The Historic T Lazy S Ranch of Nevada
Irish immigrant named William Dunphy founded the historic
T Lazy S ranch, located in northern Nevada. At this
ranch today, a blend of the old with the new is put into
operation. This historic ranch is still run as a traditional
“buckaroo cow outfit” while utilizing new technologies and
advancements in managing land, livestock and wildlife.
T Lazy S
is located in northern Nevada between the towns of Elko
and Battle Mountain. William Dunphy and a partner
by the between the towns of Elko and Battle Mountain.
William Dunphy and a partner by the name of Hildreth came
from California and began looking for business opportunities
in Northern Nevada. They settled in Boulder Valley,
near the present ranch headquarters, and turned their cattle
herds loose on the “open range.” There were no fences
in those days and the country was “open.” Dunphy and
his partner began to develop, irrigate, and fence wild hay
meadows. Throughout the 1870s these men expanded their
cattle and hay operations. By putting together large
blocks of government and railroad lands, they began to control
vast amounts of open rangeland and wild hay meadows.
In 1875 Dunphy and Hildrith were
to run over 40,000 head of cattle in two areas. One
herd was in TS headquarters). The other herd ranged
in southwestern Idaho near the Snake River.hy continued
to expand and improve his cattle operation. He “fenced
up” oIn the late 1870s, Dunphy bought out Hildrith’s interest
in the Nevada ranch. Dunphy continued to expand and
improve his cattle operation. He “fenced up” over
20,000 acres where he developed and improved native grass
meadows through irrigation. This was all done to put
up hay for winter to feed the weaker cattle during the cold
northern Nevada winters. This haying, irrigating,
and fencing practice was new to Nevada at that time.
Most cattle outfits wintered their cattle “outside” on the
open range with no supplemental hay fed. Only the
strongest cattle survived the tough Nevada winters
cattle herd continued to prosper until the terrible winter
of 1889-90 when, despite the Dunphy ranch reserves of hay
that had been cut and put up in stacks and fed with teams
of work horses, over 10,000 head of cattle perished.
never “weakened” but launched into rebuilding his cow numbers
that spring. He changed from Shorthorns to the Hereford
breed of cattle during this rebuilding period. When
Dunphy died in 1914, the ranch was running in excess of
20,000 head of cows under 23 different branding irons.
The most widely known of the irons was the T Lazy S.
It is thought that Dunphy acquired the T Lazy S brand, registered
in 1873, from Hobert & Simonds of Elko County, Nevada.
What this brand stood for has been lost in time. However,
the ranch today is just called the TS because those who
work there jokingly say “There is nothing lazy about this
outfit!” each received a fourth of the balance. The
ranch began to dwindle in size as portions of land were
sold off by the Dunphy family. Since that time, what
was left of the historic ranch has been owned by several
individuals and corporations. The TS was purchased
by Newmont Mining Corp in 1984. The purchase was primarily
for mining access, mineral and water rights. Approximately
10,000 acres is used for gold mining purposes. The
balance of the ranch is used for cattle grazing and raising
irrigated alfalfa hay. Wildlife is also a major concern
on this ranch. The TS is not just a cattle and hay
ranch. With the parent company Newmont Mining as a
partner, the ranch also focuses its efforts on enhancing
wildlife habitat and improving water quality.
Gralian is the Manager of Agriculture and Ranching Operations,
and has been at the helm since 1993. Under his supervision,
there is a farm crew, a ranch crew, and a buckaroo crew.
Manager Gralian says, “The key to running a ranch of this
size is hiring good people and keeping them.” Twelve years
ago, when he first took over as manager of the TS, the crew
was mostly single men that liked to move around. Today,
most of the twenty full time employees staffing the ranch
are married, with families. Most of the seasonal employees
remain single. All TS employees, both married and
single, live on the ranch in housing provided by the Company.
In the time-honored tradition of the Great Basin Buckaroo,
the single members of the ranch crew and farm crew live
in separate bunkhouses from the buckaroo crew.
TS Ranch being owned by Newmont Mining Corp, the full time
employees receive the same outstanding benefit package that
the gold miners do. With complete medical, dental
and life insurance, the crew also has a pension plan and
can participate in a 401(K) savings program, with the Company
matching the first six percent in Newmont stocks. Dan Gralian
says that they may have the only buckaroos in the country
“with a 401(K) Program, Pension Plan, and free membership
to the local health club in Elko.”
“You need to have stability in your crew.” This all
sounds good but how do you accomplish this task? Gralian
continues, “If you are looking for longevity in your employees
then you need to recruit, interview, and hire people that
are stable and interested in a long term commitment
“If you are going to keep good people, than you have to
treat them right.”
“Once you have hired a good employee, you need to keep him
and there are four essential ingredients in keeping good
They must have Self Respect.
Employees should receive a livable wage and be able
to support their family.
They should have decent housing or living quarters.
They need to have adequate time off, away from their
The TS Ranch
is managed and run by “real people” with family values and
a sense of tradition.
buckaroo crew is run by cowboss Doug Groves. Doug’s
crew is responsible for the care and welfare of 4,000 cows,
180 bulls, 500 replacement heifers, and, at times, several
thousand yearling cattle run on irrigated pasture.
Doug has been in this position since 1993. He was
born and raised in Elko, Nevada. Although Doug grew
up living in town, all he ever wanted to be was a Great
Basin buckaroo. Doug is living his dream. He
is also an accomplished rawhide braider. His rawhide
work is much sought after and he has taught several rawhide
braiding classes at the Elko National Poetry Gathering.
“Everything we do with cattle on this ranch we do horseback.
Cattle walk everywhere they go.” This sounds like
a romantic way to make a living until you realize how big
400,000 acres really is. That figures out to be a
whole bunch of horse tracks made on the old TS in a year’s
his family, along with his buckaroo crew of 5 to 6 men,
live several miles east of the headquarters at the Dunphy
Ranch. Most of Doug’s crew is made up of single buckaroos.
Gabe Williams, the leadoff man, is married with a family
and has been with the ranch several years.
and his crew start their replacement colts at the Dunphy
buckaroo camp each year. A “cavvy” of 75 horses is kept
at the Dunphy camp. Each buckaroo is assigned 5 to
7 horses for his “string” of saddle horses depending upon
the season and work. These horses are selected by
the cowboss and are assigned as to each man’s ability.
In this string of horses each man will have a “big circle”
horse or two to gather cattle outside on. He will
also have an “inside horse” to brand calves on in a small
branding trap. There will be a young horse or two
in the string that need to be used for some of the easier
circles. Each buckaroo is held responsible for shoeing
his own string of horses. Most of the younger horses
are ridden with a snaffle bit and McCarty set up.
When they have more experience, some of the horses are moved
up to the “two-rein” in preparation to making a “straight-up
bridle horse.” Dan Gralian says this about buckaroos,
“You sure enough need stability in your buckaroo crew –
But you still need the “young guns” that are fearless on
horseback. The kind that will take off after a cow
breaking away from a “rodear” going 90 through the sagebrush,
dodging badger holes and such, take their rope down, catch
her and hold her.”
Gralian shared his philosophy about the TS Cattle.
“Because this ranch is so large and the range so diverse,
we have worked to develop a cowherd that fits the environment
rather than try to make the environment fit the cattle.
this, the TS cattle are divided into three distinct cowherds.
English Cross Herd
These cattle that are primarily Angus or Red Angus crosses
from a Hereford base with some Gelbvieh blood.
They are moderate in frame and very maternal.
They are run in large pastures with well developed water
and some improved seedings. As beef, marble very
well and therefore tend to grade choice. They
are targeted towards the “white tablecloth” restaurant
trade. Most of the ranch’s replacement heifers
are selected from this group.
Mature Angus and Red Angus type cows
from the English Cross Program are bred to large framed
Charolais bulls. These fully grown cows are moderate
enough to be run “outside” under range conditions,
yet are still large framed enough to be bred to
high birth-weight Charolais bulls. They are run
in lower elevation rangelands and smaller pastures with
easy access to water. The advantage to this
cross is that they wean heavy, large framed calves.
As beef, they don’t generally “marble up” and grade
as high as the straight English cross, but their yield
is tremendous. They are targeted towards the retail
Brahman Cross Herd
This cowherd was developed to get more complete utilization
of the ranches roughest rangeland. These
¼ to 1/8 Brahman cross cows are run in rough, steep
country, where feed is scarce and water is limited.
Most are solid color and have moderate ear and no hump.
They are bred back to Red and Black Angus bulls.
The calves from the Brahman cross program are unique
in that they have good hair coasts feed well in both
northern and southern feed lots year around. Their
feed conversion in the feedlot is not as efficient as
the English Cross but they yield and grade well.
Their big advantage is that they are “big country” cattle
that like to travel at a trot. They are without
a doubt, the buckaroo’s favorite.
yearlong cycle here on the TS goes this way:
begin calving in March. We calve outside, unassisted,
in big pastures where the cattle can remain free of sickness
and disease. We are about 95% “branded up” by mid-July.
We wean in October. We place the weaned calves in
our 4,000 head “warm up” feedlot here on the ranch.
The ranch, using excess water from the gold mining de-watering
operations, has approximately 6,000 acres of farm ground,
under pivot sprinkler irrigation. Mostly alfalfa hay
is grown, along with some barley, which is used in the cattle-feeding
program at our feedlot. The calves weigh between 450
to 500 pounds at weaning. After weaning they are vaccinated
and sorted into contemporary groups by sex, size and color.
The calves are placed on a “grower” ration. The buckaroo’s
“ride pens” daily and doctor any sick calves they may find.
This 60-day warm up or “Back-grounding Program” is designed
to grow the
calves out to around 600 to 650 pounds. The calves
are “bunk broke” and free of any sickness or disease.
We sort off the replacement heifers and sell the balance
of the calf crop on the video auction for December delivery.
These “six weight” calves are purchased by buyers who place
them in “finishing” feedlots located closer to the grain
belt, where they are grown and fattened to a finish weight
of 1,200 pounds. By Christmas, our calves are
gone and the feedlot is shut down. Our cowherd is
out on winter pasture, where they will remain until we run
out of grass or we are “snowed under”. We will than
gather them to the feed grounds and feed them until spring
grass, which generally comes sometime in March. We
are calving again by then and thus the start of another
4,000 mother cows on this ranch, branding calves takes up
a big part of the buckaroos’ time during the months of May,
June and July. To get around over 400,000 acres and
brand several thousand calves turned outside with their
mothers is no small task.
We were invited
to a branding with the TS buckaroos during the first part
of June. We arrived at the Dunphy camp well before
daylight and ate a big hearty breakfast fixed by Doug’s
wife Patti and daughter Kat. We then moved to the
horse barn where the horses had been caught and were being
saddled. Two neighbors, good hands in their own rights,
showed up with their horses in their stock trailer.
The Chapin Brothers, Gerry and Charley, who are well known
in northern Nevada, were lending a hand for the day’s branding.
loaded the buckaroo horses in a couple of goose-necked horse
trailers and headed out for the Coyote Camp in the extreme
northeastern corner of the TS ranch. When we got into
the country to be worked, Doug unloaded the horses and “cut
each hand a circle” to gather and we went ahead with pickups
and horse trailers and unloaded the branding pots, branding
irons, medicine box, and lunch in the corrals at the Coyote
Camp. We waited out the buckaroo crew at the corrals.
few cows with calves began to drift toward the branding
trap. Soon we could see riders on the skyline with
a string of cows and calves ahead of them. When the
cow and calves were all inside in the trap, Doug and his
crew separated the bulls that had come in with the cows
& calves. The bulls were put outside the corral.
The branding pots were lit from propane tanks, irons were
heated and the branding began. There were about 250
calves to brand that day. These calves were “necked
“ ( roped around the neck) and drug near the fire by the
buckaroos. Then they were heeled and stretched out.
(This is the Nevada way of branding bigger calves)
These calves were some of the Brahman-cross calves and they
were very active on the end of a rope. The bulls calves
were castrated. These calves were ear marked in the left
ear and steer calves had the right ear slit to make it easier
to see in the alley at the feedlot when the cattle are “processed”
separating steer calves from heifer calves in October.
Calves were branded with the T Lazy S brand on the left
hip and the replacement heifers were branded on the left
shoulder with a year brand, in this case a 4 for the year
they were born, 2004. 4-way shots were given.
Horns were cut off, as the ranch does not want horned cattle.
the branding was completed, the cows and calves were all
put back together in the corral and allowed to “mother up.”
This is very important so that the ranch did not end up
with a bunch of “bummed” calves (calves that had lost their
back to the Dunphy Ranch. The day horses were turned
out to roll and fresh horses for the next morning were caught
from the “cavvy” and placed in a “ketch” pen for morning.
The entire scenario would be repeated the next day and many
other days after until all of the newborn calves on the
ranch were branded.
Gralian said, “It is a lot of work to do what we are doing
with our cattle on the TS Ranch. The crossbreeding
program and the “back grounding” of our calves in our feedlot
takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of labor.
However, it must be working because the same buyers keep
coming back year after year to bid on TS Calves. When
the gold is all gone and the mines have closed, these vast
rangelands will still be here and cattle will still be grazing
these hills. And you’ll no doubt find a buckaroo trotting
through the sagebrush, just as they were in the 1870’s,
when William Dunphy ran the now historic T Lazy S Ranch.”
information about the TS Ranch contact:
Dan L. Gralian
Agricultural and Ranching Operations
The TS Ranch
places major emphasis on the preservation and enhancement
of wildlife and habitat. One practice on the TS Ranch
that illustrates their careful stewardship of the land and
range is use of a “Riparian rider.” The ranch places
a rider with the cattle during the summer grazing season.
Dallas Kelley, TS buckaroo, right in the photo above, and
his colts camp out with the cattle during the summer months.
His job is to ride the riparian areas (areas adjacent to
streams or springs) and keep the cattle from ”kegging up”
(staying too long) on these areas.
have large numbers of cattle, concentrating on a small piece
of country with limited water supply, you can have problems.
The key to grazing riparian areas is timing and level of
usage. Cattle come down from the upper levels of rough
canyons to get a drink. Dallas gives them adequate
time to drink, then rides into the cattle, and heads them
back to the upland country. Cattle soon learn that
when a horseback rider shows up, it is time to leave the
water and look for grazing elsewhere.
is a double win situation for the TS Ranch, since Dallas
is putting needed miles on the colts and controlling cattle
usage on the riparian areas at the same time.
When the TS ran a Wagon