Arizona Junior Livestock Association – Beefing Up the Competition

Boots, belts and felt hats filled the hallway of the Prescott Resort for the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Convention (ACGA). Ranchers, vendors and family members mingled over the latest in the beef community and how their ranches and families continue to change. Among these agricultural giants are some up-and-comers who seek to gain knowledge and aren’t afraid to work hard for it: the members of the Arizona Junior Livestock Association (AJLA).

The purpose of the AJLA is “to promote the welfare of the livestock community, to further the education and cooperation of young people interested in livestock, and to aid in the attainment of mutual goals set by AJLA members interested in all phases of this business and all possible career opportunities.”

 

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Preslee Whetton, AJLA Prepared Speech Contest winner, reciting her speech for ACGA Convention Participants (Photo by Heidi Crnkovic)

AJLA is a chance for the children who attend the annual convention with their parents a chance to participate in social time with other kids their age while offering learning opportunities and prizes for their efforts. AJLA members learn about and compete in prepared and impromptu speaking competitions, a quiz bowl and a livestock judging competition. These events have been part of the ACGA convention for almost 25 years and were incorporated when attendees noticed many children were drug along but didn’t have much to do other than sit in meetings with their parents.

“AJLA teaches us about livestock, caring for them and comparisons between different animals,” says Julian Arrington, a three-year member of the organization.

Arrington, 14, shows swine at livestock shows and helps run his family’s cattle ranch in Wilcox, AZ. He also participates in the livestock judging competition through AJLA and continues to learn about the anatomies of different animals.

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Julian Arrington showing his hog at his county fair. (Photo by Adrianna Arrington)

During the convention, members like Arrington are exposed to cattle ranchers and experts to facilitate their learning about the Arizona cattle community. For their impromptu competition, they were given the task to ask individuals about an assigned topic such as beef nutrition and the beef life cycle. After only 30 minutes, the participants share what they learned with the judges and the competition’s attendees in a speech format.

Aiden Bell, 9, has been a member of AJLA for five years. He helps run his family’s cattle ranch in Nogales, AZ, rounding up the cattle and learning more every day. This year at ACGA convention, he participated in the prepared speaking competition, talking about four different breeds of cattle: Angus, Brahma, Hereford, and Limousin.

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Members and leader, Roxie Bell, learning a few dance moves before the steak fry and dance. (Photo by Heidi Crnkovic)

“My favorite breed is Angus because we raise them,” says Bell. Bell’s mother, Roxanne “Roxie” Bell is the current leader of AJLA and has been held this position for eight years.

“The kids come from a variety of backgrounds,” says Roxanne. “Some have been showing [livestock] for years and some don’t much experience at all.” She says the organization is agriculture oriented, but also promotes learning and critical thinking skills needed in the real world.

The young members of AJLA are not to be looked over. The amount of information offered to their growing minds is incredible, and they take it in with a ferocious energy. They know what their families do for a living, they know why their parents work so hard to do it, and they want to learn and be part of it.

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AJLA Contest Participants (Photo by Heidi Crnkovic)

Blog Post was written by 2017 Arizona Beef Council Intern Shayla Hyde.

The Dog Days of Summer-Ranch Edition

If you have ever spent any time working cattle, you know that it is a team effort. Who is in the starting lineup? It isn’t always just cowboys; a rancher’s company is usually made up of a trusty horse and, you guessed it, hard working Lassie! Dogs have been used to help humans since they were first domesticated, and a main use for them is helping ranchers. Cattle dogs herd, gather, sort and protect, both out on the range and in chutes and holding areas. Our canine friends are perfect for this job due to their quick speeds, smaller size, and agility. They are also prolific barkers, effective in directing even the most stubborn cattle. There are many breeds favored for ranch jobs including Collies, Border Collies, Blue Heelers, Australian Shepherds, Catahoulas, Pit Bulls and more, including the all-American favorite: the mutt. The best cattle dogs usually have strong loyalty, high energy, and solid training; so the Arizona Beef Council went out in the beef community to find them!

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A horse and a dog are sometimes the most important part of a rancher’s team, with skills and characteristics that humans don’t posses including endurance, speed and agility.

Out in Santa Cruz County, amidst the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains, you can find Salero Ranch. If you’re lucky, you might also find Mari Hudson out working cattle with her trusty partner, Sage, by her side. A two-year-old Border Collie and Hanging Tree cross, Sage is learning how to help around the ranch. Her favorite jobs include helping sort off neighboring cattle from the herd (so they can be returned to the neighbors without the Salero Ranch herd going as well), trailing cattle to keep them moving in the right direction, and keeping lazy cattle moving (if they stop, they might turn back and lead the herd astray or double the time ranchers must spend working.) Sage’s owner, Mari, speaks very highly of her furry friend, “When I’m out working cattle alone, she’s a huge help. Especially with cattle trying to shade up (cattle will stop moving forward when tired of being moved and continually turn around to try to go back to the treeline).” Mari also spoke about ranchers she knows who have outstanding dogs for working and stopping wild cattle. Without the dogs, their job would be much harder and more dangerous. Although she doesn’t have very wild cattle, Sage is still an excellent hand, and a cute one too!

In addition to working cattle, dogs can help ranchers train horses. If a horse is acting up, a well-trained dog can bark and apply pressure in a manner that causes the horse to stand quietly or go where being directed. An example of how dogs can help includes encouraging a horse to walk forward instead of fighting against a halter when being halter-broke. By using dogs, tasks involving livestock and horses can be done with less man power and stress.

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Dogs can apply pressure from behind to move animals with low stress.

Dogs are called “man’s best friend,” and cattle dogs work hard to prove it. When gathering or checking cattle out on the range, there are many great reasons to bring along the pup so desperately wanting to go, including their help in moving cattle, companionship, and safety. Safety? Yes, a story from a rancher down in Nogales attests to this reason. Maco, a hand at ZZ Ranch Cattle Co., always takes his mutt when out on the range. One day, he was attacked by a mountain lion. Without a moment of hesitation his dog stepped in, warding off the predator and saving Maco’s life. While the hero did suffer injuries, Maco stitched him up, and he healed quickly, ready to go back out again. Now that is a best friend.

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Dogs serve as companions, helpers and protection out on the range.

Not every working cattle dog works out on the ranch, and a perfect example is Sis (Sister) at Marana Stockyards. This tough little stockyard employee lives to work. According to Karen Parsons, she works so hard that when the weather is unbearably hot, Sis must be left at home because her work ethic is too strong and she won’t quit! If you venture out back around the cattle pens, you will see Sis hard at work pushing, stopping, and holding cattle. She is stubborn and agile (often jumping through fence panels sideways), and a dependable helper. She is dedicated to her work, and it does not matter who is out there checking and moving cattle, she will come and help.

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Sis helps push the cattle and keep them moving to the desired pen.

While dogs are great companions at home, they are also an essential tool for many ranchers and cattlemen in the beef community. They can reduce the number of cowboys needed, work cattle with lower stress, handle wild and unruly cattle, give protection to people and livestock, and bring a smile to your face. Man’s best friend, and man’s best worker.

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Working cattle dogs are trained to push, gather, hold, and stop cattle. They are also great protectors, a true asset to a ranch.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.

A Week with an Arizona Beef Community Dynamic Duo

Welcome to the beef community, where fellow members of the community are not merely associates, but good friends and family. Need an example? Dean Fish from Santa Fe Ranch and Dan Bell from ZZ Cattle Co., also known as the Dynamic Duo. Here at the Arizona Beef Council office, our intern pair, Shayla and Nicole, also consider themselves a “dynamic duo,” and set out to spend a week with the aforementioned pair to experience Arizona ranching life and the hard work involved. Enjoy their story of their week working in this segment of the beef life cycle!

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Dean Fish (middle) and Dan Bell (right) are well-known names in the beef community both for their wonderful personalities, and for their experience, knowledge, and contributions to advancing and protecting the beef community.

For two girls who love cattle, horses, and agriculture, there is no way to describe how excited we were to spend a week in Nogales, AZ helping Dan and Dean on their ranches. Not only was it going to be wonderful being back out on horseback gathering cattle, but we were also blessed to spend time working with two extremely knowledgeable cattlemen learning their reasoning behind everything they do to raise cattle, and gaining insight on the beef story as a whole.

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Nicole and Shayla in their alternative office. The Arizona Beef Council internship offers the amazing opportunity to work on education and outreach as well as traveling work hands-on in the beef community.

Day one, we arrived in Tucson with the honor of attending the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association (SACPA) to represent the Arizona Beef Council and share information about the beef checkoff with the side benefit of experiencing firsthand how issues in the beef community are handled. We heard debates, opinions, personal experiences, and propositions from representatives from all aspects of the beef community. We were impressed by the efficiency and careful attention to making the best decision for all members of the beef community, the cattle, the environment, and consumers. Next, we headed to Dan’s beautiful family ranch house (well, we drove ourselves, and quickly learned we both were significantly lacking in our navigation skills.) Dan gave us a small tour of his ranch, followed by a delicious beef dinner and a history of the ranch, Nogales, and what it is like to ranch along the Mexican border. It only wet our taste buds for the millions of questions to come.

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The border between Mexico and America. A very small section has this high fence, while most of the border along the ranching land is simple posts and barbed wire.

Day two, we rose bright and early (there will always be a strong appreciation for western cattle growers who must rise at 3 a.m. and earlier to beat the heat and reduce stress for their horses and cattle) to head out and gather cattle on horseback with Dan and some other hands. He explained how he gathered and rotated cattle to benefit their individual needs in each stage of life, as well as properly manage the rangeland. Then, without hesitation, we jumped right in with the others to sort cattle, brand, castrate bull calves, ear tag, keep records, and vaccinate against common diseases. Dan explained his methods and reasoning behind these practices with the intention to provide the best care and health for his herd, and how individual ranchers choose their methods of work to best fit their ranch conditions including herd size and available labor and facilities. Afterward, we helped test the calves for BVD-PI (Persistently Infected-Bovine Viral Diarrhea. Calves that test positive contracted this virus as a fetus, and it inhibits their ability to fight disease. They shed the virus to healthy calves and cattle the entire time they are present in the herd.) This experience helped solidify the importance of record keeping and proper Beef Quality Assurance practices to ensure consumer safety and confidence in beef. Dan spoiled us afterward with the best apple pie (oh, and a healthy beef lunch too) and we saw more of the ranch as we distributed salt to the cattle. Along the way, we bombarded poor Dan with every question we could think of about the rangeland, neighboring ranches, relations with Mexico, cattle care, and his interactions with, and we aren’t lying, Agent Hamburger, a border patrol agent. That evening we joined in a barbecue, meeting more of the Bell family and friends and enjoyed good company, good food, and more learning (including a lesson for Dean on why you should never mess with giant black bugs; ask him next time you see him, you won’t be disappointed). It was a great way to wrap up a day of learning and appreciation for hard working ranchers who still live everyday family lives.

Day three, we rose early again to head over to Dean Fish’s ranch (still solidifying our need to enhance our navigation skills) where we saddled up and rode out to collect cattle. This time, we brought in the cows and used ultrasound equipment to check if they were bred (it is important to know when cows are bred in order to keep proper records, know when to expect the calves, know which bull the semen came from to help with genetics or herd improvement, and for overall knowledge of the herd.) Along the way, Dean explained the science behind his methods for managing and caring for cattle. He explained how keeping stress levels low allows for the best feedback and response from the cattle, whether giving vaccinations, breeding or performing other care. We were both given the opportunity to palpate a pregnant cow and feel the fetus, afterward hearing Dean’s reasoning behind using ultrasound, and how there are several other options for checking the health of pregnant cows, all with their own positive and negative features, that can be selected to fit any management style. We then rode out to learn Dean’s style of working and checking cattle, checked some waters, and again asked our many questions. It was a unique experience to compare two neighboring ranches and see how quickly the rangeland, facilities, and cattle needs can change and why it is essential that ranchers understand their cattle and their ranch to develop a management plan and provide the best care. After a wonderful, authentic Nogales lunch and dessert (Shayla was already making plans to drive back down to enjoy it again), we drove along the border and were informed about additional impacts of ranching with Mexico as a fence-line neighbor. Afterward, we returned to Dan’s to check more waters and fences (including an on-foot chase after a rogue cow that helped Nicole find a new appreciation for deciding to run cross-country back in high school).

Day four, we woke up with heavy hearts as this was the day we headed back to Phoenix but excited to seize our final hours in southern Arizona. We saddled for the last time to gather horses that had been turned out (if you think this sounds easy, we suggest you go home and watch Spirit), then we were able to help vaccinate them. Afterward, we checked more waters (an essential part of this job during the summer), took our final tour of the ranch checking gates and fences. We saw the direct impact of regulations to stop grazing in certain areas and how it created adverse effects due to the benefit of grazing and its history in the West (remember, before the introduction of cattle, bison roamed the west and grazed similarly).  The example Dan showed us was a riparian stream that consistently had an area of water housing an endangered fish species. For decades, this area was included in a large pasture utilized by cattle, but one day a dead fish was found and Arizona Game and Fish restricted grazing in this area. Sadly, the reduced grazing caused forage to grow rapidly, including trees and shrubs, and quickly the entire stream dried up, killing all of the fish in the area. This unfortunate consequence was a strong lesson on why it is important to understand the fragile balance in an ecosystem and how every action, including grazing, has a role in maintaining the ecosystem. We also learned the impact of predators and other threats to livestock. Our trip culminated with a farewell lunch headed back up to Phoenix, dreaming of our next chance to be back out on the range. After much pressure, we refused to announce a favorite day as both ranching experiences were phenomenal!

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Nicole and Shayla LOVE beef, and dairy too!

Overall, our week with Dan and Dean was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only did we gain hands-on experience working with cattle, but also learning there is a deep reasoning behind every management strategy and practice implemented by ranchers, as well as the issues they faced in the past, and still face today. Furthermore, we learned how cattle interact with the environment and how regulation and how other confounding circumstances including border security and international relations impact the beef community. With new insight on the beef community, we are now back in the office working to continue to educate America on the ways of the beef community and how we continue to find new ways to serve our cattle, the land, and consumers best. Thank you, Dan and Dean, thank you to the Arizona Beef Council, and most importantly, thank you to the beef community for all you do!

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There is no experience more treasured for these two beef interns than watching the sun rise while out gathering cattle by horseback.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd and Shayla Hyde, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Interns.

The V Bar V Ranch: A University of Arizona Gem

Cruising up the I-17 North, you reach Exit 298: Sedona, Slide Rock. A breath-taking hike in Oak Creek Canyon might be your only thoughts; unless of course, you are an Animal Science student at the University of Arizona or a local Arizona rancher looking for some resources. What are your thoughts then? We’re almost to the V Bar V! (You would also be turning right at that exit, instead of left).

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A beautiful view as ranchers at the V Bar V move cattle every two weeks as part of an intensive grazing system.

Located in Rimrock, tucked away between the beautiful red rocks and acres of green, rocky, northern Arizona rangeland, is the V Bar V Ranch, an experiment station for the University of Arizona (UA). The Morrill Acts of 1862, 1890, and 1994 ensured that universities such as UA would be instituted to teach agriculture, mining, and military tactics. Land grant institutions now serve as centers for research, extension, and education. Thus, the V Bar V is a priceless resource for local ranchers and students alike, addressing environmental, wildlife and domestic livestock issues applicable to Arizona and the Southwest, providing research and hands-on opportunities for students, and serving as a crucial link between the beef community and academia.

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The V Bar V is a working ranch, serving as a comparable resource for other Arizona ranches.

Today, the ranch superintendent at the V Bar V is Mr. Keith Cannon, or as everyone knows him by, Bopper. Bopper is a 4th generation rancher, whose family came to Arizona from Texas in the late 1890’s. He was raised ranching, and in 1990 participated in an educational program sponsored by the University of Arizona for ranchers. He brought his two sons, Keith and Jacob, and their involvement was so praiseworthy that they received an invitation to the Santa Rita Ranch for a similar, more extensive opportunity. Shortly after, Bopper was invited to be involved in research, then serve as a cowboy at the V Bar V Ranch, working his way up his current position as ranch superintendent and later joined by his son Keith in 2001.

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Keith and Bopper are a hard working team and work efficiently to keep time for family at the end of the day.

Bopper shared, “The V Bar V is a unique opportunity to combine old school ways and traditions with new technologies. The goal today is to run this experiment station as a profitable ranch to serve as a model for Arizona ranchers while showcasing the ability to improve continuously by using new technologies and research.” The current focus is improving cattle breed genetics and creating more cross-breed cattle that perform well in Arizona conditions (high drought and heat tolerance) while still grading high in meat quality. With those goals in mind, the Waygu breed was introduced to the predominantly Angus and Hereford herd and found that the cattle were well-suited for the environment while grading 90% choice or better.

Bopper sees the importance of the V Bar V in outreach to Arizona ranches, commenting, “It’s easier for ranchers to accept strategies from a fellow cowman than from academia. We aren’t just saying this is what you need to be doing. We are showing them that we are also doing it ourselves and it’s working.”

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While the V Bar V employs efficient strategies such as four-wheelers for gathering cattle over large, rocky areas, they still embrace ranching traditions like gathering horseback.

Ever been to the Phoenix Zoo? If so, you’ve most likely been directly touched by the V Bar V. Do you remember seeing the Hereford cow in the farm section? Yes, the one with the cute calf that visitors get to help name each year. She came from the V Bar V! And every year, Keith and Bopper, along with their interns, prepare and breed her so zoo attendees can continue to learn about the beef community.

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This cow and calf are happily being raised on the ranch, just like the pair representing their story to the community at the Phoenix Zoo.

The positive impacts in helping local ranchers and the community are only part of the mission of the V Bar V. Bopper smiles as he comments, “The most enjoyable thing about my job is working with students and interns. There is a lot of heritage on my side, and it’s great to be able to pass that on.” Bopper has welcomed interns from Japan, South Africa, Brazil, France, Germany, and around the United States. He views them all as part of his family (rumor has it, his wonderful cooking proves helps build this sense of community!). Interns, high school and university students alike participate in calving classes, branding, and cattle handling, along with basic veterinary practices. Bopper aims to spark their interest in both the cattle community and the University of Arizona.

This year’s intern, Andrew Miles, says, “The V Bar V is a crucial part of the University’s Animal Science program, providing opportunities for students to learn about cattle and ranching. Furthermore, its unique location includes rangeland transitioning from low to the high desert, spruce and brush, and all the way up to high mountain country. It serves as an incredible resource for  students from a variety of academic backgrounds to be involved in research benefiting many different fields of study and the state of Arizona as a whole.”

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Andrew Miles, the 2017 Summer Intern, has benefited from the V Bar V through Animal Science courses at the University of Arizona, working at the UA feedlot, and now working on the ranch.

Want some wisdom from the ranch that every intern learns?

From Bopper:

“Don’t ever tell me you can’t do something… Tell me you won’t, but can’t isn’t in my vocabulary.”

“Every morning when I wake up and go outside, it’s a new day, so every day you must be open to learning something new.”

“I’m always looking for the missing link, and that’s Newton’s Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you manage and make decisions based on the reaction, you are always two steps ahead. What you do today will affect tomorrow; what you do tomorrow will affect the future.”

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Interns work hands-on, learning practices such as ear-tagging that allow for proper identification and record keeping for the best possible care of cattle.

“The most important thing I have learned is how well you can integrate new technologies and ideas into tradition. Keep challenging yourself and never stop trying to improve methodology,” says Keith Cannon who has been involved in the University of Arizona’s School of Animal Science since 1997 as a student, working at the feedlot for ten years, and now helping run the ranch.

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Keith helps a student learn to check a cow’s pregnancy, an important component of keeping cattle healthy and updated in records.

While at the ranch, Hyatt, Keith’s son, gave us a wonderful tour of his market goat project and we were enlightened on the importance of knowing your animals and knowing their needs (and we got to see a newborn kid! I guess ranches aren’t always just about the cattle.)

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Being directly involved in agriculture is important for future generations like Hyatt to gain an understanding of where their food comes from, and an appreciation for the animals!

Bopper and Keith show a beautiful picture of a generational love of ranching traditions as well as improvement, and display the importance of extension resources including the V Bar V. There is plenty that the ranching community, the public, and students can learn from the V Bar V, and we agree with Keith and Bopper’s final desire: “We hope that the UA keeps the V Bar V as an operational ranch and that it can become more useful to the University as well as Arizona ranches, serving as a true extension resource for the state.”

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The V Bar V has an endless positive impact on educating present and future members in the beef community, including teaching proper cattle handling practices.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.