Meet Your Ranchers: Anita Waite and Sherwood Koehn

Near Kingman, Arizona is the Cane Spring Ranch, owned by ranchers and everyday environmentalists Anita Waite and Sherwood Koehn. As with most ranchers, caring for the land on which Anita and Sherwood raise their cattle is of the utmost importance, and Anita’s passion for the land’s natural resources and wildlife was evident as we toured the vast mountains and valleys of this northern Arizona ranch.

Encompassing 70,000 acres, the ranch is comprised of private, state and federal pieces that make up the whole. In Arizona, and in much of the West, it is common that one ranch might include private (deeded) land and long-term leases of land owned by the different state and federal public land agencies. Anita believes that cooperation and working closely with the various governmental agencies and others, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is the best way to manage their ranch. Connections and relationships help ensure the area is used correctly and is available for future generations to enjoy. 

The Cane Spring Ranch is one of great diversity in many ways including elevation, forage and grasses, and wildlife. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

The ranch is managed using a grazing pattern, which calls for cattle to be moved to one of four different pastures throughout the year. One pasture is always left empty to rest, much like when a person rests to feel rejuvenated and reinvigorated. The same goes for grasses and forages, allowing recharge and re-growth. This also allows for flexibility in having a “spare” pasture in case of drought or other cattle market issues. This resting pasture can hold their cattle for some time to get through until conditions level out.

The Cane Spring Ranch boasts diverse plant life throughout its varied elevations. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Cattle have a preference for what they would like to eat. If they are given access to their favorite forage for an extended period, they will eat all of what they like the most and then move on to their next favorite. By rotating pastures and ensuring the pasture is not overgrazed, the ranch can guarantee the variety of forage remains the same or even increases. Various agencies and institutions have recognized Cane Spring Ranch for its wide range of grasses and forage due to the range management practices. The Arizona Botanical Society has made many visits to the ranch and has identified 28 different types of grass. Another factor in the variety of forage is the various elevations of the ranch, which goes from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. The mountain pasture holds an abundance of Pinion pines and the southern pastures at lower elevations have more seasonal forages.

The focus of this ranch in one photo: is on maintaining the land and raising high quality beef. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Water development and improvement are a massive part of the success of this ranch. “If you build it, they will come” is a line from a famous baseball movie, and it also holds for water sources: where there is water, cattle and wildlife will go. Cane Spring Ranch had many wells drilled after Anita and Sherwood took ownership in 1993. Drilling wells at various locations around the ranch ensure cattle will travel to many areas to get water, which leads to their grazing patterns being varied. Cattle grazing in the same spot for an extended period of time is not good for the forage, so having water sources spaced out is beneficial for both the cattle and the land. Water sources are spaced out every two to three miles across the entirety of the ranch. The decision for each water source’s location was collaboration between Anita, Sherwood, the Arizona State Land Department, Arizona Game and Fish, and the United States’ Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

A solar panel pumps water from the nearby well or storage tank and sends it to the drinker (water trough). Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Exceptionally diverse, wildlife is an integral component of the Cane Spring Ranch. Mountain lions, deer, javelina, bobcats, black bears, badgers, rabbits, ravens, red-tailed hawks, desert tortoises, and more flourish on the ranch. While the wildlife and cattle mostly pose a symbiotic relationship, there is a need to keep predator and prey populations in balance. Hunting is another component of the ranch management and licensed hunters have access to almost all 70,000 acres. Working with the hunters who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle allows for a mutually beneficial relationship.

Wildlife on the ranch is diverse and we were lucky to snap a photo of this desert tortoise. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Not only do conservation efforts at the ranch find priority in Anita’s life, but she also expands her knowledge and works with fellow ranchers and agency personnel, serving as chairwoman of the Big Sandy Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCD). The NRCD’s were initially formed during the Dustbowl when there was a need to introduce new agricultural processes. Local groups were developed, such as the Big Sandy NRCD, with locally elected officials who would help disseminate information on how to manage ranches and farms in a better way and get funding to put in beneficial projects. A unique trait of the NRCD’s is their ability to do work across all types of land – BLM, state land, and private.

One of the Big Sandy NRCD’s current goals is to increase water augmentation in the surrounding area. Water augmentation means getting water underground to build up the water table, which can be accomplished by slowing the flow of water, giving it more time to seep into the ground, and allowing for less evaporation. If this is achieved, it could put more water in the Colorado River. This is a huge undertaking and involves many agencies, including, Mohave County, Arizona Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife, Arizona State Land Trust, the National Resource Conservation Services, and the University of Arizona. While this project will be extremely beneficial to more than just ranchers in this area, the more significant point of this story is what can be accomplished through collaboration and cooperation.

The cattle on this ranch have lots of options when it comes to what to eat! Variety of forages is a point of pride for Anita and Sherwood. Photo by Hazel Lights Photography.

Anita and the Cane Spring Ranch have been the recipients of many awards, acknowledging the conservation efforts, including the Arizona Conservation District Zone 3 – Conservation Rancher of the Year 2000, Arizona Conservation District Zone 5 – Conservation Rancher of the Year 2000, Bureau of Land Management – Recognition for Cane Spring Ranch Land Exchange 2001, Society of Range Management – Range Manager of the Year 2008, Society of Range Management Certificate of Excellence in Range Management in 2010, and Arizona Game and Fish Wildlife Habitat Steward of the Year 2013.

When asked why so much time and effort are put in, Anita answers, “We love the land. We bought the ranch because we fell in love with it and want to do the best possible. And that was always our goal from the day of buying it. We love the cattle, of course, but our focus has been on the land. It comes from our life experiences. You take care of the land, and the land will take care of you.”

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

“United We Steak” Encourages Arizona Residents To Grab Their Favorite Beef Cut and Fire Up The Grill

Arizona Beef Council participates in new Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. grilling campaign celebrating America’s favorite protein pastime.

July 3, 2020- – The Arizona Beef Council is partnering with  Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., funded by the Beef Checkoff, to launch “United We Steak,” a new summer grilling campaign showcasing 50 steaks and all 50 states.

“United We Steak” celebrates not only a shared tradition of grilling delicious steaks, but also what makes each state unique when it comes to this beloved pastime. The idea comes to life at UnitedWeSteak.com with an interactive map of the United States made from 50 hand-cut state-shaped steaks. The interactive map is packed full of grilling spirit, state-specific recipes and fun facts that can help consumers nationwide “beef up” grilling season this summer.   

Arizona as a cut of beef!

Underpinning the campaign is a recognition that across all 50 states, there is a universal love of beef sizzling on a summer grill. According to research conducted by Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., which is managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, nearly one-third of consumers say that they plan to grill more this summer than they have in the past.[i]  

A delicious fajita recipe is featured on the Arizona page.

While every state has special traditions and recipes when it comes to grilling beef, some of those unique to Arizona, and featured on UnitedWeSteak.com include:

“There’s nothing like the sound and smell of beef sizzling on the grill during the summer grilling season,” said Clint Gladden, Chairman of the Arizona Beef Council. “United We Steak’ not only celebrates a love for grilling that brings families together, but also the beef farmers and ranchers who work hard every day to keep beef on grills all summer long.”

Each state page also features a story about a rancher. On Arizona’s page, we feature Joe and Sarah King.

As part of the campaign, the state and U.S.-shaped steaks will be featured in national advertisements, including still images and videos that will be shared on digital and social media platforms. The advertisements will also be shared on video platforms including YouTube and Connected TV in an effort to inspire Americans to grill up their favorite beef meal no matter where they live. Arizona is getting in on the fun too with localized advertisements that will reach proud Arizona grill masters.

The campaign follows the kickoff of summer grilling season, which Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. marked with a new video released Memorial Day Weekend showcasing the dedication of farmers and ranchers to raising safe, sustainable and nutritious beef. It concludes with the simple declaration: “Summer Grilling Season Brought To You By Beef Farmers and Ranchers.”

The original sponsors of summer grilling are ranchers raising delicious, nutritious, and safe beef!

More beef grilling inspiration and information can be found at United We Steak and BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

About the Beef Checkoff
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.


[i] Grilling Survey, April 2020

The Beef Lifecycle

The journey of raising beef is among the most complex of any food. Due in part to their changing nutritional needs throughout their lifetime, beef cattle often times will change hands and ownership up to three or four times, over the course of one and a half to three years, as they move through their various life stages.

Across this process, however, one important thing remains constant – and that’s the beef community’s shared commitment to raising cattle in a safe, humane and environmentally sustainable way. Working together, each segment of the beef lifecycle aims to make the best use of vital natural resources like land, water and energy – not just for today, but also for the future. The result is a delicious and nutritious food you can feel good about serving your family and friends.

Let’s explore how beef gets from pasture to plate in Arizona.

Ranch:

Raising beef begins with ranchers who maintain a herd of cows that give birth to calves once a year. When a calf is born, it typically weighs 60 to 100 pounds. Over the next few months, each calf will live off its mother’s milk and graze on forages from the rangeland. Ranches in Arizona are typically large in land area because of our dry, arid climate. Ranchers are committed to caring for their animals and the land on which they are raised.

Photo by Roxanne Knight.

Weaning:

Calves are weaned from their mother’s milk at 6 to 10 months of age when they weigh between 450 and 700 pounds. This can be done several ways with one option called fence line weaning. This means the cows are on one side of the fence and the mother cows are on the other side. They aren’t able to nurse but can still be closer to the cow, making it a less stressful situation. These calves continue to graze on pastures and may begin receiving a small amount of supplemental plant-based feed for extra energy and protein to help them grow and thrive.

Stocking and Backgrounders:

After weaning, cattle continue to grow and thrive by grazing on grass, forage and other plants with ranchers providing supplemental feed including vitamins and minerals to meet all of their nutritional needs.

Photo courtesy of Willcox Livestock Auction.

Livestock Auction Markets:

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

Photo by Anna Aja.

Feedyard:

Mature cattle are often moved to feedyards. Here cattle typically spend 4 to 6 months. They are free to graze at feed bunks containing a carefully balanced diet made up of roughage (such as hay and grass), grain (such as corn, wheat and soybean meal) and local renewable feed sources. Veterinarians, nutritionists and pen riders work together to provide individual care for each animal.

Learn more about animal safety and care at the feedyard.

PACKING PLANT:

Once cattle reach market weight (typically 1,200 to 1,400 pounds at 18 to 22 months of age), they are sent to a packing plant (also called a processing facility). United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors oversee the implementation of safety, animal welfare and quality standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to grocery stores and restaurants.

Arizona beef lifecycle with Arizona rancher, Dean Fish.

What is Range Management and Why is it Important?

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

A scence from the ZZ Cattle Co. ranch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Baby

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.

Building Corrals
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.

Family
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)

Arizona Monsoon Round-Up

Arizona summers are brutal, to say the least, with reprieve arriving only when you catch sight of dark clouds forming on the horizon, smell a hint of moisture in the air, and the mesquite trees start to rustle as a late afternoon wind tickles their branches. The afternoon monsoon has arrived and if you listen closely, you can almost hear the desert sigh in relief.

Monsoon season is a big deal in our state for the average person but proves essential to the cattle rancher. These life-giving rains replenish basin groundwater, recharge riparian areas, give life back to summer grasses, and fill dirt tanks essential for wildlife and cattle alike to survive. Once the rains hit, gone are the days of trucking water to the far reaches of the ranch, as mother nature lifts one small burden off the shoulders of hard-working cattlemen and women.

Enjoy this round-up of Arizona monsoon photos from ranches across the countryside in honor of another monsoon season.

Cassie Lyman
Photo by Cassie Lyman of the Hat Ranch in Gisela, AZ

Cross B Cattle
Photo was taken at the Cross B Cattle Ranch in Elgin, AZ

Jolyn
Photo by Jolyn Smith of Texas Canyon Brangus in Dragoon, AZ

Micaela
Photo by Micaela McGibbon of the Santa Rita Ranch outside of Green Valley, AZ

Santana
Photo by Santana Nez of the G Lazy 8 Ranch. Photo was taken in Tucson, AZ.

Sarah King
Photo by Sarah Henckler King of the King’s Anvil Ranch outside of Tucson, AZ

Tina
Photo by Tina Thompson of the C Bar Ranch in Willcox, AZ

Tina2
Photo by Tina Thomson of the C Bar Ranch in Willcox, AZ