The King’s Anvil Ranch located in the Altar Valley outside of Tucson, Arizona is a piece of history. Unlike some relics, this ranch and the King family continue to implement the latest scientific research and technology to ensure this ranch doesn’t become a thing of the past and continues to move forward with the rest of our society. A day-long visit to this beautiful desert gem with husband and wife team Joe and Sarah King gave us the opportunity to learn all about what they do and bring you this blog post.
Tell us about yourself, your family and your ranch:
Joe: Our family ranch is the King’s Anvil Ranch, west of Tucson in Three Points, Arizona. I am 37 years old, a fourth-generation rancher and have lived on this ranch nearly my entire life. We have a long history here on this ranch and in this area. My great-grandad founded our ranch, and my grandad followed in his footsteps, including roping in the first Tucson rodeo. My great-grandad had an extremely large ranch and what we currently operate is a small parcel compared to what they used to manage and raise cattle on. He was the one who bought barbed wire for the fence on this ranch way back in 1895. We have not bought barbed wire since then. I’m still fixing his barbed wire and I’ve never met him.
Sarah: I grew up moving around. I was born in Wisconsin, moved to Mexico City for two years and then on to New Jersey. When we lived in Mexico City, we would go on weekend trips and there would be horses by the side of the road you could pay to ride and that’s where I started getting into horses. I rode in New Jersey at a small English stable where we did the little horse shows.
My family frequently visited the Elkhorn Ranch, which is just south of the King’s Anvil Ranch, for vacations as I was growing up. This led to my employment at the Elkhorn Ranch in Montana, originally to be the babysitter, and then I ended up being the Peanut Butter Mother which is the kiddy wrangler who organizes the kids’ activities during the summers of my college years. I came down here my first fall out of college nine years ago to work at the Arizona Elkhorn. The barn boss, who was a childhood buddy of Joe’s, got to scheming that Joe and I should get together. He had just gotten married, so love was in the air. And he was right! It panned out! Here we are nine years later with two children hopping around. I went back to Montana for one more summer and then Joe and I got married in 2011, so we’ve been married for six years now.
How has technology changed on the ranch?
Joe: In many ways. I just got an iPhone! I can now use it to do all my cattle records on. The apps are fun and help to keep track of the age of cows better. We also use a sonogram to check if cows are pregnant. We also now use cars, horses, barbed wire and a mixer to feed calves, just to name a few.
We almost take smartphones for granted these days, but they’re definitely something that generations before me didn’t have on the ranch. We have two new cowboys, who haven’t made it to every corner of the ranch yet. The other day, I needed to run to town for parts, and they were going to ride to a gate in the mountains. We went over verbal directions in the morning, but I wasn’t sure it had clicked. Midway through the day, they called, and they were in the wrong spot. I was able to pull up the Maps app on my phone, drop a “pin” where the gate is, and then send it to one of the guys, and he brought it up on his phone, and they rode to the point. It saved them several hours of lost time riding through the mountains searching for the gate.
What apps do you use?
Joe: Dropbox so I can save stuff between computers. If I ever smashed my phone everything would be backed up. I have Beef Market Central. I have a tally counter so I can count everyone’s ages as they walk by without having to do it 9 times. Now we have an accurate count of their actual ages.
How does the sonogram help?
Joe: It makes it easier and eliminates some human error when checking for pregnancy in our cows. It also speeds up the process! We can tell if a cow is bred much earlier (for example, in the first trimester) which means we can turn these cows out to a large pasture. If we check by manual palpation (feeling the uterus with a hand to check for pregnancy) and a cow comes up open, we hold them in a pasture or pen nearby and recheck later, because she could either be only in the first trimester or could truly be open. We can identify these bred cows earlier so they can go on to better pastures.
In your lifetime, how have you seen technology change the way you are doing things on the ranch?
Joe: We used to employee many more cowboys than we do now. Technology has helped us do this job more efficiently and make up for the loss of skilled workers. We used to have to keep forty or more horses to make sure we had enough horsepower to do the required work. While we don’t use ATVs to move cattle like some folks do (still just horses), we will use a helicopter at times to close out our fall round-up and have them gather the last remnants in a pasture, as we ride our horses along with and bring out what the helicopter pilot finds. The helicopter has shortened the time to finish out gathering a pasture from three weeks to three hours, along with a much better success rate of finding all the cattle in that area. The terrain in our pastures can be rocky and tough to get into and the flat area is large, so it takes time to cover all that land.
What are some common misconceptions the average person has about raising cattle?
Joe: As previously explained, Sarah has a strong connection to the guest ranch, the Elkhorn Ranch, next door so we often visit and talk with the folks who are staying there from all across the U.S. (and even internationally!). They ask lots of questions, which is great. There’s a lot of basic questions but one that I enjoy the most is when they realize our ranch is more than just a hobby – it’s a full-time job. Like when we start to talk about trade issues and about how the price of cattle is trailing the price of oil, and they are surprised that I know what the cost of oil is. As it is a large factor in the price of live cattle, it’s an important one for me to watch. They are surprised by that. I tell them my job depends on it. They don’t take the second level of thinking unless you push them to and then it makes sense to them.
Sarah: It’s really the same as anyone thinking about someone else’s job. You might know about the first layer of what a job requires, but I think this job happens to be one people romanticize and might think the same thing is going on from times past. It’s also a visual job, allowing people to be more set into their perceptions of what they think goes on at a ranch versus seeing the business layer. As a rancher, you are in charge of making all the business decisions to ensure your family business stays afloat and that’s not something people often see.
In terms of misconceptions, they can go both ways. There tends to be a view of people in ranching or agriculture that those folks are simple or uneducated, which I don’t think is the case at all. I also think there are some missed opportunities to communicate when we go on the defensive instead of listening. Sometimes when you’re deeply involved in something, you can’t understand how others wouldn’t understand it. But sometimes if we take a step back and think, “why would someone know that?” we might understand why they’re asking the question.
What is the most important thing you do on your ranch every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?
Joe: Keeping gentle cattle is the biggest thing you can do to ensure that yourself, your family, your employees and your animals all stay safe and healthy. When your animals stay safe, you don’t have to worry about doctoring them and it helps to ensure our end product is high quality. By working on gentling our cattle while they are here, they avoid stress when being trailered somewhere else, they settle into new environments, such as a feed yard, faster and with less weight loss, they know how to eat out of a feed bunk and how to drink water out of a trough. These things ensure they are relaxed so they can grow healthier, just like anyone else would.
We also ensure our cowboys adhere to the philosophy of calm, gentle cattle handling and Beef Quality Assurance designations. It’s the philosophy you want your group or team to follow to produce the best product.
Sarah: Additionally, we also must stay on top of research and continually educate ourselves even after we are done with our college degrees. We must stay on top of vaccinations, medical treatments, range management, etc. This can mean we have to make a change to how we are doing something. All this thought and research goes into our cattle and our ranch. This is a product which not only has the end game of putting a delicious meal on the shelf, but also has benefits for the landscape, for wildlife, and for people broadly, such as hunters coming to the ranch. This product helps us keep our little portion of the universe in good, healthy, functioning condition.
What do you do on your ranch in terms of range management and conservation?
Sarah: The King’s Anvil Ranch is a founding member of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance, which is the local collaborative conservation group. This group is made up of ranchers and agriculturists who live and work in the Altar Valley. It was founded in 1995, in the spirit of the Malapi Borderlands Group and the Diablo Trust. The goal is to conserve the Altar Valley for future generations. We work to promote, sustain, and maintain the habitat. A lot of what we’ve done has been to get partners to work together at the table and find common ground in discussing challenges and resolving issues. Even if we can’t have some of those big conversations at the national level, we can bring them down and have them at the small, local level.
There are a lot of different players in this valley. Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan was enacted in 2001, and their Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan was finalized recently. This led Pima County to purchase a couple of the ranches in the valley. The valley is the largest open, unfragmented space in Pima County. This area is a cornerstone of their conservation plan. Some of the other stakeholders in the Altar Valley are the Arizona State Land Department, national designations such as the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which used to be a cattle ranch, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Forest Service toward the south end. The Alliance is focused on getting those partners to come together to talk and collaborate. The best way we’ve found to do that is by working on tangible stuff on the ground. There have been a whole variety of projects. We here at the Anvil are working on a prescribed burn plan, along with low maintenance road care.
Pick out a piece of info that you want everyone to know about you and the work you do on the ranch every day:
Joe: I’m really in the people business. It’s the most fun part of my job. When I can get people to see eye-to-eye on the ranch and work together to get tasks done, it’s a great accomplishment. Managing people and working with people is the best part and the most difficult part. But when it goes right it’s just a home run.
What is your favorite cut of beef?
Joe: I’m always up for a good rib-eye, but smoked brisket on my new smoker is a new favorite. But it’s always a floating favorite. Beef ribs are another good one.
Sarah: Flank steak
What do you think of when ranchers and cowboys are brought up in a conversation? Is it the picturesque image of a mounted horseman silhouetted against the setting sun, surrounded by the blazing oranges, pinks, and purples so characteristic of the Arizona skyline at dusk? Well, hopefully, you’ve read some of our previous blog posts (like this one, or this one, or that one), and have gained a better understanding of what modern ranching really looks like, but this romantic image of the old west is often what comes to mind when ranching in Arizona is brought up.
In my line of work (and life), beef and raising cattle is always at the forefront of my thoughts so it comes up often! A large goal of ours here are at the Arizona Beef Council is to share with people the continuous improvement our ranchers are working towards while showing the rich heritage we’ve built on. Many ranches have changed immensely over the past hundred years, while some ranches, due to physical location and terrain, have remained a mirror image of their past.
One such ranch is the O RO Ranch just north of Prescott, Arizona. The challenges faced on this ranch and the remote location have made it hard for the average person to visit or even see photos, but Kathy McCraine, Arizona rancher, journalist, and photographer, was granted permission to photograph this living piece of history from 1993-2013. She has since taken her collection of photos and curated them into a beautiful coffee table-style book titled Orejana Outfit, Arizona’s Historic O RO Ranch 1993-2013 for all to enjoy while gaining access to this hidden world. Kathy’s book gives us a glimpse into what the past most likely looked like, and may still, on many Arizona ranches. Her title includes the Spanish word Orejana which refers to an ownerless, unbranded bovine who is old enough to be without its mother. This type of cattle could also be referred to as a “maverick.” The name certainly fits the challenging landscape and remote setting of the O RO which has remained far separate from modern life. This land isn’t suitable for much. Crops won’t grow here, but grasses will, making it an ideal location, now and then, to raise cattle.
Her collection features countless black and white photos from various places on this 257,000-acre ranch, most taken during fall and spring works. Fall and spring are busy on most ranches, but at the O RO Ranch, this is especially the case. Cowboys with the right set of skills (meaning they must have more with them than just the right outfit and tack) show up to assist the full-time camp men (those that stayed on year-round to ensure the safety and health of the cattle and land) with the task of gathering, branding, weaning, and shipping that season’s calf crop. As you flip through this book and learn about all that goes into these busy times, it’s a tricky task to separate the older photos from the new. The black and white images take away the clues you might use to tell what year each photo was taken and acts almost as if it is a time machine to the past.
Along with the numerous photos, a brief description before each chapter gives the viewer more information on what is happening in the photos and why. Detailed histories and understandings are given on the O RO Ranch history and its Spanish land grant roots, the wagon and the crew, the various roles each person plays on the ranch and why, the horses and their importance during these working times, branding, shipping, and much more.
Kathy’s book is available for purchase at www.kathymccraine.com. She will also be at the Arizona State Cowbelles’ booth during the Tucson Festival of Books signing copies of this Arizona treasure. Currently, her book is also available at the Phippen Museum of Western Art, Sharlot Hall Museum, Oggs Hogan, and the Old Stage Stop, all in Prescott. Also, at Animal Health Express in Tucson, The Scottsdale Spirit of the West Museum in Scottsdale, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
Review was written by Tiffany Selchow of the Arizona Beef Council.
This week we are excited to bring you not just a delicious recipe, but a cool story from an Arizona native and foodie, Brooke Phelps. Brooke has connected to agriculture, and specifically beef, through 4-H and it looks like she’ll be sticking around for awhile (see her story about her future husband’s family farm). She often posts drool-worthy Instagram stories featuring her family’s foodie creations which is what inspired us to ask her to share with you all! Enjoy and be prepared with a snack. Guaranteed this blog post will make you hungry!
I’m a total foodie at heart and normally plan my days around meals. Doesn’t everyone do that? My mom (Jacque Phelps) gave me her passion for cooking. Growing up I always loved to learn from her (still do!) and help her in the kitchen. Nowadays we love to make up recipes and cook together! I’m a beef eater through and through. In fact, my whole family is a family of beef eaters. It’s usually not a real meal unless it has beef in it. Don’t get me wrong, I love seafood, pork and the occasional chicken dish but it seems like most of my favorite meals include beef.
I grew up in the small town of San Manuel; my family has a car dealership off Highway 77 in Oracle. Even though we weren’t directly tied into agriculture, there has always been a strong influence from family and friends. I raised steers and veal calves for 4 -H at the Pinal County Fair and I think that is what really validated my love for agriculture. After high school I went on to the University of Arizona where I graduated with a BS in Agriculture Communications in 2016. I now work for the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts as their communications director. I’ll soon be living on an Arizona dairy farm with my future husband (Clint Gladden) whose family farms and dairy in Palo Verde, AZ.
This is a great weeknight savior for the leftover veggies in the fridge that you haven’t used and are soon going to go bad. It can also be a great Sunday dinner. I love stir-fry because it is endlessly customizable and lightning fast to whip together. This combo is currently one of my favs. This recipe should and needs to be in every Arizona family’s weeknight rotation.
I am a spicy food addict and most of my meals contain some heat in one way or another. I like my Spicy Beef Stir Fry with lots of Thai Chilies. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but the good news is it’s optional for the non-spicy folks in the crowd.
1-½ lbs. of thinly sliced beef Top Sirloin cut across the grain into bite-size strips
1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons of sesame oil, divided
5 or so Thai chilies (optional, could replace with a milder chili or just add some red pepper flakes)
½ cup of teriyaki sauce
½ cup spicy stir- fry sauce
¼ cup of sliced carrots
¼ cup of bean sprouts
6 chopped green onions
1 ½ cup of sliced white mushrooms
1 ½ cup of broccoli
8 oz. of cooked Pad Thai rice noodles
NOTE: If you can’t find Pad Thai noodles you could substitute with spaghetti or rice
Marinate meat with your favorite teriyaki sauce for at least 30 min. I included a picture of mine that I get from Trader Joe’s.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil (part veg oil part sesame oil) in a large skillet or wok over high heat. When the oil is simmering add broccoli and mushrooms, tossing until mushrooms are browned and tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, green onion, bean sprouts, and chilies, tossing for another minute. Transfer vegetables to another bowl.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in the same skillet over high heat. When the oil is simmering again, add part of your beef and arrange slices in a single layer in skillet. Cook until beef is browned and caramelized on the first side, about 1 minute. Toss and continue to cook until brown all over. Then repeat with the rest of your beef. Drain any excess liquid in your skillet.
Add your cooked noodles, vegetables, and spicy stir-fry sauce in with the beef and cook on high until everything is combined.
Serve with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro (Optional)
In case you haven’t followed Brooke on Instagram yet, here ‘s a sneak peak at the deliciousness she often shares.
A very important aspect of the beef community is found in all of the culinary wizards who prepare beef to serve to others. Cattle ranchers do all they can to raise healthy, high quality cattle that will produce high quality beef, and then, ultimately, it is in the hands of cooks and chefs to prepare a delicious meal. Meet Bruce Brown of Phoenix-based Bruce Brown Catering. The Arizona Beef Council has partnered with Bruce to serve beef creations at several events and we’ve also learned a lot from him about the world of catering. We visited him to share about the catering business and beef.
What brought you to catering and when did you start?
I have actually been in the food business my entire life. I grew up on the largest commercial hog farm in New York State. When I was seven years old, my mother started a frozen custard stand which also offered bbq, pork and beef burgers which were all produced on the family farm. Before I could see over the service counter, I was offering people delicious food. When I graduated from college, my father had progressed into the catering business, doing mostly bbq chicken, ribs and pig roasts. At that time, we worked together for a few years, and then, with his constant encouragement, I branched off with my own similar business in Upstate New York.
Have you always enjoyed food and preparing food for others?
As the story goes, at the age of eight, I made my first pasta sauce and dinner for the family. I am not sure how good it REALLY was, but, they told me it was and my culinary career was begun. So I have to say with an emphatic YES, I have always enjoyed preparing food for others.
What’s the most fun type of catering event?
Without a doubt, the most fun and rewarding catering that we do each year is the Arizona National Livestock Show (ANLS). We have been honored to be the caterer for the show since 2008. As challenging as providing many different types of services, serving approximately 4500 meals in four days is a lot of work, but rewarding! The people involved in the ANLS make this so rewarding and fun.
What cuts of beef are best suited to catering and are the biggest hits?
The cut of beef best suited really depends on the event and type of service needed. Our most popular and favorite beef item is hand carved, Arizona mesquite smoked, New York Strip Loin. We like the personal service offered through the carving station and everyone loves hand carved, medium rare beef! For an event which does not allow for a carving station, we like to offer braised short ribs with a California cabernet bbq sauce or smoked brisket with spicy horseradish sauce.
We’ve asked you to create some wild beef pairings (beef bacon and chocolate chip cookies, beef and beer chili, mini beef Rueben bites). How does the versatility of beef benefit your recipe creations?
One of the things I enjoy about catering is creating so many different items for people to enjoy. We offer everything from an upscale plated dinner with a filet steak to a backyard bbq with burgers. One delicious long and ongoing trend is the gourmet burger…we have had a call for a mixed grind including brisket with sirloin and short rib…a TRUE steak burger! For instance, for a buffet utilizing a chafing dish, we prefer to offer a braised beef. This prevents the concern of serving an over-cooked product. On the other hand, for a nicer offering, we will serve steaks directly from the grill or as a plated dinner where we control the temperature the meat is served.
What are some trends you’ve seen in the catering world?
The trends in the catering world seem to be set by “The Food Network,” celebrity chefs and their shows as well as Pinterest. They say the only thing constant is change and we certainly see that in our business. One of the main trends is Farm to Table and seasonal, local products. It seems like a pretty basic and simple concept, yet it has become a great marketing tool. Small plates and miniature desserts are popular. You see many passing trends such as molecular gastronomy. Happily for us beer lovers, beer and food pairing and gastropubs certainly seem to be a trend here to stay! We have always concentrated on our core value of serving delicious, simple food, prepared properly.
What, if any, changes have you seen in catering and what do you see for the future?
We have seen a great increase in fast/casual restaurants offering catering services. You also see people looking for healthier options to serve their guests.
What are the most common questions you receive about beef from your clients?
Mainly, our clients ask about the different preparations and which cuts of beef will work best with the menu they are offering. Many times people will want to offer a second protein option along with beef and we offer them a cut and preparation which pairs well together.
Lastly, what is your favorite cut of beef?
Tough question…I am definitely a steak-and-potatoes guy! It is a tossup between a perfectly grilled, medium rare Ribeye and thinly sliced Arizona mesquite, smoked New York Strip Loin with spicy horseradish sauce…sometimes a good grilled Tri Tip, thinly sliced. Maybe some smoked brisket with either tangy bbq sauce or my go to horseradish. I also like a good carne asada taco…sometimes a slowly smoked beef bbq sandwich. Then again…you just cannot beat a thick, juicy burger!
“Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” is turning 25 this year! And to celebrate being one of the nation’s most iconic food brands, we’re rolling out a brand new website, showcasing the pleasure beef brings to meals, the people who raise it and the nutritional benefits – like protein – that beef provides. Even the Wall Street Journal is helping us celebrate!
We especially wanted to point out a few new features we’re thrilled about – and we hope you are, too!
Learn the tools of the trade! Today’s cattle farmers and ranchers marry time-honored traditions with sophisticated new innovations to raise healthy cattle that produce the finest quality beef. In the Raising Beef section, you get to meet the families behind your plate who make beef more than a business. Play the Video.
Inspiration (x800!) The recipes section is the stop if you’re hankering for something different. Explore more than 800 beef recipes, from haute cuisine to backyard grill favorites.
A new way to master the meat case! With 126 cuts cataloged, along with all the right ways to cook each one, the new cuts section takes the guesswork out of choosing the perfect cut of beef.
Cooking lessons galore! Curious about the best way to grill a steak or braise a pot roast? Want to know how to make a delicious stir-fry or how to perfectly brown Ground Beef? The Cooking Lessons section has everything you need!
Raising cattle is a unique experience made up of many hours of hard work and dedication. It’s also a great way to sit back and observe how mother nature can teach you many of the major life lessons you need for a successful life. Enjoy our list of 10 lessons learned on the ranch.
1. Those who say only sunshine brings happiness have never danced in the rain.
2. Water the grass on your side of the fence and then enjoy it.
3. Respect your elders. They have way more life experience than you do.
4. Break the rules sometimes. And then run like heck!
5. Trust the right people. Those who make an effort to show you how much they care are a good place to start.
6. Cultivate and care for your friendships. Your friends are some of the most important people on Earth.
7. Sometimes you have to walk a ways to get where you’re going. But don’t give up because the reward is worth the hard work.
8. Set boundaries with people in your life. And when they cross that line, don’t be afraid to let them know!
9. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
And finally, the most important lesson of them all…
10. If you’ve got to pick your nose, make sure no one’s looking.
We hope everyone has a great weekend full of laughs, friends and family, and a whole lot of beef!
Arizona summers are brutal, to say the least, with reprieve arriving only when you catch sight of dark clouds forming on the horizon, smell a hint of moisture in the air, and the mesquite trees start to rustle as a late afternoon wind tickles their branches. The afternoon monsoon has arrived and if you listen closely, you can almost hear the desert sigh in relief.
Monsoon season is a big deal in our state for the average person but proves essential to the cattle rancher. These life-giving rains replenish basin groundwater, recharge riparian areas, give life back to summer grasses, and fill dirt tanks essential for wildlife and cattle alike to survive. Once the rains hit, gone are the days of trucking water to the far reaches of the ranch, as mother nature lifts one small burden off the shoulders of hard-working cattlemen and women.
Enjoy this round-up of Arizona monsoon photos from ranches across the countryside in honor of another monsoon season.
Gaining knowledge and wisdom from an animal is a true blessing and not something every person gets to experience in their lifetime. These lessons are invaluable and often span the distance of a lifetime. This week, we are excited to welcome back a past contributor to the Arizona Beef Blog, Jolyn Smith of Arizona Ranch Reflections, as she perfectly sums up an invaluable relationship between Paco and her granddaughter, Morgan. Please be sure to visit Jolyn’s Facebook page as she offers beautiful photos of her ranch and words of wisdom we all need.
His name is Paco and he is my husbands “retired” ranch horse. They don’t get any better than this one! He is 29 years old this year and he is the best “teacher” anyone could ever have. To say that our oldest grandgirl loves this horse would be an understatement!
Oh, the lessons he’s taught her.
Morgan has learned to watch where he is “looking” because he always spots the cows first. Morgan has learned that she can trust him when he goes up and down the canyons and the mountain picking the best and safest way to go. She has learned she can trust him when they get in a “jam” (according to Morgan, not Paco) and he calmly knows how to handle the situation.
Morgan is learning how to “watch a cow”‘and know what it’s going to do before it does because Paco is a professional at this and she is learning to “feel” what his next move will be. Morgan is learning about obedience because Paco does what she asks of him every time. When she rides one of the younger horses, they don’t always pay attention to what she asks and that frustrates her. It makes for a great analogy to share when she is being “stubborn.” (Not that that ever happens with a 9-year-old!)
Morgan has learned to be comfortable with the silence they share, even when she is nowhere in sight of any one else and I worry she may be “lost.” Paco always knows the way and she knows there isn’t any reason to be afraid.
Morgan concerns herself with the fact that Paco is going to die someday. Truth be told, we all do. She gets tears in her eyes when she thinks about it or what she asks questions about him like “when he is going to die?” I often catch her just looking at him in silence, I know what she’s thinking. The thought causes her to pay better attention to him and what he’s all about because she knows we won’t have him forever. Not physically anyway; always in our hearts though.
This summer, I think Morgan will be ready to pass him on to the next one in line that needs a “teacher”, and trust me when I say there is a herd waiting.
Morgan doesn’t know this yet, but Paco will let her know when she’s ready to do so, that’s what good teachers do.
Thank you, Paco, for taking such good care of my littles, I wish you could live forever and teach them all.
Labor Day is an American holiday which is celebrated to honor the contributions that workers have made to add to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of our country. Here at the Arizona Beef Council, we prefer to celebrate by listening to the clicking of the lighter on the grill, seeing the flames jump skyward upon ignition and then slapping a few tasty steaks and beef hot dogs on to sizzle. Because beef is so often the center of our Labor Day celebrations, we are bringing you Arizona ranch mom-approved beef appetizers so your whole day is beefy!
Pam Turnbull, current Arizona State Cowbelles’ President and resident of Dragoon, AZ, shared with us her granddaughter’s favorite recipe for a cookout which could work as the main meal or something tasty to snack on while enjoying a cold one and conversation with friends and family. She said, “My granddaughter enjoys a simple beef kabob with pineapple in between the cubes of steak.” Here’s a similar recipe for your use. Just add pineapple to keep it up to par with the Turnbull family!
Sarah King, wife, mother, and rancher at the King Anvil Ranch, said “A seven-layer dip with ground beef as a layer is always a hit! I make it in a pie dish with ground beef, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, beans, sour cream and some green onions sprinkled on the top.” Who needs a recipe when you get details like that but just in case you’re domestically challenged and like a recipe (like us) here you go.
Oftentimes, being a ranch mom also involves work in town. Adriana Arrington, rancher at the Mlazy J Ranch, is no stranger to this busy lifestyle, but loves it all the same! When asked what her favorite beef appetizer was she first asked her kids to vote on their favorite. The results are in: taco nachos made with their homegrown Arizona beef was the winner! Not only is this an easy recipe, but is super customizable and great to do when you need to use those random ingredients left over in the fridge.
“I admit, usually beef is the main dish for me so I’m really having to think for a beef appetizer! I keep thinking chili, especially for transportability, and if you served it in cups instead of bowls it could be an appetizer right? And at our house, it is always served with lots of cheese and sour cream or Greek yogurt. Yay protein!” said Lauren Kerr, of Kerr Dairy. We like the way she thinks as getting the appetizer to the BBQ is often half the battle not to mention all of the delicious topping suggestions. Lauren’s husband, Wes, was recently featured on our blog. To learn more about Kerr Dairy and Lauren’s family check out that post here.
Did these Arizona ranch and dairy moms inspire you to cook up one of these delicious beef appetizers? We don’t see how you could resist. As you celebrate your Labor Day, we wish you relaxation, delicious food, and great company. Keep those grills on and the beef sizzling!
This week we are excited to introduce to you Mark Rovey of Rovey Dairy. Mark is a current board member of the Arizona Beef Council and is the animal manager at his family’s farm in Glendale, Arizona. Enjoy learning about this unique farm!
Arizona Beef Council: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your dairy:
Mark Rovey: I’ve been managing the animals (this includes dairy cattle, beef cattle, dairy sheep, meat sheep, Watusi cattle, buffalo, llamas, and a donkey named Cinco) for 6 years. I gained experience in this role by helping my dad or other managers in the years prior. Basically, this is my life. I don’t really do anything else. This is what I do. Beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, something with the Watusis on the weekend.
Currently, on the dairy, we milk 2,000 Jersey cows. The dairy was started in 1943. It was a Jersey dairy when my grandpa owned and ran it. My father, Paul Rovey, bought the dairy from my grandpa in the 70’s and converted it to Holstein dairy cows. In the early 90s, late 80s, he then started transitioning back to Jerseys. This started as a rogue 4H experiment because my older sister was starting to show animals and he wanted something more manageable for her to handle. He kept a few in the milking herd and liked them so much he just kept buying more and selling the Holsteins. We’ve been back to 100% Jerseys for the last 6 years. We only have one token Holstein left.
Diversification is an important part of our farm which is easily seen as you walk around our property. One our newest projects is running a herd of milking sheep. Our goal is to turn the sheep’s milk into cheese and sell it at our upcoming local store and around the valley.
How does the technology you use now differ from the technology that was passed down to you or that previous generations may have used?
One of the most important technologies is we now use is artificial insemination. This practice allows us to make a better animal by selecting and using the best bulls from across the country versus being limited to the bulls who are nearby.
Another technology we harness is the power of cooling systems. As soon as the sun comes up, we have fans and misters in all pens and those go on. If it’s above 80 degrees, we’re cooling our animals. Genetics help us with this too as we can select for animals who tolerate the heat more efficiently. We can turn cooling on a littler later in the year because the Jerseys can efficiently handle the heat.
Record keeping is another important one. All the cows have an electronic identification tag in their ears which allows us to use a wand to scan each cow which transfers to a hand-held computer. The wand will tell us if we need to do something with that cow if she is in the wrong pen or many other useful bits of information. Once you scan an animal with the wand, a wealth of information appears on the hand-held computer such as when she was born, her mom, how much milk she is giving, how much milk her mom gave, health issues and so much more. This helps us to keep extremely accurate records and eliminates the chance for human error when recording this information.
What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the way your raise your cows?
One of the most common misconceptions I hear is there is a chance of antibiotics being in milk. Every single load of milk which leaves our place is sampled not once but up to five times for quality and measuring of antibiotic residue. We take two samples here at our farm before it leaves. Then when it gets to United Dairymen of Arizona (UDA – a milk marketing cooperative owned by Arizona dairy families) before it gets unloaded, there are least two more samples taken. All those samples are tested before it’s taken off the milk truck. Each tank of milk is tested for quality and somatic cell count to ensure the milk is of the highest quality. If there is one cow which was given antibiotics and her milk somehow gets into a milk truck, even if there are 50,000 pounds of milk in that tank, it still flags it which means the entire tank of milk would be dumped and not used. If there is any antibiotic residue in the milk, it will get dumped, and there is no way around it. So many great things have happened with regards to milk quality over the years to ensure it is an incredibly safe product. Milk is tested more than any other food product.
What is the most important thing that you do on your dairy and farm every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?
The job I make sure I do every single day is ensuring all the animals we are responsible for having everything they need. If they need shade, feed or water, I make sure they have those things. If our animals are healthy, we’re not spending money to make them healthy. The easiest way to ensure they stay healthy is to give them a healthy, clean environment with good feed. It makes our whole world easier if they just start in a good environment where they are healthy.
Training is another important component. The training helps our employees to know what the medicines and protocols are if they need to use them. It’s only reasonable to understand there will be a few animals who need to be treated but we need to make sure the employees know how to deal with the illness to ensure a quick recovery for our cows. They are trained on how to give the right dosage and how that medicine should be administered.
We train all of our employees using the National Dairy FARM Program which is a quality assurance program to ensure the best possible care and handling of dairy cows. We hold meetings twice a month to keep up on the skills we’ve learned using this program. This is important to ensure everyone knows how to handle cattle in the best way possible.
What is the most important piece of information that you would want people to know about you and the work you do on your dairy every day?
We’re here to have a business and make enough money to live. But to be able to do that we must take care of the animals so they stay healthy, can produce wholesome milk, and stay happy all while still making a living. Sometimes it’s hard work, but it’s worth it. We work to keep the animals healthy, ensure the product is high quality, and to keep doing what we’ve been doing for a long time.
How do you interact with your community?
My cousins started showing cattle back in the 80s and my dad noticed most people had to go out of state to buy their steers. They were spending a lot of money and not making anything back after the fair was over. He started buying beef cows and breeding them for show cattle. My cousins, siblings, and even kids from the surrounding neighborhood and schools benefited from this decision. A lot of the kids from the surrounding neighborhood didn’t have any sort of agriculture background. In fact, many of them lived in apartments and had never even owned a cat or dog. My dad would get them a steer, allow them to raise it here at the dairy, and teach them how to do the work required to prepare a steer for the show ring. Through this process, these kids would get an experience in raising and showing an animal while being surrounded by all sorts of agriculture. Some kids couldn’t afford this project so he would give the kids the steer and let them raise it on the property. Then after the fair, the kids would pay back the price of the steer and feed. They would make a little bit of money and leave with a good experience of agriculture. That was his goal. He figured these kids would end up being doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc., and they would have a good, firsthand experience with agriculture with the hope that they would come back to him with questions in the future instead of just looking it up on the internet.
In 2007, I took over the beef cows. I bred differently and kept more heifers back. In the last ten years, our show cattle program has come a long way. We still work with kids on payment plans and paying after fair, but those kids who also want to be competitive, can still come and buy something they can do well with here. It’s just getting better and better but still with the idea of helping kids out. What really matters to us is they can get a good project and learn something about animal agriculture from that animal.
If you could describe in one word the life of a dairyman, what would it be?
Interesting (he said with a chuckle).
Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it?
My favorite beef is anything directly off the grill. No plate or anything. Just standing next to the grill, grabbing a piece and eating it right there. It doesn’t matter what cut of beef it is as longs as it’s fresh off the grill. Carne Asada directly off the grill is perfect. It’s the whole atmosphere of a cookout with friends and family that makes it even better.