Life on a cattle ranch is beautiful yet challenging and sharing that experience with others is one of the best ways to show how ranchers care for our land, cattle, and the people who love beef. The Greenlee County Cowbelles and Graham County Cattlewomen recently held an event to do just that, called “Ranch Days.” Fourth-grade teachers were invited to bring their classrooms on either March 10th or the 11th to the Menges Ranch on the historic Black Hills Back Country Byway to learn about how cattle are raised and the importance of beef in their diets. Four school districts signed up, but one was not able to attend due to a bus driver shortage. Almost 300 students spent a day with cattlewomen from the two groups and other volunteers from the Duncan Women’s Club, the Safford Women’s Club, and the Greenlee and Graham Cooperative Extension offices. Bags were provided by the Arizona Beef Council and were filled with educational games and information about beef, as well as a collection of byproduct examples so the students could identify the many items that come from cattle.
The real fun began on March 10th when the Thatcher and Duncan Elementary students showed up at the Menges ranch. They spent the day with various cattlemen and women as they rotated around to different stations across the ranch. Station One focused on the equipment ranchers use on the ranch, including tack and ropes. The students even had a chance to throw a rope to see if they could catch the calf! Station Two taught the students all about the byproducts that come from cattle. Station Three focused on the different breeds of cattle and the equipment used to work cattle, like chutes and corrals. The students saw what a cow sees when in a chute as they walked through the system. The importance of a squeeze chute, which is used to hold an animal still for various treatments, was also explained.
Station Four was all about water and how ranchers build water systems to move water to many areas on a ranch. This helps to ensure cattle move around to graze and don’t stay in the same place all the time. It’s also essential for wildlife! Station Five discussed the need for branding, a vital task in Arizona. Students learned how to read a brand and came up with one for themselves. Station Six introduced the students to ranch horses and how they help ranchers do their work. Many of the students had never been close to a horse, so that was exciting. Then they learned about the parts of a horse and the importance of proper care. Station Seven showed how ranchers preserve the history of our state by protecting artifacts and structures left by our ancestors.
The students thoroughly enjoyed the day and shared their gratitude in heartfelt and adorable thank you notes. This tour gives teachers and administrators a great incentive to work with ranchers to attend tours because it provides their students a hands-on opportunity to learn about a major industry in Arizona. With many volunteers from the local communities participating, this tour was simple to put together and can be easily replicated in other areas of Arizona.