You Can Always Come Back

Amber Morin was raised on her family’s cattle ranch in Southeastern, AZ. This experience sparked her interest and career path in natural resource management, agricultural policy, and agriculture communications. She has worked with the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona’s Natural Resource Conservation Districts, and continues to promote agriculture through her current position at the Arizona Farm Bureau. Whenever time permits, she is back at the ranch helping her family run their beef business, running trails in preparation for “fun runs,” or writing.

Here are her thoughts on the urban agriculture divide and why we are all more alike than different.  

Agriculture has been taking place for the last 10,000 years, and yet, ranchers and farmers are now the minority? What the heck happened?

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With agriculture, humans traded the harsh uncertainty of nomadic life for the somewhat more predictable and controllable agrarian lifestyle. An improvement, for sure. In exchange for their time and dedication to caring for plants and animals, humans were afforded more abundant food supplies, health, wealth, leisure, and the ability to trade for goods that could not be grown in their home climates. In short, agricultural abundance improved lives. It still does.

All of this happened because humans are smart, they experiment, they adapt, and find answers to questions, sometimes out of curiosity and most of the time out of necessity. Agriculture changed the way humans live and it wasn’t long before humans all over the world were adapting to agriculture methods on some level. This took place for 10,000 years, and yet, in a mere two centuries, the same curiosity and/or necessity also brought about another rapid change, the movement away from agrarian lifestyles to industrial lifestyles, and now to what pessimists call virtual lifestyles and optimists call entrepreneurial lifestyles.

 

To break the rapid change down for the readers who love numbers, in 1790, about 90% of the American workforce was related to agriculture. In 1890, that number had dropped to about 43%. In 1990 about 2.6% of the population’s workforce was related to agriculture. Now that number has dropped to about 2%. As people moved out of rural America to pursue an improved lifestyle in urban areas, agricultural advancements have made it possible for 2% of the population to feed the masses.

Why is this important? While about 2% of the population clothes and feeds us, we can do other things with our lives and pursue other careers, and not worry about where our next meal is going to come from. If it were not for ranchers and farmers, most of us would be struggling like the unfortunate souls on the show Naked and Afraid! Although I must admit, there are some very tough people that participate! But, would anyone really want to live that way? Or, go hungry because their backyard garden failed due to a pest infestation? I know what my answer is: an emphatic, no!

Thanks to the ingenuity of agriculturalists, technological advancements and improvements in the industry, and the dedication and care that agriculturalists have for their businesses, we live great lives without a lot of worries. The few feed the many. And, it takes an insurmountable amount of dedication to thrive in the agricultural industry when things like global markets, local markets, weather, genetics, natural resources, financial constraints, and the unpredictability of caring for crops and livestock are just a few of the challenges. Being an agriculturalist requires a high degree of intelligence, resilience, and faith in oneself, in the future, and in the process.

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Mr. Morin showing off some serious dedication which is required for success in the agriculture field.

My own dad knew this when he said to both my sister and me, “You can always come back, but you can’t always leave.” This was a gentle but very blatant way of telling us, this path takes grit and serious dedication, so go and experience life before you make the commitment to come back and manage the ranch. And, when you come back, bring what you have learned to make it better. Like all parents, ours wanted the best for my sister and me. They encouraged us to grow, learn, and improve.

So, when I asked the question, what the heck happened? How did Americans get so far removed from agriculture? It’s simple and it’s practical. Like the nomadic lifestyle, the agrarian lifestyle was not easy. It is still not easy, so Americans changed, and the industrial revolution which made promises of wealth and lifestyle improvements spurred that change. It was the anticipation of an improved future that moved most people out of rural America and into urban centers. At the end of the day, no one can be blamed for trying to improve one’s life or that of their loved ones.

Today’s “entrepreneurial revolution” coined by Seth Godin promises an even better future for Americans, as the ability to market goods, build wealth, and have more control of our lives is at our fingertips via smartphones.

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The Morin Family – Working for a better future!

This same optimism has spurred the technological advancements and environmental improvements in agriculture. We want to improve, be more precise, waste less and have more controlled data-driven outcomes. In the case of food production, doing our best is a necessity because we are not just feeding our families, and yours, with less labor and inputs, we are also feeding the world. Doing less than our best, with so many people who trust us for a safe and reliable food supply, is simply not an option.

Just as the public has always been looking to improve, agriculturalists have too!

The reality is, we are all working toward the same goal – to do our best!

– Amber MorinMorning Sun Selfie (002)

The Dog Days of Summer-Ranch Edition

If you have ever spent any time working cattle, you know that it is a team effort. Who is in the starting lineup? It isn’t always just cowboys; a rancher’s company is usually made up of a trusty horse and, you guessed it, hard working Lassie! Dogs have been used to help humans since they were first domesticated, and a main use for them is helping ranchers. Cattle dogs herd, gather, sort and protect, both out on the range and in chutes and holding areas. Our canine friends are perfect for this job due to their quick speeds, smaller size, and agility. They are also prolific barkers, effective in directing even the most stubborn cattle. There are many breeds favored for ranch jobs including Collies, Border Collies, Blue Heelers, Australian Shepherds, Catahoulas, Pit Bulls and more, including the all-American favorite: the mutt. The best cattle dogs usually have strong loyalty, high energy, and solid training; so the Arizona Beef Council went out in the beef community to find them!

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A horse and a dog are sometimes the most important part of a rancher’s team, with skills and characteristics that humans don’t posses including endurance, speed and agility.

Out in Santa Cruz County, amidst the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains, you can find Salero Ranch. If you’re lucky, you might also find Mari Hudson out working cattle with her trusty partner, Sage, by her side. A two-year-old Border Collie and Hanging Tree cross, Sage is learning how to help around the ranch. Her favorite jobs include helping sort off neighboring cattle from the herd (so they can be returned to the neighbors without the Salero Ranch herd going as well), trailing cattle to keep them moving in the right direction, and keeping lazy cattle moving (if they stop, they might turn back and lead the herd astray or double the time ranchers must spend working.) Sage’s owner, Mari, speaks very highly of her furry friend, “When I’m out working cattle alone, she’s a huge help. Especially with cattle trying to shade up (cattle will stop moving forward when tired of being moved and continually turn around to try to go back to the treeline).” Mari also spoke about ranchers she knows who have outstanding dogs for working and stopping wild cattle. Without the dogs, their job would be much harder and more dangerous. Although she doesn’t have very wild cattle, Sage is still an excellent hand, and a cute one too!

In addition to working cattle, dogs can help ranchers train horses. If a horse is acting up, a well-trained dog can bark and apply pressure in a manner that causes the horse to stand quietly or go where being directed. An example of how dogs can help includes encouraging a horse to walk forward instead of fighting against a halter when being halter-broke. By using dogs, tasks involving livestock and horses can be done with less man power and stress.

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Dogs can apply pressure from behind to move animals with low stress.

Dogs are called “man’s best friend,” and cattle dogs work hard to prove it. When gathering or checking cattle out on the range, there are many great reasons to bring along the pup so desperately wanting to go, including their help in moving cattle, companionship, and safety. Safety? Yes, a story from a rancher down in Nogales attests to this reason. Maco, a hand at ZZ Ranch Cattle Co., always takes his mutt when out on the range. One day, he was attacked by a mountain lion. Without a moment of hesitation his dog stepped in, warding off the predator and saving Maco’s life. While the hero did suffer injuries, Maco stitched him up, and he healed quickly, ready to go back out again. Now that is a best friend.

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Dogs serve as companions, helpers and protection out on the range.

Not every working cattle dog works out on the ranch, and a perfect example is Sis (Sister) at Marana Stockyards. This tough little stockyard employee lives to work. According to Karen Parsons, she works so hard that when the weather is unbearably hot, Sis must be left at home because her work ethic is too strong and she won’t quit! If you venture out back around the cattle pens, you will see Sis hard at work pushing, stopping, and holding cattle. She is stubborn and agile (often jumping through fence panels sideways), and a dependable helper. She is dedicated to her work, and it does not matter who is out there checking and moving cattle, she will come and help.

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Sis helps push the cattle and keep them moving to the desired pen.

While dogs are great companions at home, they are also an essential tool for many ranchers and cattlemen in the beef community. They can reduce the number of cowboys needed, work cattle with lower stress, handle wild and unruly cattle, give protection to people and livestock, and bring a smile to your face. Man’s best friend, and man’s best worker.

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Working cattle dogs are trained to push, gather, hold, and stop cattle. They are also great protectors, a true asset to a ranch.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.

A Week with an Arizona Beef Community Dynamic Duo

Welcome to the beef community, where fellow members of the community are not merely associates, but good friends and family. Need an example? Dean Fish from Santa Fe Ranch and Dan Bell from ZZ Cattle Co., also known as the Dynamic Duo. Here at the Arizona Beef Council office, our intern pair, Shayla and Nicole, also consider themselves a “dynamic duo,” and set out to spend a week with the aforementioned pair to experience Arizona ranching life and the hard work involved. Enjoy their story of their week working in this segment of the beef life cycle!

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Dean Fish (middle) and Dan Bell (right) are well-known names in the beef community both for their wonderful personalities, and for their experience, knowledge, and contributions to advancing and protecting the beef community.

For two girls who love cattle, horses, and agriculture, there is no way to describe how excited we were to spend a week in Nogales, AZ helping Dan and Dean on their ranches. Not only was it going to be wonderful being back out on horseback gathering cattle, but we were also blessed to spend time working with two extremely knowledgeable cattlemen learning their reasoning behind everything they do to raise cattle, and gaining insight on the beef story as a whole.

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Nicole and Shayla in their alternative office. The Arizona Beef Council internship offers the amazing opportunity to work on education and outreach as well as traveling work hands-on in the beef community.

Day one, we arrived in Tucson with the honor of attending the Southern Arizona Cattlemen’s Protective Association (SACPA) to represent the Arizona Beef Council and share information about the beef checkoff with the side benefit of experiencing firsthand how issues in the beef community are handled. We heard debates, opinions, personal experiences, and propositions from representatives from all aspects of the beef community. We were impressed by the efficiency and careful attention to making the best decision for all members of the beef community, the cattle, the environment, and consumers. Next, we headed to Dan’s beautiful family ranch house (well, we drove ourselves, and quickly learned we both were significantly lacking in our navigation skills.) Dan gave us a small tour of his ranch, followed by a delicious beef dinner and a history of the ranch, Nogales, and what it is like to ranch along the Mexican border. It only wet our taste buds for the millions of questions to come.

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The border between Mexico and America. A very small section has this high fence, while most of the border along the ranching land is simple posts and barbed wire.

Day two, we rose bright and early (there will always be a strong appreciation for western cattle growers who must rise at 3 a.m. and earlier to beat the heat and reduce stress for their horses and cattle) to head out and gather cattle on horseback with Dan and some other hands. He explained how he gathered and rotated cattle to benefit their individual needs in each stage of life, as well as properly manage the rangeland. Then, without hesitation, we jumped right in with the others to sort cattle, brand, castrate bull calves, ear tag, keep records, and vaccinate against common diseases. Dan explained his methods and reasoning behind these practices with the intention to provide the best care and health for his herd, and how individual ranchers choose their methods of work to best fit their ranch conditions including herd size and available labor and facilities. Afterward, we helped test the calves for BVD-PI (Persistently Infected-Bovine Viral Diarrhea. Calves that test positive contracted this virus as a fetus, and it inhibits their ability to fight disease. They shed the virus to healthy calves and cattle the entire time they are present in the herd.) This experience helped solidify the importance of record keeping and proper Beef Quality Assurance practices to ensure consumer safety and confidence in beef. Dan spoiled us afterward with the best apple pie (oh, and a healthy beef lunch too) and we saw more of the ranch as we distributed salt to the cattle. Along the way, we bombarded poor Dan with every question we could think of about the rangeland, neighboring ranches, relations with Mexico, cattle care, and his interactions with, and we aren’t lying, Agent Hamburger, a border patrol agent. That evening we joined in a barbecue, meeting more of the Bell family and friends and enjoyed good company, good food, and more learning (including a lesson for Dean on why you should never mess with giant black bugs; ask him next time you see him, you won’t be disappointed). It was a great way to wrap up a day of learning and appreciation for hard working ranchers who still live everyday family lives.

Day three, we rose early again to head over to Dean Fish’s ranch (still solidifying our need to enhance our navigation skills) where we saddled up and rode out to collect cattle. This time, we brought in the cows and used ultrasound equipment to check if they were bred (it is important to know when cows are bred in order to keep proper records, know when to expect the calves, know which bull the semen came from to help with genetics or herd improvement, and for overall knowledge of the herd.) Along the way, Dean explained the science behind his methods for managing and caring for cattle. He explained how keeping stress levels low allows for the best feedback and response from the cattle, whether giving vaccinations, breeding or performing other care. We were both given the opportunity to palpate a pregnant cow and feel the fetus, afterward hearing Dean’s reasoning behind using ultrasound, and how there are several other options for checking the health of pregnant cows, all with their own positive and negative features, that can be selected to fit any management style. We then rode out to learn Dean’s style of working and checking cattle, checked some waters, and again asked our many questions. It was a unique experience to compare two neighboring ranches and see how quickly the rangeland, facilities, and cattle needs can change and why it is essential that ranchers understand their cattle and their ranch to develop a management plan and provide the best care. After a wonderful, authentic Nogales lunch and dessert (Shayla was already making plans to drive back down to enjoy it again), we drove along the border and were informed about additional impacts of ranching with Mexico as a fence-line neighbor. Afterward, we returned to Dan’s to check more waters and fences (including an on-foot chase after a rogue cow that helped Nicole find a new appreciation for deciding to run cross-country back in high school).

Day four, we woke up with heavy hearts as this was the day we headed back to Phoenix but excited to seize our final hours in southern Arizona. We saddled for the last time to gather horses that had been turned out (if you think this sounds easy, we suggest you go home and watch Spirit), then we were able to help vaccinate them. Afterward, we checked more waters (an essential part of this job during the summer), took our final tour of the ranch checking gates and fences. We saw the direct impact of regulations to stop grazing in certain areas and how it created adverse effects due to the benefit of grazing and its history in the West (remember, before the introduction of cattle, bison roamed the west and grazed similarly).  The example Dan showed us was a riparian stream that consistently had an area of water housing an endangered fish species. For decades, this area was included in a large pasture utilized by cattle, but one day a dead fish was found and Arizona Game and Fish restricted grazing in this area. Sadly, the reduced grazing caused forage to grow rapidly, including trees and shrubs, and quickly the entire stream dried up, killing all of the fish in the area. This unfortunate consequence was a strong lesson on why it is important to understand the fragile balance in an ecosystem and how every action, including grazing, has a role in maintaining the ecosystem. We also learned the impact of predators and other threats to livestock. Our trip culminated with a farewell lunch headed back up to Phoenix, dreaming of our next chance to be back out on the range. After much pressure, we refused to announce a favorite day as both ranching experiences were phenomenal!

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Nicole and Shayla LOVE beef, and dairy too!

Overall, our week with Dan and Dean was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not only did we gain hands-on experience working with cattle, but also learning there is a deep reasoning behind every management strategy and practice implemented by ranchers, as well as the issues they faced in the past, and still face today. Furthermore, we learned how cattle interact with the environment and how regulation and how other confounding circumstances including border security and international relations impact the beef community. With new insight on the beef community, we are now back in the office working to continue to educate America on the ways of the beef community and how we continue to find new ways to serve our cattle, the land, and consumers best. Thank you, Dan and Dean, thank you to the Arizona Beef Council, and most importantly, thank you to the beef community for all you do!

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There is no experience more treasured for these two beef interns than watching the sun rise while out gathering cattle by horseback.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd and Shayla Hyde, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Interns.

The V Bar V Ranch: A University of Arizona Gem

Cruising up the I-17 North, you reach Exit 298: Sedona, Slide Rock. A breath-taking hike in Oak Creek Canyon might be your only thoughts; unless of course, you are an Animal Science student at the University of Arizona or a local Arizona rancher looking for some resources. What are your thoughts then? We’re almost to the V Bar V! (You would also be turning right at that exit, instead of left).

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A beautiful view as ranchers at the V Bar V move cattle every two weeks as part of an intensive grazing system.

Located in Rimrock, tucked away between the beautiful red rocks and acres of green, rocky, northern Arizona rangeland, is the V Bar V Ranch, an experiment station for the University of Arizona (UA). The Morrill Acts of 1862, 1890, and 1994 ensured that universities such as UA would be instituted to teach agriculture, mining, and military tactics. Land grant institutions now serve as centers for research, extension, and education. Thus, the V Bar V is a priceless resource for local ranchers and students alike, addressing environmental, wildlife and domestic livestock issues applicable to Arizona and the Southwest, providing research and hands-on opportunities for students, and serving as a crucial link between the beef community and academia.

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The V Bar V is a working ranch, serving as a comparable resource for other Arizona ranches.

Today, the ranch superintendent at the V Bar V is Mr. Keith Cannon, or as everyone knows him by, Bopper. Bopper is a 4th generation rancher, whose family came to Arizona from Texas in the late 1890’s. He was raised ranching, and in 1990 participated in an educational program sponsored by the University of Arizona for ranchers. He brought his two sons, Keith and Jacob, and their involvement was so praiseworthy that they received an invitation to the Santa Rita Ranch for a similar, more extensive opportunity. Shortly after, Bopper was invited to be involved in research, then serve as a cowboy at the V Bar V Ranch, working his way up his current position as ranch superintendent and later joined by his son Keith in 2001.

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Keith and Bopper are a hard working team and work efficiently to keep time for family at the end of the day.

Bopper shared, “The V Bar V is a unique opportunity to combine old school ways and traditions with new technologies. The goal today is to run this experiment station as a profitable ranch to serve as a model for Arizona ranchers while showcasing the ability to improve continuously by using new technologies and research.” The current focus is improving cattle breed genetics and creating more cross-breed cattle that perform well in Arizona conditions (high drought and heat tolerance) while still grading high in meat quality. With those goals in mind, the Waygu breed was introduced to the predominantly Angus and Hereford herd and found that the cattle were well-suited for the environment while grading 90% choice or better.

Bopper sees the importance of the V Bar V in outreach to Arizona ranches, commenting, “It’s easier for ranchers to accept strategies from a fellow cowman than from academia. We aren’t just saying this is what you need to be doing. We are showing them that we are also doing it ourselves and it’s working.”

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While the V Bar V employs efficient strategies such as four-wheelers for gathering cattle over large, rocky areas, they still embrace ranching traditions like gathering horseback.

Ever been to the Phoenix Zoo? If so, you’ve most likely been directly touched by the V Bar V. Do you remember seeing the Hereford cow in the farm section? Yes, the one with the cute calf that visitors get to help name each year. She came from the V Bar V! And every year, Keith and Bopper, along with their interns, prepare and breed her so zoo attendees can continue to learn about the beef community.

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This cow and calf are happily being raised on the ranch, just like the pair representing their story to the community at the Phoenix Zoo.

The positive impacts in helping local ranchers and the community are only part of the mission of the V Bar V. Bopper smiles as he comments, “The most enjoyable thing about my job is working with students and interns. There is a lot of heritage on my side, and it’s great to be able to pass that on.” Bopper has welcomed interns from Japan, South Africa, Brazil, France, Germany, and around the United States. He views them all as part of his family (rumor has it, his wonderful cooking proves helps build this sense of community!). Interns, high school and university students alike participate in calving classes, branding, and cattle handling, along with basic veterinary practices. Bopper aims to spark their interest in both the cattle community and the University of Arizona.

This year’s intern, Andrew Miles, says, “The V Bar V is a crucial part of the University’s Animal Science program, providing opportunities for students to learn about cattle and ranching. Furthermore, its unique location includes rangeland transitioning from low to the high desert, spruce and brush, and all the way up to high mountain country. It serves as an incredible resource for  students from a variety of academic backgrounds to be involved in research benefiting many different fields of study and the state of Arizona as a whole.”

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Andrew Miles, the 2017 Summer Intern, has benefited from the V Bar V through Animal Science courses at the University of Arizona, working at the UA feedlot, and now working on the ranch.

Want some wisdom from the ranch that every intern learns?

From Bopper:

“Don’t ever tell me you can’t do something… Tell me you won’t, but can’t isn’t in my vocabulary.”

“Every morning when I wake up and go outside, it’s a new day, so every day you must be open to learning something new.”

“I’m always looking for the missing link, and that’s Newton’s Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you manage and make decisions based on the reaction, you are always two steps ahead. What you do today will affect tomorrow; what you do tomorrow will affect the future.”

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Interns work hands-on, learning practices such as ear-tagging that allow for proper identification and record keeping for the best possible care of cattle.

“The most important thing I have learned is how well you can integrate new technologies and ideas into tradition. Keep challenging yourself and never stop trying to improve methodology,” says Keith Cannon who has been involved in the University of Arizona’s School of Animal Science since 1997 as a student, working at the feedlot for ten years, and now helping run the ranch.

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Keith helps a student learn to check a cow’s pregnancy, an important component of keeping cattle healthy and updated in records.

While at the ranch, Hyatt, Keith’s son, gave us a wonderful tour of his market goat project and we were enlightened on the importance of knowing your animals and knowing their needs (and we got to see a newborn kid! I guess ranches aren’t always just about the cattle.)

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Being directly involved in agriculture is important for future generations like Hyatt to gain an understanding of where their food comes from, and an appreciation for the animals!

Bopper and Keith show a beautiful picture of a generational love of ranching traditions as well as improvement, and display the importance of extension resources including the V Bar V. There is plenty that the ranching community, the public, and students can learn from the V Bar V, and we agree with Keith and Bopper’s final desire: “We hope that the UA keeps the V Bar V as an operational ranch and that it can become more useful to the University as well as Arizona ranches, serving as a true extension resource for the state.”

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The V Bar V has an endless positive impact on educating present and future members in the beef community, including teaching proper cattle handling practices.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.

Ranchin’ and Rodeoin’: The Tale of the Parsons Fathers

Arizona beef truly is raised by families, for families; and, Father’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to showcase a family of strong men who not only make major contributions to the beef community and the sport of rodeo but also portray the traits of an outstanding father. If you’ve heard of Marana Stockyards, you’ve probably heard of the Parsons.

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Clay Parsons with his wife Karen, son Clay Buck, and daughters Mallory, Carly, and Haley.

Clay Parsons was born in 1961 in Carlsbad, New Mexico to Charlie Parsons and Cookie Paddock, and this is where their strong father-son relationship began. At three years of age, Clay began riding horses and helping on their small ranch (well, at least he thought he was helping, you know how helpful most three-year-olds are, much less when on horseback). He fell in love with the lifestyle and for the remainder of his childhood he continued working on family ranches in New Mexico, and later in Arizona.

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The Parsons have always been passionate about passing down the cowboy way of life and giving opportunities to younger generations.

At the age of five, Clay’s rodeo career began. His father, who rode broncs, introduced him to the rodeo world, and Clay tried everything! He learned how to rope in New Mexico, where he grew up around cowboys who quickly became his role models. Clay shared, “They had the greatest influence on me. They were real cowboys. I did not want to just be a rodeo cowboy, I wanted to ranch AND rodeo.”

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As most young cowboys do, Clay followed in his father’s footsteps and for a little while tried his hand at rodeo rough stock.

Throughout his life, Clay had a strong love for cattle. Whenever he was driving around with his father or anyone else, he was always looking over the fence line at cows, studying them and calling out the breeds. “My room was full of pictures of cows. Not rodeo champions, but cows. I just loved cows,” recalled Clay. He was overjoyed when, at seven years old, his father bought a small ranch in Oracle, AZ. Money was sparse at the time so they would buy roping heifers then later turn them out on the ranch, building a small herd. Clay remembers when their random assortment of roping heifers finally reached maturity and was ready for a bull: “Dad and I went to Wentz Livestock Auction in Tucson, and we bought a bull.”

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Years later, the Parsons still love to be out on a ranch. Without it, Clay knows something is missing in his life.

Clay would walk home from school, either on foot or by horseback, as often his horse was tied up outside the school waiting, and then go check all the cows. “I checked those cows every day except on the weekends when I was rodeoing,” explained Clay. This is where the story hits his favorite memory with his father: “I was nine-years-old and two-thirds of those cows had calved. We had family and friends at our place to help gather the herd and brand. As we were bringing in the herd, I said ‘Dad, we’re missing three.’ Dad said not to worry about them. We would take care of them later. As soon as he went over the ridge, I went back for them.” Clay remembers everyone wondering where he had disappeared to with the answer to the question arising as he came up over the ridge with the three missing pairs. He was scolded at first but then brought to the side where he heard the words he’ll never forget, “Son, good job. You’re gonna be a cowman.”

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It’s no wonder they have a love for their lifestyle, Clay Buck and all the Parsons grew up in the saddle.

Although there were years when Clay and Charlie did not have a ranch of their own, the Parsons continued to be a strong father/son name in the cattle world. Clay married the beautiful love of his life, Karen, at eighteen, who quickly jumped right into the lifestyle. Later, there was no ranch for Clay to run and he worked for his father’s business, Parsons Steel Builders. He hated it, and went out on the road to rodeo, with a dream of making it to the National Finals Rodeo. He recalls being in Livermore, California at a rodeo where he sat in the top fifteen for calf roping and was almost there for team roping. His dad called Clay asking him if he wanted to lease and run a ranch and Clay’s response was a simple, “I’ll be there in 14 hours.”

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Clay continues to pay tribute to the New Mexico ropers who were his role models by being a role model of many young ropers today.

Today, the love for cattle and ranching stays strong in the Parsons family. They built Marana Stockyards after many years of learning and hard work, and still, raise cattle on a ranch near Picacho Peak. If you’re ever around Marana, or at a big rodeo, you’ll most likely see Clay or maybe his father Charlie. If you’re out on their ranch during branding season, you’ll see his brothers Joe and Cutter along with other members of the Parsons family. Maybe at the stockyard you’ll find one of Clay and Karen’s lovely daughters (who all showed cattle as youth). Carly, who helps during the cattle sale, or his son, Clay Buck, who keeps the place running. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a glance of Clay’s grandson Cooper, who sometimes helps call out pen numbers to the riders out back putting the sold cattle back in the correct pens (don’t worry buyers, Carly makes sure the pen backers know where to put your cattle).

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Cooper loves cattle as much as Clay, but he sure loves Grandpa even more!

We start with a father like Charlie, who had a strong influence on his son’s self-sufficiency and taught him to not only do what he loved but also to do it successfully. Next, we move to a father like Clay, who never runs out of words to express his pride and love for his hard-working son, a genuine man who everyone loves and respects, or his beautiful daughters. Finally, we end with a little grandson, Cooper, who never ceases to bring a smile to Clay’s face and attributes to why the Parsons men are so dedicated. Clay says, “I see Cooper liking the same things we like and I want the next generation to get to grow up the way we did.” These men exemplify what it means to be a father. Clay kindly advised, “There are some things you won’t understand until you have a grandson.” Well, Clay, there are some things the world only understands when they look at generations of amazing ranchin’ and rodeoin’ fathers like the Parsons.

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Since day one, Clay and Charlie have been an inspiring father/son team.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.

Fall Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Tools of the Cowboy

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

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Photo by Kathy McCraine

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

 

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Photo courtesy of Braymere Custom Saddlery

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

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

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

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

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Photo courtesy of The Equinest

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Dan Bell

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

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Photo by Dave Schafer

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

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

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

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

 

 

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