When she was two, Kelsey Ducheneaux’s father got her a Christmas gift. Not a doll or a dress, but a cattle brand.
“Ducheneaux is a pretty common name in Indian Country here, and is often abbreviated as DX,” Kelsey Ducheneaux says. “He couldn’t believe that the DX brand was available, and he snatched it right up for me.” Today Ducheneaux’s DX Ranch operates on 7,500 acres that encompasses her great-grandfather’s original 160 acres near La Plant, South Dakota, not far from the Missouri River on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
A fourth-generation rancher and enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, she raises grass-fed cattle and sells directly to the public. She also shares her Lakota heritage and ranching lifestyle through “ranch stays” in which guests learn about the work and values of ranch life, Ducheneaux says.
Guests stay in one of two furnished bunkhouses that are attached to a 200-foot-long indoor riding arena. Bunkhouses can sleep up to four each and have private baths. Each guesthouse has a kitchenette as well with a full refrigerator, but those mostly go unused as hearty meals are provided in the ranch dining room. After fueling up on a rancher’s breakfast, guests get underway with the day’s adventures.
Ducheneaux says she caters her guests’ experiences to what they want, from doing some beginning trail riding though the waving grass and rolling hills of her ranch to rolling up their sleeves and helping with repairing fencing, sorting cattle and other ranching chores. An accomplished horsewoman, Ducheneaux gives riding lessons for all skill levels in her arena or out on the range.
A typical stay is an arrival day, two full days of activities and a departure day, starting at $975. Throughout the year Ducheneaux and her team offer special horsemanship cliImage titlenics and workshops, including the Horsemanship Experience. The Horsemanship Experience is five nights, four days of intensive horsemanship work for $2,100 April 1 through October 15 (peak season) or $900 October 16 through March 31 (off-season).
Ducheneaux uses revenue from her ranch vacation-stays to fund her non-profit program, Project H3LP!, a program that teaches Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation youth “awareness, presentation and empathy” through horsemanship. Project H3LP! is designed to help foster responsible development in youth through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual foundations, Ducheneaux says.
“Working with horses interacts with all of those aspects, and our youth can apply what they learn to other areas of their life including family, jobs, education and relationships with other people.”
Ducheneaux has incorporated traditional Lakota land stewardship and has improved her ranchland-prairie through conservation techniques she learned earning natural resources and range management degrees from North Central University and Colorado State University. She employs conservation practices such as reintroducing mixed grasses and using cross fencing to control grazing pressure and other stewardship techniques to greatly improve her land’s health and production.Image title
“Since we’ve been doing this, our vegetation is way up,” she says. “We have a variety of robust grasses that make for a longer growing season.”
The DX Ranch used to sell only to wholesale meat producers, but in recent years has moved its business model to sell directly to the public.
“It makes me feel really good knowing that our cattle’s life destinies are to provide good food to our neighbors, and that the cattle had good lives, as well,” she says. “I believe people should have full transparency in their food sources. That’s the principle DX Beef has always stood behind, and we’ve gained a lot of customers in 2020. I don’t foresee them going back, because there’s so much comfort in knowing exactly where your food is coming from and that it’s safe.”
The exponential increase in business has Ducheneaux exploring establishing her own butchering facility to keep up with demand. And she says she looks forward to continuing to share her family’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation heritage with guests who are interested in food sourcing, ranch skills and horsemanship. She’s also hoping to continue the expansion of Project H3LP!, and all the while is earning her Ph.D. in Education
“Here at the ranch, it’s the easiest hello and the hardest goodbye,” she says. “We were taught to always have the coffee on and to have enough food for everyone. Everybody is always welcome here.”
For more information about DX Ranch beef sales, visit DXBeef.com. To learn more about ranch stays, visit TheDXRanch.com, and for Project H3LP! visit www.projecth3lp.org.