In an effort to bring young people back to cattle ranching, specialists at New Mexico State University have developed a pair of educational programs -- the Youth Ranch Management Camp and the US Beef Academy – aimed at teenagers interested in ranching.
The second annual New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp took place June 3 through 8 at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico.
"The event is designed to be a unique educational experience and last year's camp definitely exceeded our expectations," says Manny Encinias, NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist and camp committee member. The camp, designed for 15 to 19-year-old New Mexico youth, is an effort to reverse the aging trend in ranching. Nationally, the average age in the ranching community continues to increase as more young people are opting to leave the ranch for careers outside production agriculture.
As a result, the fabric of rural economies, as well as ranching tradition and cultures, are in jeopardy. In a rural state like New Mexico, the situation has significant implications.
Last year's 29 camp attendees represented ranching families from 19 New Mexico counties.
With positive outcomes from last year's camp and the strong support of the program by the state's beef industry leaders, the planning committee hopes to have more youth from across the state apply for this year's camp and fill the 30 available slots.
"The ranch camp is a tremendous opportunity for high school youth and is the first of its kind across states I have been involved with," said Dennis Braden, general manager of Swenson Land and Cattle Co. in Stamford, Texas, and a camp volunteer and presenter.
"What the kids learned at the ranch camp has a direct impact on the quality of beef produced for future generations," said Dina Reitzel, executive director of the New Mexico Beef Council. The council was one of many industry organizations and companies that helped sponsor the inaugural camp.
The 30 youth selected to attend this year's camp received training in all aspects of ranch management.
The camp is "packed with information," according to 2011 camp attendee Katrina Benson, whose family ranches in northern New Mexico. "We fabricated our own beef carcass, got to feel inside of a live cow's stomach," said Benson, "I now know how to give shots correctly to cattle, how to monitor rangeland, manage wildlife and their habitats, and lastly, how to market beef."
"Participants will leave this experience with a greater appreciation for not only new skills and practices, but also the economics of each practice as it relates to cash flow for a ranch in the Southwest," Encinias said.