Week One: Making Sense of the Louisiana Purchase

Tuesday, May 16 2017, It was my first full day of work as the new intern here at Rock Hills Ranch. Gray puffy clouds filled the vast prairie sky as I waited to witness the hidden South Dakota sunset for the second time. The bitter 40 degree winds bit at my shivering skin while it rolled across the green hills of the pasture. My head was hung. I stared at the ground watching my faithful cowboy boots take each step across the dark clay soil. Perhaps, the only things that reminded me of my Virginia home were the black-hided cattle tending to their new spring-born calves. Luke and I were conversing as we walked toward the newest addition to the ranch with intentions of tagging its ear. The conversation died in a split instant, along with any sense of security I had previously possessed, when my ears intercepted an alarming noise. “WOAH!!!,” Luke shouted. Without delay, my eyes rose from the fertile ground to see cow Y170 charging right at us. I quickly ran for my life as I sought the shelter of the Honda Pioneer. Terrorized and afraid, I hid behind the ATV. Luke however, had a much different reaction. After the initial fleeing, he handled the situation with experience and composure. The mother was calmed, the calf tagged, and the day went on. On the way back to the barn, I found new insight into American history as I thought, “No wonder France sold this land to Jefferson for so cheap. The weather is frigid, the wind never rests, and even the cattle are mean.” What a welcome to the West.

My name is Tucker Wyatt. I am a 19 year old full-time college student from the college town of Harrisonburg, Virginia. I enjoy hiking, fishing, kayaking, the MLB, the NFL, and writing country music with my best friend, Megan (yes, she is a guitar). I am the second oldest of six kids; Anna (20), myself (19), Jane (17), Lizzy (13), Kitty (11), and Bridget (7). No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I am the only boy with five sisters. Even our family dog is a female. My father, Bill, is the Director of Communications and University Spokesperson for James Madison University (Go Dukes!) and my mother Carey is a stay-at-home mom. We’re a loud and rowdy crew and I miss them already. Just a few short weeks ago, I graduated with my Associate’s Degree from Virginia Tech in Applied Agricultural Management with a concentration in Agribusiness. (LET’S GO, HOKIES!) After my time here at Rock Hills, I will be pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Economics as a cadet at Virginia Military Institute. Upon my graduation from VMI, I aim to pursue my juris doctor in the hopes of one day getting involved with ag law and policy.

I spent the early years of my childhood in Glen Burnie, Maryland which is a suburb just south of Baltimore. So how does a kid from the big city end up working cattle on a ranch in South Dakota? Well, in short, he found his passion. Agriculture. As you might imagine, my pursuit of finding my place in the agricultural industry is quite different than most. When I first moved down to Rockingham County, two days after my 10th birthday, I was not a fan of the rural character of the “friendly city.” Slowly but surely however, thanks to the influence of my dearest friends, I found myself adopting more Virginian habits such as hunting, fishing, and listening to country music. By the time I got to Harrisonburg High School I was a natural want-to-be country boy who was only concerned at the time with a girlfriend, Toyota pickup truck, and playing baseball and football. During my junior year in the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Academy, my Honors Geoscience instructor told me that she knew of a job where I could make $40 dollars for each 2-hour shift I worked. With gas prices around $3.00 per gallon, I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that the shifts would consist of milking cows or even that each shift started at either 3 am or 3 pm. While the initial adjustment to the job was rough to say the least, over time I began to take pride in playing my role in providing our region with nutritious dairy products. During the next several months, I became fascinated with the question, “How do so many people get fed by so few farmers and ranchers?” That very question led me to pursue my degree in agriculture from Virginia Tech. During my time there, I not only pursued ag in the classroom but also in extra curriculars. I pledged Alpha Zeta which is a professional honors fraternity for students studying agriculture and natural resources as well as the Collegiate Beef Leadership Council of Virginia Tech. I have learned so much through these organizations and the college itself and I am proud to call myself an advocate for our industry.

But why a ranch internship in South Dakota? Well, during my studies, I have developed a particular interest in beef cattle. Not only am I infatuated with a well-marbled steak and cowboy culture, but I really appreciate that the beef industry has remained largely in the hands of family operations compared to a world of other ag industries that seems to be gravitating toward consolidation and large corporate ownership. When I was applying for summer internships, I was hoping that I would find one that would help me gain valuable insight and knowledge that would assist me in becoming a better advocate for the industry and its operators as I pursue my ambitions of public policy and ag law. Although I have only been here for a short time, there is no doubt in my mind that I am in the right place. The Perman family is not only a proactive member and advocate of the beef industry but they are fountains of knowledge concerning production, marketing, and current issues facing the beef community. I have learned so much already and look forward to working for some of the best in the business this summer. Thanks for taking the time to read my first post and I look forward to keeping you posted as the summer goes on!

Back in the Saddle

It has been three weeks since I have left the ranch to go back to school. I keep thinking back onto the wonderful times I had with the Perman family on the Rock Hills Ranch. It was hard and frankly sad to leave. I had a lot of fun and learned so much this past summer. The experiences, people, and new ways of thinking that I have gained are priceless. I am back in school now busier than ever with school, work and the engagement. I drive by fields in the famous white dodge looking at farmers plowing their fields and just shake my head and think only if they could have a conversation with the Permans.


I work at the beef lab here at Utah State University looking through the cows the other day I kept thinking to myself I wonder what her butterfat content is thank you Gerald Fry. I would suggest to anyone thinking of applying to an internship at RHR to go ahead and apply. It is not just knowledge about range, cows, or haying you gain knowledge and experience about. It is life lessons learned, people you meet, connections you make and ways of thinking you can incorporate.  The Permans do such a wonderful job on incorporating learning into the work place.  They are amazing employers very understanding and helping. They are just such a wonderful family. The portrait that they portray of their ranch is absolutely gorgeous.


There is something about South Dakota that gets to you I don’t know if it is the mosquito s or the beautiful sunsets. All I know is if the Perman family is ever in Utah you are always welcome around my camp fire.

Until we meet again “ Watch your top knot” readers

Sam Newell

Continuous Learning

In the past couple of weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity of attending a couple of workshops. The first one I attended was a range camp held near Fort Meade South Dakota. The camp is a workshop set up for the purpose of training Ag leaders  in range and natural resource management.  They covered topics such as range plant ID, soil health, production potential, stocking rates, range monitoring, USDA web soil survey training, and tours of local ranches and their practices. 

plant diversity
In this picture you can see a very great example of plant diversity in a pasture. When Lyle and Garnet first bought the place in the 1980’s There was very little of this lead plant you can see in the picture as a woody forb. But over the years by using a rotational grazing system it has become a lot more prevalent. Having a diverse plant community also helps with the health of the soil by the each individual plant can fixate different nutrients into the soil.

I came away from this experience getting into the mindset of being able to think of all of the factors that go into an operation.  

Looking at soil health (what types of soil you have), having a diverse plant community, controlling weeds with grazing, looking at your pastures and grazing them in range and natural resource management and stewardship of natural resources.  These were just some of the things that were covered during the camp.

I ‘ve wondered as a young rancher what would be the best and most efficient way of getting into owning my own ranch. After asking around and listening to a lot of different opinions I have come to the conclusion that it is best to start small. Owning a couple of cows and running with another rancher. That way you can get the snowball rolling instead of just jumping into owning a ranch.

This picture is a quick snapshot of the Rain fall simulator. They gave the demonstration at the range camp. The results on how much water was run off and how much was retained in the soil from the tilled ground and the native range was night and day. Look up some demonstrations on the Youtube.


The second workshop was a lecture by Gerald Fry. He is a bovine engineering specialist. I would encourage anyone to go check out his website. He primarily focuses on hormone function, correlated linear measurements, and indicators of butter fat content.  It is very interesting to now drive around on the ranch and look for these indicators of hormonal expression and indicators of a good cow.  He emphasized  line breeding and keeping a good line of genetics in your herd. Not to over cross your cattle. He was a pleasure to sit down with and pick his brain.

“Success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable.”― Coco Chane


The past couple of weeks have been very busy with moving cows, working calves, cutting hay and starting to get some bales on the ground. So busy I have not had a great opportunity to get emulsified into the stack of books and articles the family lent me

 to read and pick through. There is always something new to learn and ways of improving. I would invite everyone to be keeping your eyes open for workshops and camps throughout the summer no matter where you are in the world. It is always a great idea to get off of your operation and your own mindset and either learn something new or look at problems you are having from a different point of view.


Till next post “Watch your topknot “Readers.


Sam Newell