Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station
Bootheel 7 Ranch
The Wasserburger family uses new technology and innovation to help give consumers as much information as possible about the beef they are buying from the Bootheel 7 Ranch.

Value-Added Producer Grants Help Expand Ag Businesses

LUSK, WY – The Bootheel 7 Ranch is operated by the Wasserburger family which markets the entirety of their pasture raised beef directly to consumers throughout Wyoming and Colorado. In an interview with the Northern Ag Network, Anne Wasserburger explains how the Bootheel 7 is structured to support this model.

“We are kind of a one stop shop in that we run black angus cow calf pairs, but we farm as well and grow basically all of our feed. We raise our cattle from birth to processing, and we feed our cattle with our own feed. The Wasserburger family has been doing this for over a hundred years in Niobrara County.”

Anne and her husband Andrew Wasserburger, who is fourth generation on the Bootheel 7, operate the ranch at Lusk, Wyoming while Anne’s brother Jake and his family handle the business of marketing and distribution for the family’s locally raised beef. Anne says that the Wasserburger family felt like consumers should have direct access to the products they raise, which helped inspire the direct-to-consumer marketing model.

“That was really important to us, we had always kind of raised our cattle, kept our calves and backgrounded them until they were ready to be finished.”

Anne says, “So that system was already in place, but what we wanted to do is use our experience in finishing cattle, in raising cattle to allow a consumer to find out more about the story of their animal: this is when they calved, where they calved, what they were given, what they were fed, how they were raised and how they were finished. It was really important to us to allow a consumer to have access to that information.”

The Wasserburger family uses new technology and innovation to help give consumers as much information as possible about the beef they are buying from the Bootheel 7 Ranch.

“We do a lot of different things on the ranch to embrace technology, to embrace science and to embrace progress. We ultrasound our cattle, to see how they grade, to look at the rib size, so we have information on our cattle both inside and outside. We use different kinds of chips to keep track of our cattle, to keep track of all the information we collect…on when our cattle were born, what they weigh at certain times throughout the year and their lives, what they were fed, and which pastures they were in. So, we really do embrace progress.”

Anne says that selling directly to the consumer can be challenging, thanks to unpredictable markets, overhead costs and more.

“Anyone that’s in ranching or agriculture and especially this market of direct to the consumer beef business, knows that it’s hard. It’s unpredictable, it’s volatile, the overhead is really high. It’s not a consistent revenue stream. And so those funding opportunities became really important, especially in terms of growth. In terms of competition when you’re small, like we are it’s really hard to compete with those established big companies.”

Montana Ag Producers Receive Over $2 Million In Federal Value-Added Producer Grants
South Dakota Agriculture Benefits From Value-Added Producer Grants

In 2021 and in 2023, the Bootheel 7 Ranch was awarded a $250,000 Value Added Producer Grant from USDA to provide working capital to expand its customer base through strategic marketing and advertising.

USDA State Director of Rural Development in Wyoming Glenn Pauley says the VAPG is intended for agricultural producers to help grow value added opportunities in their businesses.

“The Value-Added Producer Grant Program is specifically designed to create businesses and agriculture products that will expand the customer base for producers and generate additional revenue.”

Pauley told the Northern Ag Network how the Bootheel 7 Ranch has used the Value Added Producer Grant to grow their direct to consumer beef marketing business.

“The first grant they used to expand their customer base, their market, their processing, packaging, and the distributions of their beef cut. The second grant they used to expand their product line, which includes beef jerky, beef sticks, and summer sausage now.”

Anne Wasserburger says these funding opportunities are important for their operation to compete with larger companies and to be able to keep providing ranch raised beef to local customers.

“We’re not a hobby farm. We’re not someone that just does this on the side. This is our life. This is what we do. This is what we’ve always done.”

Applications for 2024 Value Added Producer Grants are currently open. The deadline is April 11th online and April 16th for paper applications.

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