Beef in the Early Years with the Selchow Family

Life with a toddler is hectic, to say the least. Their little brains are working harder than they literally ever will (fun fact: from birth to age three, children’s brains are learning something every second resulting in a million neural connections per second). And do they ever stop moving? Tiffany Selchow, Director of Social Marketing and Consumer Outreach at the Arizona Beef Council, shares in this blog how her family includes beef in their busy lifestyle, made only that much sweeter (and crazy) by their young daughter, to help ensure all nutrient needs are met.


Hayes Katherine, my three-and-a-half-year-old spit fire, is as active as ever and learning more every day. She only holds still for a few seconds at a time and is taking in every word those around her dare to let past their lips. Luckily for us, we live on a working cattle ranch so there are lots of places for her to go to burn off her abundance of energy. During the cooler months, we like to go on long walks down the dirt roads, learning about the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and sometimes do so in her best Elsa dress. She also enjoys helping her dad check on the cows, splashing in muddy puddles, and dragging the ranch dogs along with her on most of these adventures. The heat doesn’t stop this girl. Even when it is hot, she wants to be outside, riding her bike or one of the patient ranch horses.

Keeping up with her energy and nutrition needs tends to be a challenge, because another difficulty of toddlerhood is finding food you can both agree on. Children at this age are literally supposed to question everything we tell them, and they take that job VERY seriously. This is where beef saves the day for us. It’s probably pretty obvious that in our house, we eat a lot of beef and should come as no surprise that beef was one of Hayes’ first foods.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Women Infants and Children’s Program (WIC) and now, for the first time ever, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all recommend the introduction of solid foods, like beef, to infants and toddlers, in order to pack every bite with protein, iron, zinc and choline. Babies’ tummies are small, but their nutrition requirements are great. It’s our job as parents to ensure that nutrient-dense foods, like beef, get into that small space and fulfill those requirements.

Beef contains 10 essential nutrients including zinc, iron, and protein in just a few calories. For example, one recommended serving size for adults is 3 ounces of beef. This single serving contains about 160 calories while also including almost half of your daily needs for protein. Break that down into a toddler size portion of beef (1 ounce of beef) and you have something your small human enjoys eating because it’s tasty while also offering you the peace of mind knowing they are getting the nutrients that they need.

Hayes enjoys beef in many ways, but her favorite is in the form of her dad’s delicious and almost world-famous spaghetti sauce served over pasta. While this is a closely held secret family recipe, I’ll give you a small hint: Try ground beef and some Prego sauce and you’ll come pretty close to finding out the secret. We love to do family dinners at the dining room table or out on our ranch house porch and often grill up a Flat Iron Steak while Hayes runs around with the dogs in the ranch yard. The Flat Iron Steak happens to be the second most tender cut of the whole animal so you can basically add whatever seasoning you want, grill it up, let it rest, and then slice against the grain and you are almost always guaranteed a good eating experience. As a smaller kiddo, we used to give Hayes a long slice of beef to let her gnaw away and not worry about choking. Now that she’s a little older, we cut up bit size pieces and put those next to some grapes or other fruit and cheese and she has a plate full of healthy foods she is happy to chow down.

Photo courtesy of http://www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

Serving nutritious foods babies and toddlers love to eat, like beef, is simple and easy—puree, mash, chop or shred meat at various stages to meet their changing feeding needs. Check out https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/beef-in-the-early-years for more information on feeding beef to your small ones and don’t forget to click on the recipes tab for inspiration and kid-friendly beef meal ideas.

Unless noted, photos provided by the author.

Paradise Valley Burger Company – A Burger Joint with a Unique Flair

Paradise Valley Burger Company (PVBC), located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, sits in an unassuming strip mall across the street from Paradise Valley High School. This restaurant may be small in square footage, but it does not lack in big, unique flavors, bringing customers back to try the new weekly special or just to enjoy their usual menu favorite again and again.

Chef Bret Shapiro and a creative burger he cooked up.

Bret Shapiro, owner, and operator of PVBC, comes from a long line of culinary roots. His grandfather was a butcher in New York City and sold meat to the famous Katz’s Deli, a legendary deli in New York City, and his great grandfather was a baker. Not only is good food in his blood, but it is also a way of life. Growing up he fondly recalls his family driving an hour out of their way to get to the best Chinese restaurant, passing numerous acceptable ones along the way, but knowing the best food was worth it. His restaurant is one of those places for the modern customer. People drive from far and wide, and make sure to stop in on winter vacations. He is often asked about opening more restaurants, but his goal is to stay where he is and focus on quality.

Pictured is the classic burger called the Paradise Burger which includes 1/4 pound of beef, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pickled onions, 1000 island dressing.

The restaurant comes from simple origins and a deal that didn’t quite pan out. Bret applied to an ad about 10 years ago on Craig’s List. The company was looking for a chef partner to come in and help out in a restaurant. About halfway through the deal, it fell apart. Instead of moving on and looking for something different, he decided to take it over and thought hamburgers were the way to go. While not the path Bret had imagined, it worked out and he’s still serving delicious burgers ten years later.

Paradise Valley Burger Company is known for having new, different, and sometimes wild flavor combos on their burgers. Initially, Bret stuck with the traditional burger set up but was looking for a way to bring people out to his side of town. The restaurant sits on a busy intersection, so it’s challenging to get people to stop and come in. He decided to get them to stop he had to put something on the menu that they couldn’t find anywhere else. The unique Brulee burger has always been a staple with its 1,000-island dressing, bacon, egg, Havarti cheese, pickled onion and burnt sugar bun, but he just kept coming up with new ideas and continues that to today.

This is the Brulee burger which includes 1/4 burger, bacon, egg, Havarti cheese, pickled onions, lettuce, 1000 island, all on a burnt sugar bun.

All items on the menu are freshly cooked ensuring quality both in the traditional combos and the more exciting ones. The beef is brought in every day and pressed into patties at the restaurant. Each burger, no matter the flavor combo, comes with a double patty, giving you a quarter pound burger. The individual patty is thin for a reason: it gives the maximum amount of char contributing to the flavor profile and allowing that to happen all the way through the burger. No detail is missed at Paradise Valley Burger Co. The brioche buns are sourced from a local bakery where they come in the traditional circle shape. Bret and his staff cut them into squares because this allows for a better bread-to-burger ratio, allowing for more even toasting on the flattop. Bret wants every bite to include all the ingredients on the burger and the square shape allows that to happen.

Not only are the burgers fun and innovative, but so are the sides. Sure, the menu includes the traditional French fries, but it also cooks up things like sweet Maui onion potato chips, French toast fries complete with a side of maple syrup, and even homemade ice cream like “The Canadian” which is vanilla ice cream, short bread cookies, and maple frosting. Every week, Bret puts on his creativity hat and comes up with a new burger, sides, and shakes. His goal is to keep the menu fresh. This gives the regulars the opportunity to come in over and over again and find something new, but he also keeps his classics for those who like the predictability.

This place isn’t just burgers! It’s also fun sides including these pictured which are French toast fries.

COVID affected PVBC like every other sector of foodservice, but Bret was fortunate to have a loyal following who wanted to see this valley classic stay afloat. His goal was to continue to serve quality food in whatever way he could. At the beginning of the pandemic when restaurants were closed, they offered pickup and delivery for a short time. As soon as dine-in services were allowed to resume, customers flocked back to the restaurant to load up on these tasty burgers.

Bret’s passion for his craft is evident and numerous TV producers have noticed. He and his restaurant has been featured on Man Versus Food, Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, Guys Grocery Games, and Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives- America’s Favorites Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives- Takeout. Bret is an open, friendly person who obviously works hard and does a great job of connecting with the folks around him. After being featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives the first time there was a noticeable uptick in business. The locals who had found this burger joint organically kept coming, but now the people who saw it on TV and wanted to try out one of these delicious burgers for themselves were showing up. No matter how customers stumbled upon this delicious burger joint, they come back. Whether they are on the hunt for the fresh, classic cheeseburger, or coming back to try the newest creation by Chef Bret, this is not a restaurant you only visit once.

Take a visit to this delicious burger place and you won’t be disappointed!

If you know a great Arizona restaurant which features beef on their menu and think we should feature their establishment on the Arizona Beef blog shoot Tiffany an email at tnselchow@arizonabeef.org.

Beef and Dairy Farmers are Committed to the Environment

By: Clint Gladden, Saddle Mountain Dairy, Buckeye, Arizona

Sunrise on the dairy.

Continued concerns about climate change and the desire to protect our natural resources have people all over the globe looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly. These important conversations often lead back to food production – something that, as an Arizona dairy farmer raising crops, beef and milk, I am very passionate about.

My family and I are proud of the role we play in providing high-quality beef and milk in the most sustainable way possible. The U.S. is the leader in sustainable beef and milk production due to the dedication of the entire beef and dairy industries, especially those like my family, who have been farming and raising dairy cattle in Arizona since the late 1930’s.

Clint Gladden, William Thomas “W.T.” Gladden, Josh Gladden, and Sheri & Danny Gladden.

I am a fourth-generation farmer in Palo Verde, Arizona. In 1938, my great grandfather James Edward Gladden started a dairy farm with 12 Jersey cows in Chandler, Arizona. Over the years, we slowly moved west until we reached Palo Verde, where my wife Brooke and I currently farm and raise dairy with my parents (Danny and Sheri) and my brother and his wife (Josh and Heidi).

Up close inspection of the ration we feed our cattle.

Sustainable practices are the heartbeat of our farm. We recycle all water and utilize the manure from the cows as fertilizer on the crops that we raise to feed our cows. The alfalfa, corn, sorghum and wheat that we grow all go to the dairy for cattle feed. Additionally, cattle are fantastic upcyclers – meaning, their ruminant digestive systems turn things that humans can’t eat, like grass, other forages, and byproducts, into beef and milk for human consumption. Examples of byproducts that our dairy’s nutritionist formulates into our cows’ diets are cotton seeds (from the production of cotton), almond hulls, spent distillers grains (from breweries and ethanol production), and bakery and produce waste (that might be expired or too “ugly” from grocery stores) and would otherwise be sent to a landfill. By upcycling these materials we add nutritional and environmental value, while cutting down on waste and producing high-quality protein for humans. These are common practices by farmers and ranchers across the country, making the most of the resources available where they raise cattle.

The reality is that farmers and ranchers, like us, make their living from the land and we want to do everything in our power to protect the environment. Preserving natural resources is not only the right thing to do, but it also makes our farm better and allows us to continue farming, year-after-year, generation-after-generation.

Health check of the heifers.

Contrary to widespread confusion and due to misrepresentation of U.S. beef production with global numbers, you’ve likely heard that U.S. livestock’s contribution to climate change is immense. Americans must understand that this is not true. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), beef production in the U.S. is only responsible for 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Even when the production of animal feed, fuel and electricity necessary for beef production is factored into the equation, it is still responsible for just 3.7% of GHG in the United States.

Source: BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com

The same is true for the dairy community: we are always working to have an even lower footprint. Thanks to increasingly modern and innovative dairy farming practices, the environmental impact of producing a gallon of milk in 2017 shrunk significantly, requiring 30% less water, 21% less land and a 19% smaller carbon footprint than it did in 2007.

Source: USDairy.com

While caring for the environment and our natural resources, we are also producing high quality and nutritious beef and dairy products to feed a growing global population. Supplying 10 essential nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins, beef supports a healthy lifestyle with many delicious cuts, like Flank Steak, Flat Iron and Ground Beef, which are some of my favorites.

Likewise, the milk from our cows contains 13 essential nutrients including high-quality protein, calcium and vitamin D, that help build and repair muscle tissue, build and maintain strong bones and teeth, and help support a healthy immune system.

We love what we do and want future generations to have the same opportunities we have, therefore making our stewardship of the land and cattle a top priority. Every day we are working to improve our farm and dairy, in turn, benefiting us all. There is something so satisfying about seeing it all come full circle. From seeing newborn calves starting their journey, to a bare field turning into high quality cattle feed over a season, then the cattle enjoying that feed, ending with getting to see milk tankers and cattle trucks leaving the farm headed for a grocery store near you with high quality nutritious and delicious beef and dairy products. It culminates for me when I get home from work to a delicious meal prepared by my wife Brooke loaded with Arizona beef and dairy.

We thank you for supporting Arizona beef and dairy farmers. We are committed to continuously improving the way we care for our land and cattle, to ensure a sustainable food supply.

Clint and Brooke Gladden, with Duke.

Beef and Chorizo Burger, Flavors of Arizona by Chiles and Smoke

What’s more Arizona than a cheeseburger topped with beef chorizo and grilled nopales? We can’t think of much. Brad, Phoenix-based master BBQ chef of Chiles and Smoke, is bringing us another delicious recipe and this time it’s to highlight National Beef Burger Day. Check out his blog here and be sure to bookmark or save this page for future use. Brad’s helpful step-by-step tutorial video is at the end of the recipe.

Brad Prose, of Chiles and Smoke, created a delicious recipe National Beef Burger Day.
Beef and Chorizo Burger
  • Author: Brad Prose
  •  Prep Time: 10
  •  Cook Time: 10
  •  Total Time: 20
  •  Yield: 2–3 1x
  •  Category: Beef
  •  Method: Griddle
  •  Cuisine: Burger

Description

Arizona inspires this beef and chorizo burger, topped with charred nopales, creamy muenster cheese, and refreshing cilantro crema.

Ingredients
Cilantro-Lime Crema
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema
  • 1/8 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste
Beef and Chorizo Burger
  • 2 cactus paddles (nopales) trimmed and washed
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 fresh chorizo
  • 2 beef burgers, 3-4oz each (80/20 preferred)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 slices muenster cheese
  • 2 buns, brioche
Instructions
  1. Mix the ingredients together for the crema. Season and adjust. Keep in the fridge until needed.
  2. Preheat the heating surface to medium-high heat. If using a flat top or griddle, set up a 2-zone area with the second side at low.
  3. Lightly salt and sear the nopales for 3-4 minutes per side until lightly charred. Flip as needed. When cooked, remove from heat and slice into thin strips.
  4. Cook the chorizo. Stir frequently, making sure it crisps but doesn’t burn. Right before it’s finished, stir in the nopales to mix together. Remove from heat. If using a flat top or griddle, move to the cooler side.
  5. Toast the buns. We have that delicious chorizo fat for a reason.
  6. Mix the salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder together. Season one side of the beef burger and sear it on the griddle, face down. Season the top of the burger. Allow it to crisp up on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes. Flip when you have a nice crust and continue to cook until patty reaches 160°F as measured by a meat thermometer.
  7. Divide the chorizo and cactus into small piles to go onto the burger. Place a slice of the muenster cheese on each pile. The cheese will melt, holding everything together. Slide this pile on top of the burger and continue to cook until the preferred temperature.
  8. Build your buns with the crema, and then the burger and toppings.

Notes

Brad recommends using a lighter bun, such as brioche or white bread. The burger and toppings are heavier and rich so you want to make sure the bun isn’t as well.

Grilling season is here!

Living in Arizona gives us certain advantages over other states and one of the most important ones is the fact that grilling season lasts all year long! But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something extra special about gathering in the back yard on a warm summer evening as burgers, steaks, and hot dogs sizzle on the grill, the sounds of chatting and play drape across the grass, and a cold drink perspires in your hand. So even though we are blessed with the ability to fire up the grill year-round, let’s celebrate the official start of grilling season with some of our favorite beef burger recipes and cooking tips.

Burger Recipes

Check out the list below of our favorite beef burger recipes. Click on the title of each for the full recipe.

Image and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Classic Beef Cheeseburgers

Master this classic burger recipe and you’ll be the king (or queen) of the grill from here on out!

Image and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Caribbean Beef Burgers with Mango Salsa

Spicy, sweet and oh-so-simple. Ground Beef gets a peppery boost from jerk seasoning, and the freshly chopped mango salsa gives the dish a cool finish.

Image and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Deli Burgers

Six ingredients are all you need to prepare these delicious, delectable deli burgers.

Image and recipe courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Cheesehead Sliders

Because everyone loves a slider and it is made all the better with lots of cheese.

Cooking Tips

Image courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Grilling Basics

Because grilling season just isn’t grilling season without a grill, here is a link to all the grilling tips you could want and need. This will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to ensure success with all of your guests’ taste buds.

Image courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Food Safety

We know you know how to keep things on the up and up, but it doesn’t hurt to review your beef food safety knowledge just to be sure.

For more recipes like these and information visit www.BeefItsWhatsforDinner.com and www.ArizonaBeef.org.

Arizona Beef’s Simple and Easy Prime Rib Roast

This week’s #AZBeef blog post is from Lauren Maehling, the Arizona Beef Council’s Executive Director. She shares with us a delicious and simple Prime Rib recipe that is sure to impress your family this holiday season.


Cooking and serving a perfect Prime Rib for a special occasion was a goal of mine but I was completely intimidated for far too long. Overseeing the quintessential holiday protein highlight is a hefty responsibility. There is a fine line between tragic or magic when it comes to preparing the main course of a special meal, and we want to help you confidently dazzle your guests with a delectable Prime Rib this holiday season. It’s taken me a few years to tinker with a recipe, and I’m honored to share this one with you.

Before we begin, I’d like to suggest a festive video to get you in the roasting spirit: behold, the Drool Log and ‘Twas The Night Before Beefmas.

Now, about this recipe. There are many ways to prepare a Prime Rib Roast that result in an excellent eating experience (BBQ, smoker, roaster, oven, oh my!). This is a simple yet tasty recipe that has become my go-to that I’ve modified and shared with family and friends over the years. Though this recipe calls for oven roasting, it could easily be adapted to another low and slow cooking method. Whether you follow this one or another preferred stand by, I hope you enjoy, and cheers to the beef farmers and ranchers who work year-round to raise delicious and nutritious beef.

Garlic and Herb-Crusted Prime Rib

Notes: Make sure to read the tips at the end. This recipe isn’t an *exact* science (except for the internal temps – don’t wing those!) But the herbs and garlic are approximate and not set in stone. If you have a little more or less rosemary, it’s going to turn out just fine. It’s ok to wing this part. Really like garlic? Keep on peeling and chopping. Tired of meticulously pulling each tiny individual leaf of thyme (or in my case, is your husband tired of plucking each leaf? 😉). If so, call it good (but see the tip about rosemary and thyme to make your life easier). I realize the recipe looks “wordy” but please don’t be intimidated. I wanted to include as much commentary to help the process.

Ingredients

  • Prime Rib Roast (officially called a Ribeye Roast and sometimes called a Standing Rib Roast) – I prefer bone-in but boneless is wonderful also. More about this cut here.
  • Fresh Rosemary: about 8 sprigs or 2 packs if you’re buying it from the market in those little herb packs. Will be about ½ cup chopped. You can use less if you have a small roast.
  • Fresh Thyme: 6-8 sprigs which is one of those herb packs from the market.
  • 2 heads of Garlic: reserve 5-8 cloves. Finely dice the rest.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Your favorite Steak Seasoning (I like one with salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley)

Prep Work for Herb Crust

  • Thinly slice lengthwise the 5-8 cloves you set aside (these will be to insert into the roast). Keep these separate from the chopped garlic.
  • Finely chop rosemary, thyme and garlic.
  • Mix together herbs with olive oil to a consistency you could rub all over the roast. It should be the consistency of a thin paste.

Cooking

  • Preheat oven to 500˚F with oven rack in the lower third of the oven (so your roast and roasting pan are sitting in the middle of the oven).
    • Not necessary but a bonus to the Prime Rib cooking experience, tune in to the Drool Log for 2 hours of uninterrupted satisfying sizzle. It will look fabulous on your TV.
  • Make sure roast is dry. Pat with paper towels, if needed.
  • Poke holes approximately 1” into the roast with a paring knife to insert the sliced garlic (tutorial video here). I like to add the garlic all over the top fat cap of the roast. The garlic will add extra flavor, unless you don’t want extra garlic flavor, then you can skip this step.
  • Coat roast with your favorite steak seasoning. How lightly or heavily you season is up to your preference and taste.
  • Now coat the entire roast in the garlic and herb paste. Doesn’t it smell divine?
  • Place the roast bone side down on the rack of your roasting pan. If cooking a boneless roast, make sure the fat side is up. If you don’t have a roasting rack, you can make one like this DIY roasting rack.
  • Insert an oven-proof thermometer, if you have one, into the center or thickest part of the roast, taking care to avoid the bone (if cooking a bone-in roast). I like a digital instant-read thermometer that can be read outside the oven.
  • Now is the time to put this grand roast in the oven! Cook at 500˚ for 20 minutes (preheated, of course, in case you ignored that first step).
    • Keep a watchful eye on the outer crust. If it looks like it is getting too dark (aka burning), loosely cover the roast with a sheet of aluminum foil.
  • After 20 minutes, lower oven temp to 350˚F. 
  • Total cooking time will vary depending on the size of the roast. Plan on 15 minutes per pound of beef. So, if your roast weighs 8 pounds, your total cooking time will be approximately 2 hours. This is approximate as every oven is different, and that’s why it is very important to watch the internal temperature reading. Internal temperature is more important than the time on the clock.
  • Remove roast from the oven when meat thermometer registers 115-120°F for medium rare. As the roast rests (next step), the temperature will continue to rise. Some people like more done and some like more rare. It’s up to your personal preference.
  • Transfer Prime Rib to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Let rest 15-20 minutes. Resting is important – see note below. 
  • Time to carve! First turn the roast on its side and remove the ribs. To do this, follow the curve of the ribs as close and you can making sure to hold the roast steady with a serving fork or tongs. Once the ribs are removed, turn the roast with the fat side up and carefully slice pieces to your desired thickness. I like 1” thick slices, but if you like thinner or thicker, you do you.
  • Enjoy! You’ll have salty and crusty end pieces for the end-piece lovers, and a nice medium rare in the middle for everyone else.

Tips:

  • When picking a Prime Rib Roast, I like to choose one with a large Ribeye Cap. That’s the highly-marbled part of the roast that “hugs” the eye of the Ribeye on the outside. It’s my favorite part because it tastes like “beef candy.”
  • Bone-in vs boneless: Bone-in cuts of beef draw more flavor from the bones. Plus, the Prime Rib bones are DELICIOUS and your guests may fight over them. But if you have a boneless roast, that’s ok! It will save you one step when carving.
  • How many pounds of beef do you need? Plan on ½ pound per person (uncooked weight).
  • Following proper food safety defrosting instructions is very important. If your roast is frozen, plan for plenty of time for the roast to defrost in the refrigerator (NOT at room temperature on your counter). Here are some food safety and defrosting tips.
  • “Stripping” rosemary and thyme: Unless you want to pluck each leaf individually, easily and quickly strip the leaves off the stems by pinching the stem end with one hand and swipe down the length of the stem with your fingers on your other hand.
  • Allowing the Prime Rib to rest for 15-20 minutes is very important. Be patient to allow the juices to re-absorb into the meat ensuring a tender, juicy roast. Those few extra minutes provide a great opportunity to make an au jus from the reserved beef drippings and plate side dishes.
  • For more beef recipe inspiration and tips, visit Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.’s Expert Tips for the Perfect Holiday Roast, All About the Prime Rib and Beef Up the Holidays.

There are many techniques and recipes that result in a delicious Prime Rib. Please share with us in the comments, what is your favorite?

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.

What is stockmanship?

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.

Dr. Dean Fish of the Sante Fe Ranch Foundation and Anchor F Cattle Company is shown moving cattle on horseback which can be a low-stress method when used correctly.

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.

Cattle flight zones can vary greatly and depend primarily on breed, environmental factors, and the amount of exposure they’ve had to humans. Micaela McGibbon of the Santa Rita Ranch demonstrates a flight zone that is relatively small because these cattle are used to interactions with Micaela in this circumstance.

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.

This graphic shows how the flight zone works. When you move towards the head of an animal they are going to turn away, while moving towards the back of the animal will move them forward. The point of balance, which is generally at their shoulder, is the point in which those movements change. Stepping into the flight zone will cause an animal to move while stepping out of the flight zone will cause it to stop moving because of the pressure you are putting on the animal. Image courtesy of the Beef Quality Assurance Program.

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 Beef Lifecycle

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.

Ranch:

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.

Photo by Roxanne Knight.

Weaning:

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.

Photo courtesy of Willcox Livestock Auction.

Livestock Auction Markets:

After weaning and/or during the stocker and backgrounder phase, cattle may be sold at livestock auction markets.

Photo by Anna Aja.

Feedyard:

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.

Learn more about animal safety and care at the feedyard.

PACKING PLANT:

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.

Arizona beef lifecycle with Arizona rancher, Dean Fish.

What is Range Management and Why is it Important?

Most Arizona ranches cover many, many acres because of our environment here in the southwest. Our climate is arid, meaning relatively dry, so grass and forages, along with plentiful water, is challenging to maintain at times. However, this does not mean high-quality cattle can’t be raised here! By managing the land, we can ensure there are enough resources for the cattle, the wildlife, and the public who also enjoy these open spaces.

A scence from the ZZ Cattle Co. ranch.

Range management is a science which focuses on the study of rangelands and the conservation and sustainable management of these arid spaces for the benefit of current and future generations. It is the goal of the caretakers of these lands to use the resources provided, such as water, grass, and forages, to grow a high-quality product such as beef, while also maintaining a healthy ecosystem in which wildlife, flora and fauna can flourish. Proper management is key as these lands have previously been used for many generations to grow food and it is the goal of the ranchers to see their continued responsible use into the future. 

Andrew McGibbon of the Santa Rita Ranch in Green Valley, Arizona (check out the blog we wrote about his family here) explains that on his ranch they work to adapt the cattle to the environment and to rainfall amounts. One method of adaptation that is used on his ranch is called rotational grazing which means cattle are consistently moved through various pastures. In the summertime, the cattle are moved through pastures rather quickly, meaning the herd is gathered and moved to a new pasture every 10-12 days. This is done during the monsoon months of July, August and September, to protect the quickly growing grass. In the wintertime, grasses typically go dormant, which means the cattle can spend a longer amount of time in each pasture. Movement through pastures is also dependent on the amount of rainfall in that area of the ranch.

Pictured are Andrew, Micaela and Liam McGibbon with some of their cows.

As with most businesses, things are always done a little differently from ranch to ranch. Dan Bell of the ZZ Cattle Company in Nogales, Arizona (to learn more about Dan and his ranch visit this blog post) explains that range management is used across their entire ranch to ensure that cattle have fresh grass throughout the year. This allows the pastures to rest after cattle have grazed. Pastures are rested on an alternating season of use pattern. This gives the grass more time to rest and set seed, allowing for growth in the next cycle. This is especially helpful through times of drought, ensuring there is grass waiting in other areas, allowing for efficient management and use of the resource.

Range management is also important for the wildlife who cohabitate with cattle on these pasture lands. Ranchers are acutely aware of water sources and how they are used. A large pasture can be grazed more efficiently and effectively by providing water in various areas, encouraging cattle movement and equitable grazing. This allows cattle and wildlife to graze in more remote areas which were not close to a water source before but now are by adding a trough for water and a pipeline to get the water there.

It’s also important to monitor and work to improve the rangeland used by ranchers. This is done by a practice called rangeland monitoring which means we document and measure how conditions of the land are changing in response to the environment and the management practices which are in use. It helps guide ranchers to know if their current range management plan is working and how to adapt to changing circumstances such as drought. Add this tool to the rancher’s toolbox to ensure they reach their goal of seeing the land they currently raise cattle on continue to happen to see the same for generations to come.  

Special thanks to the McGibbons, Dan Bell, and Mario Preciado of the Arizona State Land Department for assistance with this blog post.