Northwest Nebraska High Country and served two terms as Dawes County Commissioner. He served in the Nebraska National Guard for seven years. They were foster parents for several years.
Gary and Nancy welcomed nine grandchildren, and Gary loved seeing them enjoy the ranch he and Nancy built, going to their activities, whether rodeo, sports, speech or drama, and making sure there were always M&Ms in their Christmas stockings.
Gary is survived by his wife of 54 years, Nancy, his children, Matt (Jessica) Fisher, Levi (Keri) Fisher, Maria (Trevor) Tibbetts, grandchildren, Ethan, Elisa and William Tussing, Madeline and Weston Gary Tibbetts; Mekenna and Peyton Fisher; Alex and Kadence Fisher; sister Karen (Vance) Nelson; brother, Wayne (Diane) Fisher; in-laws Susan (Ted) Vastine and Jenny Hughson, and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.
Gary was preceded in death by his parents, Buford and Florence Fisher and brothers-in-law David Moore and Lee Hughson.
Services will be Friday, Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Chadron Berean Church, with reception to follow at the Dawes County Fairgrounds.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests Gary be remembered through contributions to the Crawford Volunteer Fire Department or Crawford Public Library

Earl Cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate

Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood

Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the Oct. 16, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News

Lee Pitts: Cowboy Church

The last auction market in our county shut down a few years ago and it was like having our collective heart ripped out. Just this year the auction market that handled the most cattle of any sale barn in California for decades closed its doors too. When we bought a livestock newspaper that served the livestock auction industry 35 years ago there were some 1,500 auction markets in America. Today it’s half that.

The auction market was the heart and soul of the cattle business in my area. I hope I’m not being sacrilegious when I say it was like a church. Once a week we’d gather to see our friends who sat in the exact same seats they always sat in. If one of those seats was unoccupied we’d all ask, Is Jim okay? is Dick sick, or, where’s G.B.? I’ve been in some sale barns that go so far as to paint the buyer’s name on the back of the seat and no one else ever had the nerve to sit there.

Now without an auction barn we have no place to visit, to catch up on the gossip or to see for ourselves how much our cattle are worth and why some are worth more than others. We’d eat at the coffee shop and solve all the world’s ills. Our county cattlemen’s group met there once month and many of us attended educational seminars before a sale to learn how, where and with what to properly vaccinate our animals with. There was an annual bull sale where you could buy better bulls to improve your herd and a replacement female sale that had a wide reputation for selling quality females. We knew that we always had a place to sell an old cow or two, and if we had some extra grass, buy a few stockers. And we could pick up a check the same day we sold them!

It’s ads from auction barns that kept many livestock newspapers afloat and the money that ranchers spend in town one day a week is important to barber shops, the feed mill, the local farm supply, western wear shop and, if the check for the animals you sold was a big one, fancy restaurants.

If the sale barn was a church it’s religion was price discovery. The big debate going on in the cattle business right now is how to force the packer to competitively bid on our fat cattle as the bulk of fat cattle these days are sold in secret marketing agreements with captive feedlots where we never know the price. No wonder the packers are making upwards of a thousand bucks per head for owning a beast for one week. The only reason the beef industry hasn’t gone down the same road as the pork and poultry producers is because we still have competitive bidding at auction markets and their offshoots, video livestock sales. The chicken pluckers never had auctions and when the pork producers lost theirs they also lost 90% of their producers.

I used to travel to purebred auctions with my best friend who owned a great auction market. Owning one has to be one of the worst jobs in the world. Once a week it’s like sleep walking into a propeller. It’s the auction barns instead of the ranchers that take all the risk of a bad check, or a small packer or a big order buyer going broke. My friend was always on the phone trying to get more buyers, letting the ones he had know what he had coming that week, or placating a complaining consigner. I remember one phone call where the rancher didn’t like how his two head consignment, a holstein calf, and an old cow, was sorted. Every time the old grump consigned he called to complain afterwards about the commission, the money deducted for the checkoff or the brand inspection. Once he told my friend, “You know, you aren’t the only auction market in the world. I’m thinking of taking my cattle to your competitor.”

My friend quickly replied, “I just happen to have his phone number. Let me get it for you.”

It’s true what they say, you never really appreciate something until you lose it. If you’re lucky enough to have a livestock auction in your county I hope you treasure it.

Rural American Show: Oct 22-23

An event for the whole family at the Valley City Eagles Club, Valley City, North Dakota, will provide entertainment, shopping, education and more.

Wyatt Fernow of Enderlin, North Dakota said some of the highlights will include self defense classes for the ladies, gun and ammo show in the basement, professional speakers on everything from grazing to donkeys, and so much more.

The event is an annual farm tradeshow for smaller operations, according to the group’s Facebook page.

The bluegrass performers will offer lessons to interested musicians throughout the day. Courtesy photo

Friday Oct 22

10 am to 7 pm – Vendor booths open

10 am to 4 pm Bluegrass music workshops

10 am livestock nutrition panel with Dr. Andrew Peterson, DVM, NDSU Extension specialist

11 am Gail Pederson, Be Well Healing Arts PLLC

1 pm Lee Mankse with “Management of the Grassland Below Ground Processes”

1 pm Police and k9 Operations

2 pm Weapons Familiarization

3 pm Michael Martin presenting “Mules and Donkeys in Western Civilization”

3 pm Ladies Awareness and Self Defense

6 pm Nathan Sayler, Aviation Roundtable

7 pm Pastor Michael Flechsit speaking on “Kingdoms at War/Actual demon encounters” ($10 per ticket)

7 to 9 pm a concert and dance featuring Monroe Doctrine.

Saturday, Oct. 23

9 am to 4 pm vendors will be open

10 am to 3 pm Bluegrass music workshops,

9 am Livestock nutrition panel – Dr. Andrew Peterson, DVM

11 am LeAnn Harner, Dakota Goat Association

11 am Police and k9 operations

12 noon – lunch and learn with Jim Dunkel, Estate Planning

1 pm Lee Mankse, NDSU Extension, Management of the Grassland below Ground Processes

2 pm LeAnn Harner, Dakota Goat Association

3 pm Michael Martin, Mules and Donkeys in Western Civilization

3 pm Pastor Michael Flechsit speaking on “Kingdoms at War/Actual demon encounters” ($10 per ticket)

7 pm concert (ballroom) Seth Mulder and Midnight Run ($25 per ticket).

Go to the Pitchfork and Hoe Gathering Spot Facebook page for more information.




Baxter Black: Boot Camp

Do you ever give much thought to where your weaner steers and heifers go when you load’em on the truck or take’m to the sale?

You think maybe it’s like goin’ off to college? Stay in the dormitory, have a nice roommate who doesn’t bawl or stay up all night talking about the cute Charolais they met in the cafeteria.

Maybe join a fraternity or sorority, Milka Dama Cow. Play intramural head butting, horn wrestling or pin the tail on the Holstein? They can learn a foreign language like Corriente, Water Buffalo or Emu. And eventually graduate Phi Beta Moo and go on to Hi Concentrate Feedlot Graduate School eventually attaining a Ph D in Hi Choice. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Just like you imagine for your own kid going off to college. But the feedlot hands are reading this dreamy scenario like a drill sergeant listening to an Army recruiting ad; “Be all that you can be.”

A growing yard or feedlot is more like boot camp. No hallowed halls of ivy here. Does the name Powder River, WW or Bowman ring a bell? Indoctrination for recruits involves standing in line for hours, being shouted at and vaccinated for things you can’t pronounce. Sound familiar? The intimate dormitory sleeps 260.

Courses studied include Feed Ingredient Identification, Cowboy Outer Wear, Mud 101 and 102, and Hot Shot Evasion. Sports that are available for participation are Intramural Pneumonia, Find the Water Tank, Coughing Practice and Long Distance Diarrhea.

Within a month the successful recruits are moved up to a better class of grub from the mess hall kitchen and are left alone. So when you watch yer little weaners scamper on the truck with the untroubled mind of a high school graduate, remember their next few weeks are not gonna be easy.

But you can be comforted in the fact that almost all of them will get through boot camp and most of them will achieve knighthood; as in Sir Loin.

Whereas the most a weaner chicken can hope for is colonel.


FFA Regional Land Judging Winners Receive Scholarships

Bath (October, 2021) – The South Dakota FFA Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of four $100 scholarships for students placing first in one of the four SD Regional Land Evaluation Competitions this fall. 2020 scholarship recipients are: Rowdy Moore, Winner; Harlee Nielson, Hitchcock Tulare; Jack Brathland, Willow Lake; and Andrew Rick, West Central.

The scholarships are designed to encourage and reward students’ accomplishments in the field of land & soil management. Scholarships are made possible by a contribution to the SD FFA Foundation from the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. “The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition is excited to be partnering with South Dakota FFA to help inform young people about the dramatic effect management has on water infiltration, microbial activity and production. The SDSHC continues to provide the soil health bucket to agriculture education departments departments which includes the needed tools and curriculum that assist teachers in educating their students about the importance of soil structure and health. We believe the future of agriculture depends on the next generation.” said Levi Neuharth, Chairman of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition.

The SD FFA Land Judging contest, hosted by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, SDSU Extension, SD conservation districts and the US Forest Service, is designed to emphasize the importance of soils and their limitations. Students evaluate soil texture, depth, past erosion, slope, and stoniness, estimate permeability and surface runoff, list the limiting properties, and determine the land capability class. They interpret their measurements to make intelligent land management practices, for both agricultural and urban uses. Many of the properties important for agricultural uses are also relevant for urban/rural uses, such as building, sewage systems, and lagoons. Students gain knowledge that will make them better agriculturalists, homeowners, and construction workers.

The South Dakota Soil Health Coalition is proud to support Agricultural Education and the FFA’s mission to make a difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. For more information about the South Dakota FFA Foundation and South Dakota’s FFA programs, visit www.sdffafoundation.org.

Harlee Nielson, Hitchcock Tulare
Rowdy Moore, Winner
Jack Bratland, Willow Lake
Andrew Rick, West Central

–South Dakota FFA

Hereford Crossroads, Bassett Nebraska

Hereford Crossroads is a reception held each year for current and former Hereford breeders and cattle producers to get together and talk about their cattle. Years ago Tom Sellman called the event a “Hereford family reunion.”

This year the annual event was held in Bassett, Nebraska at the American Legion. Ronny Morgan of Burwell was the emcee for the event. Nine tables of display items from attendees, showcasing photos of their cattle and awards were viewed and enjoyed by the attendees. Homer and Darla Buell of Rose made many of the local arraignments for the reception.

A delicious beef meal was prepared by Christie Leonard.

Inducted into the Hereford Crossroads Hall of Fame was JB Ranch of Wayne, Nebraska. Owner Bev Beeson and son Jock Beeson of Crawford accepted the honor. Jack and Bev Beeson were well known polled Hereford breeders and active in the showring for many years. Sadly Jack passed away in 2019

The bull Prince Domino Mischief (1920-1924) owned by the Mousel Brothers of Cambridge was also inducted. HC chairman Richard Brown of Lincoln made the presentations.

Closing out the evening was a lively production sale of the Hereford centerpieces.

The Hereford Crossroads exhibit is housed in The Sandhills Heritage Museum at Dunning.

October 8, 2022 Hereford Crossroads #8 will be held in Valentine.

Bristal Ann Fink poses with a Hereford centerpiece her grandfather Benj Fink of Elsmere bought to “get her cow herd started."
Bull sculpture of Golden Design 14 is pictured with Carolyn and Lon Lemmon and Tom and Emily Lemmon of Crawford. Linda Teahon
Courtesy photos

HORSES FOR COURSES: Badlands Circuit awards horses for rodeo ability

MINOT, N.D. (October 14, 2021) – The 2021 Badlands Circuit PRCA and WPRA Horses of the Year have been selected for their exceptional ability in rodeo.

For the steer wrestling, the 2021 Badlands Circuit Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year went to Hard Luck Special, “KG”, owned and ridden by Cameron Morman. The 2021 Badlands Circuit Haze Horse of the Year was won by HH Sis, “Tess,” owned and ridden by Sterling Lee.

In the team roping, the head horse of the year was won by Its Mister Fame to U, “Richard,” owned and ridden by Braden Pirrung, and the heel horse of the year went to Smart Blackburn 008, “Ranger,” owned and ridden by Matt Zancanella.

The Badlands Circuit Tie-down Roping Horse of the Year honors went to Trey Young’s Neat Lil Chance, “Fozzy,” for the fifth time (one year he tied with Justin Scofield’s mount.)

For the WPRA, the 2021 Badlands Circuit Breakaway Horse of the Year award was won by Handsome Jack Spratt, “Handsome,” owned and ridden by Lynn Smith. The barrel horse of the year went to Teasin Dat Guy, “Chewy,” ridden by Molly Otto and owned by Katie Lindahl, and the WPRA Badlands Circuit Rising Star Award went to FirewaterFrenchFame, “Apollo,” owned and ridden by Summer Kosel.

Summer Kosel, Glenham, S.D. competes at the 2021 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot. Her mount, FirewaterFrenchFame, “Apollo,” is the 2021 Badlands Circuit Barrel Horse of the Year. Alaina Stangle
Courtesy photo

Braden Pirrung, owner and rider of Richard, the head horse of the year, never imagined his mount would win any awards.

“If you’d have told me last winter at this time that he’d win Horse of the Year, I’d have called you crazy,” he said.

Richard was owned by Matt and Kristen Zancanella, who trained him on the barrels. The ten-year-old palomino did the barrel racing with Kristen and was a pole bending mount for the Zancanella’s daughter, who even did some English riding on him.

Last winter, Matt Zancanella, Jr Dees and Pirrung began heading on him, but he had a few quirks, Pirrung said.

For the first steer, “he’d hump (buck) going to the steer,” he said. The palomino only did it on the first steer, but it made Pirrung “a little nervous, rodeoing on him, because you don’t get a practice steer at rodeos.”

When Pirrung’s primary horse got hurt, he had no choice but to turn to Richard. He roped on him at four or five jackpots before the horse hit the rodeo trail, and “then he was just lights out after that,” Pirrung said.

Braden Pirrung, Hartford, S.D., owns and rides the 2021 Badlands Circuit Team Roping Head Horse of the Year. He finished the rodeo season as Badlands Circuit champion header. Alaina Stangle
Courtesy Photo

Richard doesn’t have a sweetheart’s personality, Pirrung reported, but that’s all right.

“He does what he wants,” he said. “He’s always pawing at the trailer, being a pain in the butt. Once you get on him, it’s a different deal. He’s all business.

“If you don’t have a hay bag or get his grain, he’s mad, and if you turn him loose and let him graze and turn your back, you’re probably not going to find him for a while. He’ll wander off.”

Richard carried Pirrung to the top of the leaderboard at the start of the Badlands Circuit Finals and to a year-end title.

“I like the heck out of my old horse,” he said, “but I think (the horse’s injury) was a blessing. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’d done on that horse.

“Richard’s a cool horse.”

A Wyoming-turned Arizona horse won the WPRA Badlands Circuit Breakaway Horse of the Year.

Handsome Jack Spratt, “Handsome,” is owned and ridden by Lynn Smith of Elfrida, Ariz.

He was purchased four years ago from TJ and Jennie Spratt of Lysite, Wyo., sight unseen by Lynn and her husband Rick Smith, because of the Spratts’ sterling reputation.

Lynn Smith breakaway ropes on her horse Handsome Jack Spratt, “Handsome.” The red dun won the Badlands Circuit Breakaway Horse of the Year. Alaina Stangle
Courtesy photo

Handsome, who is an eleven-year-old red dun, was originally purchased as a heel horse for Rick, a former saddle bronc rider who competed at the National Finals Rodeo six times. But when Rick didn’t rope as much, and Lynn began breakaway roping more, she used Handsome as a practice horse. Four days into practice, she knew he was good. “I thought,” this is kinda special,” she said.

Handsome doesn’t like the bells and whistles of rodeo, but he loves to work. “He’s all business,” she said. “He hates the bright lights and the rodeo noise, but when you back into the box, he’s all business. He gives you the same throw every time, in the same position every time. He’s been on the big long scores, wherever.

“We have a lot of fun together,” Smith said. “He’s taken good care of me. He’s a damn good horse and we’re thrilled to have won” the circuit award.

The 2021 Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo took place in Minot October 8-10, with Badlands Circuit champions crowned and qualifications for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo were determined. More information can be found at www.prorodeo.com.

–Badlands Circuit Finals