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.

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.