Fall Work

While ranching is hard work all year round, often times the most intensive work is done in the fall or spring season here in Arizona. This is the time of year when ranchers wean calves from cows, meaning calves are old enough to eat grass and forage and no longer need nutrients from the cow’s milk. At the same time, other important work can be done, like vaccinating cows to ensure their health into the future as well as vaccinating calves for the same purpose. This also tends to be a time when family and friends get together to work hard and enjoy each others company. Please enjoy this collection of photos from Arizona ranch families and all the hard work they’ve put in this fall.

A special thank you to the the McGibbon, Homack, Garcia, and Lyman families for sharing these beautiful photos with us from your ranches!


For Our Veterans, We Are Grateful: Minnie Griffin

Minnie was born in 1921 in Stoughton, Massachusetts, grew up during the depression, and graduated from Brookline High School in 1939.  She took all the business courses she could, as she knew she needed to work.  She was very adept at business machines and English grammar and was hired by Western Union as a teletype operator after graduation.

When assigned to the Washington, D.C. line, her job was sending telegrams which began:  “We regret to inform you…”  By then, the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and the spirit of patriotism was huge in Boston.  Feeling she needed to do her part, Minnie enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps and was inducted in Boston Garden in March 1943.img_7624

While at basic training at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, she marched in revue for President Franklin Roosevelt.  When the WACs approached him, they were given the order “eyes right.”  She felt it was an honor to parade for the President and knew that he cared about them.

Minnie earned her corporal stripe after completing Radio Training School and was assigned as a teletype operator.  She was sent back to Ft. Oglethorpe for overseas training and received orders for England.  She spent five days crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary and reached her assigned post at the 8th Air Force base in Watford, England, where she worked in the teletype office.  She received messages regarding weather conditions, which dictated when pilots were able to drop bombs over Germany.  She would meet her husband Jimmy Griffin at this base.  An Army sergeant, he worked in the weather office, and often Minnie was the WAC who delivered weather information from her office to his.  With all of England blacked out, their dates involved walking with flashlights into the town of Watford.

Minnie’s next orders were for Charleroi, Belgium, and Jimmy was transferred to High Wycombe, a base near London, where they would reunite after her tour in Belgium.  They had already submitted paperwork and were married in England June 11, 1945.  Upon her discharge, she received a Good Conduct medal and medals for serving in the European Theater of Operations and during the Battle of the Bulge.

The Queen Mary would transport her back to New York, and she recalls the sight of the Statue of Liberty was overwhelming, because when she left, she didn’t know if she’d ever see Her again.IMG_7623.JPG

Minnie and Jimmy reunited in Boston, took a train to Arizona, and arrived at the ranch in December 1945, expecting their first child.  She recalls Jimmy telling her he had “lots of cows,” and was dismayed when they drove down the dirt road to the ranch, and she never saw a cow!  She and Jimmy moved into the small ranch house with his mother and her life as a ranch wife would begin.  They would have six children, and all are active in ranch operations to this day as part of the Griffin Ranch partnership with Minnie at the helm.

A Lifetime of Military Service to Arizona State Cowbelle President

This week we are pleased to continue our series featuring Arizona cattlewomen who have also served our country in the armed forces. Pam Turnbull, the president-elect of the Arizona State Cowbelles, served many years in the military and continues her serving ways with many other organizations in her community. We asked her a series of short questions so our readers could get to know her better.

2nd Lieutenant Pam Turnbull in her everyday uniform in 1985.


Arizona Beef Council (ABC): Tell us about yourself and your background in the military.
Pam Turnbull (PT): I am from Alamogordo, New Mexico, a small, patriotic town surrounded by agriculture and a strong military presence, with wide open spaces offering unusual adventure nearby. A short drive led to so many fun places, such as the White Sands to the west, mountain meadow picnics in the summer and tubing/skiing/sledding/ice skating in the winter to the east, our uncle’s ranch and cousin’s orchards north of town, and great hiking to the south.

Men in every generation of my family served in the military before I was born – from the Revolutionary War on to my father and grandfathers. One of my great uncles served with Pershing chasing Pancho Villa and in World War I, then with Patton in World War II. We also had a neighbor who survived the Bataan death march and was a prisoner of war. He and his wife really pushed me to go to college and seize the new opportunities for women in the US Air Force. I attended New Mexico State University, joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC), and received a B.S. in Ag Business Management.

In a tent with a Canadian Major and a US Army “customer” working on permanent offices, accommodations and munitions storage for NORAD and National Guard forces defending the National Capitol Region.

During 23 years of military service, I had great opportunities. I lived in or visited 21 countries, 43 states, 3 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, plus, attended the Air Force Institute of Technology and received a Master of Science in Logistics Management.  In reflecting on my military career, the focus of my efforts was to create tools with technology, focusing on innovation and modernization.

Pictured in Washington, D.C., setting up military defenses post 9/11/2001.

The USA has been “at war” since 1989–fighting aggression, drugs, and thugs– and sending humanitarian aid all over the world.  One of the jobs where I knew I made a HUGE difference FAST was developing barcode, smart card, and RFID capabilities and installing global infrastructure (and mobile tools) for distribution management. My favorite job was making airplanes fly as leadership on flight lines with fighter, bomber, airlift, tanker and reconnaissance aircraft.  Providing aid and shelter in our homeland was also rewarding–air dropping feed to cattle and other livestock when floods or massive snow storms hit the Midwest and Northern states, hurricane recovery efforts and earthquake search and rescue missions, delivering supplies to snowbound mountain towns while downed power lines were rebuilt – to name a few.

ABC: How are you involved in the cattle community?
PT: My involvement in the cattle community these days is as a consumer, promoter, and the neighborhood “beef broker” (sharing pasture raised, soy-free beef from the Barnard’s at WhiteBarn Farms in Portal and butchered at the Willcox Meat Packing House). I also have a brother and cousin with cow-calf operations near Carrizozo and Mayhill, NM.  Plus, I am the President-Elect of Arizona State Cowbelles and Immediate Past-President of the Willcox Cowbelles.  I am also Beef Quality Assurance certified and a Master of Beef Advocacy 2.0 graduate.

Pam’s retirment photo in uniform.

ABC: What is the most important life lesson you learned from your service in the armed forces?

PT: Always be true to yourself and your own priorities.  Wherever the path leads, live each day with Personal Responsibility in your Daily Efforts (PRIDE)!

Pam adds, “To those who help feed the world, THANK YOU!”

From the Armed Service to Ranch Life: The Stories of Hard Working Women

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we thought it was best suited to feature a few of our Arizona cattlewomen in a series of blog posts. The ladies we will feature over the next several weeks not only worked hard on their family’s ranches but also fought for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. We are so excited to share the stories and hope you enjoy!

Marie Pyeatt, long time rancher and supporter of the Arizona State Cowbelles and the Arizona beef community, will kick off this series. Please read and enjoy her story.

Marie Korea.jpg
Marie hard at work in Seoul, South Korea as the Battalion Supply Officer.

Marie Pyeatt was born in Ogden, Utah, April 16, 1946 to Dr. Edgar and Lena Reynolds Higgs. She was the fourth of five children and grew up in Clinton, Utah. 4-H was a way of life in her house. She completed multiple 4-H projects each year from the time she was 10 years old until she was 21. In 1962, she won a trip to the National 4-H Club Congress held in Chicago, IL. She graduated from Clearfield High School in 1964 and received her BS at Utah State University majoring in Home Economics Education in 1968. She taught Home Economics at Layton High School in Layton, Utah for 5 ½ years where she was the department head for 3 of those years.

Marie was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant and joined the US Army in January 1974. After officer training at Fort McClellan in Anniston, AL and Signal Officer Basic Training at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, GA, she was transferred to Fort Huachuca, AZ in July 1974. While there she was assigned as a protocol officer with the Army Communications Command twice and various troop assignments with the 11th Signal Group. In April 1975, she married James Pyeatt, a third generation Arizona rancher, and one week later became the first female company commander in the 11th Signal Brigade when she assumed command of the 526th Signal Company. In January 1976, Marie was promoted to Captain Pyeatt. Three years to the day, she left for Fort Gordon to attend the Signal Officer Advanced Course in July of 1977.

Marie pictured at Phoenix Cooks! an annul foodie event where the Arizona State Cowbelles and Arizona Beef Council serve beefy samples to attendees.

In January 1978, Cpt Pyeatt was assigned to the 41st Signal Battalion in Seoul, South Korea as the Battalion Supply Officer. Being assigned to the Communications Electronics Engineering Agency, she returned to Fort Huachuca in December 1978. Attending the Management Information Systems Officer Course at Ft. Ben Harrison, IN in 1979 changed her career path to the computer field. She chose to end her active duty service and change to the Army Reserve status in December 1979. After serving in the Reserves at Ft Huachuca, AZ and Ft Lee, VA, Marie was promoted to Major Pyeatt at Ft Lee, VA in 1984.  After a few more years of reserve service, she made the choice to go to the Inactive Reserves.

Marie became a full time working ranch wife in January 1980. She enjoyed her time in the saddle, checking and working cattle, helping with branding, fixing fence and all the other things we do on ranches. After spending her whole adult life working with people, she found that only having dogs, cats, cows and horses to converse with was not enough to keep her brain active so she started taking classes at the local community college on a part-time basis. Two days a week she went to school and the others she spent on the ranch. In 1987, Marie graduated from Cochise College with an AAS in Computer Information Systems. She was an associate faculty member at Cochise College in Sierra Vista from 1987 to 2010, teaching various computer-related classes.

Marie continues to support our troops through various programs one of those being the “Steaks for Troops.”

Being part of an active cattle ranching family during this time, she was also involved in the Arizona State Cowbelles organization. She was the Santa Cruz County Cowbelles President from 2005 to 2008 and served as the Arizona State Cowbelles President from 2008-2009. Marie participated in multiple activities and held many offices with the Arizona State Cowbelles over the years. She is also active in the American National CattleWomen, Inc serving as Communications Committee Chair from 2011- 2013 and is on the ANCW Foundation board of directors.

Along with Cowbelle activities, Marie has been the secretary/treasurer for the Southwestern Pioneer Cowboys Association since 1996. Marie was elected as a member of the Santa Cruz-Cochise County Farm Service Agency committee in 2014 after being a minority advisor for the Pima-Santa Cruz County committee for a number of years. She is also a member of the Southern Arizona Forest Service Resource Advisory Committee and is currently serving as President of the Black Oak Cemetery Association.

Marie (second from left) continues to serve through various organizations including the Cowbelles. Pictured are the Elgin-Sonoita Cowbelles and Arizona State Cowbelles after feeding the 86th Battalion, who had just returned from the Middle East, a delicious beef meal.


When asked about the most iimportant lesson she learned while in the army she replied, “Keep your priorities straight. If it isn’t life threatening for you or someone, DON’T PANIC – even then, handle that priority first without panicking.”


Tools of the Cowboy

Cowboys and cowgirls, alike, spend long days outside in the elements, working hard to raise healthy cattle. But we can’t do this job alone. It takes a whole slew of tools to ensure we get the job done correctly.

Photo by Kathy McCraine

One of the most important tools is our horse. Our horse is our partner, mobile office, and catch-all for every other tool we’ll need. A horse gets us around the ranch more efficiently than if we were to go on foot and is often the brawn behind the brain when calves need to be doctored and there aren’t cattle handling setup for miles around.


Photo courtesy of Braymere Custom Saddlery

The saddle is where we sit while riding our horse. It provides much-needed comfort for both horse and rider and is also a handy place to tie on ropes, jackets, bedrolls and other tools needed through a day on the range.

Saddle Blanket
This important piece of equipment is a layer of protection between the stiff leather on the saddle and the horse’s back. Think of this as a cushy seat cover over a hard wood chair.

The stirrups are attached to the saddle and are where we put our feet to help with stability in the saddle on a long day’s ride.

This important piece of equipment runs from one side of the saddle to the other and ensures it stays on the horse while riding. The cinch is one item you want to make sure is in good shape every time you ride; otherwise, your saddle can roll right off your horse!

Photo courtesy of The Equinest

The reins connect to the bit acting as a steering wheel and a braking system. They allow us to communicate with our horse to tell them which direction we need to travel and when we want to stop.

The bit is like an air traffic controller. It takes the signals from our hands and transmits that information to our horse. The bit sits in our horse’s mouth between their teeth.

The headstall holds the bit on your horse’s head. Without the headstall, the bit and the reins wouldn’t work!

Most cowboys have a rope tied to their saddle when they head out to work each day. The rope allows us to catch a cow that might be sick and needs treatment or a calf that is brand-new and needs identification.

Photo by Dan Bell

Some folks use a dog to help gather and move cattle from pasture to pasture. A well-trained dog can be directed by voice signals to move from one side of the herd to the other, allowing the dogs to push the cattle towards the destination we have in mind. Dogs are also very helpful for flushing cattle out of hard-to-reach places, like under low-hanging trees or narrow creek beds.

Photo by Dave Schafer

Fashion isn’t the first thing we have in mind when deciding our clothing for the day. We need to ensure the utmost comfort and flexibly in our attire because you never know what might come around on that day.

Here in Arizona, a good hat is essential. Ideally, we want something that has a wide brim all the way around the head so we can keep the sun off our face and shoulders.

A bandana is also helpful in keeping the sun off our faces, but can also be used if there is a lot of dust being kicked up by our cattle.

Thick shirt
Just like the chaps help to protect our legs, a long-sleeved shirt made of a thick material is essential to help keep the prickly plants off our skin. The material choice is also important because it gets hot here in Arizona. A cotton shirt is ideal because it helps us to keep cool through evaporation from sweat while also protecting our skin from the sun.



Chaps are made of sturdy leather and cover our legs. These are extra important in places like Arizona where cactus and pointy plants tend to reign. The leather of the chaps keeps our legs from being scratched.

Let’s Celebrate Crocktober with a GIVEAWAY!

Q1SlowCookerClassics.jpgAs a thank you to all of the people who read our Arizona Beef Blog, we wanted to give you a chance to win a great prize! We are giving away a goodie bag* full of useful Arizona Beef merchandise which will include an apron, pot holder, cutting board, and a certificate for FREE BEEF which can be used at any grocery store or restaurant in Arizona. All you have to do to is:

1- Be sure to follow us on Facebook.
2- And Twitter.
3 – Then leave us a comment on this blog post telling us your favorite beefy slow cooker recipe.

Are you ready? Okay! Get entering through this link: A Rafflecopter giveaway. You can also enter via our Facebook page here.

For more inspiration to help get you through Crocktober, check out Beef It’s What’s for Dinner.

*Contest is open to all Arizona residents.

Exclusive First Look: On the Road With Arizona Beef

As a perk for our blog readers, we are offering an exclusive, behind-the-scenes sneak peek look at a special video project we are working on! Lauren, Tiffany, and Ben Spitzer of Silo & Co Productions, just finished up traveling 469 miles in two days to capture the vast amount of knowledge Arizona beef farmers and ranchers have to share with the families who enjoy a delicious steak and want to know how it was raised.

The Arizona Beef Council is dedicated to sharing the story of Arizona Beef. We like to watch the short videos on Facebook and Instagram just as much as the next person, so this project seemed like the perfect way to expand our reach! Enjoy these photos from the trip and be sure to check back soon!

Special thanks to Dr. Sam Garcia of the University of Arizona Food Product and Safety Lab, Dean Fish of the Sante Fe Ranch, The Bell Family of ZZ Cattle Co., The McGibbon Family of the Santa Rita Ranch, Bass Aja of Pinal Feeding Co., and Wes Kerr of Kerr Dairy for your hospitality and willingness to share your knowledge with us! And of course, thank you to Ben Spitzer of Silo and Co Productions for your creativity, knowledge, and patience.





What Do the Grocery Store and the Auction House Have in Common?

The entire beef lifecycle in one infographic. For more info visit FactsAboutBeef.com.

Each farm, ranch, or business involved in any segment of the beef community plays a unique role in ensuring safe, nutritious meat is readily available for both me and you to eat. The first part of the beef lifecycle begins on the ranch. Ranchers maintain a herd of cows who give birth and nurture a calf every year. The first couple months of a young calf’s life are spent gaining nourishment from the cow’s milk and grazing on pasture grass. When calves are about six months old and are big enough to fend for themselves, they are separated from the cow during what is considered “weaning time.” About a third of female heifers (a heifer is a female cow who has not yet given birth to a calf) will stay on the ranch for breeding purposes, while castrated male steers and all other heifers will be up for sale. Sometimes, they are sold to what is referred to as a “stocker or backgrounder” where they will continue to graze on pasture and put on more weight before moving to a feedlot. Some cattle are sold directly to the feed yard shortly after being weaned.

The majority of livestock are sold at auction. Today, it is not uncommon for weaned calves to be sold online. However, there are still hundreds of sale barns all over the United States that hold live auctions on a weekly basis. The Marana Stockyards, located just outside of Tucson, is an example of one such sale barn. For more information on the complete beef lifecycle, visit FactsAboutBeef.com.

The Marana Stockyards have been owned and operated by the Parsons family since 1992, and play a vital role in the Arizona cattle community. They auction off over 1,200 cattle every Wednesday afternoon. Summer is a slower season, but they expect to see as many as 2,000 cattle run through the sale barn each week this upcoming fall and spring. Now, that’s a lot of beef! This summer, I was able to sit down with Seth Nichols and Clay Buck Parsons, both of the Marana Stockyards, and get a feel for what goes into running a successful auction house.

Jane Nichols, Seth Nichols, Buck Clay Parsons, and Ally Parsons of the Marana Stockyards

One thing that was made very clear when talking to these two gentlemen, is that the Marana Stockyards always has their client’s best interest at heart. Both Parson and Nichols come from ranching backgrounds and understand what buyers and sellers expect. When cattle are received, they are sorted into “packages” depending on the current market demand. The packages are differentiated by a variety of factors including the number of cattle, sex, and age. The stockyard analyzes what trends are the most popular at the time in the cattle market and group animals accordingly. The end game is simple; get the most money for your cattle!

Marana Stockyards entrance.

The Marana Stockyards does their part in getting ranchers the most bang for their buck but also emphasize only so much can be done once an animal makes it to the auction house. As Buck Parsons puts it, “Getting top dollar for your cattle doesn’t start at the sale barn. It starts at the ranch itself and making cattle the most marketable they can possibly be.” Simple practices, such as vaccinating and castrating, bring a significantly higher price come auction time. Even such things as producing calm, relaxed, gentle animals go a long way and could potentially increase someone’s profits. The stockyards do their part in trying to educate ranchers on what management practices are the best and what will ultimately benefit the rancher in the end.

A bird’s eye view of the sale ring at Marana Stockyards.

While the majority of cattle who enter the sale barn are from Arizona ranchers, the animals next destination is varied. Stocker calves, who are smaller and need some more time to grow, may be headed off to a ranch, while larger weanlings are typically transported to Texas, Kansas, or Colorado feedlots. Older cows and bulls are purchased by buyers from packing houses.

The Marana Stockyards has been serving Arizona ranchers for close to 15 years. Just think of how many cattle have come through the barn in that amount of time! The stockyards  do an outstanding job of educating their clients on growing healthy animals. They continue to help better the Arizona cattle community. Both the Parsons and Nichols families are active in Arizona cattle organizations and encourage others to get involved. They know the importance of sticking together as one united community and feel that if everyone does his or her part, then Arizona beef will continue to thrive for generations to come.

Blog post by Michelle Allen, Arizona Beef Council and Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association 2016 Summer Intern.

Straight Talk on Beef’s Role in a Healthy Diet

By Shelley Johnson, R.D.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
Contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program

For decades consumers have been exposed to all kinds of conflicting information about the nutritional benefits of all types of food in the marketplace – this includes beef. Questions about food and health are often generated by emerging – and ever-evolving – science of diet and health.

Attention to nutrition began to escalate in the 1970s, when nutrition researchers captured the attention of legislators, regulators and those in a position to give dietary advice. It created an opportunity for the beef industry to deliver messages about the nutritional value of beef.

Over the past few decades, the beef industry has made progress in helping promote the use of sensible, science-based information about beef’s role in health. As a result of this straight-forward attitude, the beef industry has never been in a better position to promote beef’s positive role in the diet.  Following are encouraging updates about beef nutrition that will help set the story straight:

Following are encouraging updates about beef nutrition that will help set the story straight:

Fact: Heart-healthy diets with four ounces of lean beef can actually improve cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk. More than 20 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have showed that healthy diets containing 4-6 ounces of lean red meat, even daily, may improve cholesterol, blood pressure and weight management. The low fat diets that were once being promoted for heart health are not recommended anymore as a result of new science that examines the influence of the total diet on health.proteinbenefits

Furthermore, the fat profile of beef is frequently misunderstood. One third of beef’s saturated fatty acid is stearic acid, which has a neutral effect on cholesterol. And more than half ofbeef’s fatty acids are monounsaturated fat – the same kind found in olive oil.

Fact: Despite upward trends in obesity, as waistlines have expanded, beef intake has declined. The Meat, Eggs and Nuts category of American food consumption has increased just four percent between 1970 and 2008, while overall caloric intake has increased by 30 percent. Americans consume twice the refined grains recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, and added sugars contribute 16 percent of the total calories to the American diet.

protein-challengeA related fact: higher protein diets with beef can help manage weight. Research shows that protein-rich diets that include beef support weight management. If you’d like to test this out for yourself, sign up for the 30 Day Protein Challenge at BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Fact: Building a healthy diet with lean beef can be a calorie-saver and add valuable nutrients. The new Dietary Guidelines released in 2015 emphasize variety and flexibility, and recommend lean meat. By-and-large, consumers are responding, and eating beef responsibly. Current research shows that beef consumption contributes only 5 percent of the calories to Americans’ diets, while supplying more than 10 percent of the daily value for 10 essential nutrients like zinc, iron and B-vitamins.

As Americans continue to battle the obesity crisis, beef can be part of the solution as a high-quality protein source, providing more nutrients in fewer calories than many other foods. Compared to beef, it takes more than twice the calories to get the same amount of protein from beans, nuts and grains.

Fact: Scientific evidence does not support a cause-and-effect relationship between meat and cancer. Some cancer reports in the past several years have suggested there might be a link between colorectal cancer and red meat. Furthermore, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization (WHO) last fall said red meat was probably carcinogenic to humans.

After the IARC results were announced, media reports generated many questions and challenges about the conclusion. A few days later, though, the WHO attempted to temper their communication about the conclusions in the report.

One reason is probably that independent reviews of these reports present a different interpretation. They assert that “the totality of the available evidence does not support an independent positive association between red meat and cancer.”

Why? Because associations were based on correlation (not causation) in epidemiologic research (the study of health and disease among populations); because about half the time, no association was found; because when they were found, associations were weak; because initial results were confounded by unhealthy diets and lifestyles; and because the evidence is weakening over time with improved research quality.


The beef industry, through its Beef Checkoff Program, is doing more than just answering these questions to help people build healthier diets with beef.

For instance, we’re showing consumers how they can pair beef with healthy grains, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy to improve nutrition profiles. Research has shown that consumers who ate more lean beef also ate more servings of vegetables. A new checkoff-funded focus, Families in Motion, is helping demonstrate that beef’s nutrient combination – zinc, iron and protein – provides essential fuel for active families, and when paired with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beef makes a foundation of a nourishing meal. More information can be found on the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” website.

The bottom line is that there is credible information that Americans can build better diets with beef. It’s a science-based message everyone can appreciate. beefsbig10


The Congratulatory Slap

By Dean Fish, Santa Fe Ranch Manager

Fall fair season is upon us! Many of us have family members or friends who are getting those fat steers ready for their shining moment in the ring. The way it works in your mind is that the “apple of your eye,” i.e. your kid, is leading the calf that is slapped by the judge as the Grand Champion Steer. This happens once at each county or state fair every year. The complications arise when there are multiple “apple of your eye” types entered in the fair. The more entries, the more likely that you will not get the winner’s slap.

The Grand Champion slap happened for the Fish family!

Between my son Garrett and I, we have campaigned twenty such fat steers. Between the two of us, we have gotten the grand champion slap once. Once. That’s like batting .050 in baseball. You would certainly get cut from my beloved Diamondbacks baseball team for that, although you might still be able to play for the Padres. In the interest of fair disclosure (pun intended), he had one Reserve Champion. I had three Reserve Champion steers, however, Garrett believes he is still ahead of my record because he won the “big one.” Whatever he would like to believe is fine. Three trumps two in my book and since I am writing this blog, I have the last word.

In my multiple careers as an exhibitor, parent, leader and spectator of fat steer shows I have reflected on the many, egregious ways that a steer show is lost. They fall under two main categories: dishonesty or incompetence.


A fun #FlashbackFriday: Dr. Selke, long time Livestock Judging Coach at the University of Arizona and acclaimed Livestock Judge, doing his thing Santa Cruz County Fair, home county of the Fish family.

Outright dishonesty: Somehow the judge is crooked, bribed, or somehow otherwise enticed to select your rival’s steer. It has to be. That is the only way that an obviously inferior steer shown by a less polished showman could have beat your kid, right? Even if the judge has an impeccable reputation, has judged major stock shows and trained under the leading livestock evaluators of these fine United States, he or she really took that bribe or helped a fellow breeder out by selecting another’s steer. Maybe he or she was instructed which brands or ear tags were supposed to win. If you hang around the sideline long enough, you will begin to learn all about the various, devious ways that judges can pick the “right” steer. Let’s not even start on the fitter’s culpability in this “fix.” Fitters can do all kinds of stuff from airing and pumping steers to gluing fake tailheads and flanks on calves. Of course, any number of feeding tricks are employed to make sure that the winning steer handles correctly.

Outright incompetence: Either the judge is blind, hungover, pre-hungover, tired, or under some other influence that does not allow him or her to make a rational, educated decision. If they were competent, they would have picked your steer as the champ. Otherwise, how could that crippled, yield grade 5 no-good calf from the other side of the county beat your perfect calf? What happens when they get a swine breeder to judge a steer show? Oh boy, wait until the Livestock Committee or Fair Board hears about this! It is a well-known fact that a judge who picked a Charolais steer in 2007 would never pick a black calf to win it all in 2016.

I hope that by now you realize that this is a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the market steer experience. There is not a better way, in my opinion, to instill valuable life skills in a young person than by raising and exhibiting livestock. My participation in 4-H helped to develop critical life skills that I use to this day. My son is a much better person because of the experience and knowledge he gained by showing cattle and goats. One of the most important things that we learned as a family is how to lose. I will confess that I caught myself at my first county fair soon after my son’s defeat talking to the judge. In the heat of the moment, I proclaimed to him that a “good little one beats a bad big one.” I immediately recognized that as very poor sportsmanship and apologized, but the damage was done. It was difficult to swallow my pride and admit that maybe a “good big one beats a good little one.” Regardless, the judge has a hard decision to make and a lot of times it boils down to personal preference.

A very young Garrett Fish with one of his prized goats.


I hope that you go out to your county fair, state fair or other livestock show this fall and cheer on all of the livestock exhibitors. Only one of those exhibitors is going to be truly happy, but each and every one deserve your support and encouragement. Also, take a moment to thank all of the volunteers that dedicate their time to help keep this great tradition of livestock shows thriving. Sure, it’s not perfect, but they are doing a competent, honest job of running a good show. Ribbons fade and trophies disappear over time, but the lessons learned remain.  And if you, or someone you know, gets that “congratulatory slap,” make sure that you enjoy it. Heaven, and the Fish family, knows they are rare.