Meet the New Guy

And in the Intern Corner, standing 6’6″ with boots and hat on…. BIG Rob Foiles!

Ok, so reading that to myself I imagined the voice of the guy who always announces boxing matches, so I hope you did too!

Hi everyone, I’m Rob. I’m the 2016 intern here at Rock Hills Ranch. I hail from a family farm outside the Metropolis of Raymond, South Dakota-I believe the population has now dropped under 50 residents. I just graduated from South Dakota State University(GO JACKS!) with a degree in Agricultural Sciences and I put special emphasis on beef production and rangelands, so I think my schooling will help me here this summer!

I enjoy anything associated with cowboys-maybe because I am one- including horses, beef cows, wide open prairies, George Strait, Chris LeDoux, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, cowboy novels fill my bookshelves and I can often be found singing old-time cowboy songs.  I also am an outdoorsman; Sunday afternoons in the summer I can often be found with a fishing pole by the stock ponds, lakes and rivers or in my lazy boy snoring; and in the fall, I enjoy hunting for ducks and South Dakota’s famous ringneck pheasant.

Being from South Dakota, I don’t have any exciting 1,000 mile road trip story, but I’m always down for a good road trip when given the opportunity. My first day here at the ranch was a little over a week ago, and I remember that it was a cold, dreary day, with the clouds sputtering a raindrop here or there. After the shortest, cutest, and craziest welcoming committee I’ve ever had helped me unload my car, Luke and I grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading off on my first afternoon of work. We checked the first calf heifers, put ear tags in a few new baby calves, moved the heifers that will be bred for the first time this summer and headed to check on the yearling steers and the bulls in the sunshine-don’t like the weather in SD? Wait 5 minutes.  Luke and I then saw a black rain cloud banking up to the west and decided to finish moving the bulls to a spot where there was some older grass that needed to be eaten(more on this in future journals) and about the time that we finished herding the boys over there, CRACK! The storm had moved in faster than we predicted. Luke waived for me to follow him, and through 4 different pastures we went in what felt like someone one with a power washer at point-blank range. We got to the yard and got the 4 wheelers inside the shop and Luke said “You’re never going to let me live this down… Drag the intern through a rainstorm on his first day…I guess my prediction of when the storm would hit was a little off… Dry off and come over for supper.” Luke is right, I don’t think I can let you live that one down.

I’m excited for the months that lie ahead of me with the Perman crew; for learning about cattle, rangelands, how to manipulate the two together to get a goal achieved and a few life lessons along the way, and for all the great people I’m going to meet.  To those of you reading this that I will meet this summer, I look forward to it. And those of you that I won’t, the pictures from my smart phone doesn’t do any justice to how the Permans have taken care of this piece of land, and the squeal of the 4 kids saying “Mommy and Daddy! Mr. Rob is here!” is pretty doggone welcoming.

I’ll come up with a catchy phrase to end my journals in the next week or two, but I don’t know what it is yet.. So until next time, stay dry!

Toothpick Sam

"It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living." – Gus McCrae

Hi readers my name is Sam Newell I come from a little town in Utah named Nephi. I go to school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I met my beautiful girlfriend Lauren Wellman in a livestock and carcass evaluation class.  I will be graduating with my Bachelor's in animal science in less than two years. After I graduate, I will be attending vet school and starting my own practice if all goes as planned. First Upload Of Phone 5-10-15 688I will then start my own ranch and get that going so I can retire as an old man, with his dog and his eyes on the skyline. I also plan to have a family, probably should have throw that in there. Who knows where life will take me though! I enjoy anything outdoors. I hunt whatever is in season at the time. I like to fish when ammunition gets too expensive.  I like having bonfires and good times around the campfire. I thoroughly enjoy country music by artists such as Chris Ledoux, Garth Brooks, "The King" George Straight, Brenn Hill, Ian Tyson and the list goes on.  I would choose a night in a bedroll under the stars over a nice hotel any day.                                                                                        

After a thousand mile journey in my little car " White Lightning" I made it to Rock Hills Ranch. I was recieved the nickel tour and then went to check cows with Luke. There are two internships here on the Rock Hills Ranch; the ranch living internship and the ranch and range management internship.  I fulfill the ranch and range management internship and Miranda fulfills the ranch living internship. My duties include checking cows and calves twice a day as well as tagging, checking and fixing fence, range monitoring , bee counting later in the summer and any other jobs Luke or Lyle need accomplished.  I have been here on the ranch for just about three weeks now and have enjoyed every minute. I am learning so many new things and am  soaking up as much information out of Luke and Lyle as I can.What I really enjoy about this internship is that it is not just learning how to milk a cow or catch a calf it is how to think in a management fashion, how to problem solve and think of things through a hollistic management process (the main way of thinking here on the ranch).  They are great teachers and know what they are doing. It is an honor to have this internship.       

Till next post “Watch Your Topknot” Readers, 

Sam Newell 


Environmental Stewardship Award

We are honored to tell you that we were awarded the National Cattlemen’s Foundation National Winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award. Last fall, we were awarded the winner of Region VII which consists of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.  This week, as part of the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Antonio, we were named the national winner.  It is hard to believe, given the caliber of the other six regional winners.  

There are many people to thank.  First and most important is our Creator for giving us the creation to care for.  We are in constant awe of all that surrounds us – its complexity, simplicity, beauty, and resiliency. We are very honored to have the privilege to care for it during our tenure in this life.

Our family:  the generations that preceded us may have done things differently than what we do today, but they still passed on a love of the land and the work ethic needed to care for it. I think they would approve of what we’re trying to accomplish, even if it isn’t “the way grandpa did it”.  Our present-day family as well, for continuing to stay connected to the land and care about what happens to it. We hope to make you proud when you tell people removed from agriculture that these are your roots.  (At least we hope not to embarrass you!)

Our neighbors and business partners: the Oxner family, the Vogele family, Jeff Marlette and Jeff and Dixie Beitelspacher, the Huber family, and the Rueb family.  Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we try new and different things to improve the land.

The agency folks at the Natural Resource Conservation Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service:  too many to name, but your technical and financial help in making improvements on our place have been a huge part of getting us to where we are.

The non-agency people who care about stewardship: SD Grasslands Coalition, World Wildlife Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever.  Again, your partnership has been important in getting us here.

Our help over the years. All that fence didn’t put itself up.   There’s been a lot of people who have stayed for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months to help us get done what needed to be done. Your strong backs and willing attitude (genuine or not) have been essential to developing our infrastructure.  And you put up with us! That’s impressive in itself.

Thanks also to the sponsors of the ESAP program:
Dow AgroSciences
Natural Resources Conservation Service
US Fish & Wildlife Service
National Cattlemen’s Foundation
Tyson Foods

We are honored to receive this award and look forward to the upcoming opportunities we’ll have to advance the message of environmental stewardship and how grazing livestock are a vital part of that.

For more information on the Environmental Stewardship Program, visit