Sandy and Jacki Limpert, with their son Brodie and daughter, Courtney, operate Slim Buttes Buffalo Ranch. They are third generation operators of the ranch since Sandy's great uncle, Lawrence Oliver, originally started building the ranch in the early 1920s.

Here's how the ranch began. Lawrence chose the old town of Merchison for the ranch headquarters, where it remained until the early 1950s, when the house burned down. At that time, the headquarters were relocated down the creek to the south.

Merchison was a thriving small town in the late 1800s. There was a grocery store, post office, livery stable and other businesses providing services for the many homesteaders in the area. There were also two small, privately operated coal mines on the ranch. They provided heating coal, delivered by wagon loads, to the many homesteaders. Just east of Merchison was a log school house which, for many years, was used by all the children in the area.

According to Lawrence, at one point in time, you could stand on a hill in the evening on the east side of the ranch and count the lantern lights of over 40 homestead cabins. Over the years, these small farms did not survive and Lawrence purchased many of them to expand the ranch. Lawrence, like many others in the area, raised sheep on the ranch. This was mostly due to the fact that farming was not possible.

In 1935, Sandy's father, A.W. Limpert, along with his brother, John Limpert, came to live on the ranch with Lawrence and his wife Mary. A.W. and John's father had passed away and their Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Mary decided to raise the boys. The two brothers grew up on the ranch and helped Lawrence raise sheep and eventually, some cattle. In 1955, A.W. married Kay Welch and they had five children, three boys and two girls, with Sandy being the oldest boy. The ranch continued to grow and in 1970, A.W. and Kay purchased the ranch from Lawrence. In 1985, Sandy married Jacki Johnson. That same year, A.W. passed away and Sandy and Jacki purchased the ranch from Kay and the rest of the family. Kay purchased a small farm near Nisland, South Dakota where she still resides. The rest of the family moved away to pursue other endeavors. At the time Sandy and Jacki purchased the ranch, it consisted of 7,000 acres and was stocked with 700 head of sheep and 350 head of cattle. There was an additional 1,200 acres of farm and hayland on the ranch, all of which kept them busy year round. In 1989, Sandy and Jacki purchased an additional 7,000 acres that bordered the ranch to the north and expanded the operation to 450 cows and 1,200 sheep.

In 1990, Sandy and Jacki decided they could not continue to operate the ranch with the sheep, cattle, farming and a custom haying business. Management changes were needed to curb the busy pace of the ranch and make it more manageable. They realized the ranch had a strong land base and began to explore their options with that in mind. They had both always loved buffalo and Sandy and his father had owned a few in the mid-1970s. However, Sandy and Jacki didn't think they could make a living with them until they started checking into the business and visiting with buffalo producers all over the country. Finally, a decision was made to sell the sheep and start buying buffalo.

The Limperts continued raising cattle while the buffalo were coming into production. They purchased buffalo each year and, in 1995, sold the last of the cattle.

With all the farm land returned to grass production and the sheep and cattle gone, Sandy and Jacki had time to build a feedlot to finish their excess buffalo. This has worked very well for them. In 1997, they leased an additional 4,500 acres of grass to use for backgrounding bulls which are later finished in their feedlot.

The conversion of the ranch to buffalo created a more profitable and lower labor-input operation than what the ranch had seen for several decades. Thanks to the success of their own operation, the Limperts see the buffalo industry as a way for ranches with good grass to not only survive, but to excel in agriculture. Currently, Slim Buttes is home to 500 mother cows. It produces enough grass to grow out 800 to 900 head of bulls and heifers which are then finished in the feedlot.

The Limperts have spent many years working on the feeding/finishing aspect of the buffalo industry and are regarded as producing some of the best feeder animals in the business.