Located in the central area of the state of Utah around 150 miles Southeast of Salt Lake City is the small historic community of Castle Dale. Nestled between the Manti-La Sal National Forest and the Cedar Mountain Recreational Area this sparsely populated area of the state offers an abundance of natural beauty. The area offers spectacular scenery including the Little Grand Canyon, Moab, Sid’s Mountain and more. Like other communities in this area known as Castle Country, the major economic base is farming and livestock raising as well as coal mining. The rugged natural beauty of this desert landscape blends well with the lifestyle of the rugged individuals that live there.
Duane and Kolene Gilbert, both natives of Castle Dale, own and maintain the operation known as Bar G Ranch or the Gilbert Cattle Company. The young family grew in 1973 with the birth of their daughter Mindy, the same year that Duane started a career as a coal miner as his day job. Both Kolene and Duane were active rodeo participants including in their endeavors team roping, Kolene was a heeler and Duane worked both ends of the cattle. In 1975 as a natural expansion from these rodeo activities the family purchased their first APHA (paint) stallion and ventured out into the ranching world raising their own stock. Their farm was started on 55 acres, purchased from Kolene’s father, on which they raised alfalfa hay and pastured their animals. As with so many of us, they were forced to rent additional pasture and had to buy feed to keep going. Eventually in 1994 they purchased an additional 112 acre farm on which to raise their alfalfa crops. They continued their paint horse operation until 2009, raising and selling stock used in a variety of activities including roping and rodeo work. At one point they bred as many as 25 brood mares.
Breeding and training the horses lead into the raising of roping cattle. In 1982 Duane was introduced to Watusi Ankole Cattle from the Western Horseman Magazine. From first sighting it was obvious to them that this breed could be used together with longhorns to create roping calves. They travelled to Pueblo, Colorado to meet Don Zavislan, Bill Lowe and Dean Drake. Attending the Colorado State Fair as onlookers hooked them on the breed. The purchase of a ¾ blood bull and a dozen longhorn cows began the Gilbert roping herd. The following year they purchased the Foundation pure cows Centennial and Fortune Fire, leased a Foundation bull and began a legend in the watusi industry. From this first cow, Fortune Fire, has come a legacy that can be traced through many, many herds. Fortune’s Fire, Fortune’s Fire II, Firewalker and many other familiar names will be found in pedigrees that trace back to the Gilbert’s. Fortune Fire is mainly responsible for the ‘swede’ coloration seen in so much of their herd. The majority of the famous animals raised and sold from the Bar G Ranch are Foundation Pure stock, but in the past percentage animals were also owned and sold by Duane and Kolene. One of these was Castle Queen the ¾ cow shown to Grand Champion many times by St. Francis Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. Bar G Ranch first participated in the Colorado State Fair watusi show in 1984 and have been a fixture in the show circuit ever since. They have earned countless awards with their stock over the years including multiple Grand Champion Bull and Grand Champion cow awards over and over again as well as Premier Sire and earning the Premier Exhibitor more than any other farm in the country.
The way of life in these rugged Utah hills and mountains is exhibited in the animals and the people. Some of the Bar G horses are run many months of the year on a government lease in the wilderness study area of Sid’s Mountain. While there they climb the steep canyon walls in search of food and water. There is no live water in the canyon lands and the animals explore the deep gorges in search of catch water and water holes. These cowboys actually ride the cliffs on horseback to round up the animals for the winter or whenever they need to bring their animals home.
The way of life in these rugged Utah hills and mountains is exhibited in the animals and the people. Many of the Bar G horses are run many months of the year on a government lease in the wilderness study area of Sid’s Mountain. While there they climb the steep canyon walls in search of food and water. There is no live water in the canyon lands and the animals explore the deep gorges in search of catch water and water holes. These cowboys actually ride the cliffs on horseback to round up the animals for the winter or whenever they need to bring their animals home.
In 1992 the operation was expanded to include the raising of zebra. Apparently the exposure to the exotic animal world through the Watusi was overwhelming. The first five were purchased from a friend in California building up to the present herd of Grant’s Zebra that share their lives with the family.
While adding zebra to the mix, Bar G experimented with embryo transfer work on their watusi cattle. In those early days they did most of the work themselves as far as the shots and cycling of the cows. They hired a veterinarian out of Idaho to come in and complete the process. The embyos were implanted into Holstein heifers. Their most successful flush was six eggs at one time.
One of Duane’s classic stories has to do with an entry into the Colorado State Fair where the judge while announcing his placing stated that he would have placed the Bar G cow into first place but she did not have a calf and as that is the end game for cattle, he could not place her that high. That particular cow had produced 4 calves that year by embyo transfer.
The Gilbert clan has grown over the years to include their four children Mindy 1973, Jesse 1976, Angie 1981 and Chance 1985 and 12 Grandchildren. Mindy and her husband Dean Richens have provided Ryan, Shayla, Taysia and Kade. Jesse’s children with his wife Krisie are Shailee, Stace, Trent; Angie and Gary Peacock have Chandler, Macayla and Dixson; Chance has Ethan and Lillian. Ryan, Ethan and Shayla have already been active in showing their own watusi cattle. All of the Gilbert clan were or are active with animals and rodeo. Jesse began roping when he was 8 years old, the children were participants in the Jr. Riding club, competed in horse shows and competively roped watusi at a local roping club. All of the Gilbert children roped watusi and 4 different roping clubs were using watusi cross roping steers. Mindy started roping in high school. Mindy, Jesse and Angie all qualified for Utah state finals in roping. Angie competed in Highschool as well as in College, she earned a full ride scholarship for Utah State University her roping, goat tying and barrel racing. Despite all of the family interest Duane says that his highlight was when the Grandkids started coming to the show.
Bar G has not only been a mainstay to the watusi industry, Duane has served on the Board of Directors of the World Watusi Association since the 1980’s and also has been President and Vice President multiple times. In addition to the Association work and shows, their promotion has included all 4 television channels in Salt Lake City which have done specials on the Bar G and it’s livestock as well as being featured on RFDTV, several newspapers and during the Olympic’s in the early 2000s.
Duane and Kolene are very proud of their entire family, the grown children, the grandchildren, the Watusi cattle and the zebras. Together they have amassed quite a life all about the family.