The orphaned calf presented a challenge for the Lyman family.
“He was tricky; stealing milk from other cows then sneaking into the bushes,” said Jared, a sixth-generation rancher, now living and ranching in Gisela and ranching in Tonto Basin.
Jared, his wife, Cassie, and their four boys — Elias 13, Haskin 10, Tate 6 and Pratt 3 — and his parents Arthur and Julee, still live the hard, ingenious, family-centered life of the people who settled Rim Country — with a modern twist.
Jared and Cassie kept an eye open for the furtive, orphan calf until they figured out where he hid. Once they captured the wayward orphan — or doggie — the family paired him up with a cow that had lost her calf.
A creative solution, but only one of many the ranching family makes each day to keep the operation on track.
“You do it because you love the life,” said Cassie.
She’s a first-generation rancher who grew up with a hobby farm in the hills near Riverside, Calif. When she met Jared at college in Utah, she knew the ranching life was for her.
Ranching lies at the heart of the settlement of Rim Country. In the late 1870s, the vast tracks of empty grassland beckoned ranchers to come and settle with their herds.
They faced Apache trying to hold onto their homeland as well as disease, hunger, floods and drought. But the ranch life also offered rich rewards — family time, sunrises and sunsets, nature, connection with animals and pride in providing sustenance for others. All that’s still true.
“We work with the kids,” said Cassie, who not only works with the boys on chores, but home-school, too.
The early ranchers had to wear many hats, business owner, breeder, horticulturist, food preservationist, salesman, veterinarian, builder, repairman, farrier, meteorologist and economist.
And that also still holds for the Lymans and other ranchers in Rim Country who continue ranching today, only add range management, marketing specialist, mechanic, plumber and electrician to the list of skills needed to run a modern ranch.
Take the past year’s drought, which presented a host of challenges for the Lymans, including the plight of an orphaned calf.
To save the rangeland during the drought, the Lymans sent some cattle to an Idaho feed yard and weaned some calves early and sent them to Kansas to beef up for sale.
“We went to Kansas because I had heard this one sale yard was the best,” said Jared.
Turns out, he found an even better sale yard elsewhere in the state that would pay a good price for his crossbred cattle — Brangus — a mixture of Brahman and Angus better able to deal with the steep terrain and scarce forage of Arizona rangeland.
“A guy said to me, ‘I would recommend you go to this (different sale lot) area because of the Brahma,’” said Jared.
The Lymans got a good price for their feeder calves, staving off a big loss on the year.
Next, they saved their beef cattle by sending them up to Idaho where they remain today, grazing.
Then to sustain the remaining cattle, they delivered between 2,500 to 3,000 gallons of water to stock tanks a day.
“The hauled water helped wildlife, too,” said Jared.
Originally, the Lymans came from a ranch in the Grand Staircase-Escalante area of Utah.
When the government created the 1.8 million-acre national monument in 1996 — everything changed on the Lyman homestead.
“It came around our farm and circled it,” said Jared. “I grew up in that area.”
Jared said BLM came in and changed all the rules.
“My grandpa said, ‘We’ve had enough.’ So the family went to Oregon,” he said.
But Jared stayed in Utah and eventually went to work for the BLM.
“I was a BLM range technician,” said Jared. “That included enforcement, rainfall assessment, forage for cattle, (basically) what the affect of the livestock was on the land.”
“It’s reading the range to understand the science behind it,” she said.
Jared worked for the BLM for years, but missed ranching.
“I wanted to be in production,” he said.
Arizona offered the ranching family what six generations had treasured — access to rangeland and policies that support a ranching lifestyle.
Finding a home in Arizona
The extended family, that includes Cassie, Jared, their four boys and Jared’s parents, live on the Bar-L-Bar ranch in Gisela. Jared’s parents own that ranch, while Cassie and Jared own the Hat ranch in Tonto Basin.
The Bar-L-Bar has a 24,000-acre grazing allotment. The Hat has 14,000 acres.
The allotments in Arizona are managed by a single ranch, which makes them easier to manage than the shared allotments in Utah.
Jared gave full credit to the University of Arizona and its representatives for creating a “management plan that takes into consideration the resources.”
Take the irrigation ditch the Gisela ranch has a water right to. That ditch irrigates a huge pasture near the family’s home.
“When we moved here it was a field of mesquite trees,” said Cassie. “We cleared it and now it’s 15 acres of irrigated pasture.”
Using genes for best results
Even their hardy Brangus love the pasture as a break from the tough rangeland.
“They have more heat and insect tolerance,” he said. More sure-footed, they can go longer without water.
But that Brangus genealogy can create problems as well, said Cassie.
“The American Angus Association did so well at marketing, people prefer to only eat black Angus beef,” said Cassie. “If you ate the same steak (from our cattle) you couldn’t tell the difference.”
In fact, it’s creating that consistent quality of beef that lies at the heart of all the compromises and creative responses ranchers go through.
The Lymans not only sell locally in the Rye market, they also sell at stockyards in Arizona and the Midwest.
The Lymans say they must constantly find new markets.
For instance, they’ve started selling a whole or half side of beef directly to consumers.
“They can come out and pick a cow, keep the hide, whatever,” said Cassie.
She said they have also packaged meat to sell at the local Rye market.
“It’s hard to keep that constantly on the shelves,” she said.
The delicate balance between the needs of a cow and the resources available, the budget to feed and care for that cow and the cost to butcher, package and deliver a consistent product requires attention to every detail.
• An understanding of the life cycle of the cow.
• A willingness to do what it takes to raise that cow so it reaches its best.
• An awareness that the grazing allotment only allows for a certain number of cattle.
• Finding creative ways to market the beef.
On top of all that, the couple works to train the four boys in the fine art of running a ranch.
The older boys already have steers named Hot Shot and Bubulae and a female pig named Tornado they will show through 4-H at the Gila County Fair. For the last few weeks, Cassie has driven the boys around to deliver project buyers letters for the livestock sale.
4-H and FFA, two agricultural education programs for elementary and high school students, teaches children how to keep records on the whole process of raising an animal for market. Hopefully the child completes raising the animal by the time their local fair comes around. 4-H and FFA then teach them presentation and sales skills so they can show and sell their animal.
Like all ranchers who get to know their animals intimately, Cassie said the sale experience could be difficult.
“Sometimes there are tears,” she said.
As Cassie and Jared wound up their interview, Haskin brought out Tornado, the pig, to cool off in the mud from the over 100-degree heat.
Tornado has quite the personality and loved showing off for the camera.
The ranch offers the boys a huge area to play with swings and fences to climb — plus the opportunity to interact with animals from the tame to wild.
The huge cottonwood tree had a raptor chick screeching for attention. The year before, two babies fell to the ground. One broke his leg, but the other recovered after a bit of attention. Cassie and the boys put him back in his nest and his mother took care of the rest.
“It was such an awesome experience,” she said.
Cassie then had Haskin show off both Hot Shot and a bull his older brother Elias plans on showing off in December at the Arizona Nationals Livestock Show.
Pratt insisted on showing off the new batch of 2-day-old kittens hidden in the hay.
“Wanna hold one?” he asked handing over a black and white kitten dressed in a tuxedo.
Around the corner, Haskin crowed, “Look at all these eggs!”
The nest not only had duck eggs, but chicken eggs.
“The ducks will sit and hatch them for the chickens,” said Cassie.
The final exhibit of the day?
The lot with not only the beef cattle available for sale, but the foster mother and the orphaned calf.
“He looks happy,” said Haskin.
A perfect ending to a wondrous visit to a centuries-old way of life.