Local ranchers persevere through long winter to bring new life to the Sandhills

Local ranchers persevere through long winter to bring new life to the Sandhills

By Scott Bidroski

Maybe it’s for the glory or the recognition. If not those, it’s damn sure about the money. That’s got to be the reason these hard-working men and women spend so much time doing jobs that no one wants to do during calving season.

But wait? You are telling me it’s not about any of those things? All those 3 a.m. checks? The backwards calves? The long hauls into the barn when the Sandhills wind is pushing temps to 30 below zero?

Surely the only reason these men and women put themselves through this process is to get rich.

The reality of the matter is the craft of ranching is embedded in their bones. It’s in their DNA and has been for generations who paved the way ahead of them.

Sheridan County is home to 121,715 total head of cattle, according to the 2017 census. So there is no doubt that the ranching lifestyle is essential to the continued success of our area.

I had the pleasure of interviewing George Viher and his family this past week.

I want to thank the Viher family for letting me tag along for an hour or so and for being so welcoming to the newspaper.

This story will be a part of small series over the next few weeks, highlighting a few of the hard working ranching families in our area.

George Viher, along with his family, ranch west of Rushville.

They raise Herefords primarily, but also mix in a few very cute black baldy calves each spring out of their replacement heifers from the season previous.

The history for this family on the ranch goes back to a very interesting starting point.

George’s grandfather, also named George Viher, was originally from Pennsylvania. He joined the military during World War II and became a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Viher found himself training in the hills cuts and hills between Alliance and Bridgeport, Neb. at  jump school when he met a young woman during a weekend trip to Rushville. Her name was Vivian Dolezal and following his service in the military, George came back to Sheridan County to start a life with Vivian, as the couple were married.

They started a ranch in northern Sheridan County where George’s sister Kristina Ziller currently ranches with her family.

Family is always a key component of any farm or ranch and that theme rings true here as well.

“Everyone has to jump and help each other out,” said Viher.

“We all have activities for our kids to attend and have to be gone for other reasons so we all just answer the call and help,” he added.

A key cog in this ranching operation in George’s dad, Jiggs.

“Dad is here as well to help and he is still the boss,” said Viher with a laugh.

“He calls the shots and we listen to him. He’s earned it  and I’m still learning from him everyday,” he added.

This winter has been a unique struggle for all the ranchers in Sheridan County and beyond. Record snowfall and plunging temps have made the profession a bit of an undertaking at best. This has been felt at the Viher ranch as well.

Starting calving in January, every calf that was born had to see the barn. That created almost a 24 hour a day need to check the lot to prevent the calves from freezing.

“With the blizzards and all the snow and cold snaps, it’s been the struggle,” said Viher. 

“To be doing this I think you really have to love ranching. If you are out to make a bunch of money, you’re doing the wrong dang things,” he added.

Calving season is in the books for this ranch, as they begin the process in January. But the work is still ongoing.

That work gets done each day due to the support of family. George recognizes how important each and every one is to the operation.

“My wife, Tiffany, got me out of bed and kicked my butt out the door a few times for checks,” said Viher. 

“My sister Kristina and her family, all help as well. Everyone helps each other out as we all have the same goal of doing the best job we can,” he added.

In next week’s edition, we travel into the Sandhills to visit a ranch located deep in Sheridan County.

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