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Producing Excellence

Kory and Tina Stephensen

Fountain Green, UT

Stephensen Sheep Company

Products Raised or Grown: Sheep

Size of Operation: 2,500 head

In Business Since: 1999

Farm Credit Partner: Western Ag Credit

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1999

A dream born in childhood has come true for this young Utah rancher, who established his own sheep ranching operation in 1999 with just 100 head, and now manages a large, three-herd operation.

Kory Stephensen grew up working on his grandfather’s sheep operation, spending his summers through high school herding sheep. “When you’re little like that, it gets in your blood,” he says. At 23, he became the fifth generation of his family to become a sheep rancher, buying his first animals while also working an off-farm job. Since he already knew the business and how to care for the animals, Kory says, “All I really needed to be back in the sheep business were the sheep and grazing permits.”

He added another 100 head the next year, and then in his third year faced a new challenge: extremely low prices for the lamb he sold. However, what would be a devastating year for most sheep operators ended up being an opportunity for Kory and his new wife, Tina, to grow their operation. “Yearlings were real cheap that fall, and I bought another 200 head,” says Kory.

He continued expanding as grazing permits and sheep became available, and reached 2,000 head just four years after establishing his operation, a size that enabled him to leave his off-farm position and focus full-time on ranching. Kory now spends his time managing the operation, with four herders and a team of guard dogs caring for the sheep. In recent years, his ability to manage through the ups and downs of the lamb market has paid off, with lamb prices now at record highs. “Kory is truly a young rancher success story,” says Alan Stevens, Kory’s loan officer. “He is an excellent manager, and he has done a tremendous job growing his operation at a pace he could manage financially.” This was intentional, says Kory. “Through the years, we were gradually building up. The main goal was to pay things off; we didn’t try to get in too big of a hurry.”

For the Stephensens, life on a sheep ranch is not only the realization of a dream, it also provides a lifestyle they love. Both their children - Kysen, age seven, and Ellie Lynn, age four - love working with the sheep and enjoy the time they spend with Kory while Tina works a part-time, off-farm job. Kysen and Ellie already know all about the sheep and the ins and outs of the operation. “They are the life of the sheep ranch. The best part about it is we are always together,” says Tina. “I can’t complain - our blessings are many, and our setbacks few.”

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