IMG_2887Snuggled up against the Santa Rita mountain range in southern Arizona is the Santa Rita Ranch which has been in operation for over a hundred years and in the hands of the McGibbon family for coming up on 50 years. To get to the ranch, you must drive through the retirement town of Green Valley, followed by a trek up a long, dusty dirt road, slowly climbing in elevation. At the base of the mountain sits the headquarters of the ranch.  As you step out of your car, you’ll be greeted by the ranch dogs first and then by Andrew and Micaela McGibbon and their kids, who are the ranch owners and managers. A family with true ranching heritage coursing through their blood, they welcome scheduled visitors with open arms as it provides a way to share what they do in what seems to be the middle of nowhere.

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Drew and Micaela McGibbon

Arizona Beef Council: What kind of cattle do you raise?

Drew McGibbon: Red Angus cattle, primarily. The red color is a recessive gene within the Angus breed. In 1954, the red Angus cattle broke away from the black Angus cattle and began their own registry. We raise these cattle because we feel they are more docile than their black counterparts. We chose our cattle carefully and only keep those we can walk through without any trouble. As we began planning a family, we felt that it was important to have cattle the kids could be around and help work. They are just gentle, friendly cattle.

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The McGibbon’s youngest showing off one of the water tanks where cattle and wildlife can drink.

ABC: Water is a big deal out here. How do you keep your cattle watered properly?

DM: One of our biggest obstacles is water. To give you an idea, between Sonoita and Green Valley there is not one year-round water supply for wildlife that is natural – meaning no flowing water, which is typical of Arizona. We have built infrastructure to allow water to be spread across our ranch. This is a positive for many reasons. It allows us and our cattle to use the land more efficiently. Cattle tend to stay close to a water source leaving a chance for some areas to be under grazed and the areas around the water source overgrazed. By using fences to create pastures and investing in watering systems, it encourages the cattle to graze in more places. This is also a benefit to wildlife, as we provide about eighty sources of water to wildlife year-round. Even when we don’t have cattle in a pasture, the water tanks are full and provide water. We’re proud of that. It is our responsibility to provide water at every single one of these sources even though cattle may not be in that area as wildlife come to relay and need these water sources. Our furthest line is about 70 miles long which means we are pumping water out to that remote area that didn’t have a previous year-round source of water. There is probably about 3 to 3.5 times that in total water lines we’ve installed. Water is our goal.

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Taking care of the land is a priority for the McGibbon family.

ABC: How do you care for the land you use?

DM: Cattle are present in one area, called a pasture, for a certain amount of time. Typically, they are in one pasture for a longer period of time in the winter months. In the summer, we have a plan in place that allows the grass to regrow as we move the cattle out of each pasture. We try to mimic the natural grazing patterns of bison. Bison typically only stay in one area for a short period of time before moving on to graze in another area. During the winter months, the grass is more dormant so there isn’t much growth, meaning cattle can stay a little longer. In the summer, when we hopefully have rain, the grasses will grow very quickly. It will turn green almost overnight. Grasses will go to seed and start the reproductive cycle, in some varieties, as fast as five to six days. We move the cattle in and out of each pasture quickly, so the grasses have a chance to go through the reproductive cycle without damage.

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Moving cattle from pasture to pasture helps ensure the health of the land and the grasses which grow there.

ABC: Arizona is made up of a little bit of private land and lots of federal and state land. How does this affect your ranch?

DM: Federal permits are considered public land. State trust land is private land which belongs to the state trust. Parcels of federal and state land can be leased out for grazing. The grazing fees for state land can go to many things but some parcels go straight into K-8 education. Every ranch and lease are different because there are different state trusts. When we pay a grazing fee on a certain portion on our ranch, it goes straight to education but some of them might be a trust for the state mental hospital, some of it is for prisons, and the list goes on. You can look on a state land map of Arizona to see where grazing fees go. The vast majority of the grazing fees go to K-8 education. Funding for K-8 education comes from a rancher!

Even though our ranch is made up of federal, state, and private lands, it is all treated as one. It’s our responsibility to take care of all the land on our ranch as best as possible.

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The McGibbons raise red Angus cattle. Pictured is one of their bulls.

ABC: How do you care for the health of your cattle?

DM: We have many practices in place to ensure our cattle are treated in the best manner possible which helps to keep our animals healthy. Our cattle receive a vaccination which helps protect them against Bovine Respiratory Disease. The only other routine injection they get that isn’t a vaccine is called Multimin, which is a trace mineral supplement, very similar to what you’d get if you took a multivitamin. We give it to our animals because they are going from different elevations and going from different quality of forages here on our ranch. They could be going from a pasture that is perfectly abundant in about every trace mineral an animal needs, such as selenium and phosphorus, and then they move into a pasture that is lacking a complete mineral package just due to different soil types. In the southern part of the range, we have about three to four pastures that are deficient in copper. When we give them the trace mineral, it will leave a little bump under the skin on their neck. Over about the course of ninety days, it will slowly release into the bloodstream leaving them with a consistent trace mineral. Our ranch goes from 2,900 feet in elevation to 8,200 feet so it’s just a whole different world from one end to the other.

One of the biggest questions we have is, “Are you pumping them full of antibiotics?” The short answer is, no.

We use a product called Draxxin. This is the only antibiotic we have on this entire ranch. This bottle is very expensive, almost $2,000. The point is that this bottle should last years. If we need to give a sick animal an antibiotic to keep an animal alive, we will absolutely give it. It is our responsibility to take care of that animal. Do we give haphazard injections of antibiotics just because? Absolutely not. That’s $2000. I can’t afford to do that. We do want to keep the animals healthy and we don’t want them to suffer.

Draxxin is considered the best there is and that’s the reason we buy it. It works really well. You give it to them once and once only. If the animal does not survive with that then it wasn’t meant to survive. This medication is only given out by a veterinarian and is under strict guidelines as to how it is given. The label is very specific about the dosage that you give. Draxxin is labeled for use in beef cattle including sucking calves, non-lactating dairy cattle, veal calves, and swine. It is very specific.

On the same label, there is a residue warning: “Cattle intended for human consumption must not be slaughtered within 18 days from the last treatment. Do not use this in female dairy cattle 20 months of age or older. Swine intended for human consumption must not be slaughtered within 5 days of the last treatment.”

Micaela McGibbon: All antibiotics have withdrawal times. I’m a 4-H leader and all the kids in 4-H who raise livestock are also taught and follow this. They learn that you have to read your label and you have to write down if your animal is treated, when it was treated and how it was treated with how much. The label goes as far as to call out animal weights and gives the specific dosage for the specific weights. The kids have to go through this because what they are doing is raising an animal for human consumption, just like we are doing as ranchers. When it comes to treating animals, we do what is necessary because it’s not fair for an animal to suffer but we don’t overdo it.

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Micaela is always happy to share her passion for raising cattle and caring for the land.

ABC: Veterinarians are an important part of the health protocol decisions for your cattle. How do you work with your veterinarian?

DM: We might not have a veterinarian visit us for every sick animal because it’s hard to find a large animal veterinarian who is available and who works close to our ranch. The veterinarian we use is in Willcox, about two hours away. There are no other veterinarians close by! There isn’t a lot of money in large animal vetting but there is quite the demand and, in our state, there aren’t a whole lot of them. We keep a close eye on our animals and have our vet on speed dial. The close working relationship we have with our vet allows him to keep track of the Draxxin and the Multimin we use. This is important to ensure we have veterinarian oversight at all times.

It’s in our best interest and the consumers’ best interest if we have an animal which is well-tended to. We want a healthy animal. Arizona cattle tend to be very healthy because they are in open areas and the desert is a semi-sterile environment. It’s hot and dry which means not a whole lot is growing in terms of pathogens. Because of that, we could easily go a year without touching the Draxxin. We do everything we can so that when our cattle leave here, they will produce the highest quality beef possible.

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The youngest McGibbon helping to give a little extra TLC to a calf.

ABC: How do you handle your cattle?

DM: Temple Grandin is an amazing animal science professor who also happens to be autistic. She was a good friend of mine and one of my major professors at Colorado State University. She helps to develop devices like the hydraulic chute system we use at our ranch.

Temple Grandin, because she is autistic, experiences things differently so she helped reinvent slaughterhouse facilities. All of the systems on this ranch that we use to handle cattle are based on what she’s taught us. She will go through a facility that handles cattle on her hands and knees. She’ll look around, she’ll sit down and stare down the alleyway. She’ll tell you to move your hat or move that thing or say I need light there and a door open there, and a door closed there. She knows exactly how the animal will respond to different stimulations. When we have animals coming through our chute system, it is very important that we have our large roll-up door open because it’s located at the end of the system and they see light which they will go to. Our lighting needs to be indirect, meaning no spotlights. Just like with humans, it’s not comfortable to have a spotlight in your eyes. When we do our lighting, it needs to be an evenly distributed. There is rhyme and reason to the solid sides on the alleyway. When the animal is standing in the alleyway, waiting to come into the chute, we reduce the risk of the animal being spooked by a person walking by or some other distraction. The animals stand calmly because they don’t see anything around them.

We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to reduce stress and fear. There is a reason for how all of this is put together. A lot of ranchers are following Temple’s principals or adapting them to suit their needs. That’s why we have these facilities here.

Meet Your Rancher: Ashlee Mortimer

I consider myself fortunate to have been raised in the farming and ranching community. Growing up, I’ve watched this group of people that grow and raise our country’s food do so with dedication and passion for the land they care for, the animals they are raising, and the people they are feeding.IMG_3052

My family runs an agritourism farm and cattle ranch called Mortimer Farms and Ranches in Dewey, Arizona. I get to call myself the Marketing Manager for our family’s farm which means I write blog posts, post lots of exciting news, events, and stories on our social media channels, design flyers, billboards, and signs, and handle all public relation topics. I also get to drive tractors, teach kiddos how to pick veggies, plant crops, take pictures, watch baby cows walk for the first time, and work cattle. I seriously have the best job ever! After I graduate from the University of Arizona in December, I hope to work for a non-profit agriculture organization in their marketing and public relations department as well as continuing to work on my family’s farm and ranch. Now let’s talk about the good stuff… cattle!

The past months have been the driest on record for many Northern areas of Arizona. Yavapai County, the area we call home, has received less than 30% of the normal rainfall this year. At one-point, homes in Prescott Valley were even asked to cut water usage, do laundry on scheduled days, and water their lawns and plants on others. The decrease in the rain doesn’t only affect homeowners. The drought has greatly impacted farmers, ranchers and can potentially affect our food supply.

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A current map of Arizona showing the extreme drought situation we are currently in. More information on the drought can be found here: http://bit.ly/2QIXpKr

Our farm and ranch are greatly affected by the drought. Our water pumping costs have gone up drastically and our cattle just about ran out of grass to eat.

I remember a Sunday afternoon not too long ago when we went out to check cows. Everything looked dead and the grass was just about all eaten down. It is at this point, in a normal year, we would move the cattle to the next pasture – a pasture filled with tall grasses, new growth, and a filled stock tank from which the cattle could drink. Unfortunately, mother nature foiled our plans and that next pasture, the one we had planned to move cattle to since the beginning of the year, had no water. The stock tank was dry. And the pasture which was next in the rotation for our cattle to graze didn’t look any better.

Due to the drought and lack of grass and water, we were forced to sell 95% of our calf crop from the last 2 years, move a 10,000-gallon portable water storage tank and trough system to the pasture with no water, buy an Army water truck, and found ourselves hauling water day in and day out to the cattle.

The Army water truck driving job was passed from one member of the family to the next. At one point my dad and I were driving down the road and we saw the big truck driving past us, but there was no driver to be seen. We soon realized Kolten, my little brother, was driving the truck and was just short enough that we couldn’t see him over the steering wheel.

It was a daily team effort hauling water and hay, pushing cows into new areas with more feed, and finding the baby calves that were left behind, usually in the dense brush.

I never had much time to plan if I am needed to help move these calves and I somehow always seem to be wearing shorts when I got the call. My job (with the help of my cattle dog – Stella) is to run through the thick bush and push the calves out and back with the herd. Now picture me running through, under, and jumping over dense, pokey, dead brush with shorts on. For weeks my legs looked like I was attacked by a feral cat.

Hauling water, hay, and moving cattle was only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. As each day passed, we watched the grass quality deteriorate and eventually get close to depletion in the pasture the cattle were grazing. Each pasture lasted less time and just when we moved the cattle into a new one it was time to move them somewhere else again. We either needed to figure out a way to provide food and water to our cattle in a more sustainable fashion or we needed to sell them.

My dad, Gary, is a big proponent of using the latest technology and practices in his job as a farmer and a rancher. The challenges the drought brought to our business were no different. He used technology and modern practices to combat the effects the drought had on our cattle and on the bottom line. We implemented a grazing technique, very uncommon in Arizona, called intensive grazing.

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This photo shows how the pastures are separated and the drastic difference from the land which has been grazed and that which hasn’t.

This practice puts cattle on small sections of land. The cattle eat all the forages in a short amount of time and then are moved to the next section. We decided to utilize the farmland we were going to grow hay on to implement this type of grazing. We began by planting and growing 30 acres of sorghum-sudangrass. We then, through trial and error, sectioned off one-acre areas by taking a small tractor diagonally across the field with the bucket of the tractor scraping the ground. The tractor pushes down the 15 feet tall grass to make room for a 2-strand temporary electric fence to be put up.

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This simple two strand tempory fence allows for easy movement of our cattle from one area to the next.

After this is done, it is time for the cattle to eat all this grass! 300 cattle are put on this one-acre section of farm-grown sorghum-sudangrass. The cattle enter the section and in one day the entire acre of 15-foot-tall grass is gone. It is like a buffet for cows! At this point, 15 minutes is taken to move the 2-strand electric fence to make a new one-acre section, the gate is opened, 300 cattle move into the next section, and the process starts all over again.

The cattle know the system now and wait by the gate as we move the fencing around. The whole herd of cattle runs into the next section and for a few hours disappear in the very tall grass. It is really is a site to see!

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The cattle enjoying the benefits of intensive grazing.

I asked my dad about the benefits of this type of grazing for the farm and the cattle. 

Why did you decide to do this type of grazing, besides the drought impact?
We are able to grow a crop and not have to use labor, resources, or money to harvest this crop. If we had grown hay in these same fields we would have spent lots of resources cutting, baling, hauling, storing, and then ultimately feeding it to the same cattle that are eating it straight from the field now. 

Is sorghum sudangrass good for the cattle?
Sorghum-sudangrass is a protein-rich grass for the cattle to eat. It also adds nutrients back into the soil.

Will you only use this grazing practice on sorghum sudangrass?
High-intensity grazing can be done in corn fields, sorghum-sudangrass fields, ditches, sorghum alfalfa blend fields, in native grass pastures, and pretty much everywhere else grasses and grains grow.

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High-intensity grazing can be done in corn fields, sorghum-sudangrass fields, ditches. Pretty much anywhere grasses and grains grow.

How does this gazing affect the farmland?
Intensive grazing not only combats the lack of range grasses my family’s ranch has but it also helps the farmland. Each crop grown in a field takes specific nutrients out of the field and puts specific nutrients back into the soil. Due to this, farmers rotate where they grow certain things (i.e. corn, pumpkin, grasses, etc.). The grass grown for the intensive grazing practice not only added a crop to our rotation but also adds more nutrients back into the soil. It also helps with the fertilization of our farmland. The higher density of cattle paired with short grazing periods allows for even manure distribution and an increase of nitrogen back on the land. The cattle act as a living fertilizing system!

How does this grazing affect the ranch lands?
Higher intensity grazing for a shorter duration allows for a longer rest period for the plant to recover fully which promotes the regrowth and in turn, is beneficial for the environment and for the cattle.

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Sometimes the cattle are hard to see but they are there!

Is there anything negative about this type of grazing method?
Anyone would see this type of grazing method as a different management system. This scares some people away from change because there is so much to learn and implement. Overall, the benefits of this program for the land and the animals outweigh the efforts that would need to be taken to implement the program.

Do you see yourself using this practice after the drought is over and the grasses have grown back on the ranch?
Many ranches in the cattle belt use this type of grazing to increase their herd size which in turn positively affects their bottom line. This type of grazing is definitely something we will continue to work with and add to our long-term plan for our native range grazing and our crop grazing.

Intensive grazing saved our cattle herd and our ranch’s bottom line! This way of grazing and feeding our cattle has allowed us to keep ranching through the drought and continue our efforts to care for and protect our animals and the land we raise them on. This is a job that my family and I love very much, and we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to raise cattle and care for the land.

In June, sixteen culinary experts from across the country got a taste of the beef industry during the Pasture to Plate Beef Tour, sponsored by beef councils in California, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. Invited to the checkoff-funded event were the culinary chairs responsible for the 28 International Culinary Schools at the Art Institutes across the country. The non-profit Art Institutes operate the largest system of culinary schools in the United States.

The tour featured a visit to a cow-calf ranch, feedlot and the JBS beef processing facility in northern Colorado, along with presentations from beef experts that helped the culinary leaders understand beef’s role in a sustainable food system, and ideas for incorporating sensory and beef umami exercises into their classrooms. Attendees also had an opportunity to participate in a beef cooking competition that demonstrated their culinary talents.chefs on wagonThe spark for development of this tour was generated last fall during the California Beef Council’s Beef Leadership Summit, according to the CBC’s Christie Van Egmond, director of retail and foodservice marketing, who helped organize the tour. At that time Dave Hendricksen, the national culinary director for the Art Institutes, expressed interest in giving the Institutes’ culinary leaders more backgrounding in the beef industry.

“This is a great way to connect the next generation of chefs with those who produce the food,” Hendricksen said. He said it was “critical” that information this type of event provides gets carried down from the participating culinary leaders to the students in culinary schools studying to be chefs or operation managers.chefs in kitchenStanding out to those attending the tour was the well-being of animals throughout the process, Hendricksen said. “The constant theme of this event was animal welfare and the care for the environment,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Arizona is home to the Arts Institute of Phoenix that includes a large culinary program. The Arizona Beef Council sponsored Chef Noel Ridsdale, culinary program chair, to attend the national tour. Here is Chef Noel’s feedback about his experience.

Chef Noel:

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Arizona Beef Council for sponsorship of my attendance at the beef checkoff-funded Pasture to Plate Beef Tour for the Art Institutes (AI). This experience was very educational and collaborative in the ways that we were able to connect with the beef council professionals, as well as with each of the AI national directors individually.Noel in kitchenThe tour started on a high note with a tour of a Colorado ranch, with some great knowledge shared by the breeders on how the cattle are treated, the process for the birthing and production management. The aspects of feed analysis and herd health were very interesting. We had dinner on the ranch, and the chef turned out to be an alum of AI, and his selection of items and ways to use beef was very good.

The trip to the packing plant was very interesting. I have been in Certified Angus Beef processing facilities before but never in a mainline producer. This was one of the highlights of the tour for me. I was very interested in the sanitation, inspection process and the zero waste production aspects of the tour. I cut meat myself, but my skills do not match the speed and accuracy of the cutters on the floor there. Watching the entire process enlightened me to the accuracy and technical aspects of production but at the same time still marveled at the human element that is still involved in the process.chefs in Culinary CenterThe science of the feedlot was interesting, and it was great to see that the industry is using green technology by utilizing byproducts of other industries, such as the beer industry. This use of their byproducts as opposed to just corn would add more flavor to the beef.

The presentations on the science of beef and the practical cooking aspects were very good, and our recipes will be featured on www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com soon. Overall, experiencing these aspects of beef production gave me additional knowledge that I am able to utilize in my classrooms.

Thank you very much for the opportunity!

Noel G. Ridsdale, MBA, CEC, CCA, AAC

Program Chair – AI Phoenix


Editor’s Note: The Art Institute of Phoenix is closing December 28, 2018 due to unfortunate circumstances. The Arizona Beef Council is glad to have met Chef Noel and we look forward to working with him in his next ventures.

You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin was raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Southeastern, AZ. This experience sparked her interest and career path in natural resource management, agricultural policy, and agriculture communications. She has worked with the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona’s Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and continues to promote agriculture through her current position at the Arizona Farm Bureau. Whenever time permits, she is back at the ranch helping her family run their beef business, running trails in preparation for “fun runs,” or writing.

Here are her thoughts on the urban agriculture divide and why we are all more alike than different.  

Agriculture has been taking place for the last 10,000 years, and yet, ranchers and farmers are now the minority? What the heck happened?

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With agriculture, humans traded the harsh uncertainty of nomadic life for the somewhat more predictable and controllable agrarian lifestyle. An improvement, for sure. In exchange for their time and dedication to caring for plants and animals, humans were afforded more abundant food supplies, health, wealth, leisure, and the ability to trade for goods that could not be grown in their home climates. In short, agricultural abundance improved lives. It still does.

All of this happened because humans are smart, they experiment, they adapt, and find answers to questions, sometimes out of curiosity and most of the time out of necessity. Agriculture changed the way humans live and it wasn’t long before humans all over the world were adapting to agriculture methods on some level. This took place for 10,000 years, and yet, in a mere two centuries, the same curiosity and/or necessity also brought about another rapid change, the movement away from agrarian lifestyles to industrial lifestyles, and now to what pessimists call virtual lifestyles and optimists call entrepreneurial lifestyles.

 

To break the rapid change down for the readers who love numbers, in 1790, about 90% of the American workforce was related to agriculture. In 1890, that number had dropped to about 43%. In 1990 about 2.6% of the population’s workforce was related to agriculture. Now that number has dropped to about 2%. As people moved out of rural America to pursue an improved lifestyle in urban areas, agricultural advancements have made it possible for 2% of the population to feed the masses.

Why is this important? While about 2% of the population clothes and feeds us, we can do other things with our lives and pursue other careers, and not worry about where our next meal is going to come from. If it were not for ranchers and farmers, most of us would be struggling like the unfortunate souls on the show Naked and Afraid! Although I must admit, there are some very tough people that participate! But, would anyone really want to live that way? Or, go hungry because their backyard garden failed due to a pest infestation? I know what my answer is: an emphatic, no!

Thanks to the ingenuity of agriculturalists, technological advancements and improvements in the industry, and the dedication and care that agriculturalists have for their businesses, we live great lives without a lot of worries. The few feed the many. And, it takes an insurmountable amount of dedication to thrive in the agricultural industry when things like global markets, local markets, weather, genetics, natural resources, financial constraints, and the unpredictability of caring for crops and livestock are just a few of the challenges. Being an agriculturalist requires a high degree of intelligence, resilience, and faith in oneself, in the future, and in the process.

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Mr. Morin showing off some serious dedication which is required for success in the agriculture field.

My own dad knew this when he said to both my sister and me, “You can always come back, but you can’t always leave.” This was a gentle but very blatant way of telling us, this path takes grit and serious dedication, so go and experience life before you make the commitment to come back and manage the ranch. And, when you come back, bring what you have learned to make it better. Like all parents, ours wanted the best for my sister and me. They encouraged us to grow, learn, and improve.

So, when I asked the question, what the heck happened? How did Americans get so far removed from agriculture? It’s simple and it’s practical. Like the nomadic lifestyle, the agrarian lifestyle was not easy. It is still not easy, so Americans changed, and the industrial revolution which made promises of wealth and lifestyle improvements spurred that change. It was the anticipation of an improved future that moved most people out of rural America and into urban centers. At the end of the day, no one can be blamed for trying to improve one’s life or that of their loved ones.

Today’s “entrepreneurial revolution” coined by Seth Godin promises an even better future for Americans, as the ability to market goods, build wealth, and have more control of our lives is at our fingertips via smartphones.

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The Morin Family – Working for a better future!

This same optimism has spurred the technological advancements and environmental improvements in agriculture. We want to improve, be more precise, waste less and have more controlled data-driven outcomes. In the case of food production, doing our best is a necessity because we are not just feeding our families, and yours, with less labor and inputs, we are also feeding the world. Doing less than our best, with so many people who trust us for a safe and reliable food supply, is simply not an option.

Just as the public has always been looking to improve, agriculturalists have too!

The reality is, we are all working toward the same goal – to do our best!

– Amber MorinMorning Sun Selfie (002)

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Brooke from Brooke Appetit recently took over our Instagram. She shared a recipe with us and also a little more about the dairy that she and her husband live and work on in Buckeye, Arizona. Her husband, Clint, is a fourth generation farmer at Saddle Mountain Dairy. Clint and his dairy focus on keeping their dairy cows comfortable even during the hottest of months.  Special misters are installed in their cow barns which keep it down to a cool 85 degrees Fahrenheit even when it’s 110 degrees outside.

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Not only is temperature a focus but proper nutrition also sorts itself to the top of the priority list. A mixture of hay, grains, vitamins, and minerals is fed to their cows to ensure they are healthy while producing healthy milk for us to use. To get the full recap of the day, head over to the Arizona Beef Instagram page and check out our highlights. In the meantime, we wanted to make sure you could make Brooke’s delicious creation at home so here is the recipe!

Fancy Night In: Filet Mignon with a Mushroom Wine Sauce

Ingredients
6 Tbsp butter, divided
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
16 oz baby bella mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 small or 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme ( reserve a few sprigs for garnish)
4  Beef Filet Mignon steaks (about 2” thick)
1/2 cup a good Cabernet or Merlot you would drink
1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

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Method
1. Place a large cast iron pan over medium/high heat and melt 3 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp oil. Add mushrooms and cook 3-5 minutes until soft. Stir in onion and cook another 3 minutes. Press in garlic cloves then season with salt, pepper, and freshly chopped thyme. Cook another 2 min, stirring constantly until garlic is fragrant, then transfer mushroom mixture to a plate. Wipe the skillet clean with a wet paper towel.


2. Pat dry steaks with a paper towel and season all over with sea salt and cracked
pepper.

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3. Place the same pan over medium/high heat and add 3 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp
oil. When butter is hot and finished foaming, add seasoned steaks to skillet,
turning over once with tongs, about 3-5 min per side for medium-rare. To best determine doneness, use an instant-read thermometer and utilize these helpful tips. If steak is browning too fast, reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to transfer steaks to the
plate with mushrooms. Also, keep in mind thinner steaks will cook faster and thicker steaks can take longer.

4. Add 1/2 cup wine and boil until reduced by half (3 minutes), scraping the bottom
with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups broth and boil until about 2/3 cup liquid remains (5-6 minutes). Add 1/2 cup of cream and boil until sauce thickens slightly (2 minutes). Return mushrooms and steak to the pan and heat until warmed through (1-2 minutes)

Season sauce to taste with more salt & pepper, if desired. Serve immediately. Plate the steak and sauce over some creamy mashed potatoes and a side of steamed asparagus.

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Brooke will be back with us again soon! Stay tuned!

Life Lessons from Baxter Black

As we promised, here is the next Baxter Black blog in our series. Baxter is a wordsmith, no doubt, and he also offers lots of incredible life lessons. He even went so far as to write a book about it! (Find that book here.) Enjoy these life lessons from Mr. Black and maybe try to put some of them into action soon!


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Sometimes you’ve got to glitz and glam them (to keep ‘em hooked until you can deliver the punch line)!

When Baxter gets on stage he wants to make sure everyone knows he’s the program. A friend named Mary Davis from Dodge City would make him a shirt every year. A Roy Rogers-type shirt. He said about performances, “So I’m walking in and I look like a clown. If they like you, it doesn’t make any difference.” Now he did mention it’s most likely not admiring stares he receives, but more curiosity. But curiosity holds the audience until he can start performing. And then there is nothing but appreciation and entertainment.

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If life crashes and burns, you just get back up.

Life has a way of taking you to places you never imagined you’d go, both good and bad. Baxter instilled upon us that the most important part is to get back up. Don’t sit in the ashes, smoldering. Pick yourself up, dust off your boots (or sandals or whatever footwear you might prefer) and get on with life. There isn’t a whole lot of time to sit around and pout.

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As a young man, Baxter worked on a large feed yard. His new boss walked into his converted office (previously a storage room) two days after he started working at previously mentioned feed yard and handed him a manila folder. It was the rations (feed mixture cattle eat). Baxter had plenty of experience from his time spent at other feed yards, but this had always been a specialist job at those other jobs. This new boss didn’t bother to ask if he’d even taken a class in nutrition, which he had not. He just assumed he could do it. Using this confidence (false or not) to his advantage, Baxter got it done!  Point of this story? Lesson #2 from his “Lessons From A Desperado Poet” book, “You will be amazed at how capable people think you are if they don’t know you well.  Don’t waste that advantage.”

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How to make decisions? Do it the way you want and see what happens. Even if you’re wrong! The previously mentioned boss taught Baxter not to fear making decisions.

When given the opportunity to decide, Baxter says you should do it. Obviously, use your best judgment and do your research but make that decision. Without the chance to make decisions, you won’t have the opportunity to learn.

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Baxter told us a story about a ranch he went to help work some cows in Utah. He was staying at a house about a mile up this big mountain from where the ranch was keeping their cows. He left in his vet truck to head down to the working area one morning and was about a half mile away from the ranch headquarters on the plain. It was a spectacular morning. As Baxter said, “One you could just steal.” From his point of view he can see everything down below. The cowboys were bringing the cows into the working area. The herd looked like a backwards tear drop. It was a beautiful sight. It was so quiet and peaceful Baxter could hear the cowboys hollering at the cows to move them to the corral gate. Well, as he was watching, the point of the tear drop seemed to hit the gate and the cows splattered back!  Baxter said he could hear them a mile away yelling, mooing, some colorful language and over it all, “Git outta the gate you no good sofa ditches I’ma gunnin’ 4 yo shoes a musta linka booda nina tens!”

He said it inspired him to write a poem, one of his first, leanin’ on the hood of his vet truck.  Later that morning when they took a break from preg-testing, he read the poem to the cowboys.  They all laughed and said, “Yea, I know a guy had a dog like that!”

He discovered right there, that he could pick on cowboys, sheep herders, veterinarians, horse people, farmers, and all the wonderful characters that make up his world because…he is part of it.  He’s been there!

He explains that it is the truth in humor that makes it funny…that’s the reason there are no science fiction jokes!

And a bonus from our friend, Baxter, the previously mentioned poem. This poem is part of his column, On the Edge of Common Sense.

THE COWBOY AND HIS DOG
by Baxter Black, DVM

There’s a scene that is really pictorial
That’s been here since time immemorial
The cowboy out riding, his dog right beside him
Somehow it’s almost historical.

They come in all colors and sizes
From dingos all full of surprises
Blue-eyed scene stealers and Queensland blue heelers
And collies that win lots of prizes.

He responds to your love and affection
And waits on his master’s direction
You say, “Put’em in!” and watch with a grin
While he obeys your command to perfection.

And just when you start to go braggin’
On that cow eatin’ wonder, you’re draggin’
The dog you admire, will pee on a tire
Or go lick his nuts in the wagon!

There’s nothin’ that makes me mad quicker
Than a dog in the wrong baliwicker,
You can’t find your niche, you son of a gun!
Go git in the pickup, pot licker!

www.baxterblack.com

Have you ever heard of federal grazing permits? Here in Arizona, these are an integral part of most ranching operations. Jeremy D. Krones of the Diablo Trust sat down with two ranchers to gain a better understanding for federal grazing permits and shared the findings with us on the Diablo Trust blog. We are resharing it here as it contains valuable content and learnings. Enjoy!


ASK A RANCHER: HOW ARE GRAZING PERMIT NUMBERS ON FEDERAL LAND CALCULATED?
FROM: ANONYMOUS

Bob Prosser from the Bar T Bar and Gary Hase, District Rangeland Management Staff for the Flagstaff Ranger District (and longtime Diablo Trust friend), both helped answer the question, “How are grazing permit numbers on federal land calculated and monitored?”

Of the roughly 500,000 acres that comprise the Bar T Bar and Flying M ranches, nearly half are public lands held in trust for the American public by the US Forest Service.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The USFS was founded in 1905, under President Theodore Roosevelt. Coconino National Forest, our local forest, was created not long after by consolidating other, smaller forests.

Both ranches existed in one way or another before Coconino National Forest, but the Prossers and the Metzgers must now follow Forest Service rules and regulations to continue grazing their cattle on the public land.

“Grazing has occurred on the DT lands since the mid-1800s,” said Bob. The Hash Knife Cattle Company grazed much of the Diablo Trust land area in the late 1870s, alongside homesteaders and pioneers who had claims under the Homestead Act of 1862.

However, due to the lack of water and the small size of homesteads (the Stock-Raising Homestead Act of 1916 allowed new ranching homesteads to be enlarged to 640 acres), most settlers reneged on their title loans to the government.

Bob explained, “It was very common for them to run livestock on non-homesteaded lands (government land) to earn a meager existence. During this time homesteads were failing and bootlegging was the common means of revenue.”

Grazing permits were developed in our region around 1919, to bring structure to the use of the open, public lands of northern Arizona.

Maintaining “commensurate private land” and control of the waters are prerequisites to obtaining a grazing permit. The rights to graze, fence, and manage the waters on a defined area of land can be sold and transferred, as long as the Terms and Conditions of the permit are met by the owner. Permits are renewed every ten years.

“Many of the homesteads applied for and got grazing permits. Some homesteaders sold out to neighboring ranchers when they gave up trying to make a living or were caught bootlegging. These small early permits from Mormon Lake to Red Hill were the start of Flying M and Bar T Bar Ranches today,” Bob said.

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Chavez Pass Camp. Typical Hashknife line camp on the timbered portion of their range, western division, near beautiful Chavez Pass. (Aztec Collection)

WHAT A PERMIT DOES

“There are two important categories when it comes to discussing livestock numbers: permitted numbers and authorized numbers,” explained Gary.

Permitted numbers are the maximum number of AUMs (animal units per month) the grazing permit allows on the established allotment.

Permitted livestock numbers on an allotment are usually established during the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act of 1969) process and are based on an analysis of historical livestock use, forage production and utilization data, and vegetation condition and trend information. The forage and habitat needs of wildlife and the necessary vegetative cover to protect and enhance soil and watershed properties are also key considerations when establishing permitted livestock numbers.

Authorized numbers are the AUMs the Forest Service authorities actually allow to graze on the allotment each year.

“We meet with permittees each year to determine what livestock numbers will be authorized on the allotment that year given the current and predicted resource conditions. [The number] cannot exceed permitted numbers,” wrote Gary. “We also develop the Annual Operating Instructions (AOI) for the upcoming grazing season during this meeting. The AOI contains instructions for the grazing permittee with regards to authorized livestock numbers and period of use, pasture use dates, forage utilization levels, structural range improvement constructions and maintenance, etc.”

After the meeting, permittees apply for the livestock numbers. The Forest Service reviews, modifies (if necessary), and then approves the application, and sends a bill to the ranch based on the current year’s grazing fee. Once the bill has been paid, the livestock numbers and the grazing period are authorized. The Forest Service allotments of both the Flying M and Bar T Bar are on their “summer country,” so the grazing period is usually June 01 to October 31.

The actual number of livestock on the allotment is largely based on trust between the ranchers and the Forest Service officials. Gary says that, “in the ‘old’ days, FS range folks used to count livestock on and off the allotments; [that’s] simply not the case anymore.”

The Forest Service does have the authority to require the permittee to gather their cattle to double-check numbers, or to require numbered ear tags, but Gary has only had to do that once in his entire career.

Gary said that it’s pretty easy to tell if the herd is significantly larger – or smaller – than it should be.

“It’s not just about livestock numbers,” Gary also said. The grazing period includes the season of use, and individual pastures use periods. Anyone can easily monitor when the herd is on or off a pasture or allotment.

Bob agreed with Gary, saying that the ranches are accountable for the numbers and density they have on their permit. He explained that if either ranch sees a problem one year through their monitoring, they will take that issue into account when deciding on a plan in the next year.

Both ranches monitor their lands regularly. Most Diablo Trusters know about the Forage Resource Study Group (FRSG), which monitors over two dozen sites on the ranches triannually, but FRSG is currently limited to just state and private land.

Much like FRSG and IMfoS (Integrated Monitoring for Sustainability, Diablo Trust’s long-term community and landscape-scale survey project with Northern Arizona University), the monitoring that the Bar T Bar and Flying M do on their Forest permits is collaborative.

The Bar T Bar and Flying M survey their Forest permits using a NEPA’ed monitoring protocol (“to NEPA” is the action of putting a program, like a monitoring study, through the process of review outlined in the 1969 Act).

The utilization surveys performed throughout the grazing period by the ranches and the USFS work to ensure permit and AOI compliance, and monitor resource conditions and forage utilization levels.

Allotment and leases can get more complicated, but at the basic level, this is what happens behind the scenes when you see cattle, sheep, goats, or any other livestock on Federal Land.

BORN ON A RANCH: THE FIRST DAY

This is part of an on-going series by Jeremy D. Krones for the Diablo Trust. It is done in an effort to educate readers about the life of a calf born on a ranch in northern Arizona. We will continue to repost the blogs, but you should take some time to check out the Diablo Trust blog for more great content.

SUNDAY, FEB 25

This morning was chilly, as most February mornings are on the range.

It hasn’t been the best winter we’ve seen, but with the new year came our first snow, and at least we aren’t in a total drought.

The cows are doing well, even those that didn’t get pregnant during the too-dry summer on the mountain. Unfortunately, they’ll probably be auctioned off, but that’s how it is on a modern ranch. We follow the Lasater Philosophy: selection, selection, selection. If a cow doesn’t take, she’s out of the herd. She might go on to live on another ranch, or become part of the marketplace, providing meat and dozens of other products for everyday use.

But we’ve still got a good number of healthy, fertile, and pregnant cows in our herd, so the future looks bright.

It snowed yesterday, adding about 40/100s of an inch to the eight inches we’ve accumulated thus far. Again, not the greatest, but good enough.

Cows like to birth (or ‘calve’) with the low pressure, so with the storm we expected a few new calves on the ground this morning. It helped that we fed the mamas last night, too. Feeding late in the day helps warm up the rumen, and that encourages the birth.

One of our cowboys, Jim, lives out at the calving cell, in a rustic cabin. It’s not high society living, but it’s not a hovel, either. It’s just fine for a single man living there for a couple months, with the important task of caring for the cows during calving season.

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A cow checks on her newborn calf on the Flying M Ranch February 2017 (Photo by Sheila Carlson)

At 5AM he sent us a text that one of our favorite cows, Zelda (aka #52), was about to give birth.

After about 45 minutes, he sent us a picture.

It really only takes 15 to 20 minutes from the time the water breaks to the calf on the ground, but Jim knows what to look for in a cow who’s ready to drop: she gets agitated, tries to go off on her own. A good way to tell if she’s ready to give birth is when her tail is kinked up to the side.

From there it’s a waiting game.

When she’s ready to go into labor, she’ll lie down on the ground.

If Jim had seen the water break and then nothing really happening in the next 10 minutes, he’d have gone out to help Zelda, strapping her in to a tight chute, feeling inside of her to determine the calf’s orientation, and trying to get the calf’s hooves out around its snout.

But fortunately, for us, Zelda, and the calf, it was a smooth birth – far more common than what most people think. Zelda is 4 years old, which means that this is her third ‘rodeo,’ and that usually means smooth sailing.

Little 52 was born, and Zelda turned around to ‘talk’ to her baby, and lick him clean.

Zelda’s attention to the little bull calf helps him wake up, breathe, and get moving – instincts are much stronger in cows (and pretty much all animals) than in humans.

The bull calf, once on its wobbly legs, hobbled over to his mother’s udder to nurse. If a calf –any baby mammal – doesn’t get colostrum, or the first milk, in the first couple of hours, their immune system can be really compromised.

Fortunately for us, Zelda’s a pro and her calves inherit that trait right quick.

After the calf gets his fill, Zelda licks him down some more.

Jim has been watching from the fence this whole time, making sure Zelda and the calf are doing well. Now that they’re both moving and nothing’s awry, the cowboy gently moves them to a larger part of the corral and turns his attention to some of the other mothers who haven’t calved yet.

We’ll check back in with Zelda and her baby bull next month!

The Arizona Beef Council is excited to present to you a blog series about the one and only Baxter Black. Baxter is a celebrity in his own right, but those of us here in Arizona consider him a state treasure and are proud to say he chose this piece of the southwest to make his home. Many thanks are owed to his beautiful wife, Cindy, for dragging him back to the best state in the Union. While we realize our writing will leave much to be desired in the wake of the true poet’s work, we hope you enjoy reading anyways.


In a house tucked in the hills of the outskirts of Benson, lives a man, or might we say “legend,” and his wife. Here they peddle books of poems written by this man to places near and far. Guests are welcome with open arms and are given a great opportunity to hear prose in real time while talking about the past, present, and future. Upon stepping out the front door of their ranch-style home, you are greeted by an impressive wall constructed of many different types and styles of stone. These stones, bricks, and even a concrete Texas (which was accidentally placed upside down in the wall) make an impressive sight and are made even more significant when talking with Baxter about each individual piece’s origin.

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These stones, bricks, and the concrete Texas are all mementos from Baxter’s travels over the years.

In case you don’t know who Baxter Black is (we won’t judge too hard), let us explain. Baxter is a cowboy poet who has performed for cattlemen, cattlewomen, dairymen, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, and even made a few appearances on the Johnny Carson show. But he’s not just any cowboy poet. He’s a cowboy poet who has made a living entertaining people with his witty poems based on real-life situations, mostly from personal experience. Some of our favorites, and we would venture to say classics, include The Vegetarian’s Nightmare, The Oyster, along with his continuing column seen in many publications across the country properly titled “On the Edge of Common Sense.”

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Baxter performing The Vegetarian’s Nightmare on the Johnny Carson Show.

But Baxter didn’t start off his professional career as the cowboy on stage dressed in hand-embroidered western shirts. He comes with a history, just like most successful people. His started out with work on a feed yard, went to veterinarian school and then, as life has a way of doing, turned him on his head and pushed him in another direction. He shared with us his meaning behind the saying “down to no keys,” when life has taken everything from you to the point where you end up with no keys: nowhere to call your own and nothing to drive. But, in true Baxter style, he didn’t let this setback stop him.

He continued on and ended up managing the veterinarian work for a large feed yard. During his time at the feed yard, he began speaking and entertaining people with his wit and poems. One of the biggest blessings in his life was ending up in the same place as his wife. She was playing the fiddle in the band at the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Annual Convention and he noticed. The rest really is history!

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In true Baxter style, he keeps life fun!

One of the many things we learned from Baxter on our visit was his philosophy on shooting arrows. You can’t do something unless you keep asking and doing and that’s exactly what Baxter did. A fun fact about Baxter is that he was featured on NPR for 20-years! NPR wasn’t looking for someone like Baxter, but he made himself known and kept reminding them that he might have something else to offer. Finally, when Yellowstone was burning up in ’84, they took notice. No one on NPR was reporting on this huge fire and Baxter told them they should be. He wrote a poem about it, sent it to the station and then they called him. They kept calling him after that asking for more, so he gave it to them. When asked why it worked, Baxter says, “I was the oddity. That’s why it worked.”

Now that you have some history on this guy (or character?), get ready for some serious life advice from this wise man in next week’s Arizona Beef Blog post.

This blog is a repost from our friends over at the Diablo Trust. This particular post was written by a cowgirl named Sheila Carlson who has worked on the Flying M Ranch for 10 or so years and before that worked on the Bar T Bar Ranch. She’s a horsewoman from Utah and is a good hand on a ranch. Enjoy some thoughts from her perspective on caring for the land.


Caring for the LandThe myth of the rancher who is out to make a buck by letting his livestock damage and destroy public lands is far from the truth as I know it.

In reality ranchers care more about the land and the waterways than most people I’ve come across. They make their living off the lands and over-grazing it is NOT something that is done.

They carefully monitor the land, use grazing rotations, watch for invasive and non-native species of plants and work closely with local agencies to maintain a positive impact on the land. Many times they will not use a pasture in their rotation because they feel there isn’t enough growth or moisture and would rather let it rest than use it.

They are the ones hauling water during drought times, not only for their livestock but for the wildlife in the area. The run-off from winter snows and summer rains flow down ditches they maintain, to fill water tanks and flow into lakes.

This isn’t something that nature has created in most places; this is something that they have worked hard at accomplishing each year. Those ditches need to be cleared and cleaned. The same with those water tanks that provide a life source for so many different species.

Without the rancher taking time, money. and effort, those same water tanks would fail.

There are so many scare tactics out there, so many un-truths being spread and the saddest part is that so many will believe what they are told without questioning the source.

Speak to your local rancher if you have a question. Treat them as you would like to be treated; don’t just assume they are the “bad guy.” I think that people would find out they have a common interest when it comes to care of the land . . .