“I was born into it,” said Barbara Jackson, Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) member from Tucson, AZ., when I asked her how she got into the cattle business. “Dad was in the business since the early 1940s. He graduated from U.C.-Davis and came to Arizona to help build one of the first cattle feed yards.”
The east and west coasts were big markets for the meat business. “In Los Angeles in the Vernon district there were a lot of streets lined with meat processing companies in the 1940s and 1950s and some are still operating there today,” said Jackson.
Supplying those plants and the fast growing post-WWII Los Angeles population required a lot of cattle, helping give rise to a new industry that began in California and Arizona; the birth of commercial feed yards. One of the pioneers was Jackson’s father, Carl Stevenson.
“Commercial feed yards started in California and Arizona in the 40s and 50s,” Jackson said. “I grew up on a feed yard that my parents founded in 1964. I had the best childhood in the world. It is a faster pace than a ranch. We are shipping and receiving and dealing with the markets every day. We learned how to feed them more efficiently, too,” she said.
Steam-flaked grain was developed with the help of key individuals such as the late Dr. Bart Cardon and Dr. William Hale, both at the University of Arizona. Her Father worked closely with them utilizing the technology in the commercial feedyards. Hale, whose research on steam processing and flaking of cereal grains in the early 1960s, was on the leading edge of technology at the time. It was some of the most important early work in ruminant nutrition and beef cattle feed management.
Jackson attended the University of Arizona for two years before she transferred to Washington State University where she earned a degree in Animal Science with a minor in Agricultural Economics.
Getting back into the feedyard business did not work out though. “I went to work for Syntex, a pharmaceutical company and then did some consulting.” Her career with Syntex took her from sales rep to national accounts coordinator to director of public relations and advertising.
It was during those hectic career-building years that her brother introduced her to Tim Jackson who exported feeder steers from Mexico and managed a ranch in Nevada. Tim Jackson decided to stay in Tucson with Barbara and together they founded Animal Health Express in 1989. The Tucson-based online business sells animal health supplies, tack, livestock equipment and pet supplies.