Energized young students from Payson Elementary School (PES) rushed from the busses in their eagerness to spend a big day at the Bar L Bar Ranch.
The many lessons of the day included a quick Q and A on chickens.
“Why do you think we have chickens here on the ranch?” asked Cassie Lyman, who lives on the ranch and coordinated the visit. A considerable range of responses flew from the students’ mouths, including; “To eat?” and “For eggs?”
Cassie said they rarely eat the chickens, but do collect about one egg for each chicken every day. Moreover, the chickens do a great job of gobbling up farmyard bugs — including scorpions!
Next, the children got to look in the chicken coop. To their delight, inside they found 25 baby chicks.
As the first group headed back to school, the second group headed to the horse field to eat lunch before their turn for a tour of the ranch. In the sea of little voices, Mrs. Sanchez said to her class, “You know what we’re gonna do tomorrow? “We’re gonna write thank you cards!”
Suddenly, ranch owner Art Lyman shouted, “There’s a chicken on the loose! It’s running around everywhere! Whoever can catch it can take it home!”
Hilarious chaos ensued.
Art educated the students about his ranch. He started by explaining how Bar L Bar Ranch has 200 head of ‘free range’ mother cows, which are rounded up and brought back to the ranch in December. At that time, the rancher sells their babies to other ranches. Ranchers rely on both horses and dogs to herd the ‘free range’ cattle.
Art didn’t have to give much thought to becoming a rancher, since he’s a fourth-generation rancher. “That’s what we do to make a livin’ here, is raise cows,” he said.
Five classes from PES toured the ranch in the afternoon, with five different stations set up.
One of the stations was the “Leather Key Chain Craft” — this is when the students got to stamp a piece of leather with the stamp of their choice and make a keychain to take home as a souvenir. Art and his grandson, Elias, a third-grader at Julia Randall Elementary, helped with the stamping, since the stamp had to be hammered into the leather with more force than most of the kids could administer.
Another station called “Cows Make Milk - Free Milk” was run by Eric Rovey of Rovey Dairy, from Glendale, which has 200 head of cattle. He started by explaining that cows make milk but the rancher still goes to the store to buy his milk. “We buy our milk from the store because it’s already pasteurized and homogenized and prepared to drink,” and that the raw cows’ milk has to go through a process before it can be consumed.
He explains the four stages a dairy cow goes through: Momma gets pregnant, has her baby, the rancher takes the baby away and it goes on to live at another ranch, and the cow is milked.
“Are all cows the same?” asked Rovey. He said most people are familiar with the big, black and white Holstein milk cows, but smaller, brown Jersey cows can stand higher temperatures. Rovey has Jersey cows on his dairy farm.
“What is cows’ milk used for, besides to drink?” he asked the curious youngsters. Several children blurted out answers, like, “to make cheese” and “to make ice cream.” The milk cow rancher said cheese is manufactured into 640-pound blocks, sold to factories to be cut up, then packaged and distributed to stores. This seemed to astound the children.
Jared Lyman, son of Art Lyman and husband to Cassie Lyman, manned the station about ranch use of horses and demonstrated how to shoe a horse. Displays on a table related to the horse, such as a saddle, a rope to restrain cattle, cowboy boots with spurs, horse shoes, a file called a rasp, hoof nippers, a comb called a curry comb, a brush, and a bridle. Jared talked about each of the objects and answered numerous questions.
Julee Lyman, Art’s wife, ran the next station called “Cow to Beef.” She explained the different cows on her farm in plain words the children could understand: Daddy is the bull, Momma is the cow, and baby is the calf.
She explained different things about the cows, such as they don’t have any top teeth in the front, have four stomachs, eat corn and salt, and even eat cactus.
She explained their cows are ‘free range’ and other nearby ranchers have ‘free range’ cattle, as well. Each cow is tagged on the ear, kind of like getting your ear pierced, and then each cow is branded with a specific brand unique to each ranch.
The kids got to select their own brands, then branded their paper cow with paint.
Wrapping up the day was the explanation of cattle by-products. Tricia Hale, neighboring cattle owner, and her son Denton Hale were in charge of the “Cattle By-Product” station. Denton also assisted at the “Leather Key Chain Craft.”
At the end of the day, Angie Newbold, of the Arizona Farm Bureau, helped out. Newbold presented a board with pictures of items made with cattle by-products. Students learned that many different things are made from cattle by-products, such as gelatin for chewing gum, paint and brushes, emery boards, crayons, piano keys, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, marshmallows, Rennet Tablets for cheese making and even footballs.
Sometimes called a “pigskin,” footballs are actually made from the skin and hide of cattle and one cow can produce 20 footballs. It takes 600 animals to provide the NFL with one season worth of balls!