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Working Ranch - November/December 2017

college,” tells Thode. “He taught me a lot about ranching during that time, and a lot about life.” Thode graduated from Colorado State University, with a degree in agricultural engineering. After college, he found work as a construction laborer and advanced to management, spending six years engaged in the construction of municipal water treatment facilities across Colorado and Wyoming. For another fi ve years, Thode worked for Rubicon Water, a fi rm that designs large-scale, gravity-fed irrigation water systems for clients all over the U.S. Along the way, Thode also became a regional representative for BigIron Auctions, a fi rm that conducts online, as well as onsite, auctions of agricultural, construction and transportation equipment. Experience as a BigIron rep reinforced something his early mentor, Richard Borgmann, had demonstrated. “I became a rep mainly so I could learn about sales and marketing as it is done at the farm and ranch level,” says Thode. “And I learned that it’s all about relationships built on trust and respect.” By 2012, Thode had married his wife, Sherryl, and started a family. Approached that year about managing the Roberts Ranch, the couple saw it as an opportunity to get back to ranching – something Thode had always thought he would eventually do – and raise their kids in that environment. He also recognized it as a challenge worth accepting. They did, The outfi t is comprised of 16,000 acres north of Fort Collins, Colorado just off of U.S. Highway 287 starting in the spring of 2013. “The ranch had been under limited management for close to 35 years and there had been very few improvements in that time,” says Thode. Since then, several miles of water pipeline have been installed. More and better-placed stock watering sites, plus some cross-fencing of pastures has allowed for improved grazing management. Erosion of stream banks has been addressed by fencing riparian areas so cattle access can be controlled. The ranch has access to water for irrigated hay production, but its fl ood irrigation systems were in disrepair. Under Thode’s management, three center pivot systems have been installed, along with a big gun sprinkler. Since renegotiating water rights, Thode anticipates adding three more pivots to provide irrigated pasture for the future. BUILDING THE HERD BACK UP While Roberts Ranch had long been considered to be a 600-cow outfi t, drought-driven destocking left cow numbers at 200 at the time Thode arrived. Moisture conditions have since improved but the ranch’s owners preferred to rebuild numbers through retention of home-raised heifers, rather than purchase replacements. During the ongoing period of herd-building, Thode has kept the ranch stocked to capacity by bringing in cows that he CAITI HLADKY Roberts Ranch manager Zach Thode advises young producers to establish a wide network of “neighbors” with which they can trade goods and services. CAITI HLADKY 76 I WORKING RANCH I NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2017


Working Ranch - November/December 2017
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