Arizona Cattleman Awarded for Commitment to Excellence 

By Morgan Boecker

Enjoy this write up from Certified Angus Beef (CAB) of Arizona rancher Ross Humphreys who was recently given the Commitment to Excellence award from CAB. Special thank you to Morgan Boecker and CAB for allowing us to reshare their work here.


Ross Humphreys walks like a cowboy and talks like one, too. His adept gaits tells of many days in and out of the saddle on his ranch just south of Patagonia, Ariz.

He wears many hats, but his black felt wide brim fits most naturally, shading him from the sun at San Rafael Cattle Company. Off the ranch, you can find him in Tucson managing stocks and his publishing company. 

Grit in every venture makes him a successful businessman, and his unrattled spirit makes the best of challenges. However, it’s his relentless drive for raising high-quality beef that earned him the Certified Angus Beef (CAB) 2021 Commercial Commitment to Excellence Award.  

A different background  

Humphreys grew up an army brat, frequently moving throughout his childhood. He earned a degree in chemistry and worked as a metallurgical engineer for a bit before going back to school for a Master of Business Administration. That sent him on a new route.  

He’s held a lot of job titles in his 72 years, from strategic business advisor to book publisher and CEO of multiple companies, just to name a few.  

In 1999 at 50-years-old, never having owned cattle or managed a ranch, he bought San Rafael Cattle Company. Admittedly, he took an unusual path to the cattle business.  

“I stood on one of the hills with my older daughter and said, ‘Anybody could run a cow on this place because you can see her wherever she is,’” he says. “So that’s how we got started.” 

Consistent little changes 

With no agricultural background, Humphreys went straight to the University of Arizona and bought a Ranching 101 textbook.  

Always curious, his questions led to new acquaintances, and Mark Gardiner, of Gardiner Angus Ranch in Kansas, became his teacher and connector.  

“I’ve hardly ever spent any physical time with Gardiners,” Humphreys admits, “But if I called them up, they’d spend two hours on the phone with me answering questions.”  

Humphreys leaned on good information and sound science. No ranch decision is made without running some math and looking at a spreadsheet.  

By genetic testing his herd, he saw steady progress by buying a little better bull than the year before. He focuses his selection to ensure balanced cows that can raise replacement females and a calf crop that produces the best beef. 

Humphreys confirms his plan works with results at the feedyard. Loads of his fed cattle have improved from 20% Prime in 2013 to 95% CAB or higher, including nearly 85% Prime today. 

“My goal is to try to produce the best carcass I can,” he says. “So, I keep trying to nudge up my cow herd so that the calves will be even better the next time.” 

Preserving today for tomorrow 

Conservation is as much part of the San Rafael story as the cattle. Named after the San Rafael Valley, the ranch is nestled in Arizona’s high desert country bordering Mexico. It’s the north end of a rich ecological site that looks like the Great Plains and is home to various plants and animals, many on the endangered species list.  

“Ninety-five percent of this ranch is perennial native grasses,” Humphreys says. “We are the last shortgrass prairie in Arizona.” 

Collaboration with conservation groups ensures the ranching operation, endangered wildlife and habitat are protected from housing or industrial development. The easements with Arizona State Parks and the Nature Conservancy led to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  

The most important habitats on the ranch are water sources, including the Santa Cruz River, several springs and stock tanks. The endangered Sonoran Tiger Salamander is only found in stock tanks in the San Rafael Valley. Humphreys developed water sources with support from NRCS grants, creating a mutual benefit for the cattle and wildlife.  

  

Looking ahead 

Environmental investment is key to Humphreys’ long-term goal of sustaining the land.  

Even with intensive management, the land still needs water and the current Southwestern drought continues to challenge his resources. As a result, Humphreys sold roughly 65% of his cow herd this year. 

Unsure if he will ever get back to pre-drought herd numbers, he remains committed to this final career as a rancher.  

“I want to come home to a beautiful place,” he says. “I started doing this when I was 50, but I like the work. I like the cows.”  

Ever the student, he meets each new challenge with a thirst for knowledge, determined to sustain, and focused on raising the best, one step at a time.  

How Agricultural Education & the FFA Support the Agriculture Community

This summer were thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her FFA experience, and how important FFA is for the agriculture community.


We each probably have a few key childhood memories that stick out. Maybe these memories consist of visiting a favorite place, spending time with family, or experiencing new things. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing in my dad’s agriculture classroom during evening FFA chapter meetings and going to the county fair to watch his students show their animals. I can remember how kind the students were to me and I remember how much fun it was to sit in the bleachers and watch the “big kids” show. Family gatherings were also always filled with my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents sharing story upon story of their time as FFA members and all of the fun memories they had. From a very young age, I began a countdown to the day when I could be an FFA member and have a blue corduroy jacket of my own.

The National FFA Organization is the largest youth leadership organization in the country with over 735,000 members across all 50 states and over 10,000 FFA members here in Arizona. More than anything, I wanted to be one of these students!


When the time came for me to enter high school and finally have the opportunity to be an FFA member, I was faced with one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. I was going to a school that I loved, but it did not have an FFA chapter. I had to decide if I would stay at my school and miss out on FFA or move schools to one with an agriculture program. After lots of consideration and talking to many people, another option was presented! With the help of our principal, my school was able to get an FFA chapter chartered in 2016 when I was a sophomore. This decision and the forethought of my principal truly changed the course of my life.

The first photo of the Trivium FFA Chapter


Because I attended a small charter high school that focused on classical education, my experience in ag class did not look like I had always imagined it would. We did not have a big facility with a large greenhouse, I was the only student in my chapter that had grown up around livestock, and many of my friends had never even heard about the FFA until they joined ag class. Looking back, I am very grateful that my experience was different than I expected it to be because it allowed me to have a unique perspective on the importance of agricultural education.

My parents and me at the Trivium FFA senior banquet.


Most people entered the class having no idea where their food came from and some even had some negative views about agriculture as a whole. However, these were the students that soaked up the lessons and gained the most out of their experience as an FFA member and an agricultural education student. I learned that there is no “one-size-fits-all” description of who should be involved in agriculture and who should be telling our story. We need everyone – no matter their background – to spread the truth about agriculture and to be better consumers. I believe that agricultural education and the FFA play a major role in doing that. My time as a member of the Trivium FFA chapter taught me that everyone has a place in advocating and working in agriculture, we just simply have to help them find it.

My Arizona FFA State Officer team.

Advocating in Our Own Way

This summer we are thrilled to have Kailee Zimmerman as our summer intern. A past Arizona Beef Ambassador and Arizona FFA State Officer, Kailee shares about her roots, and how she continues to share about the beef community.


A recent study by the American Farm Bureau Federation showed that the average American is now at least three generations removed from production agriculture.  Rapid population increase and urbanization has left just two percent of United States citizens actively involved in raising, growing, and producing food.  We find ourselves in the middle of a reality that we have never faced before – the fact that American farmers & ranchers and consumers are divided by a large gap of knowledge and understanding. 

Whew!  Now is the time when we can take a deep breath!  While these statistics may seem daunting, there is great hope!  We also live in a world where many people are more interested than ever about their food and where it comes from.  We see foods marketed as “farm to table” and “locally grown” becoming more popular.  In order to bridge the knowledge gap between food producers and food consumers, it is so important for agriculturalists to share their story!

Picture of the Weathersby Ranch where my Nana grew up. This photo was used in the Arizona Highways magazine in 1957.

I believe that the story of American agriculture (especially, the beef community!) is one of triumph and inspiration.  Why wouldn’t we want to share it?  I am blessed to come from a family with ranching roots.  My Nana grew up on a ranch in Southeastern Arizona in the Aravaipa Canyon.  As a little kid, I loved hearing stories about the ranch and the adventures my family would have there.  However, as I have gotten older, through these stories and experiences, I have also grown a deep appreciation for the work that goes into raising cattle that will produce nutritious, sustainable protein.  I am also grateful for the example of hard work, integrity and perseverance that my Nana and other family members on the ranch set for me.


2T Ranch Show Team at 2019 Maricopa County Fair

While I did not grow up on a ranch like my Nana, I am grateful to have experienced a small degree of what it is like to raise cattle and provide food for families by raising and exhibiting show cattle.  I have raised market steers since I was 11 years old and have shown them at countless jackpot shows and fairs across Arizona.  It is hard for me to list all of the lessons that I learned from raising livestock and showing cattle, but one of the most important things I learned was how important it is to be a good representative of the agricultural community.  When we first started showing, my parents taught my brothers and me about the importance of being advocates for agriculture as we interacted with community members and visitors at the fairs we attended.  Though it was routine for us to care for our cattle and get them ready to show, this was very foreign to many people who attended the fairs.

My Nana’s Younger Brother, Jake, on the ranch.

Throughout my time exhibiting cattle, I was able to have many conversations with people who were unfamiliar with agriculture and knew very little about where their food came from.  I loved getting to talk to them and help give a little more understanding about what farmers and ranchers do to provide us with a safe, healthy and abundant food supply.


Kailee & Steer, “Switch”, and the Maricopa County Fair.

These experiences taught me that we each play an important role in advocating for agriculture – even if it feels like our part is small.  I hope that the conversations I had left an impact on the people I spoke with.  We each just have to be willing to share our story with those around us.  As we share our experiences with kindness, people are more likely to listen and respect what we are sharing and, in turn, we are better able to understand their perspectives and experiences.

“Nana” (Mary Smith) Showing Polled Herefords from the ranch.

Though there are challenges facing the agriculture community today, there are also great successes and innovations like we have never seen before.  The future is so bright!  We each just have to do our part and share our story when we are given the opportunity. 

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.

From Ranch to Kitchen: Rancher and Chef Collaborate

The journey to deliver high-quality and safe beef requires collaboration from pasture to plate. At each step of the process—from the beef farmers and ranchers who raise beef and adhere to Beef Quality Assurance standards to the chefs and restaurateurs who prepare beef in their restaurants, there is a strong commitment to delivering high-quality beef that consumers love. That’s why Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner., in partnership with Chef’s Roll, brought beef farmers and ranchers together with chefs to learn about each other’s segment of the beef business.   

Executive Chef Ryan Clark of Casino Del Sol in Tucson met with rancher Dean Fish, manager Santa Fe Ranch in Nogales, Arizona. In a day on the ranch, Chef Ryan learned about environmental stewardship, management of the land and water resources as well as proper cattle handling techniques to ensure animal safety. Likewise, Dean spent a day in the kitchen with Chef Ryan as he cooked and served his popular Cowboy Ribeye that he currently serves in his restaurant.

In addition to these Arizona beef-aficionados, Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. and Chef’s Roll will be featuring four additional beef ranchers and chefs from Oklahoma, Georgia, Idaho, and California. 

The stories and videos from the ranch and kitchen are featured on Chef’s Roll’s digital properties (see video here). Chef’s Roll is a global digital community that inspires culinary professionals through knowledge sharing with their 18,000 members and followers from 147 countries. They are chefs, wine professionals, mixologists and hospitality professionals. The Chef’s Roll team creates photo and video content to share with their members and social media followers as well as creating live events for chefs. 

Arizona Rancher Dean Fish (left) and Chef Ryan Clark (right)

We asked Chef Ryan and Dean to share a little more about their time spent together. We hope you enjoy hearing about their unique perspectives.

  • Chef Ryan: When did you realize you had a passion and skill for cooking?
    I started cooking in Tucson at a small boutique restaurant. Everything was from scratch and it really opened my eyes to the amount of work and passion that goes into preparing a meal. My first big promotion was at 17 when I took over as the Chef De Cuisine… and I never looked back.
  • Dean: When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career raising cattle and sharing about ranching?
    I have craved being a part of the beef industry and the western lifestyle since I can remember. I have always enjoyed being around cows and horses while learning more about them. I pursued all opportunities to get more knowledge in all aspects of cattle production and management. I now get to do it every day and realize that it is a great responsibility to produce a safe, wholesome, nutritious and tasty product while taking care of the land, wildlife and other resources.
  • What did you find most interesting in learning from each other?
    Chef Ryan: My favorite part of the tour was seeing how Dean interacted with the livestock daily. His relationship with them went far beyond what most would expect. You could tell from his words and actions that he not only respects the process but also loves telling the story. It is moments like these that will continue to push me to visit the ranchers and farmers that make our food possible.
    Dean: Chef Ryan is a world-class talent that has a passion and a flair I have rarely seen in any field. He is top notch at what he does and makes it look easy. His creativity in preparing the cuts we showcased was the most surprising part to a guy like me that uses salt, pepper and mesquite wood for everything. Chef Ryan was also an exceptionally good communicator and took the time to share his process and explain the steps to me.
  • Chef Ryan: What part of your visit to the ranch will you most likely share with customers, colleagues and friends?
    I think as a chef it’s more important than ever to visit our ranchers and farmers. You take back a different respect for food when you see the process firsthand. It helps refresh your outlook and food philosophy and find new inspiration. Every time I make a trip, I come back into the kitchen with new ideas and energy that helps create dishes that tell the story.
  • Dean: What part of your visit to the kitchen will you be most likely share with visitors to the ranch, colleagues and friends?
    The creativity was the biggest takeaway for me and encouraging people to try different flavors and preparation techniques.
  • In what ways can beef farmers and ranchers and chefs continue to work together?
    Chef Ryan: Collaborations are so important. Our guests love to know where the food comes from that they are eating. Having a beef farmer or rancher come to the restaurant for a special dinner and interact with a guest is an experience like none other. 
    Dean: I think anytime that producers can see the talent, work and effort it takes to showcase beef and encourage the consumer to choose beef is valuable. On the other side, helping chefs realize the work and care it takes to produce beef helps to create appreciation for the process. Ranchers assume beef just gets cooked and sold and chefs may assume beef just shows up in their restaurant. These connections are very valuable and I am a huge Chef Ryan fan!
  • What is your favorite beef meal (cut and preparation)?
    Chef Ryan: Anything braised.  I don’t want to say that quick cooking methods are easy but there is something about the process of an all day braise that you can really taste in a dish. Oxtails, Short Rib and Chuck Roast are a few of my favorites.
    Dean: Trick question here! I love all of the cuts. If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say a bone-in Ribeye cooked over a wood fire would be my favorite. Followed closely by a marinated flank steak cooked the same way and eaten in a homemade flour tortilla!

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.

Meet Your Rancher: Angie Newbold

Raising cattle is what we would call an active job. You don’t sit a whole lot, unless you consider riding horses a form of sitting, and on the rare occasion, it sometimes involves unintentional running. But some ranchers choose to run for fun. Yup, we said it: run for fun. It’s a crazy thought, we know, but one that Angie Newbold, Arizona beef rancher, embraces.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

An active, healthy lifestyle is one that Angie and her husband Cole have always embraced, and, with their current occupations, this goal has mostly worked itself out. Angie and Cole Newbold are both first generation ranchers, meaning they are the first in their family to work on cattle ranches. This couple currently resides and works on the M-K Ranch owned by Oddonetto Family north of Globe, Arizona, where they help to raise registered Santa Gertrudis (purebred breed of cattle who are recorded in a registry) and commercial (cross bred cattle who are not registered) cattle. Cole is the full-time cowboy at the ranch while Angie works in town during the week and helps on weekends and on other busy days at the ranch.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

While ranch life is active, a town job isn’t. As an active child, Angie could be found team roping daily, practicing for swim team, along with any number of other outdoor activities so it only makes sense she picked up another physical activity as an adult when life required more sitting. Running was her activity of choice, outside of ranching, because it’s a free sport that you can basically do anywhere and anytime you choose. With miles of dirt roads surrounding the ranch, it’s a logical option to expend energy she builds up from her office job.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

For her husband Cole, living and working on the ranch gives him plenty of opportunities for physical activity as the work is never done. Just like all cattlemen and women, Cole and Angie, and the owners of the M-K Ranch, care about the cattle in their care and about the land they use to raise those animals. Just like how Angie is focused on keeping herself healthy, also of importance is keeping the land healthy. This is done in many ways such as pasture rotation, water development, and picking the right breed of cattle for the land. One example is the implementation of the registered herd of Santa Gertrudis cattle. These animals are known for their hardiness, meaning they can do well in hot, dry climates, such as that around Globe. They require less resources than other breeds might.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

While Angie might not run with a local running club like many who live in town, she does have an avid group of running companions. These members of her running club all have four legs and bark more than they speak but are the perfect companions on the back roads as they offer some entertainment and protection. Angie jokes that the president of her running club is Josie, a small Cairn Terrier. These dogs not only run with Angie but also work on the ranch to help with gathering cattle which, in many circumstances, can relieve pressure on the cowboys and horses.

Josie, a small Cairn Terrier, is the president of Angie’s running club! Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Cole, Angie’s husband, was a runner in high school and helped encourage Angie to start running. “He said, just try a 5k and see if you like it,” reports Angie who then mentions it was all down hill (or uphill, depending on the course) from there. Being a competitive person, Angie couldn’t stop there and has three marathon finishes to date with goals of more. She has recently discovered trail running and is actively competing in races around the state of Arizona. With a busy schedule at work and on the ranch, adding training runs into her schedule can be challenging but Angie states it’s a good mental break. In addition to multiple runs a week, Angie cross trains with weights on a regular basis and tries to stick to a healthy, balanced diet. Her fuel of choice includes lean beef, pinto beans, and fresh veggies and fruit, along with eggs and whole milk.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

When asked for her advice on staying active with running, Angie emphasizes cross training, whether that is with weights or ranch work, if you have that option. Angie’s favorite distance to run is 6 miles because it serves as a great way to stay in shape and offers her a mental break from her office job and from recording cattle information such as birthdate, location, health records, progeny reports. The power of rewards is an important part of training too. After every race, Angie always has a good old fashion cheeseburger with all the trimmings and the good cheese. A big side of fries is always welcome! She says that during training her go-to beef meals are fajitas and pasta with meat sauce. Both are easy, filling, and packed full of the nutrients her body needs to get her down the back roads and back home.

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation.

Meet Your Rancher: Cassie Lyman

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Name and Ranch Name: Cassie Lyman, Lyman Ranches

Where are you located: Gisela and Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

Q. Tell us about yourself, your family and about your ranch:

A. I am a first-generation agriculturalist (in other words, I am the first in my family to be a farmer or rancher). I grew up a city kid even though my family had what most would consider a hobby farm. We raised typical backyard farm animals and participated in 4-H and FFA. I showed rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep, steers, and horses. I have been riding horses since my mom was pregnant with me, so I like to say before I was born. Growing up, I loved competing with my horses in breed association horse shows, 4-H competitions, and high school rodeos. I always wanted to be a real cowgirl and dreamt of one day marrying a real cowboy.

My dream came true just after high school when I married my husband Jared, a sixth-generation cattle rancher. We have been married for 18 years and have four boys: Elias 14, Haskin 11, Tate 8, and Pratt 5. They all love to ride horses and help at the ranch, and we hope they will carry on our family legacy as 7th generation cattle ranchers. Of course, I started out all my boys on horses the same way my mom did (while they were in my belly), then hanging on behind me, and as soon as my kids can reach the stirrup of a kids saddle, they take the reins and ride their horse all by themselves.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

A little more about our ranch: We have a cow-calf cattle ranch on the north shore of Roosevelt Lake in Arizona and co-own and operate an additional ranch with my husband’s parents in Gisela, Arizona. Between the two ranches (Hat Ranch and Bar L Bar Ranch), we run just over 300 head of cattle on over 50,000 acres of public land. We raise commercial Angus-cross cattle (Angus breed because that is what the market desires and a touch of Brahman breed because of its adaptability to the Arizona desert environment our cattle forage in). We sell our calves to the commercial market, which means the beef you buy in the grocery store or eat at your favorite fast-food restaurant starts at a ranch like mine. We also direct-sell beef to consumers by the individual cut or by whole, half, and/or quarter beef. With an increase in people wanting to know where their food comes from (how it was raised and making the connection to their food), we too are growing in the number of beef we raise for consumers from start to finish right on our ranch.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. What is the best part about ranch life? What are the struggles?

A. I really have a hard time picking favorite things and best parts, so I will narrow it down to my top favorites. Family makes the top. Getting to be with and work alongside my family every day is one of the best parts. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say there are “those days.” There is a saying in the cattle community, “Sorry for what I said, we were working cattle.” So yes, there are days when you may need to go to town for “groceries,” aka “a minute away,” but we all have those days in every profession. It truly is a blessing to get to help each other out every day, to depend on one another, knowing the inside and out of the work stress of your spouse. The opportunity to be a team in your home life and work life, as one and the same, is irreplaceable. The whole family, kids, and parents, working together toward the same goal and learning together along the way is priceless.

Another favorite of ranch life is the opportunity it provides to teach my children to have a strong work ethic. Animals are depending on us, come rain or shine, school activities, or sports to provide for them. My kids know that even when we have a late-night or a holiday, chores still need to be done. They are taught to work and work hard until the job is done no matter what, something our society is missing these days.

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Another great thing about ranch life is the time spent outdoors. Our whole family loves the outdoors, and yes, ranch life offers a lot of that. A long day riding my horse under the big blue sky, as large fluffy clouds dance across the horizon, with my four boys horseback following me, while we gather cattle from the mountain range, is sometimes surreal. I often pinch myself to remember I’m not dreaming. I consider myself so very lucky. I love the opportunity we have to be outdoors, caring for the land and for God’s creations. To watch a calf be born and trying to take his first steps, their cute noses, and soft coat. These top my “best part of ranch life” list too.

Though struggles, there are many. The top would be government regulations and consumer misinformation. As time goes on, these two struggles are getting harder and harder and are forcing many production agriculture operations out of business.

Q. In addition to ranch and mom life, in what other things are you involved?

A. I wear many hats, and I am not just an ordinary mom, I guess (even though I really think I am). Not only do I do routine household chores, but also bake from scratch, garden, and do canning or home food preservation. From my ranch Facebook page, many know I am completely involved in the day to day operations of the ranch from fixing fence and helping calve to being horseback gathering cattle and even hauling calves.

Other activities I give a lot of time to include:

  • PTO
  • 4-H project leader
  • Volunteer to help youth with projects including livestock, horse, working ranch horse, cooking, sewing, canning, robotics, photography, public speaking, S.T.E.A.M., shooting sports, leadership and more
  • Cattle community organizations such as my county and state cattle growers’ associations. I’ve served as Gila County Farm Bureau President and served on the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation State board.
  • Volunteer with the Arizona Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Serve on the Northern Gila County Fair board
  • Young Women’s President of the Tonto Basin Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Q. Why do you commit so many hours to volunteer in your community?

A. I have thought about this question time and time again, and I never feel I have a right answer. I always say, “I don’t know, I just do.” As I have really taken the time to ponder, it is because serving makes me happy! Putting someone else’s needs before my own, helping to make a difference, seeing the joy of others because of the time I was willing to give are the reasons why! As a selfish reason, maybe validation. I absolutely love inspiring youth and advocating for agriculture. The warm fuzzy I get inside when someone says thank you, couldn’t have done this without you, is a fantastic feeling. When someone asks me where I find the time to do what I do, I tell them you make time for the things you love. Investing your time in people is time well spent. And anything worth having takes hard work!

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. What would you like to share with someone who is not familiar with raising cattle?

A. As cattle ranchers, my family and I truly care for the land and natural resources. John James Audubon once said, “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his father but borrowed from his children.” We want to pass our ranch(es) and our ranching legacy down to future generations, to see our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren and on, productively and sustainably raising cattle on the same land we raised cattle on. We study the land in cooperation with the University of Arizona and the U.S. Forest Service collecting data and analyzing forage trends. We provide water for wildlife. There are significant misconceptions around western cattle ranching and grazing on public lands. It is essential that if people have questions, they ask a real rancher, visit the ranch and get first-hand information. It seems agriculture is always under attack, but don’t fall for the latest headline getting media attention or the product labeling jargon. Know your farmers or ranchers, and you’ll know your food. Stop fighting against agriculture and start making friends in agriculture because without them, who will feed you and your family?

Q. If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?

A. I don’t do good with picking just one, and as I weigh the good days with the stressful days, the words I come up with seem to cross each other out. Things I considered are the beauty of riding under an indescribable Arizona summer sunset and still cattle ranching like the old-time western movies (wide open spaces, riding horseback to gather cattle, working as a family, and homemade meals together at the table). This is then compared to the fall of the cattle market prices, drought-stricken parched land or losing your best mother cow because she was torn to pieces by a reintroduced protected species called a Mexican Gray Wolf (this is reality for many of our ranching family friends Northeast of us). The hard work, blood sweat and tears and, the joy of summer rains, and a good calf crop. The highs are high, but the lows are low, so my one word would be: ineffable!

Photo by Hazel Lights Photography

Q. Lastly and of course, most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef, and how do you like to prepare it?

A. I am going to pick Lyman Ranches #ranchraisedbeef Rib Steak. Bring steak to room temperature. Heat BBQ grill to high heat, liberally apply (course ground) salt and pepper each side of steak, sear each side, reduce heat to low and cook till internal temp is at least 130⁰ but no more than 145⁰ (needs to be pink still). Garlic butter sauce or melting blue cheese crumble on top to serve! 

To learn more about the Lyman family visit their website here.

This blog post is made possible by the generous support of the Arizona Cattle Industry Research and Education Foundation.

St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrate with Beef

Green beer and corned beef day is just around the corner! While you don’t need a recipe for the beer, we can help with the directions on the corned beef. Plus ideas for breakfast and lunch the next day! Bonus: A perfect beef-y brunch drink is included in our recipe round up!

Slow-Cooked Corned Beef in Beer with Red Currant-Mustard Sauce

Let your slow cooker do all the work for this complete meal of beer-braised Corned Beef with fresh cabbage and red potatoes. It’s a great dish for your next celebration.

Dijon-Glazed Corned Beef with Savory Cabbage and Red Potatoes

While Corned Beef braises in the oven, cabbage wedges and potatoes are roasted for a full meal. A bonus recipe for the leftovers is included too!

Corned Beef Brisket with Roasted Vegetables and Lemon-Mustard Sauce

Cook once, dine twice. Enjoy Corned Beef Brisket with roasted carrots, parsnips, cabbage and a lemony sauce tonight, then spin the leftovers into a savory salad tomorrow.

Bloody Bull

Try this brunch favorite with a depth of flavor only beef can provide. Roasted Beef Stock is the secret ingredient to this one of a kind Bloody Mary. Garnish with a beef slider, beef meatball, or whatever you can dream up.

Corned Beef Hash

Tied with the Reuben for the ultimate expression of Corned Beef. Here it’s diced, skillet-cooked with cubed potatoes and thinly sliced leeks, and ideally topped with an egg.

Classic Beef Reuben Sandwich

Try this deli classic for lunch or dinner today. Thinly sliced deli Corned Beef or Pastrami is sandwiched between rye bread with sauerkraut and a tangy home-made dressing.

All photos courtesy of BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.