Turn Right At….What?

By: Dr. Arn Anderson, DVM

North Texas has never been known for fog. Maine is known for fog but lately Texas is not known for rain much less any kind of airborne mist. That December morning we had fog as thick as gravy on chicken fried steak. The radio said we had minimal visibility and urged everyone to stay home if they could. We were supposed to be two counties away palpating heifers. This was a new client and a place we had never been. With printed directions in hand my technician and I headed down the county road; onward through the fog.

For the first thirty minutes we did pretty well until we crossed into territory where we had never been. But fog has a way to disorient, and common landmarks never appear and distances become lost in the haze. I asked the tech to read the directions the receptionist had taken from the new client’s phone dictation. She listed off the county road numbers, the right and left turns, the rail road tracks and even the big new convenience store. So far so good, even in the haze we had navigated fairly well and made the turn onto the farm-to-market road leading to the ranch. That’s when she read the last line; “When you see Jesus turn right”.

There was a short silence followed by my request for her to repeat the final crucial direction. I had heard her the first time but, like that spelling bee contestant asking for a word to be used in a sentence, I was trying to buy time for the direction to soak through the fog into my brain.

All rural veterinarians have buckets of stories about trying to follow directions to clients’ places. I’ve been told to turn at the big rock, the big tree and even the big bull. This works until the rock is bulldozed, the tree dies or the bull moves. I’ve been told to go to the cattle guard next to Joe’s gate, the pink house or the place where the clients’ parents lived. Again, Joe died in the 1930’s, I’m color blind and pink, well it’s not pink, and I’ve never known their parents.I even had one colleague that was instructed to come to the ranch to pull a calf by following the fire trucks. The client’s barn was on fire and he felt chasing the trucks would be the best way to find the cow.

Over the years we have learned the distance is arbitrary (a mile may actually be 3 miles), rural mail boxes usually do not have numbers on the side, and most people really don’t know left from right much less north from south. To make matters worse, in our county, roads can have three names; the state numerical designation, the new 911 name, and lastly what everyone really calls the road. Anyone that says the cow will be by the road has never thought that the cow can and usually does get up and move right after they call the vet. Clients are not confused, they simply know how to get home and rarely have to tell anyone how to get to their place over the phone.

I have tried a GPS with the sweet voice that tells you when to turn and how far to drive. After explaining to the Fort Worth police officer that the voice on my GPS had instructed me to nearly drive through the wall of the downtown bus terminal I have since resigned to the fact that I am not wired to be yelling at a talking machine and driving at the same time. Thus over the last twenty years my clinic has developed a unique shorthand of “L”s and “R”s, road numbers and geologic landmarks to successfully (most of the time) navigate through the back roads of Montague County.

That’s what made this set of directions odd. There it was “turn right at Jesus and go to the end of the road”. We were out of cell phone service, driving through the fog looking for Jesus. The more we drove the less we spoke. The fog played tricks with our minds and both of us were becoming worried in what form we would see Jesus. In Texas there are many euphemisms for dying. You can kick the bucket, pass over, buy the farm, go to your celestial home, croak, go to the other side and yes, for the faithful, go see Jesus. In the quiet fog we began to see things, shapes and movement; both of us imagining the worst scene from every horror movie ever made. What did the client mean by ‘see Jesus’? What did he mean by turn right? I wanted to meet a new client and palpate cows but not enough to see the bright light.

Out of desperation and in an unreasonable fear I took the next right and drove, looking for any house with a land line phone. We were soon rescued by a cowboy stepping over a cattle guard out of the fog waving at us. Even the blind hog will find the acorn, and we had turned right and driven up on the ranch. Trying to act relaxed and assured neither the tech nor I mentioned our directional apprehension. We checked the heifers and prepared to leave. I could not resist any longer and quietly asked about the cryptic directions. The owner said seriously everyone around his county knows about the giant statue right before his turn. No way could we have missed it right there on the corner. As we drove back to the county road I noticed the fog was starting to lift and the sun was coming through. As we rolled to a stop at the intersection there to my left, ascending through the fog, was a 30 foot concrete statue of Jesus with up raised arms complete with angels and a halo. The owner had given very precise directions. We simply missed the cue due to the fog.

Communication is essential to business, relationships and life in general. I think I am speaking clearly but my wife will testify that I mumble. She promises she told me something and I swear I never heard a thing. Our biggest problem with medical directives and instructions is simple clarity of communication. Clients hear what they want to hear and the rest is lost in the fog. As you work with your veterinarian on herd health take the time to have the directions, plan or recommendations put in writing. Read these recommendations and make sure you have your questions answered. The biggest mistakes I have encountered involved directions being misunderstood or not followed at all.

As we passed the big statue and started driving home I noticed a smaller concrete sculpture of Marilyn Monroe on the other side of the drive way. It was the iconic image of her with her skirt blowing up in New York. When I got back to the clinic I changed the directions in the computer to read “go ‘til you see Marilyn’s skirt, then turn right”. I figure if the next vet’s mind wanders the statue of Jesus will straighten him back out.

Twisted Mitigation for California Ranchers


Folks on their way to Fort Bragg or to see the giant Redwoods currently drive right through the tiny town of Willits, California. The Willits Bypass Project was designed to alleviate lines of traffic, but setting the wheels in motion is proving to be a legal headache.

Folks on their way to Fort Bragg or to see the giant Redwoods currently drive right through the tiny town of Willits, California. The Willits Bypass Project was designed to alleviate lines of traffic, but setting the wheels in motion is proving to be a legal headache.

By: Kayla Zilch

In the days of the famous outlaw Jesse James, farmers and ranchers fought a losing battle against the Transcontinental Railroad to keep their land and homes. Now it is almost 150 years later, but some of the same issues are still facing farmers and ranchers today, including the threat of eminent domain and an imbalance of power among government agencies.

An area facing those old issues with a new twist is the Little Lake Valley in Willits, California, where ranchers are struggling to keep grazing in the historic valley while simultaneously preserving wetland resources. The Little Lake Valley is the site for the Willits Bypass Project which has caused a battle for local land owners and ranchers against state departments and federal agencies.

Coined the “Gateway to the Redwoods,” Willits is about 140 miles north of San Francisco and is a popular route of travel for vacationers heading west to the ocean and Fort Bragg, California, and on north to tour the giant Redwoods. Because of the huge amount of traffic that travels through the heart of the small town, it is often congested and makes travel difficult for locals and vacationers passing through.

For the past 50 years, plans have been discussed to build a bypass around Willits to relieve the constant issues of traffic congestion. In 2007, plans finally started moving forwa rdon the Willits Bypass Proj ect. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) started purchasing land in the path and surrounding area of the proposed bypass. Approximately 2000 acres of property was purchased by Caltrans for the mitigation of around 65 acres of impact to wetlands. Several ranches were purchased for wetlands mitigation with the assurance that the ranchers or grazing lessees would still be able to continue grazing the property.

“I signed an agreement selling a portion of my property to Caltrans in December, 2010, under the conditions, stated in the contract, that I could lease it back to graze my cattle” said John Ford, a rancher and landowner in the area for over 20 years.

To begin construction of the Willits Bypass, Caltrans was required to obtain a Clean Water Act Secti on 404permit from the Army Corp of Engineers (COE); thus began a long period of turmoil for the ranchers of Little Lake Valley. The COE refused to grant Caltrans the needed permit unless it restricted grazing on the land managed for wetlands mitigation, under the reasoning that grazing has a negative effect on wetlands. This forced Caltrans to violate contracts with the local ranchers such as Ford and reduce grazing from 1,850 acres to roughly 1,400 acres. However, no one really knows how many acres will be grazed because the final grazing plan has not been made public.

Some parties, including rancher John Ford, suspected that Caltrans knew of the Army Corps intentions to regulate the mitigated property in September 2010. “If that information had been conveyed to me, the sale would have been different,” claims Ford. “Now if the grazing plan accommodates the Army Corp, I will be cut off from access to some areas and will lose nearly all of my summer pasture. The checkerboard pattern of grazing which is presented by the agencies limits access not only to Caltrans leases, but also to private leases.”

In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed to establish regulatory procedures of United States waterways. Wetlands fall into the Clean Water Act under section 404 which requires permits to dredge or move any fill material into wetlands and is managed by the COE. However, wetlands are often grazed or farmed; so a Memorandum of Agreement dated May 3, 1990 in regards to section 404 of the Clean Water Act exempted agriculture operations from having to obtain a section 404 permit.

These cows are comfortably grazing on the wetlands where the Willits Bypass Project will eventually be built. In California alone, there are approximately 25,000 acres of razed wetlands.

These cows are comfortably grazing on the wetlands where the Willits Bypass Project will eventually be built. In California alone, there are approximately 25,000 acres of razed wetlands.

By standards of the Memorandum, the COE does not have the authority or power to restrict agricultural operations in the first place, and secondly, did not include scientific documentation backing the decision to eliminate grazing because of its effects on wetlands. In fact, science shows that grazing is essential in maintaining healthy, viable wetlands. A study by Jaymee Marty of The Nature Conservancy, “Effects of Cattle Grazing on Diversity in Ephemeral Wetlands,” showed that grazed areas had higher rates of native species, where native species in ungrazed areas of wetlands declined by 25 percent. Even the United States Fish and Wildlife service uses grazing as a “desirable management practice” for wetlands.

“The Mendocino County Farm Bureau is concerned about the precedent that the mitigation process for the Willits Bypass is setting and the potential effects it could have on agricultural operations throughout the state that may be involved with similar 404 permitting processes,” said Mendocino County Farm Bureau Executive Director Devon Jones. “We are not against the project; we are against the impacts to agriculture.”

If the current Mitigation and Monitoring Plan is passed to restrict grazing on the mitigated properties for “Wetlands Protection,” the ground will lie fallow for the ten-year monitoring period. The twist is, after five years, even if the effects are negative on the ungrazed ground, the COE considers it abandoned and the property can never return to agriculture. So what does this mean for ranchers?

In California alone, there are approximately 125,000 acres of grazed wetlands. The Northern Plains (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Utah) area has 4 million acres of grazed wetlands. As populations continue to grow and urban areas sprawl, projects like the Willits Bypass are inevitable to accommodate growth along with similar mitigations. The COE extending its power over agriculture production in wetlands and wetlands mitigation contracts could potentially affect ranchers and landowners all over the United States who own or have agriculture operations on wetlands.

“It doesn’t seem right that one agency can flex its power to make a decision that impacts people’s livelihoods, the local economy and the environment without providing any science or research to document its decision and with no accountability for its actions,” said Ford.

Since 2010, several meetings have been held with the local ranchers and the community of Willits, assessing the situation and trying to reach a compromise; but the process is full of uncertainty and confusion among the involved parties. Currently a group of environmental interest groups have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans and the COE which alleges that the defendants violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the Clean Water Act in their permit approvals for the Willits Bypass. Depending on litigation and the many unknowns that still surround the grazing plan for the mitigated lands the future of the Little Lake Valley could still contain grazing if the COE is held to its

All For One

WR Publisher and Editor, Tim O'Byrne

WR Publisher and Editor, Tim O’Byrne

The National Institute For American Agriculture – Working With Us To Make Things Better

By: Tim O’Byrne

Ever since it began, ranching in America has been comprised of entrepreneurs and visionaries that put several factors together (available grasslands, water, cattle, and the hungry population of an expanding country) to create a proud, self-sustaining industry.  Due to the fact that the ranchers have always been scattered out, vulnerable not just to the weather but to the politics and economic forces beyond their control, they’ve learned to band together early on, to organize and share information, representation and momentum.  If they didn’t, the whole infrastructure would have imploded long ago, and the only beef we’d see today would likely be from backyard oxen.

There’s a group that WR wants you to meet that was formed with that very goal in mind; to gather useful information on ag-related challenges, create solutions out of that info, and get those solutions out to the agriculture community, including beef producers, in order to make things better.  That’s their simple intent.  That group is the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) and it’s been eleven years since they cranked it up.  I got a chance to meet the Managing Director of the NIAA, Scott Stuart, and I’m happy to report he’s one of us.  And that makes the NIAA message so easy to uptake.  Here’s part of my visit with Scott;


WR    Scott, tell us a bit about yourself, your background with cattle, and where you are today with NIAA; how did you get involved with them?

Scott  –  I was raised on my family’s 700-head cow/calf operation in the north-central mountains of Colorado.  Our ranch ranged from 7,500 to 10,500 feet in elevation and relied on summer grazing in the Arapaho National Forest.  In the early 1980s, we sold the Colorado ranch and moved the operation to northwest Montana where we ran a smaller herd of cows and 1,000 yearlings.

I became involved with NIAA through the National Livestock Producers Association (NLPA).  I have served as the President and CEO of NLPA since 1992, and NLPA has been a member of NIAA for over 30 years.  I served on the NIAA board of directors for several years and then as chairman of the board from 2005 – 2007.


WR    What is the NIAA – give us a brief history and a bit about where it is today?

Scott –  NIAA carries a strong legacy of providing the U.S. livestock industry with a forum to collectively address issues of common interest. NIAA, successor to the Livestock Conservation Institute (LCI), is the result of a progressive process and vision that began in 1996 when the LCI Board of Directors commissioned a long-range planning team to landscape an organization that would best serve animal agriculture in the 21st century. The newly created organization, NIAA, began operations in January 2000 and is collectively addressing issues of interest to the industry, providing vital industry information, continuing education and communication outlets for animal agriculture professionals.


WR   Tell us about how the NIAA and America’s cattle ranchers are related.  What is the synergy there? 

Scott –  NIAA (LCI) was formed over a century ago in the first decade of the 1900s in order to assist cattle producers to reduce the number of animals that died in transit to the central markets.  Since that time, the association has worked to educate producers and their employees in proper animal handling methods and animal health management.

NIAA’s membership includes several cattle organizations (i.e. Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Illinois Beef Association) as well as individual cattlemen.   NIAA’s leadership includes Travis Justice, executive of the Arkansas Beef Council; Stan Mannschreck, cattle producer from Anadarko, OK; and John Braly, former executive of the California Cattlemen’s Association and VP of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

The Bovine Committee is co-chaired by Dr. Karen Jordan, a cattle veterinarian and dairy producer in North Carolina, and her co-chair, Nathan Jeager, is beef director of the Alabama Farmers Federation and formerly with NCBA and Laura’s Lean Beef.


WR   That’s a very impressive lineup of influential individuals from the beef cattle sector.  What message do you want to give to our Working Ranch readers on behalf of NIAA

Scott  –  NIAA is an organization that is comprised of a very broad range of animal agriculture participants from individual producers, to veterinarians, to animal health agencies, to animal health companies, to association executives. NIAA has earned the reputation as being the association where all segments of animal agriculture come together to find workable solutions to the difficult issues facing the industry.

It is extremely important that cattlemen have their beef-specific organizations; and NIAA provides the ability to draw on the expertise of representatives from other species areas such as pork, lamb, poultry and dairy, in order to provide solutions in the areas of animal disease management, animal handling, and animal care.


WR  So the NIAA forum is effective in areas of animal agriculture that crossover, or on interspecies issues that overlap.  I can see the value there because it isn’t always about beef, per se.  What do you want our readers to do to contribute or participate with the NIAA mandate? 

Scott  –  NIAA membership is open to anyone and any entity that believes in animal agriculture and wants to be involved in working to address the myriad of issues those not in agriculture seem to throw at the industry.  Members can be involved in the 11 species and issues-based committee and council system to ensure their input is fully received.

Simply put, NIAA is made up of individuals who have a deep desire to contribute to the industry they believe in and cherish.


WR  Scott, thanks for this great information, I understand you’re having a convention soon, let’s make sure our readers know about that beforehand.

Scott  –  Yes, the 2011 Annual Conference of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture will be held April 11-14 in San Antonio, Texas.  The sessions will focus on the elements of a stable food supply; food security; food safety; animal agriculture’s importance in the ecosystem; and effective ways to communicate with stakeholders. Go to www.animalagriculture.org to get the details.
Scott Stuart serves as Managing Director for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, and as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Livestock Producers Association, both based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Scott was raised in Colorado on his family’s commercial cow/calf ranch. His on-the-ground experience in livestock production management and marketing comes from having managed cattle ranches in both Colorado and Montana.  Scott earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Agricultural Business and Economics from Colorado State University and attended law school at the University of Wyoming. 


NIAA office building

In February of 2009, the NIAA moved their offices from Bowling Green, Kentucky, to the new NLPA building in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The new offices are not designed for outside functions; all of NIAA’s and NLPA’s conferences and symposia are located in central locations like Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Antonio, and Denver.

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff

The Cook

Jamie Pierson, Pierson Ranch, Brusett Montana. 

I’m a 29 year old ranch wife and mother to two young cowboys, Cash and Charley. My husband Bo and I ranch with his father, Mike Pierson, in the Missouri River Breaks near the Fort Peck River. We run around 600 Black Angus cows and raise registered quarter horses as well.

The Recipe

Delicious Hamburger Stroganoff
This recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law. It was her mother’s and has been passed down through the family. I fix it anytime because it’s so good, and especially when I’m wanting some comfort food. This is a great meal on a chilly day to warm your belly up, too!

The Ingredients

1⁄2 cup onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup canned mushrooms, sliced
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream

The Preparation

Sauté onion and garlic in butter on medium heat. Stir in meat and brown. Then, add flour, salt, pepper and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in soup. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add sour cream; heat through. Serve over cooked noodles.
This recipe easily doubles for a bigger quantity.

strog-2Ask the Cook

Food Philosophy
I try to cook hearty meals that will stick to the cowboys’ ribs because their next meal might be 9 or 10 hours down the road. And they darn sure earn a good meal because cowboying, especially when we’re doing our fall gatherings and sorting, can be draining. The days are long and the weather is cold. When there’s lots of cow work to be done and our neighbors and friends come to help out, a nice spread is the least we can do to thank them for their help.

Any advice for our readers?
Hungry cowboys aren’t very picky about what you serve them, as long as it’s warm and filling. We’re pretty much just “meat and potatoes” kind of people around here. These four ingredients always seem to find their way into my recipes: butter, cheese, cream and bacon. You can’t go wrong if you’ve added some of these ingredients to your food!

Cooking Confession
A few years ago, everyone came in after stacking hay bales in the heat and wanted a drink. I made Kool-Aid but forgot to put the sugar in. Everyone drank it and never said a word. One person even complimented me on my good “circus water!”

If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a Dinner Bell column, give WR a call at 702-566-1456 or send an email to dinnerbell@workingranchmag.com.

Cowboy Nachos

Cowboy Nachos

Cowboy Nachos

The Cook

Linda Lawler
Recently we were on the Big Island of Hawaii and of all things we had the most amazing nachos. In fact, the best ever nachos, and that says a lot considering our family loves Mexican food. So, when I was preparing for this month’s Dinner Bell column, I thought I’d try to recreate this yummy dish to serve at a family birthday party. To my surprise, the nachos turned out just as good (maybe even better). Within minutes everything on the platter was inhaled and everyone was raving about the secret ingredient: The slow cooked tender beef!

These nachos can be used as a hearty appetizer or a main course with a green salad.

The Recipe 

Cowboy Nachos
• 2 – 2 ½ lbs. Chuck Roast
• 1 – 15 oz. black beans
• 3 tomatoes chopped
• 1 cup of cheddar cheese
• 1⁄3 cup of deli-sliced jalapeno peppers
• Salsa
• Sour cream
• 1 bag of yellow and blue corn chips

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees

2. Season the roast with Jim Baldridge’s Secret Seasoning (or another “meat seasoning”)

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola or safflower oil in a Dutch oven or deep oven proof pan/skillet

4. Sear roast – about 2-3 minutes on each side. Add ½ cup of water, put on the lid and pop in the oven for 4- 5 hours.

5. Let the roast stand for a ½ hour or so. Meanwhile, heat the black beans and spread all the chips on a large platter. Shred the beef and place on top of chips. Next spoon and spread the warm beans, chopped tomatoes, deli-sliced jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese and top off with guacamole, salsa and sour cream to your liking.

• 3 chopped avocados
• 1 small onion finely chopped
• 1 clove of garlic minced
• 1 ripe med. tomato chopped
• 1 lime – juiced
• Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients

Burnt Vanilla Cream – Serves 4

pieThis has been my “go to” dessert over the years. It’s easy, creamy and delicious. I got the recipe from Donna Hay’s “Cooking from the Pantry” – a great cookbook I used during the busy Mom years.

• 2 cups of cream
• 1½ Tablespoons of cornstarch
• 5 egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
• 1⁄3 cup of brown sugar
• Superfine sugar to top

1. Place the cream in a saucepan over low heat and allow to become hot but not boil. Whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks, vanilla and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot cream. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Pour into 1 cup capacity dishes and chill for 3 -4 hours or until firm.

2. Top with sugar and broil top just as the sugar starts to bubble. Be careful not to overcook.

Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili


The Cook: 

Tammy Taylor, Taylor-Made Ranch
Taylor-Made Ranch was established in 2000 by Stacy and Tammy Taylor in beautiful Wolfe City, Texas. They raise registered Herefords and pure F1 baldies or commercial breeders through private treaty.

The Recipe

Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili
Our favorite cold-weather recipe here at Taylor-Made Ranch is Cowboy Beef & Bean Chili. It’s made with beef, black beans and dark beer. I usually pair it with jalapeno beer bread for a warming & stick-to-your ribs winter meal!

My husband Stacy is the king of the grill but I enjoy puttering in the kitchen. My Cowboy Chili recipe is our compromise on the age-old beans vs. no beans argument. I like the beans, and e likes dark beer, so to appease his chili-purist ‘No Beans’ mindset I created this recipe that includes both black beans and dark beer so we’re both happy.

The Ingredients

2 lbs. lean ground beef (95% lean)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1-½ cups chopped onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 medium yellow bell peppers, chopped
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, finely chopped
1⁄4 cup chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1⁄8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14-1⁄2 oz.) chili-seasoned or zesty-style
diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (14 to 14-1⁄2 oz.) beef broth
12 oz. dark beer
1⁄3 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp. honey
2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed, drained chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

The Preparation

• Brown ground beef in stockpot over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up into 3/4-inch crumbles.
• Remove from stockpot with slotted spoon. Set aside. Pour off drippings.
• Heat oil in same stockpot over medium heat until hot. Add onions and garlic; cook and stir 3 to 5 minutes or until onions are tender.
• Add bell peppers and jalapeño; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until peppers are tender.
• Return beef crumbles to stockpot. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper; cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
• Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, broth, beer, tomato paste and honey; bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes. Uncover stockpot; continue simmering 30 minutes or until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.
• Stir in beans; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until beans are heated through.
• Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Ask the Cook

What’s your food philosophy?
I try to cook with as many fresh ingredients as possible. Although I occasionally use a can of soup or box of instant pudding when a recipe calls for it – more than likely you’ll find me learning to make that ingredient myself instead. For this recipe, the black beans are typically cooked earlier from dry beans and the crushed tomatoes & veggies are primarily from my garden. Even the dark beer used is home-brewed by my husband Stacy!

Any advice for the readers?
With only two of us at the ranch most nights, I use the “cook once, eat twice” method of cooking: Serve half the recipe hot and put the other half in your freezer. On those days where you’re too busy to cook, a healthy home-made meal is as close as your own freezer.

Cooking Confession:
Although I typically strive to use base ingredients in my cooking, I make the best and most requested soft cookies using a recipe that has a boxed cake mix in the list of ingredients! It’s so quick that I can whip these cookies up on a Sunday morning in enough time to bring them hot out of the oven for a church luncheon after the Sunday service.

If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a Dinner Bell column, give WR a call at 702-566-1456 or send an email to dinnerbell@workingranchmag.com.

Stack On The Dallies


By: Corinne J. Brown

The first thing apparent about the ropers in the recent statewide finals of the Rocky Mountain Ranch Roping and Stock Horse Association (RMRRSHA) in Colorado was the way they moved—without a sound. Barely a whisper could be heard in the indoor arena or the grandstand, for that matter; the silence broken only by the bawl of a critter suddenly snagged by a rope. Then, with finesse and speed, the three-man teams sprang into action and completed the job. In the background, even the announcer, Mr. Rich Scott, tracking their success, spoke in a low and calming voice. Without fuss or fanfare, the fine art of roping and tying was demonstrated with humble grace and style.

Style here refers mainly to traditional roping methods by which some of the most accomplished cowboys and buckaroos work cattle and horses; in particular, using a big loop or “la reata,” the legendary Californio or vaquero technique. Breath-taking to watch, this kind of roping is extremely popular at ranches in Colorado’s high country and
all along the Front Range, and requires a great sense of timing and skill.

Those who competed came from diverse backgrounds. Some  are full or part-time cowboys; others, day workers. There were gear makers, horse trainers and farriers; even business people who might not work on a ranch but practice year-round anyway.

That’s part of what made the competition held in Denver at the Jeffco Fairgrounds on December 2nd, 2012, so fascinating. The event joined talented buckaroos from ranchlands north of Denver like Fort Collins, Longmont, Greeley and Brush, and from as far out as Garfield County and the famed Roaring Fork Valley near Aspen, hundreds of miles away.

For the spectator, there was plenty to ponder. According to Tom Harrington, ranch manager of the Crystal River Ranch in Carbondale, Colorado, and cofounder of the Roaring Fork Ranch Roping, “Ropers are hoping to score points for stockmanship and horsemanship. The judge is mounted on horseback in the arena so he can get a clear view and intervene if there’s trouble. During each go, ground work really counts, things like dallying and handling your slack, a necessity lest it get in the way of a moving cow or horse causing a wreck.”

Harrington should know. A competitor himself, he has also been the major guiding force behind the Roaring Fork Ranch Roping event held each September. He is involved with roping throughout the state, including judging on the Western slope, and serves on the board of the Rocky Mountain Ranch Roping and Stockhorse Association. He pointed out that the event judge, Mr. Jim McKinney of Gardnerville, NV, was watching for a competitor who is calm and collected, essential for keeping cattle quiet and in a low stress environment.

weekend-2“After all,” said Harrington, “pounds on the hoof is what a rancher is paid for; you want to handle the animals as safely and gently as possible. The judge is checking to see if the rodear is maintained; holding the group of animals together so you can get a good look at them, simulating a health check in a pasture setting.”

Mark Howes, a Colorado saddle maker, roper, and founder of the RMRRSHA in Colorado, confirms the growing passion for the sport. “People are interested in upping the game,” he explained. “Our members want to hold an event that showcases just how well you can handle livestock. Founded 12 years ago, we only became a full association in 2010. The Roaring Fork Ropers are part of our group. We hold six events a year, and every one, based on locale and members, has its own flavor and color.”

Each entry at the Finals provided another opportunity to watch some of the best ropers and novices go through their paces. Scoring is based on difficulty, distance, and the appropriate shot for the situation. The pros made it look like magic, smooth and fast. But then, withthe upset of an occasional cow hightailing the perimeter of the arena, and the bunch starting to mill, the novices inadvertently let you know how hard it is. The Finals, open to men and women, consist of traditional three-man teams. The roping teams are randomly drawn so none of the ropers know who they’ll be competing with. In order to make the finals, a competitor  must rope in two ropings sanctioned by the Rocky Mountain Ranch Roping and Stockhorse Association, and place first or second in at least one. A total of 40 ropers qualified for the recent first annual year-end finals; 21 open and 19 novice.

Winners of the Open and Novice events are posted on the Facebook site of the RMRRSHA. Notably, Sean Soya took the Smooth Hand Award, a bosalita made by Jim McKinney, and Blaire Adamson won Top Hand Lady Award, a fine buckle donated by Amy Star.

Cowgirl Ginny Harrington, Tom’s wife, summarizes the sport this way. “Ranch roping competitions are meant to represent how we feel cattle should be handled on a ranch, in the pasture, in the corral, on the mountain in the summer – each and every each time an animal is handled. Plus, it’s the enjoyment of doing a job that cowboys love, and doing it well for both the safety of the cattle and the horse’s sake. It’s a way of life on the ranch that is represented in the arena.”

As a fan who appreciates weekend ranch rodeo, narrowing the competition down to just one tough skill made this event a true test of the best. It was clear that neither size, age, nor gender made the difference: patience and savvy won every time.

Weigh To Go!

Guesswork doesn’t cut it in modern-day, progressive beef production


By: Jennifer Showalter

Livestock scales and indicators are more advanced and accurate than ever before. Beyond all of the bells and whistles that are available, the bottom line is that every pound counts whether you are buying, selling, treating, or evaluating cattle.

It doesn’t take much arm twisting for a producer to realize just how valuable a trusty set of scales can be on his or her operation. Robin Starkenburg with Digi-Star reminds ranchers that having an accurate means of weighing cattle is beneficial for all ranchers regardless of the size of their spread. Scales allow producers to measure feed conversion, give proper pharmaceutical dosages based on weight, confirm animal weights prior to breeding, determine weaning weights, select more uniform groups of animals to sell, and evaluate breeding performance for genetic selection. “Regular cattle weighing provides management of your livestock leading to improved profitability,” says Starkenburg.

With scales being such an important tool for cattlemen and there being many options out there, WR wanted to lend a helping hand and highlight a few companies and products that are worthy of checking out. This is what we found:

Digi-Star offers hydraulic chute operators their renowned heavy duty 10,000 and 14,000 lb., 4-point scale systems for hi-traffic cattle processing found on feedlot and large cow/calf operations. The SW46000EID Digital Indicator is an advanced management indicator allowing for both EID and Visual ID input with a customize able display offering easy data collection.

Advanced signal filtering coupled with Digi-Star’s unique Lock-On feature provides stable readings despite restless animal movement. A 14-segment backlit display provides excellent visibility in all environments. Digi-Star’s electronic cables are protected with flexible stainless steel cable guards to resist cable injury. Head over to www.digi-star.com for more information about these and other products.

The low profile platform scales from Moly Manufacturing easily mount on a SILENCER chute in minutes. By keeping the scales low to the ground, Moly Manufacturing is able to increase the flow of animals in and out of their chutes. Load bars are placed on all four corners of the chute for a more stable and accurate weight device. Each impveoemtn-2bar has a 2,500 lb. capacity for a total capacity of 10,000 lbs. Moly’s simple load bar replacement system makes changing out any single load bar a breeze.

Moly’s modular overhead scale package is designed to operate in three positions with no rocking motion: the scale weighing position, which is adjustable in height; the lifted position for easier cleanout (mechanically locks for safety); and the ground position, or floor position, is used when scale capabilities are not needed.

These overhead scales maximize the life of the scale components by locating the electronic wiring above the chute, away from water and manure, and eliminates the wires being cut or pulled loose. Moly’s overhead package requires only two load cells instead of the usual four and is quick and easy to set up. The overhead scale has a total weighing capacity of 15,000 pounds. Both the platform and overhead scales come equipped with the Avery Weigh-Tronix Model 640 Weight Indicator with RS-232 Serial Port. This indicator is simple, yet accurate and reliable. User-friendly features coupled with a rugged construction makes this indicator ideal for the ranching industry. www.molymfg.com


Rice Lake’s MAS-M mobile group animal scale is ideal for ranchers who need to grab a weight on cattle in remote locations. The patented design consists of a suspended rubberized deck and steel pen sides within a mobile base frame that locks down during transport. The weighing platform remains extremely low-profile during use for easy loading. Legal for trade weighing is provided even when this scale is placed off level by up to four degrees. Rice Lake’s X-Lug flooring provides traction in wet and sloppy conditions. This unique flooring is made of recycled, environmentally friendly products that resists both bacteria and moisture, and will never rot.


Rice Lake’s Onboard Weigh Center conveniently produces a legal printed transaction ticket while storing head count, total weight, average weight, and shrink records that can be transferred to a home computer by way of a memory stick. An added unique feature of the Onboard Weigh Center shows the total accumulated weight on a truck or trailer before the final weight is captured. A weatherproof enclosure protects the instrumentation and printer making it functional for weighing up cattle anywhere, anytime. Hit up their website at www.ricelake.com.

The folks over at Tru-Test have been designing rugged livestock scale systems for over 30 years. Their vast product range includes digital indicators, load bars, load cells, and handheld and stationary EID readers. Tru- Test products are compatible with most third-party cattle management software and RFID products.

i4All Tru-Test indicators feature unique Superdamp™ III technology to record accurate weights quickly, regardless of movement. A stable weight is locked within three to six seconds, while an auto zero function ensures any accumulation of animal dirt or manure is zeroed after each animal leaves the scale. Tru-Test indicators are 100% water and dust proof. They are also available with Bluetooth® technology, as well as a whole list of other features.

Tru-Test load bars are made of aircraft grade aluminum for ultimate resistance to corrosion while the cells are completely enclosed to protect against dirt, moisture, and rodents. Rugged connectors and communication ports add to the durability of Tru-Test systems. They offer free software updates, along with free technical after-sale support from an experienced force. Check ‘em out at www.tru-test.com.

Since 1952, Paul Scales has manufactured livestock scales for producers ranging from 500 to 10,000 pound capacities. Now a subsidiary of W-W Livestock Systems, Paul Scales remains a leader in the livestock i5weighing industry. For ranchers who have more than one location to weigh cattle, WW Paul Scales offers the Model 305s 3,000 pound capacity portable livestock scale. This scale is built to last for a lifetime. It comes complete with an adjustable squeeze side holding pen, lift entry gate, and swing gate on the exit end. The 39” by 99” wood floor has pipe floor cleats to reduce slippage. The outside frame is constructed of heavy duty 3/16” formed steel while the inner frame is constructed of 4” 5.4 lb. channel. The floor is made of 2” by 10” lumber. A portable axle kit is permanently mounted to the scale base. The kit includes 15” tires and wheels, and a removable hitch with a 2” ball coupler. This scale can easily be retrofitted with an electronic indicator. WW Paul Scales takes pride in being made in the USA, and providing accuracy, dependability, and durability. Click on www.paulscales.com for more info.

A Better Way To Play

Grazing Public Lands is a High Stakes Game


By: Tim O’Byrne

Grazing on public land is a serious deal for a lot of our readers, and lately we’ve been introduced to what can happen if the parties involved fail miserably at playing the game within the boundaries of acceptable behavior. If all the wasted productive hours burned up over two decades in the most infamous of public grazing conflagrations in Clark County, Nevada were alfalfa pellets, you could fill the Washington Monument to the very tip of the spire. Clearly, while shedding some valuable light on the earthly shortcomings of all involved parties, that trail led not to green pastures.

One thing I’ve learned over the years (two things, actually). The first is this – if there’s a challenge brewing you must prepare for it strategically (like a chess player, thinking at least four moves out). The second is this – we live on the planet earth, and sometimes no matter how much you prepare, and no matter how much truth your case carries, the scales of Justice may not swing in your favor.

Relinquishing the second lesson to destiny and concentrating on the first shall be the meat and bones of this column.

One day, the powers that be who hold the key to your allotment maydecide they want to downsize your AUMs for a number of reasons; some are legitimate such as extended drought, while others, as we discovered in Hage v. the United States, are quite nefarious in their calculating nature.

So, you’ve got a legitimate beef, and you want to do something about it. Now that most informed Americans know what NOT to do about it, let’s explore an exciting strategy; hire a qualified range specialist to perform an unbiased third-party assessment of your public grazing practices and resources, provide a detailed report, and accompany you to the next meeting with your public lands coordinator. Oh, and pay this specialist what they are worth. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business in a new world, because it is a new world.

In order to bring us up to speed, I’ve consulted with John L. McLain, CRMC, CPESC, Principal Resource & Rangelend Specialist with Resource Concepts Inc. (RCI) in Carson City, Nevada. RCI has experience in providing evaluations of the appropriateness and economic implications of proposed Bureau of Land Management policies. John filled me in on how his company can help ranchers who graze on public lands prepare for a range permit meeting.

WR John, you mentioned it’s getting more difficult for our ranchers to work synergistically with BLM and USFS personnel lately for several reasons. What’s changed in the past 10 years that’s creating that friction?

JM Many of the personnel hired by public land agencies are not always trained in range management when they are assigned responsibility to administer grazing permits. We experience personnel with degrees in wildlife management, conservation biology, forestry and other specialties administering grazing permits, conducting the monitoring, or even determining the rangeland health for a given allotment and outlining what they feel to be issues attributed to grazing practices. Many of these specialists are recent hires and urban-raised, as opposed to past years when a larger representation were raised on ranches or in the rural areas and therefore more familiar with ranching and rangelands. In addition, we don’t see the level of training being provided by the agencies that we once  id. State land grant universities, including Cooperative Extension Service, working with ranchers, consultants, federal and state agencies, once participated in range monitoring and other workshops and tours to help get everyone on the same page and to help remove barriers that oftentimes occur. I feel that this is largely lacking today. Also, the continual movement of agency personnel to new locations is a growing concern. It typically takes a couple of years for a seasoned range conservationist to become familiar with his new surroundings, the permittees, and to identify alternative solutions to perceived problems. If they are constantly being transferred they rarely have the opportunity to determine if what they planned for allotment improvements ever really worked. I don’t consider that growing in your profession.

WR And if there are qualified personnel onboard, what are they spending their valuable time doing?

JM Range Conservationists are often entangled in appeals, protests and/or litigation brought on mostly by antigrazing interests, leaving little time to address allotment monitoring and permitting needs. This plays into the hands of the opposition when it comes to court challenges.

WR Tell us a bit about the T Quarter Circle Ranch and their allotments up in the Winnemucca area. That project appeared to be quite successful. 

JM RCI was approached by the operator out of concern regarding ongoing AUM reductions that were occurring on various other BLM permits in the area. He felt that with a sound monitoring program he would be able to justify his numbers and continue running his permit without threat to his permitted AUMs or the economic viability of his operation. RCI helped the operator establish a comprehensive monitoring program which he was quick to learn, and actively participated in the annual monitoring over about an 8 year period that included:
• learning the key species and utilization cage placement,
• how to determine use levels,
• the importance of recording climate conditions and events such as wildfire, insect infestations, etc.

After several years of monitoring with RCI, the operator effectively was able to carry on the monitoring by himself, but still retained RCI to field spot check his work to assure that he has things properly documented. To date his monitoring program has served to keep his permit whole and protected, knowing that he has quality data that will stand the scrutiny in court if ever required. The data isn’t there solely for protection, but also to guide his management decisions and insure quality rangelands that will deliver peak performance from his cow herd. This then hopefully becomes a win-win for the BLM and the operator.

WR It appears to me that it would be a huge confidence boost for a rancher to walk into a BLM or USFS range permit meeting with fresh data from an independent professional third party such as yourself, and even be accompanied by the consultant who can speak the language.

JM There’s no doubt that the appropriate data, when properly collected and presented, is critical to the rancher’s needs and represents a good offence. However, data also helps to point out where grazing problems may occur. An important point that needs to be made is that reducing AUMs very seldom does anything to address a grazing problem. It should be the last alternative by my experience.

More good is accomplished working together to relieve that area from the grazing pressure by perhaps tweaking the grazing management or suggesting a range improvement such as fencing or water development than by economically stressing a ranch operation through reductions.

WR What is the best advice you could give our readers who rely heavily on public grazing lands that are looking for some guidance?

JM Looking at the long term, I firmly believe that ranchers should be working to develop, with or without consulting assistance, an Allotment Management Plan (AMP) for their respective allotments. The AMP, once agreed to and  signed by the agency and the permittee, becomes, in a sense, a contract with the agency and the roadmap for the next 10 years. If the plan is followed and backed up by good monitoring, I believe that it is almost bullet proof and provides the protection public land ranchers need today. Range Conservationists can come and go, but each replacement will be able to review the plan that the agency has already approved and follow its direction working with the ranch.

WR What about timing? Some readers are up to their boot tops in an existing fracas, some are seeing storm clouds on the horizon.

JM Range specialists like RCI can do the best job if we are there early to assist the permittee, as opposed to when the agency is ready to levy a decision on his permit in a negative way, such as a proposed reduction in AUMs. Anger and frustration seem to prevail at this point.

WR Thanks, John, your insight has been very helpful. You can contact RCI by calling (775) 883-1600 or checking out www.rci-nv.com.

Working Ranch Branding Party

By: Linda Lawler

Every summer at the Sawtooth Valley Ranch we put together a hearty and delicious lunch or dinner -depending on how long the branding takes -for those who participate in this ranching tradition.

This year I decided to cook a main dish I have always wanted to make: short ribs. My husband and daughter love to order short ribs when they are on a restaurant menu. So, the pressure was on to make short ribs that met “their standards” and reward a hard working crew.

You want short ribs to be nice and tender, so you need to cook them for at least 4 – 5 hours (for 4 – 6 lbs) in the oven. The key is sourcing the best quality beef, which isn’t hard to find in the United States. And making a homemade sauce in my book does make a difference.

For the side dishes for The Working Ranch Branding party I decided to pair up two classics: homemade coleslaw and Ranch Beans (the name on the can). My neighbor, Donna-Marie, made some apple banana bread. And to quench everyone’s thirst I make a large container of Arnold Palmer’s (or as they say in my neck of the woods – Swamp Water) half peach ice tea and half lemonade. Since the branding takes place in the middle of summer I made one of my (and my family’s) favorite summer time desserts: Frozen Lemonade Pie.

The Recipe

WR Short Ribs — Serves 6 (I ended up having to double this recipe for my crew)
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
• 4-6 lbs short ribs
• 2⁄3 cup brown sugar
• 1 t paprika
• ½ t garlic powder
• 1 T cider vinegar
• ½ t chili powder
• 2⁄3 cup ketchup
• 1 T mustard
• 2 T molasses
• Salt and pepper
2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl
3. Arrange ribs in a 9 x 13 baking dish seasoning with salt and pepper
4. Pour the sauce over the ribs and toss.
5. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in oven for 4 – 5 hrs. (depending on tenderness)
6. Remove foil the last 30 min.

Homemade Coleslaw
• 6 cups of shredded green and purple cabbage (can add some shredded carrots too)
• A small bunch of chopped green onions

• 1 cup of mayo
• 2 T cider vinegar
• 2 t black pepper
• ½ t salt
• ½ t sugar

1. Toss the dressing with the salad and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Frozen Lemonade Pie

• 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
• ¼ cup of white or brown sugar
• 7 T unsalted butter, melted

• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
• 1 6-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate (do not thaw)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Make the crust in a med. bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press firmly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 6 minutes; cool completely.

3. To make the filling: in a cool med. stainless bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, stir together the condensed milk and frozen lemonade. Gently fold the lemonade mixture into the whipped cream. Pour the filling into the crust. Freeze overnight or for about 6 hours.

4. When ready to serve let the pie stand for 5 min before cutting. Optional: top with mixed berries.

Linda Lawler, flanked by her two assistants, Carolyn Hillgren on her right and daughter Katie on her left, worked very hard to create a spectacular late afternoon lunch for the WR crew and neighbors.

Linda Lawler, flanked by her two assistants, Carolyn Hillgren on her right and daughter Katie on her left, worked very hard to create a spectacular late afternoon lunch for the WR crew and neighbors.