Ranchers: Layton Cattle Company: Steve and LaRene Layton and family: Kolter Layton & Rokelle Reeve (me) (& family).
Located: Beaver Dam, AZ /Arizona Strip (northwestern corner of Arizona).
Segment of beef community: We have a ranch which houses a herd of cows who produce calves each year. We keep our calves each year for a short period of time after they are weaned to give them an opportunity to grow some more before we sell them.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your ranch:
Rokelle: My great-grandpa purchased our family’s ranch in 1948 and we have raised cattle on it ever since. My two kids are the 5th generation to raise cattle here, which shows our dedication to the land and to the cattle. Our cow herd grazes on the Arizona Strip, which is north of the Grand Canyon, and the land we lease is all made up of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. We have a hay farm and feedlot in Beaver Dam, AZ which is where I grew up. Every year, we bring our calves that we raise on the ranch into the feedlot and feed them over the winter which is called backgrounding. This allows them time to learn about life in a feedlot, meaning they will feel less stressed when they move to a feedlot later in their lives, and it gives them some extra time to grow. Then our calves are sold in the spring at an auction where they will most likely go to a feedlot and continue in the traditional beef lifecycle.
Has the technology you use on the ranch changed since 1948?
Rokelle: We have so much technology at our fingertips! Probably the biggest one we use now is building water catchments (which is a large heavy-duty sheet of plastic that catches the rain/snow and funnels the water into a large storage tank which holds about 100,000 gallons). The range where we place these catchments would not be accessible to cattle because there is no other source of water. Because the water is better distributed, our cattle can more efficiently utilize rangeland and we can rest and rotate our pastures. Resting the grass and other plants cattle use for feed gives them time to reseed and regrow after they have been grazed. With this knowledge we have now about the science of range management, we are able to manage grazing for the benefit of our environment. By cattle utilizing renewable resources like rangeland, we produce beef!
What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the way your raise your beef on your ranch?
Rokelle: I think a common misconception is that livestock are not treated humanely. At our ranch, we are very focused on the well-being of our cattle and how they are handled. If animals are not handled properly, it causes them stress and can put us, ranchers, as well as our cattle, in danger. We have found that by working cattle slowly and quietly and working with their natural instincts, things get done a lot safer and easier for everyone, our cattle included.
What is the most important thing that you do on your ranch every day to make sure you are raising safe beef for the consumer?
Rokelle: The most important thing we do to raise safe beef for the consumer is make sure we are raising healthy cattle. This is done by following a good vaccination program to prevent disease, ensuring animals receive proper nutrition, and reducing stress that may be caused by improper handling.
What is the most important piece of information that you want people to know about you and the work you do on you ranch every day?
Rokelle: I think the most important thing I would want people to know about me and my role as a rancher is how much I care for the animals I raise. We as ranchers have a responsibility to keep our animals healthy and well-cared for as well as taking care of our land. I take this very seriously and know other ranchers do to. These animals are not only our livelihood; they are a part of our family. It is also important to ensure the land we raise our cattle on is cared for properly. This rangeland environment is critical for our cattle to survive in. We pay particular attention to the land’s conditions through various monitoring methods such as collecting plant frequency data over time to track the trend of the plants, photo monitoring to watch how things change over time, and we also keep track of the levels of utilization of the plants cattle like to graze on.
If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?
Rokelle: Enjoyable! It is a labor of love for the land and animals!
Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it?
Rokelle: You can’t beat any cut of beef, but I love a good chuck roast in the Instant Pot!