Generation Z (ages 9-24) and Generation Alpha (under 12) are growing quickly and shaping social movements, pop culture, and purchasing habits. It’s important to reach this generation of the next decision-makers early and share with them on the importance of including beef in a healthy, sustainable diet. To do this, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, has developed resources and partnered with leading media among youth. This work has so far included developing games, videos, and graphics on the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner kids sustainability page, plus print and digital articles and interactive quizzes with Scout Life, The Week Jr., Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated Kids, Popsugar, and Thrillist.
Life on a cattle ranch is beautiful yet challenging and sharing that experience with others is one of the best ways to show how ranchers care for our land, cattle, and the people who love beef. The Greenlee County Cowbelles and Graham County Cattlewomen recently held an event to do just that, called “Ranch Days.” Fourth-grade teachers were invited to bring their classrooms on either March 10th or the 11th to the Menges Ranch on the historic Black Hills Back Country Byway to learn about how cattle are raised and the importance of beef in their diets. Four school districts signed up, but one was not able to attend due to a bus driver shortage. Almost 300 students spent a day with cattlewomen from the two groups and other volunteers from the Duncan Women’s Club, the Safford Women’s Club, and the Greenlee and Graham Cooperative Extension offices. Bags were provided by the Arizona Beef Council and were filled with educational games and information about beef, as well as a collection of byproduct examples so the students could identify the many items that come from cattle.
The real fun began on March 10th when the Thatcher and Duncan Elementary students showed up at the Menges ranch. They spent the day with various cattlemen and women as they rotated around to different stations across the ranch. Station One focused on the equipment ranchers use on the ranch, including tack and ropes. The students even had a chance to throw a rope to see if they could catch the calf! Station Two taught the students all about the byproducts that come from cattle. Station Three focused on the different breeds of cattle and the equipment used to work cattle, like chutes and corrals. The students saw what a cow sees when in a chute as they walked through the system. The importance of a squeeze chute, which is used to hold an animal still for various treatments, was also explained.
Station Four was all about water and how ranchers build water systems to move water to many areas on a ranch. This helps to ensure cattle move around to graze and don’t stay in the same place all the time. It’s also essential for wildlife! Station Five discussed the need for branding, a vital task in Arizona. Students learned how to read a brand and came up with one for themselves. Station Six introduced the students to ranch horses and how they help ranchers do their work. Many of the students had never been close to a horse, so that was exciting. Then they learned about the parts of a horse and the importance of proper care. Station Seven showed how ranchers preserve the history of our state by protecting artifacts and structures left by our ancestors.
The students thoroughly enjoyed the day and shared their gratitude in heartfelt and adorable thank you notes. This tour gives teachers and administrators a great incentive to work with ranchers to attend tours because it provides their students a hands-on opportunity to learn about a major industry in Arizona. With many volunteers from the local communities participating, this tour was simple to put together and can be easily replicated in other areas of Arizona.
Three ranchers share their sustainability practices in celebration of Earth Day
Denver, CO (April 21, 2022) – The U.S. is home to some of the most beautiful land in the world along with beef farmers and ranchers who have spent decades dedicating their work to preserving it. Because of their dedication, the U.S. produces the most sustainable beef in the world.
In honor of Earth Day, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, is sharing the stories of three ranchers who represent the thousands of cattle producers across the country who implement sustainable practices every day.
While water may be scarce in the deserts of Southern Arizona, conservation efforts are flourishing thanks to cattle rancher Dean Fish. As Ranch Manager for the Santa Fe Ranch Foundation in Nogales, Fish isn’t a stranger to finding innovative ways to discover, retain and distribute clean water effectively and sustainably.
Being sustainable runs in the family as Fish’s father, Ron Fish, was first to implement the changes to the ranch’s concrete open ditch irrigation system. In its place, Fish’s father installed an underground pipe with valves designed to direct water exactly where it needs to go more effectively and with less evaporation or leakage.
The ranch also utilizes windmills and solar pumps to provide water, not just for livestock, but to additional wildlife species in the area.
Thanks to the sustainable and innovative practices, a once desolate piece of land is now home to a successful cattle ranch. And Fish is not alone as he has educated hundreds of other ranchers on conservation practices to help them be successful in raising cattle and caring for natural resources.
While these three ranchers live in different areas of the country with very different resources and challenges, they share a common goal of producing high-quality protein and conserving their local environments.
“I enjoy the opportunity to educate others coming into the area on what land conservation in Florida looks like,” said Jim Strickland. “It’s important to make the connection of how cattle ranching protects our wildlife. There’s a lot to look out for and we’re improving every day.”
“When you’re sitting back watching television shows based in Montana and think ‘Wow, it’s so beautiful’ most of what you see is someone’s private farm or ranch,” said Jake Feddes. “We’ve gotten more efficient and have been able to raise more cattle on the same amount of land as we did decades ago, and the scenery here tells part of that story.”
“It’s all about preserving the wildlife and natural resources,” said Dean Fish. “Here in southeast Arizona, it’s too hot to farm fruits or vegetables on this land so a sustainable cow-calf operation is a great way to use the landscape.”
The cattle business comes as second nature for sixth-generation rancher Jim Strickland. As owner of Strickland Ranch and managing partner of Blackbeard’s Ranch in Manatee County, Florida, he’s dedicated his life’s work to conserving the land, waterways, and surrounding habitat of the Myakka River Valley. In 2019 Blackbeard’s Ranch was recognized with the national Environmental Stewardship Award for that work.
With thousands of new residents moving to the area every day, Strickland saw the opportunity to educate newcomers on the importance of ranch lands. Not only that, but he also led the effort to designate one-third of Blackbeard’s Ranch into a permanent conservation easement, making it so that land stays untouched by development and continues to restore and protect native waterways.
In addition to preserving open space and natural resources, Strickland utilizes wind and solar energy to provide cattle with clean water and execute an effective rotational grazing plan. Strickland has also initiated mini damns across thousands of acres and miles of creeks to hydrate and store more water on the ranch, helping the water quality before it reaches the oceans surrounding Florida.
As if it weren’t already clear that Earth Day is near and dear to Strickland’s heart, it’s also his birthday.
Picturesque views and a hub for tourism are a few words you could use to describe the north end of Yellowstone National Park, but to cattle rancher Jake Feddes it’s home. Feddes is a third-generation cattle rancher who, along with his father, runs Feddes Red Angus in the Gallatin Valley. In addition to selling high-quality beef, the Feddes family is known for their efforts to promote healthy soil. For example, they develop and follow a grazing plan to ensure cattle are constantly grazing on and fertilizing different areas of the land. Through this dedication to grazing and land management their cattle actually help improve overall soil health.
Like most of the west, water is a precious commodity at Feddes Red Angus. That’s why Feddes and his family grow cover crops to help retain moisture in the soil and prevent erosion. When they’re not growing hay, they’re growing other perennial forage plants that cattle can graze on. Not only does this help with moisture, it helps to preserve the area’s natural landscape.
Tourists that visit the Gallatin Valley come to appreciate the outdoors and mountain views but leave knowing a little more about how proper conservation practices keep it looking beautiful and serving a greater purpose.
About the Beef Checkoff
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
About NCBA, a Contractor to the Beef Checkoff
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Mountain Oyster Club has a long history in Tucson, Arizona, and is known for its exclusivity with a significant dose of fun and humor. Recently, Tiffany Selchow, Arizona Beef Council, Director of Social Media and Consumer Outreach, sat down with Wendy Davis, current president of the Mountain Oyster Club, and her husband to learn more about its history and how it relates to Arizona Beef.
The standing story of the founding of the Mountain Oyster Club in 1948, informally referred to as the MO Club, is a group of rowdy-type gentlemen who started a club and restaurant that wasn’t quite as stiff as others establishments of the time. The founders wanted to have a place for ranchers to go to feel comfortable in their Levi’s.
Throughout its storied history, the club has had various addresses, starting off in the Santa Rita Hotel basement, then to the Pioneer Hotel, and then in a historic house known as the Jacome home, where the club stayed for 30 years. 2003 saw another move, but this time the club decided they wanted to purchase a building so they wouldn’t have to keep moving.
As is told on the MO Club’s website, “The new home of the Mountain Oyster Club has a long, rich history of its own. It was originally built as a home for Miss Florence L. Pond, daughter of a distinguished lawyer in Detroit. The building, called Stone Ashley, was planned by Grosvernor Atterbury, a well-known New York architect. It was constructed of block and native fieldstone by the M. M. Sundt Construction Company for a price of $67,000. The estate consisted of 318 acres that extended approximately one mile on Speedway and a half-mile along Wilmot. Approximately 20 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds surrounded the 17 room residence, the rest was natural desert. Miss Pond made Stone Ashley and the grounds available to servicemen and other groups in the area during WWII for concerts, other programs, and swimming.
In 1947, Miss Pond put the property up for sale with an asking price of $300,000 unfurnished, and eventually sold it for $200,000 including furnishings. After approximately $400,000 in renovations by architect Bernard J. Friedman and the M. I. Poze Construction Company, which included the addition of a third floor to the main building and other building improvements, which would house up to 80 guests, it opened in 1949 as the El Dorado Lodge. Also added at that time, were tennis courts, a heater for the pool, putting greens, badminton courts, shuffleboard courts, horseshoe pitching facilities, an 18 hole golf course, horse stables, corrals, and a residential community.
The El Dorado Guest Lodge promoted itself as a place “…where breathless scenery, age-old traditions and the pleasures of today combine…”
It later became the Palm Court Restaurant before being purchased by Charles Kerr, former maitre d’ of the Tack Room Restaurant and opening as Charles Restaurant in 1979. Charles attempted to return the mansion to its original English manor style with slate floors, wonderful fireplaces, and a beautiful, beamed ceiling. He was also responsible for the addition of a first-class kitchen. What had once been elegant guest rooms were now offices for various Tucson businesses. In 1984, an additional 2 story office building was added to the northeast side of the existing buildings, which copied the style and materials of the original structures.
Most recently, for a period of about 2 years, the original mansion housed a French restaurant that went by the name of the original home, Stone Ashley.
While many changes have taken place over the years, much hasn’t. You still enter the property by way of the tall Italian Cypress lined road and the original paneled front door of the Pond mansion, believed to have cost $1,500 in 1936. A few of the fruit trees remain from what was a family citrus grove of grapefruit, sour orange and olive trees. To the right of the front entrance, the bathhouse with 2 dressing rooms still remains although the pool has been replaced with a parking lot. Many of the decorative gardens, fountains and other exquisite touches that made this estate one of the show places of the southwest can still be found inside and out.”
Beef is an obvious staple on the club’s menu, and Sous Chef Mike Estelle, who works with Executive Chef Obie Hindman, filled us in on some of the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant activities. Chef Mike brings a vast portfolio of restaurant knowledge with his career starting in the business as a 15-year-old washing dishes at another long gone, high-end Tucson restaurant called The Tack Room. Chef Mike met the head chef of the MO Club a few months after he started his dishwashing career and now has worked with him for 20 years. The MO Club dry-ages all of their beef in-house, meaning large beef cuts are aged for several weeks to several months before being trimmed and cut into steaks. It’s a process that helps the steak develop flavor and makes it far more tender than it would be completely fresh. Tenderloins are the cut of choice now for the MO Club, and Chef NEED NAME said they are purchasing a case of them every week and a half. The MO Club also cuts their own steaks from subprimal, and all their hamburger is double ground fresh daily. Veal is another item available that is very popular with club members.
If ever you are invited to join a member of the MO Club for dinner, this is one invite you don’t want to turn down. The club’s character and personality are seen almost everywhere you turn. While pictures are not allowed inside, you will leave with a lifetime of memories and a feeling of having stepped back into an era of finer things but with no lack of humor.
The University of Arizona Food Product and Safety Lab (FPSL), formally known as the University of Arizona Meat Lab, has a long and important history at the UA farm in Tucson, Arizona. It is now heading towards a bright future, helping the surrounding community and the state of Arizona with food safety and creating a more delicious food product. Arizona Beef Council staff visited with the folks at the FPSL to learn about the updates and how they will help you, the consumer.
Dr. Sam Garcia, Associate Professor of Practice and UA alumnus, manages the lab’s day-to-day operations while also teaching and conducting research. Dr. Garcia grew up in Douglas, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico, bringing a unique perspective to the lab with experience raising cattle in Mexico and the United States. He is an integral part of the lab. He keeps things running daily, schedules and processes the harvesting of 20 animals per week, ensures research projects are up and running smoothly, and teaches UA students about animal science and husbandry. Having worked for the university since 2013, Dr. Garcia has built connections within the community and is a friendly face most everyone remembers. He also staffs and runs the Wildcat Country Market, which sells USDA inspected beef, lamb, goat, pork, and other products sourced locally from livestock raised, processed, and packaged by University of Arizona students.
The FPSL has recently seen numerous updates and an addition of a professor to help research efforts and community impact. Dr. Duane Wulf, Associate Professor, was hired by the UA in 2020 to perform research, teach, and provide community support. Dr. Wulf is an excellent addition to the FPSL with his commitment to producing high-quality meat products and his proven track record in teaching. Dr. Wulf was honored several times for his teaching excellence, highlighted by the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Meat Science Association. Dr. Wulf has served as a missionary businessman in Sonora, Mexico for the past ten years. He started a meat processing plant, a cattle ranch, and a restaurant to provide training and career opportunities to the fatherless and underprivileged. In addition to these positions, Dr. Wulf has worked across all production and processing phases of the meat industry and has been hired as a consultant both domestically and internationally by both small and large companies.
Equipment investments have been made, too, including a brand-new smoker for products like bacon, sausage, jerky, and other value-added products new pork scalder used to dehair hogs after harvesting, and the cooler where meat carcasses are stored and aged is being redone. All these updates will allow for a more effortless flow of animals, a better teaching environment, and provide an excellent service to the community that the land grant university serves. The animal handling facilities are also being updated and will provide low-stress handling for the animals who enter the facility. The consumer testing kitchen has received a much-needed upgrade with stainless steel restaurant-quality appliances, making it easier to keep clean and professional.
The University of Arizona is a land grant university tasked with disseminating research to the community to help grow better animals to produce a better meat product, amongst other projects. Extension agents such as Dr. Joslyn Beard, UA’s Livestock Extension Specialist, disperse the research for Arizona farmers and ranchers to apply. She says it’s like being the liaison or translator between what research the UA is doing and how producers can use it on their farms and ranches. With updates in personnel and equipment, the FPSL is equipped to provide the community and Arizona with a higher-quality meat product and hands-on learning experience through research, in the lab, and out on ranches across the state with learnings on continuously improving how animals are raised, transported, handled, and harvested.
Many people and lots of work go into the UA Food Product and Safety Lab operations. The benefit of this lab to both the agriculture community and consumers (by selling fresh meat) is apparent. Still, wider positive ramifications are felt throughout the state by Arizona beef farmers and ranchers with continuing education and extension specialist help. To learn more about the FPSL, check out the website here: https://acbs.arizona.edu/food-products-safety-laboratory
Brady Ellison is probably best known for his numerous world and Olympic titles in archery. Still, the fun fact we are excited to share is his background in the Arizona ranching community. Brady was born in Globe, Arizona, to a family from a long line of ranchers who work hard to raise high-quality beef. The connection between ranching and archery is the story we are here to share.
Brady’s love for archery started from deep family roots in hunting, a practical skill. Not only is hunting a beloved pastime, but it is also a way to spend quality time with his family members. Brady’s dad and uncle were archery sportsmen, and Brady followed suit showing a real talent for the sport. Brady started competing in 3D tournaments, in which archers are tasked with hitting targets that are 3D replicas of game animals, like deer and elk. Brady thoroughly enjoyed these competitions and started to travel farther away from home, eventually rising to the national level. His talent, hard work, and dedication to the sport eventually earned him his first shot at the Olympics.
Brady’s list of achievements is a long one, so we’ll just touch on the highlights. He has made four Olympic teams and has three Olympic medals (two silvers and a bronze). He has ranked top seven in the world since 2010, including being named number one twice in that time frame, which is where he is currently ranked. He’s won five World Cup Finals and has the unique distinction of being the only person to use a recurve bow to shoot a 900 score in the Vegas tournament, which is a perfect score. This achievement was made even more exciting by an ESPN sports analyst explaining that this is harder to do than pitching a perfect game. The list continues with over 100 international medals and 40 national titles. Needless to say, Brady is incredibly accomplished in the sport of archery.
Ranching may not be what Brady does day-to-day now, but raising cattle is in his heritage. His family came to Arizona in the 1800s and started ranching in the Payson and Globe area. He did help on his family’s ranches growing up, often with gathering cows and branding, to which Brady gives some credit for his success. Ranching is hard work, and learning that lesson as a kid helped him put in the time and effort needed to be successful in archery competitions. Another aspect of ranching that has helped him achieve this level of success is knowing how to be adaptable. Brady explains, “There are so many things that are out of your control, like if it rains, if enough feed is growing, etc. Being adaptable and doing whatever you have to do to get things done are some of the things that I have taken away from our ranching family and heritage and applied to this sport.”
Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is a top priority to achieve peak performance. With Brady’s background in raising cattle, he and his family include beef in their healthy diet. It’s an excellent protein source that helps Brady perform at his best during his competitions. Among the robust package of 10 essential nutrients, beef is known for, protein may be one of the most notable. In fact, one 3 oz cooked serving of beef provides 50% of your Daily Value (25 grams) of this vital nutrient—making it an excellent source! That protein ensures Brady can perform to his full capability.
Brady isn’t on the ranch all too often anymore, but he is a massive supporter of farmers and ranchers. He knows the hard work that goes into raising food and wants others to know it. It’s a job that requires skill and dedication along with a tremendous passion for the lifestyle, and he hopes to see more young people step up and enter this field in the future. He acknowledges that the skills he learned on the ranch helped to ensure his success and hopes others can have the same experience.
The big football game is coming up and we want you to bring the best dish to the party! We’ve listed a few of our favorite appetizers here so they’re easy to find. Make sure you make your shopping list and take home the big win, for the best appetizer that is.
Chef Brooke Williamson offers a beefy twist on the tailgating classic, Pigs in a Blanket, with Beef in a Blanket featuring Braised Beef Short Ribs and a Gochujang Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce.
Impress your party guests with these sweet and spicy bite-size beef ribs. Using Country-Style Ribs, chili garlic sauce and brown sugar, this recipe will be a big hit!
Ground Beef, salsa and cheese dip meet in the skillet for a family favorite recipe. Try this dip with tortilla chips or veggie strips.
Wow your friends with this delicious beef appetizer. Fully-cooked beef Pot Roast from your grocery store is mixed with cheese and wrapped in puff pastry. Even though you take a short cut, you can take all the credit.
If you use one of these delicious recipes be sure to take a photo and share it on social media. Tag us so we can see what you created!
For more recipes like these, check out BeefItsWhatsforDinner.com.
It’s the beginning of a new year, full of possibilities, but we can’t just forget about 2021. It was a year of ups and downs but the Arizona Beef blog continued to share the story of Arizona beef. Check out our annual round-up of the Arizona Beef Blog’s top ten most-read posts. This year was all about collaboration and that is heavily reflected in this list and all the partners it took to get here. We also visited with ranchers from across the state to bring you more information on how beef is raised, along with delicious beef recipes, and more! Enjoy!
10th Most Read Blog Post
A delicious partnership between Arizona Beef and Brad Prose of Chiles and Smoke to celebrate National Beef Burger Day. The holiday may have passed but that doesn’t make this recipe any less delicious! Try it out today if you haven’t already.
9th Most Read Blog Post
This was an article written by Morgan Boecker for Certified Angus Beef to recognize their award winner, Arizona rancher Ross Humphreys of the San Rafael Cattle Company. Another thanks to CAB for allowing us to reshare this write-up.
8th Most Read Blog Post
This summer we were thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her roots, and how she continues to share about the beef community.
7th Most Read Blog Post
Not only is beef delicious and nutritious, but it’s also a highly sustainable food source. Numerous proven sustainability practices are utilized throughout each and every step of the “pasture-to-plate” process that contribute to the way beef is responsibly raised today.
6th Most Read Blog Post
Paradise Valley Burger Company (PVBC), located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, sits in an unassuming strip mall across the street from Paradise Valley High School. This restaurant may be small in square footage, but it does not lack in big, unique flavors, bringing customers back to try the new weekly special or just to enjoy their usual menu favorite again and again.
5th Most Read Blog Post
Life with a toddler is hectic, to say the least. Their little brains are working harder than they literally ever will (fun fact: from birth to age three, children’s brains are learning something every second resulting in a million neural connections per second). And do they ever stop moving? Tiffany Selchow, Director of Social Marketing and Consumer Outreach at the Arizona Beef Council, shares in this blog how her family includes beef in their busy lifestyle, made only that much sweeter (and crazy) by their young daughter, to help ensure all nutrient needs are met.
4th Most Read Blog Post
This was a blog written by Arizona dairyman and Arizona Beef Council board member, Clint Gladden where he covers beef, dairy and sustainability.
3rd Most Read Blog Post
While Tim Petersen is a first-generation rancher, ranching wasn’t his first career path. He was raised in Arizona, spending most of his life outdoors hunting, fishing, and camping with his father, who did work as a carpenter on several ranches, and taught his son a love for the outdoors. This love for the land and the outdoors gave Tim a genuine appreciation for those who managed and cared for the landscapes, leading him to his eventual career as a rancher and owner of Arizona Grass Raised Beef Co.
2nd Most Read Blog Post
A question and answer blog post with the Layton family who ranch and raise cattle on the Arizona Strip. Read this post to learn about how this family is committed to always improving how they care for their cattle and the land they use.
The Most Read Blog Post of 2021
Meet Job Luque! Job is the general manager of Five Rivers Cattle Company Feed Yard in Wellton, Arizona. In this Q&A, Job shares his history in the cattle community and his role at the feed yard where he shares their focus and dedication to raising high-quality, sustainable beef.
By Morgan Boecker
Enjoy this write up from Certified Angus Beef (CAB) of Arizona rancher Ross Humphreys who was recently given the Commitment to Excellence award from CAB. Special thank you to Morgan Boecker and CAB for allowing us to reshare their work here.
Ross Humphreys walks like a cowboy and talks like one, too. His adept gaits tells of many days in and out of the saddle on his ranch just south of Patagonia, Ariz.
He wears many hats, but his black felt wide brim fits most naturally, shading him from the sun at San Rafael Cattle Company. Off the ranch, you can find him in Tucson managing stocks and his publishing company.
Grit in every venture makes him a successful businessman, and his unrattled spirit makes the best of challenges. However, it’s his relentless drive for raising high-quality beef that earned him the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) 2021 Commercial Commitment to Excellence Award.
A different background
Humphreys grew up an army brat, frequently moving throughout his childhood. He earned a degree in chemistry and worked as a metallurgical engineer for a bit before going back to school for a Master of Business Administration. That sent him on a new route.
He’s held a lot of job titles in his 72 years, from strategic business advisor to book publisher and CEO of multiple companies, just to name a few.
In 1999 at 50-years-old, never having owned cattle or managed a ranch, he bought San Rafael Cattle Company. Admittedly, he took an unusual path to the cattle business.
“I stood on one of the hills with my older daughter and said, ‘Anybody could run a cow on this place because you can see her wherever she is,’” he says. “So that’s how we got started.”
Consistent little changes
With no agricultural background, Humphreys went straight to the University of Arizona and bought a Ranching 101 textbook.
Always curious, his questions led to new acquaintances, and Mark Gardiner, of Gardiner Angus Ranch in Kansas, became his teacher and connector.
“I’ve hardly ever spent any physical time with Gardiners,” Humphreys admits, “But if I called them up, they’d spend two hours on the phone with me answering questions.”
Humphreys leaned on good information and sound science. No ranch decision is made without running some math and looking at a spreadsheet.
By genetic testing his herd, he saw steady progress by buying a little better bull than the year before. He focuses his selection to ensure balanced cows that can raise replacement females and a calf crop that produces the best beef.
Humphreys confirms his plan works with results at the feedyard. Loads of his fed cattle have improved from 20% Prime in 2013 to 95% CAB or higher, including nearly 85% Prime today.
“My goal is to try to produce the best carcass I can,” he says. “So, I keep trying to nudge up my cow herd so that the calves will be even better the next time.”
Preserving today for tomorrow
Conservation is as much part of the San Rafael story as the cattle. Named after the San Rafael Valley, the ranch is nestled in Arizona’s high desert country bordering Mexico. It’s the north end of a rich ecological site that looks like the Great Plains and is home to various plants and animals, many on the endangered species list.
“Ninety-five percent of this ranch is perennial native grasses,” Humphreys says. “We are the last shortgrass prairie in Arizona.”
Collaboration with conservation groups ensures the ranching operation, endangered wildlife and habitat are protected from housing or industrial development. The easements with Arizona State Parks and the Nature Conservancy led to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The most important habitats on the ranch are water sources, including the Santa Cruz River, several springs and stock tanks. The endangered Sonoran Tiger Salamander is only found in stock tanks in the San Rafael Valley. Humphreys developed water sources with support from NRCS grants, creating a mutual benefit for the cattle and wildlife.
Environmental investment is key to Humphreys’ long-term goal of sustaining the land.
Even with intensive management, the land still needs water and the current Southwestern drought continues to challenge his resources. As a result, Humphreys sold roughly 65% of his cow herd this year.
Unsure if he will ever get back to pre-drought herd numbers, he remains committed to this final career as a rancher.
“I want to come home to a beautiful place,” he says. “I started doing this when I was 50, but I like the work. I like the cows.”
Ever the student, he meets each new challenge with a thirst for knowledge, determined to sustain, and focused on raising the best, one step at a time.
This summer were thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her FFA experience, and how important FFA is for the agriculture community.
We each probably have a few key childhood memories that stick out. Maybe these memories consist of visiting a favorite place, spending time with family, or experiencing new things. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing in my dad’s agriculture classroom during evening FFA chapter meetings and going to the county fair to watch his students show their animals. I can remember how kind the students were to me and I remember how much fun it was to sit in the bleachers and watch the “big kids” show. Family gatherings were also always filled with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents sharing story upon story of their time as FFA members and all of the fun memories they had. From a very young age, I began a countdown to the day when I could be an FFA member and have a blue corduroy jacket of my own.
The National FFA Organization is the largest youth leadership organization in the country with over 735,000 members across all 50 states and over 10,000 FFA members here in Arizona. More than anything, I wanted to be one of these students!
When the time came for me to enter high school and finally have the opportunity to be an FFA member, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I was going to a school that I loved, but it did not have an FFA chapter. I had to decide if I would stay at my school and miss out on FFA or move schools to one with an agriculture program. After lots of consideration and talking to many people, another option was presented! With the help of our principal, my school was able to get an FFA chapter chartered in 2016 when I was a sophomore. This decision and the forethought of my principal truly changed the course of my life.
Because I attended a small charter high school that focused on classical education, my experience in ag class did not look like I had always imagined it would. We did not have a big facility with a large greenhouse, I was the only student in my chapter that had grown up around livestock, and many of my friends had never even heard about the FFA until they joined ag class. Looking back, I am very grateful that my experience was different than I expected it to be because it allowed me to have a unique perspective on the importance of agricultural education.
Most people entered the class having no idea where their food came from and some even had some negative views about agriculture as a whole. However, these were the students that soaked up the lessons and gained the most out of their experience as an FFA member and an agricultural education student. I learned that there is no “one-size-fits-all” description of who should be involved in agriculture and who should be telling our story. We need everyone – no matter their background – to spread the truth about agriculture and to be better consumers. I believe that agricultural education and the FFA play a major role in doing that. My time as a member of the Trivium FFA chapter taught me that everyone has a place in advocating and working in agriculture, we just simply have to help them find it.