Meet Your Ranchers: Anita Waite and Sherwood Koehn

Near Kingman, Arizona is the Cane Spring Ranch, owned by ranchers and everyday environmentalists Anita Waite and Sherwood Koehn. As with most ranchers, caring for the land on which Anita and Sherwood raise their cattle is of the utmost importance, and Anita’s passion for the land’s natural resources and wildlife was evident as we toured the vast mountains and valleys of this northern Arizona ranch.

Encompassing 70,000 acres, the ranch is comprised of private, state and federal pieces that make up the whole. In Arizona, and in much of the West, it is common that one ranch might include private (deeded) land and long-term leases of land owned by the different state and federal public land agencies. Anita believes that cooperation and working closely with the various governmental agencies and others, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is the best way to manage their ranch. Connections and relationships help ensure the area is used correctly and is available for future generations to enjoy. 

The Cane Spring Ranch is one of great diversity in many ways including elevation, forage and grasses, and wildlife. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

The ranch is managed using a grazing pattern, which calls for cattle to be moved to one of four different pastures throughout the year. One pasture is always left empty to rest, much like when a person rests to feel rejuvenated and reinvigorated. The same goes for grasses and forages, allowing recharge and re-growth. This also allows for flexibility in having a “spare” pasture in case of drought or other cattle market issues. This resting pasture can hold their cattle for some time to get through until conditions level out.

The Cane Spring Ranch boasts diverse plant life throughout its varied elevations. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Cattle have a preference for what they would like to eat. If they are given access to their favorite forage for an extended period, they will eat all of what they like the most and then move on to their next favorite. By rotating pastures and ensuring the pasture is not overgrazed, the ranch can guarantee the variety of forage remains the same or even increases. Various agencies and institutions have recognized Cane Spring Ranch for its wide range of grasses and forage due to the range management practices. The Arizona Botanical Society has made many visits to the ranch and has identified 28 different types of grass. Another factor in the variety of forage is the various elevations of the ranch, which goes from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. The mountain pasture holds an abundance of Pinion pines and the southern pastures at lower elevations have more seasonal forages.

The focus of this ranch in one photo: is on maintaining the land and raising high quality beef. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Water development and improvement are a massive part of the success of this ranch. “If you build it, they will come” is a line from a famous baseball movie, and it also holds for water sources: where there is water, cattle and wildlife will go. Cane Spring Ranch had many wells drilled after Anita and Sherwood took ownership in 1993. Drilling wells at various locations around the ranch ensure cattle will travel to many areas to get water, which leads to their grazing patterns being varied. Cattle grazing in the same spot for an extended period of time is not good for the forage, so having water sources spaced out is beneficial for both the cattle and the land. Water sources are spaced out every two to three miles across the entirety of the ranch. The decision for each water source’s location was collaboration between Anita, Sherwood, the Arizona State Land Department, Arizona Game and Fish, and the United States’ Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

A solar panel pumps water from the nearby well or storage tank and sends it to the drinker (water trough). Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Exceptionally diverse, wildlife is an integral component of the Cane Spring Ranch. Mountain lions, deer, javelina, bobcats, black bears, badgers, rabbits, ravens, red-tailed hawks, desert tortoises, and more flourish on the ranch. While the wildlife and cattle mostly pose a symbiotic relationship, there is a need to keep predator and prey populations in balance. Hunting is another component of the ranch management and licensed hunters have access to almost all 70,000 acres. Working with the hunters who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle allows for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Wildlife on the ranch is diverse and we were lucky to snap a photo of this desert tortoise. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Not only do conservation efforts at the ranch find priority in Anita’s life, but she also expands her knowledge and works with fellow ranchers and agency personnel, serving as chairwoman of the Big Sandy Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD). The NRCD’s were initially formed during the Dustbowl when there was a need to introduce new agricultural processes. Local groups were developed, such as the Big Sandy NRCD, with locally elected officials who would help disseminate information on how to manage ranches and farms in a better way and get funding to put in beneficial projects. A unique trait of the NRCD’s is their ability to do work across all types of land – BLM, state land, and private.

One of the Big Sandy NRCD’s current goals is to increase water augmentation in the surrounding area. Water augmentation means getting water underground to build up the water table, which can be accomplished by slowing the flow of water, giving it more time to seep into the ground, and allowing for less evaporation. If this is achieved, it could put more water in the Colorado River. This is a huge undertaking and involves many agencies, including, Mohave County, Arizona Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife, Arizona State Land Trust, the National Resource Conservation Services, and the University of Arizona. While this project will be extremely beneficial to more than just ranchers in this area, the more significant point of this story is what can be accomplished through collaboration and cooperation.

The cattle on this ranch have lots of options when it comes to what to eat! Variety of forages is a point of pride for Anita and Sherwood. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Anita and the Cane Spring Ranch have been the recipients of many awards, acknowledging the conservation efforts, including the Arizona Conservation District Zone 3 – Conservation Rancher of the Year 2000, Arizona Conservation District Zone 5 – Conservation Rancher of the Year 2000, Bureau of Land Management – Recognition for Cane Spring Ranch Land Exchange 2001, Society of Range Management – Range Manager of the Year 2008, Society of Range Management Certificate of Excellence in Range Management in 2010, and Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Habitat Steward of the Year 2013.

When asked why so much time and effort are put in, Anita answers, “We love the land. We bought the ranch because we fell in love with it and want to do the best possible. And that was always our goal from the day of buying it. We love the cattle, of course, but our focus has been on the land. It comes from our life experiences. You take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.”

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation.

Meet Your Sale Barn Owners: The Shores Family

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The sound of the seasoned auctioneer echoes through the sale barn welcoming the hustle, bustle, and anticipation that comes with sale day. Cattlemen and women watch the sale ring intently as their cattle get sold, or they might be there to buy cattle. Either way, they are most likely sipping on a freshly brewed cup of coffee and visiting fellow ranchers on their “trip to town.”

While not of Willcox Livestock Auction, this video provides a look at what an auction barn looks and sounds like. It’s a 360 degree video so be sure to use your mouse to rotate the views.

Ranchers work year-round to raise healthy cattle to produce delicious, nutritious, and safe beef for us to eat. The lifecycle of a beef animal includes several phases (check out this blog post on the beef lifecycle), starting with the rancher whose cows raise a calf each year. Once that calf is old enough, it is weaned from the cow and then sold. The livestock auction is a tried and true way to sell one’s calves. It is a place of camaraderie, jovial interactions with friends and family, and, of course, a little business mixed in. In a sense, it’s like a community center for ranchers.

Sonny and Barbara Kay Shores, Willcox Livestock Auction. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

The Willcox Livestock Auction barn, owned and operated by Sonny and Barbara Kay Shores, is a true family business and that is quickly felt upon walking through the door. Not only do Sonny and Barbara Kay work and run the sale barn, but all their children and their children’s significant others also work or have worked there, and pitch in if more help is needed. This is the kind of place Sonny and Barbara Kay’s grandchildren beg their parents to take them. Lots of activity, friendly people, and wholesome fun are had by the children and adults alike. The sale barn history is lengthy, with this being the oldest sale barn in the state of Arizona. Sonny’s father started as an auctioneer at his father’s (Sonny’s grandfather) sale barn in New Mexico in the 1960s. In the 1970s Sonny’s father came over to Willcox, purchased the Willcox Livestock Auction barn, and continued on the work he was raised to do. Sonny, having grown up in this world, has always known the sale barn life. When he turned eighteen, it just made sense that he continued and bought in on the business too, making him the third generation of sale barn owners and operators.

Jhett and Timber taking part in the family business. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

The sale barn owner’s job is both incredibly complex and eventful, with some stress mixed in. They are the middlemen in layman’s terms between ranchers and the buyers of their cattle, helping to sell their customers’ cattle at the best price possible. They also must take care of the buyer to bring them back year after year. The Shores stand by supporting the beef community in their area because, as they share, it is a matter of good business and just what you do as a good neighbor.

The Shores family is dedicated to their customers, both inside and outside the sale barn. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

While Barbara Kay holds down the office and all of its particulars, Sonny is most often found talking on his cell phone in the cattle pens. But don’t think that makes him unapproachable. With his open and calm demeanor, he somehow makes a person feel like he has all the time in the world when, in fact, he has many pressing issues to address. He answers his phone for any call and often gets questions from ranchers about the current cattle market and whether it is a good time to bring cattle in to sell. Sonny stays up on the current cattle market and its prices, but he also has to stay up to date with cattle and beef trends, and other goings-on in the beef community. All of these are important to his business and the business of the people he works with at the sale barn.

The next generation eagerly observing. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

The Shores family has always looked to the future and continues to find ways to help their local community. Sonny’s father started a bull sale many years ago to support the local ranchers in purchasing good genetics for their herds and to stay up to date with trends and what the consumer was looking for in their beef. This bull sale, and the many that have happened since its inauguration, bring bulls in from all over the country, which would otherwise have been a challenge for local ranchers to purchase. With the help of this sale, ranchers from the surrounding area have increased access to cattle genetics to raise a healthy, well-marbled beef product.

Staying on top of the new technological innovations is integral to the auction business. Buyers can either purchase cattle in-person at the sale barn, or they can buy cattle online. Online sales are good for sellers and buyers as the market is expanded to those who can tune in, especially when people are not able to travel as quickly. Social media is also in use at the Willcox Livestock Auction in the form of a Facebook page. Sonny was hesitant for a long time, but with some coaxing from his daughter, Kayla, he has found it to be a huge asset.

Jhett and Timber comfortable leading their horse Drifter down the alleyway. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

They are tech-savvy in the online world, but they also work hard to keep the physical sale barn up to date. A new scale to weigh cattle right in front of the buyers was recently installed. This helped increase purchases from buyers who need to know the weight of the animals before purchase and allowed online bidders to have more information before buying.

Sonny’s role is to protect and support the job of the rancher. The auction barn works hard to get the best price for the cattle brought here. This is accomplished by expert sorting and putting cattle together as a package to help the rancher earn a fair price. Some buyers might be taking cattle to a feed yard and need to fill a pen, so if Sonny can put together that package of livestock, it makes it easier for the buyer and allows a higher price for every animal in the group.

The whole Shores family! Starting at the top left: Dashlyn, Casey, Kayla, David, Kylie, Barbara Kay, Sonny, Maverick, Karyn, Karson. Bottom Left: Timber, Jhett. Photo by Hazel LIghts Photography.

Spend any time around Sonny and his family, and it becomes blatantly evident that his desire to support ranchers runs far deeper than just the brick and mortar sale barn. The Shores family, much like other ranching families, have a deep passion for this lifestyle and want to see it carry on for generations to come. They care about their neighbors and want to help, as any good neighbor should.

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation.

“United We Steak” Encourages Arizona Residents To Grab Their Favorite Beef Cut and Fire Up The Grill

Arizona Beef Council participates in new Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. grilling campaign celebrating America’s favorite protein pastime.

July 3, 2020- – The Arizona Beef Council is partnering with  Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., funded by the Beef Checkoff, to launch “United We Steak,” a new summer grilling campaign showcasing 50 steaks and all 50 states.

“United We Steak” celebrates not only a shared tradition of grilling delicious steaks, but also what makes each state unique when it comes to this beloved pastime. The idea comes to life at UnitedWeSteak.com with an interactive map of the United States made from 50 hand-cut state-shaped steaks. The interactive map is packed full of grilling spirit, state-specific recipes and fun facts that can help consumers nationwide “beef up” grilling season this summer.   

Arizona as a cut of beef!

Underpinning the campaign is a recognition that across all 50 states, there is a universal love of beef sizzling on a summer grill. According to research conducted by Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., which is managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, nearly one-third of consumers say that they plan to grill more this summer than they have in the past.[i]  

A delicious fajita recipe is featured on the Arizona page.

While every state has special traditions and recipes when it comes to grilling beef, some of those unique to Arizona, and featured on UnitedWeSteak.com include:

“There’s nothing like the sound and smell of beef sizzling on the grill during the summer grilling season,” said Clint Gladden, Chairman of the Arizona Beef Council. “United We Steak’ not only celebrates a love for grilling that brings families together, but also the beef farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to keep beef on grills all summer long.”

Each state page also features a story about a rancher. On Arizona’s page, we feature Joe and Sarah King.

As part of the campaign, the state and U.S.-shaped steaks will be featured in national advertisements, including still images and videos that will be shared on digital and social media platforms. The advertisements will also be shared on video platforms including YouTube and Connected TV in an effort to inspire Americans to grill up their favorite beef meal no matter where they live. Arizona is getting in on the fun too with localized advertisements that will reach proud Arizona grill masters.

The campaign follows the kickoff of summer grilling season, which Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. marked with a new video released Memorial Day Weekend showcasing the dedication of farmers and ranchers to raising safe, sustainable and nutritious beef. It concludes with the simple declaration: “Summer Grilling Season Brought To You By Beef Farmers and Ranchers.”

The original sponsors of summer grilling are ranchers raising delicious, nutritious, and safe beef!

More beef grilling inspiration and information can be found at United We Steak and BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

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.


[i] Grilling Survey, April 2020