It’s 2018. Most people work 8-5 jobs or “telecommute” where they never leave home and work right from their computer. Meals are “home-cooked” in 30 minutes from fresh ingredients delivered to doorsteps in boxes when take-out doesn’t sound appealing. And everyone is connected to someone with technology – in the next room or across the world. In this fast-paced world, this Wyoming ranch focuses on being progressive while still maintaining its Western heritage and tradition.
“We use horses for everything,” said Shaun Strickland, managing partner of the Poison Spider Cattle Co., north of Casper, Wyo. “We don’t use 4-wheelers and all that stuff. Our horses are used today like they were 100 years ago. We still preserve the tradition.”
Tradition on a ranch spread across 140,000 acres means that the horses have jobs, and the ranch hands work from before sunrise to beyond sunset to make sure the 1,500 Angus-based mother cows and the 30 horses who “work” on the ranch receive the best care possible. That’s why Poison Spider Cattle Co., offers a high-quality mineral program for both the cow herd and horses with BioZyme® products from the VitaFerm®, Vita Charge® and Vitalize® product lines.
Strickland said when the ranch was started in Wyoming in 2014, they had tested the native grasses and water to see which vitamins and minerals their herd would need the most of, and had a special mineral formulated just for the ranch. Shortly after that, he met BioZyme VIP dealer, Keith Micke who showed him the VitaFerm products. Strickland discovered the VitaFerm products were very similar to the custom blend from a different company that he’d been having made for the ranch, so he made the switch.
“The VitaFerm products are really good for our country. I like the protein tubs because we are in such big country that we can’t get around to all the cows and give them cake in the winter. Those tubs give the cows the necessary protein they need, and they also have the mineral package in those tubs, so it allows them to get the vitamins, mineral and protein needed to go along with the forage. When we get close to calving, we keep the protein tubs out, but we also start putting out VitaFerm Concept•Aid® as well. When it gets close to calving, we really like to give them the mineral,” Strickland said.
Poison Spider has a 60-day calving period, starting in April. They turn their bulls out in early June during the peak of forage growth, and those natural nutrients combined with the Concept•Aid, have helped them achieve 96% conception rates with a 92% weaned calf crop.
“For having this big of country, 96% conception rate is really good,” Strickland said.
And it’s that big country that helps keep their traditions alive, including doing most of their work on horseback and taking a spring and a fall wagon out to do their work where the cattle are instead of bringing the cattle to a centralized corral system. During Fall Wagon, when the calves are weaned, they all get a dose of Vita Charge Cattle Drench and are put out with Vita Charge Stress Tubs.
“We go where the work is. We set up a big canvas tent, where the cook (Kent Rollins) sets up his chuckwagon and cooks breakfast at 3 a.m., then cooks lunch and supper. The Fall Wagon lasts about 14 days and is when we wean, ship and palpate the cows. Spring Wagon is 10 days and when we brand and vaccinate everything. We try to be progressive in cattle business, but still maintain the traditions.”
And with that traditions of covering big country, and a passion for good horses, Poison Spider owns horses that range from weaned colts and yearlings to some older horses. They have high performance horses bred and trained for racing, cutting and rodeo. And they have horses that are solely used for ranch work.
“All of our horses have a job, and if they show us they want to go to a show pen after doing their work on the ranch, we’ll take them to the show pen. Some of them make it; some of them don’t,” Strickland said. “Even our top-end cutting horses get used on the ranch. They don’t just stand in a stall, waiting to go out on the weekends.”
Strickland discovered the Vitalize products from Micke shortly after he started feeding VitaFerm to the cattle. His horses have been on Vitalize® Equine Free Choice Mineral ever since. The high-performance horses are fed the Vitalize® Equine High Performance pellets. And any horse that works hard during the day and has a tough day scheduled the following day gets a tube of Vitalize® Equine Recovery Paste (transitioned to Vitalize® Equine Recovery Gel July 2019).
“If they have gone out and pounded their bones in the dirt for me and sweat for me the least I can do is give them something to make them feel better and to help them recover quicker,” Strickland said. “I’ve got to take care of them because they are how we make a living.”
Strickland said he walks a fine line as the cow herd manager and an equine enthusiast who enjoys competitions. He said the cows come first because they put the food on their table, but when all their cow work is done, he spends the rest of the day, sometimes into the evening riding and training horses.
“After all the cattle are taken care of, the day is for the horses. And it makes for some long hours.”
Traditions and preserving the Western heritage are priorities for Poison Spider, but so is taking the best care possible of their stock. With mineral programs and supplements like VitaFerm and Vitalize, Poison Spider Cattle Co., is taking progressive steps in keeping the nutrition of their cattle and horses at the highest level in the big country of Wyoming.