The weather forecast is showing cooler temperatures across Arizona in the coming days so now is the perfect time to brush up on your stewing skills. There’s nothing better than a warm, hearty meal after a cold day. Can you say “comfort food?” On top of the good vibes stewing brings, it’s also a fairly simple skill to learn. This is a slow-cooking method, similar to braising, with the key difference being the beef is covered in liquid. Stewing is best done in a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven on the stovetop or in the oven, or in a slow-cooker. Check out the lesson below and be sure to visit Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. for recipes and more cooking lessons.
CUT AND DREDGE
If you’re using pre-packaged (or cutting your own) chunks, make sure they’re not too small to prevent overcooking. Aim for cubes about the size of a golf ball. Many stew recipes call for dredging the beef in seasoned flour before browning.
BROWN THE BEEF
Heat a drizzle of oil in the pan over medium heat and brown the meat on all sides, and drain (unless your recipe says to leave the drippings). You may need to work in batches if using a smaller pan. If you’re using a slow cooker, transfer it over.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
Depending on your recipe, now’s the time to add seasonings, vegetables and liquid — such as beef broth, wine, beer, juice or even water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
SIMMER AND STEW
Follow your recipe for timing guidelines. Don’t lift the lid — unless your recipe calls for adding vegetables or other ingredients later on. You’ll know it’s done when the beef is fork-tender.
Need some recipe inspiration? Check these out to use your new stewing skills.
The setting sun over rugged, mountainous terrain, with a cowboy’s silhouette to finish the image is what many people visualize when they hear someone’s profession is a “rancher.” While that image may be true, ranching and raising beef is also a business. Just like running a grocery store, marketing firm, or other entities, successful ranchers follow the same rules. Raising beef involves a living animal and a lot of heart, but it is still a business.
Emmett and Lori Sturgill are ranchers who have built cattle raising businesses with the end goal of producing delicious, high-quality, and nutritious beef. Now, just because one of their goals is to make a profit, does not mean that they lack the passion for their work. They are lucky because this business is built on the work they love.
Emmett, retired law enforcement, comes from a long line of ranchers. His dad was a traditional cowboy and moved from cow camp to cow camp as the jobs came available. Lori, formally a successful real estate broker, comes from a farming background but animals were always a part of her life. Together, over the past 10 years, they have worked to build a successful ranching business. Purchasing the main ranch is a story about a good friend helping another good friend. That story ends many years later with Emmett purchasing the ranch from his good friends, the Neals, and their longtime friendship is just an added blessing. Emmett strongly believes he is where he is today because other people helped him get here.
Lori, who sights fellow Arizona rancher Chuck Backus and his educational cattle symposiums as a source of their success, helped turn their cattle business around. Emmett admits that before she came along, his ranch was what he called a “cowboy ranch” meaning he had a variety of breeds and the main goal was producing a calf each year from each cow. Lori came in, found a way to focus their efforts, and has helped to gradually shift the ranch to producing high-quality Angus beef for both the local, national and international markets.
Lori, having a previous career in real estate, knows business. She knows what is required to succeed and it means time, persistence, and paperwork. The Sturgills worked to mitigate risk by diversifying their cattle. They primarily raise Angus cows which are bred to registered bulls, mostly Red Angus, each year. The calves produced from this part of the ranch are considered “program cattle.” The Sturgill’s ranch and cattle are 3rd party verified through an audit process which ensures the cattle meet certain criteria to sell in various markets, are given certain vaccinations at specific times, are fed qualified feed at weaning, and weaned no less than 45 days. There are many other criteria that the Sturgills and their cattle meet to address the growing concerns of consumers today and be able to ship overseas to other countries. The cattle that are raised in this program enter the traditional beef lifecycle also referred to as the commercial market.
The Sturgills also keep a limited number of animals for use in their local community, providing natural beef to consumers. These animals are grass-fed and fill the demand of people looking to purchase directly from a rancher in and around Kingman, Arizona. There are many challenges with this business including limited processing facilities and the amount of time it takes to raise an animal to harvesting weight, but Lori finds this an integral part of the business, even now.
Finally, they also raise Corriente (another breed of cattle) steers for the sport of team roping. These animals are typically smaller in size with horns making them ideal for roping. These steers follow the same vaccination and health protocols as the rest of the herd to ensure longevity and wellness. This has provided customers with a healthy animal who can preform longer and thus led to many repeat customers.
On their ranches, Lori and Emmett are adamant about excellent cattle care. Their animals are all vaccinated and follow health protocol which were developed in conjunction with their veterinarian and also through their learnings from seminars like Beef Quality Assurance and other educational events. They also practice low stress cattle handling. This is a way of working with the animal’s flight zone to move them where you need them to go causing less stress on both the human doing the work and the animal. The goal with both priorities is to keep stress to a minimum to allow the animal to grow to its full potential. Lori also invented a unique way to deal with pests. Dairies often have rollers that scratch the animals’ backs, so Lori bought some of those but has taken them up a notch – adding fly and pest repellent. Not only is there not a fly in sight, but it is also one more way to reduce stress. No all-day flicking of the tail for these girls and boys!
Lori is proudly a self-proclaimed environmentalist, as most ranchers are. Her focus is on the care of their livestock and on the wildlife that coinhabits the range lands their cattle graze. It is tough to care for livestock and the land and not be concerned about the environment in which they live. She is a firm believer in balance to ensure the longevity of a ranch. She has begun to start planting trees at all of the watering areas to help keep the water cool for both her cattle and wildlife. This also keeps the drinkers (water troughs) cleaner as red algae doesn’t have the sun it needs to flourish when shade is present. The ranch is also part of many conservation programs, including increasing the population of pronghorn antelopes and working towards a reseeding program in the valley pasture on the ranch to reintroduce native grasses. The ranch management plan also includes proper rotation of the pastures to maintain the forage conditions with regular monitoring from the University of Arizona.
Lori and Emmett are firm believers that cattle take care of you if you take care of the cattle. The love the Sturgills have for their cattle, the land, and the people who buy their beef is evident in many ways. As we wrapped up our visit by the horse pens, with Lori scratching on one of her favorite colts, another family pulled in for a visit. Community is important and both Lori and Emmett embrace and nourish the relationships they have with fellow ranchers and town people, alike. Ultimately, this is a business, and a successful one at that, but it’s a business with heart.
The foodservice industry, an important sector of the beef community, has been drastically affected by COVID-19. Join Jessica Obie, a center of plate specialist with US Foods®, to learn about the challenges and how restaurateurs have pivoted to succeed.
With 15 years of industry experience, Jessica’s career knowledge includes menu creation, food testing, cooking, management, and sales. Jessica is competent in the high demands of the kitchen and builds long-term, productive, and mutually beneficial relationships with customers. In her role, she provides profitable beef, seafood, poultry, and pork solutions for customers. Jessica received a Master of Brand Advantages from Certified Angus Beef.
In 2013, after working 13 years within the confines of restaurant walls, I made the bold decision to go into food sales. Naturally, being terrified about this uncertain, the sky is the limit, fully commission based so-you-better-hustle decision, I consulted my chef mentor (the one who used to make me stutter with fear). Not only did she support the idea of testing a new path, but she also offered the comforting words “you can always come back to the kitchen.”
In the years since, as I rode the roller coaster of success with the sales industry, her words held true and I was always able to rely on my experience in the kitchen to bridge commission paydays, while chasing dreams andkeeping my culinary skills sharp.
That was until early spring of 2020. I watched in alarm the shutdown and futuristic uncertainty of the industry that had helped raise me. My fellow restaurant brethren/work families current and past were suddenly out of work, many of them never knowing another path than serving or cooking. For some, their future is still uncertain as they wait for their restaurants/hotels to re-open.
Unfortunately, ‘the new-norm’ may continue to prevent these cooks/servers/chefs/owners from going back to life as they knew it. Those who sat waiting on their heels, thinking life would return to normal will be left behind. But…those who saw this slow down/shut down as a reset button, took the time to stop, evaluate themselves and their business, and those that adapted to the situation, will persevere.
Social media presence, online ordering and conscientious dining have gained popularity over the last decade, but some still refused to embrace it. As in-room dining closed and “to-go” became the only option, those who had already embraced or even dipped their toes in the pond of these concepts could recover quicker. Those who embraced social media and kept their customers in the loop with updated hours, sanitation methods and ease of ordering are feeling the effect of COVID-19 less than those who didn’t and aren’t. Some are even seeing year over year increases. Now more than ever, social media is playing a vital part in the success of businesses. Adaptability, perseverance and reliance on outside resources are more important than ever. No one can survive this on their own.
As millennials were finally forced to stay at home and, even worse, cook for themselves, they finally realized they could do it. With so many people now working from home, more families have time to cook their own meals and not just grab something on the way home. What does this mean for our restaurants who want to successfully emerge from the other side of this? Their food must bemore original, more consistent, andhealthier than what I can provide for myself. If they don’t provide a reason why someone should leave their house or open their pandemic-depleted wallet, consumers will order in their groceries and stay put. As more people have time to “Google” nutrition facts, humane practices, sustainability policies, etc., they will only shop/buy from stores and restaurants who share their beliefs.
Originally ‘gifting’ toilette paper with orders of $50 or more was popular. Now 6 months later, DIY meal kits, speed scratch and tamper evident seals/packaging is most important. With less and less people dining in-house, ghost kitchens (renting space in an industrial kitchen) and multi-concept spaces are popping up and they are all focusing on to-go. Using smarter products and packaging that hold integrity from restaurant to home has become vital. US Foods® offers restaurant operators market and inventory analysis to determine the most financially responsible ‘new’ concepts possible from their current production line.
In the end, I guess Chef Cheryl (previously mentioned fear-instilling mentor) was correct. I did come back to the kitchen, though not as a paid employee. I was fortunate enough to use these months as a reset and get back to my culinary roots. I, as a culinarian, remembered the joy in cooking and used that to spend time with family, neighbors and friends. I, as a millennial, will only order out if it is something fun, exciting or healthier than I can create. And, I, working from home, have more time to research, try and grow my own food.
We are all in this together, but we all need to learn to adapt and grow.
As an additional educational resource to their customers during these changing times, US Foods has provided weekly webinars (link) to help provide on-going information and learning opportunities to the restaurant community.
Arizona Beef is delighted to welcome Brooke Appetit back to share another delicious recipe. This one is easy, colorful, and delicious. Read on!
“As our Arizona weather is starting to get nicer (maybe a little?) I love to spend my evenings outside grilling! Marinated shish kabobs are easy to prepare, fast cooking, and perfect for entertaining. We are using Sirloin for this recipe. Sirloin is less expensive and is a great option because of it’s lean but beefy flavor. If you allow it a few more hours in the marinade, you will be sure to have tender and flavorful kabobs! I like to pair the kabobs with a Lebanese rice that is also easy and delicious. Enjoy!” – Brooke Gladden
Beef Shish Kabobs
¾ cup vegetable oil or olive oil ¾ cup soy sauce ½ cup lemon juice 1/3 cup Worcestershire ¼ cup mustard ¼ cup honey 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (I used oregano, basil, rosemary and parsley) 1 ½ teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper 1 ½ lbs Top Sirloin*, cut into 1 inch cubes Vegetables – cut into chunks 16 mushroom caps 1 large red onion 1 green bell pepper 1 red bell pepper 1 yellow bell pepper 1 orange bell pepper 1 zucchini 1 yellow squash
*Don’t have Top Sirloin? Try these steak swaps for alternate beef cut options that also work well for kabobs.
1. Whisk the oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire, mustard, honey, garlic, fresh herbs, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Pour half into a resealable plastic bag. Add the beef, coat with the marinade and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
2. A few hours before you are ready to grill add vegetables into a resealable plastic bag and coat with the marinade.
3. Thread pieces of vegetables and beef onto metal skewers.
4. Preheat grill to high heat. You can reduce the heat to medium-high once you put the kabobs on but starting them with a high heat will allow for a nice char. Grill kabobs, turning every 2-3 minutes until all sides have a nice char. I typically grill mine for 8-10 minutes total. Be careful to not overcook the meat. In my opinion, they are best when medium-rare!
Ingredients: 1 cup white rice ½ cup vermicelli 1 tbsp olive oil 1 ½ tbsp butter 1 teaspoon salt 2 ¼ cups water ½ cup toasted pine nuts, toast in 1 tbsp butter
In a non-stick pot, heat olive oil and butter on medium-high heat.
Add the vermicelli and continuously stir to toast it evenly. Vermicelli should turn a nice golden brown but be careful, it burns quickly.
Once vermicelli is brown add the rice and stir for about 30 seconds.
Season with salt.
Add 2 ¼ cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes.
When the rice is fully cooked, remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.
Serve warm with toasted pine nuts on top
Brooke Gladden is a native Arizonian who grew up in a small ex mining town north of Tucson called San Manuel. She attended the University of Arizona graduating with a B.S. in Agriculture Communications. She currently lives in Palo Verde, AZ with her husband Clint who is a fourth generation farmer at Gladden Farms/ Saddle Mountain Dairy.
She’s a total foodie at heart and normally plans her days around meals. Brooke’s mom (Jacque Phelps) gave her a passion for cooking. She is a wonderful cook who Brooke has had the privilege to learn from while growing up. She says her favorite thing in the world is cooking with my mom.
Please note the giveaway is now closed but please enjoy the recipe below.
Labor Day is coming up quickly and we want to be ready to tackle the grill confidently and in style! To do that, we’ve partnered with someone who celebrates beef often and creates delicious recipes to bring you a yummy giveaway. Brad Prose is a Phoenix-born family man, professional recipe developer, food writer, and culinary photographer – the force behind Chiles and Smoke™. His combined passion for fine dining and BBQ shines through his presentations and cooking style. Brad uses social media, the website, and his brand to share his passion and story to inspire new ideas. Not only is he helping us with this giveaway but he also put together a taco recipe just for your enjoyment!
Giveaway details first.
What do you get?
Grand Prize receives a United We Steak puzzle, tongs, koozie, apron, lighter, and a $100 Omaha Steak gift card.
2nd Prize receives a United We Steak puzzle, tongs, koozie, apron, lighter, and a $50 Omaha Steak gift card.
3rd Prize receives a United We Steak puzzle, tongs, koozie, apron, lighter, and a $25 Omaha Steak gift card.
You have three chances to win! And the steps to enter are easy.
Here’s what you need to do to be eligible for this giveaway.
Heat up the grill to medium-high heat, around 400-450F.
Mix the rub ingredients together, taste and adjust. Slice the Skirt Steak in half, so you have 2 shorter pieces. This allows you to easily fit both on the grill. Season the Skirt Steaks well and allow the meat to rest while you start the corn.
Grill the corn, turning to char each side if desired. This will take between 6-8 minutes. While the corn is grilling, prepare the other vegetables for the salsa.
Take the corn off the grill and allow them to cool. Place the Skirt Steaks on the grill, do not disturb for 2-3 minutes until it has a nice char. Flip, repeat, and check the temperature for your desired cook. I prefer to grill until 130 for Medium Rare, knowing it will continue to rise as it rests.
The steak is resting, go ahead and cut off the corn kernels. Mix the corn and the other ingredients together, using the Ancho Coffee Rub to season it. You might need more seasoning depending on your taste.
(Optional) Toss the tortillas on the grill for 1 minute each side for an extra char.
Serve in tortillas, with the salsa.
Use a coffee that tastes good to you! I prefer dark roast for grilling, but any kind will work. There’s 1 lime in the recipe, make sure you zest it for the rub, then juice it for the salsa.
Enjoy the recipe, enter the contest and get ready for to unite with close family and friends around the grill!
If you have followed the Arizona Beef blog for a while, then you already know the commitment and care given to cattle raised in Arizona. Ranching families across the state work every day to ensure their cattle have fresh clean water, nutritious feed, and live in a low-stress environment. This attention to care ensures these animals produce delicious and nutritious beef for the families of these ranchers and for your family, too. Arizona dairies are no different. With most dairy farms owned by families, they are also committed to the care and comfort of their cattle. Not only do they focus on producing nutritious milk, but also on providing quality beef.
Wes Kerr, of Kerr Family Dairy, shares, “The two biggest products that we produce on our farm are milk and meat. We want those products to be high-quality, wholesome nutrition that feeds families. The goal for each and every one of my cows is to lead a long, healthy life on my farm. For each of my cows, my goal is for them to eventually become beef. It is an important part of our business that allows us to get value back from our animals helping us to stay a viable business.”
Another contribution from the dairy community to beef is the raising of the male calves, which are castrated and called steers that are raised to provide high-quality beef. The male calves are raised on a calf ranch and then at a feedyard (to learn more about these feedyards check out this blog and this one). At the feed yard, these animals are fed a mixed diet formulated by a cattle nutritionist, monitored for health with supervision from a cattle veterinarian, given access to fresh, clean water, and are able to move around freely in their pens. When harvested, the cattle provide high-quality , steaks, roasts, ground beef.
Together, beef ranchers and dairy farmers strive to provide all with nutritious and wholesome beef and dairy products. To learn more about the diary community visit Arizona Milk Producers.
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 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Stockmanship is how ranchers interact with their animals with a focus on keeping the stress meter low for both the handler and the animal. Most cattle start their life cycle on ranches in large pastures. Here in Arizona, most cows calve alone and don’t usually need human assistance, but ranchers do interact with their cattle regularly. To raise high-quality beef, cattle must be healthy, and ranchers can help their animals achieve that goal with a vaccination program. Vaccinating, along with branding and other activities, does require ranchers to work closely with their animals and good stockmanship can help make it easier on both the cows and the people.
Ranchers don’t put a leash on their cattle to move them like one might a dog. Rather, cattlemen and women use their bodies (and horses) positioned in certain ways to move cattle where we need them to go. To understand this concept better, we first must know a few things about cows. Cattle are prey animals, meaning they want to gather in herds because that gives them more protection from predators. They also have a flight or fight instinct and tend to run if they are frightened. Some breeds of cattle are more inclined to fight if put into a sticky situation, like if a predator tries to attack a cow’s calf. Secondly, they don’t often move in straight lines, but rather in circular patterns. Knowing these two instincts tells us how we can work with cattle to decrease stress on the animal and to increase productivity.
Think about a large invisible ring around a cow. This is her flight zone. Depending on breed and how much human interaction this cow has had, her flight zone might be small or large. Pressure can be applied by stepping into their circular flight zone, in a certain area to encourage her to move forwards, backwards, away, or even towards you. Also knowing how much pressure to apply, meaning how far and how fast you must walk into the flight zone, is critical. If an animal looks at you or maybe flicks an ear towards you but doesn’t move it probably means you have to step a little closer. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, if an animal jumps and runs away you might have walked too far into her flight zone or approached too quickly.
Working with these natural flight zones and movement patterns help to decrease stress on animals while increasing productivity. The less stress an animal experiences, the better, so they can put their energy toward making healthy beef. It also makes it safer for the human involved to utilize these skills as the animal is less likely to tap into their fight response.
The journey of raising beef is among the most complex of any food. Due in part to their changing nutritional needs throughout their lifetime, beef cattle often times will change hands and ownership up to three or four times, over the course of one and a half to three years, as they move through their various life stages.
Across this process, however, one important thing remains constant – and that’s the beef community’s shared commitment to raising cattle in a safe, humane and environmentally sustainable way. Working together, each segment of the beef lifecycle aims to make the best use of vital natural resources like land, water and energy – not just for today, but also for the future. The result is a delicious and nutritious food you can feel good about serving your family and friends.
Let’s explore how beef gets from pasture to plate in Arizona.
Raising beef begins with ranchers who maintain a herd of cows that give birth to calves once a year. When a calf is born, it typically weighs 60 to 100 pounds. Over the next few months, each calf will live off its mother’s milk and graze on forages from the rangeland. Ranches in Arizona are typically large in land area because of our dry, arid climate. Ranchers are committed to caring for their animals and the land on which they are raised.
Calves are weaned from their mother’s milk at 6 to 10 months of age when they weigh between 450 and 700 pounds. This can be done several ways with one option called fence line weaning. This means the cows are on one side of the fence and the mother cows are on the other side. They aren’t able to nurse but can still be closer to the cow, making it a less stressful situation. These calves continue to graze on pastures and may begin receiving a small amount of supplemental plant-based feed for extra energy and protein to help them grow and thrive.
Stocking and Backgrounders:
After weaning, cattle continue to grow and thrive by grazing on grass, forage and other plants with ranchers providing supplemental feed including vitamins and minerals to meet all of their nutritional needs.
Livestock Auction Markets:
After weaning and/or during the stocker and backgrounder phase, cattle may be sold at livestock auction markets.
Mature cattle are often moved to feedyards. Here cattle typically spend 4 to 6 months. They are free to graze at feed bunks containing a carefully balanced diet made up of roughage (such as hay and grass), grain (such as corn, wheat and soybean meal) and local renewable feed sources. Veterinarians, nutritionists and pen riders work together to provide individual care for each animal.
Once cattle reach market weight (typically 1,200 to 1,400 pounds at 18 to 22 months of age), they are sent to a packing plant (also called a processing facility). United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors oversee the implementation of safety, animal welfare and quality standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to grocery stores and restaurants.