There is a reassuring consistency to the kinds of people who serve on the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB). They take their volunteerism for the industry seriously, serving on a long list of cattle industry associations and working hard to improve the future for the next generation of ranchers. They are also family farmers, often scions of the third, fourth or fifth generation to work that same piece of land.
Pringle Ranch's Beth Patterson, CBB member since early this year, is a personal showcase for both those traits. A fourth generation rancher, she's served the cattle industry as a Kansas Livestock Association county director, executive committee member and past chair; board member of the Kansas Beef Council, and a member of the Woodson and Kansas Cattlewomen and Kansas Farm Bureau.
The ranch dates back to the 1890's when Patterson's great grandfather, John Pringle, moved to Woodson County, Kansas from Arizona for 'better schools and social privileges' for his eight children. His son, Jim, entered the cattle business in 1930. Patterson's father, J. Richard, expanded with a feedlot/background operation in 1973, a business that's used to start 500 to 800 calves during the winter months and it is still run with help from his widow Mardelle.
Today, Patterson and family run a cow-calf operation from Yates Center, Kansas located about half way between Kansas City and Wichita. A graduate of Kansas State University, another family tradition, she earned a degree in animal science in 1979. Her daughter and fifth generation rancher, Becky Farha, followed in her footsteps, taking the same degree from the same university 30 years later in 2009.
After college, Patterson spent two years working 'off the farm' before returning to help run it in 1981. Today, she runs the ranch with her husband, David, and Becky. "We do custom summer grazing pairs and yearlings, fall grazing dry cows, and starting and wintering calves," she said. "We start about 500 calves in the fall. About 400 cow/calf pairs are summer grazed on the native blue stem grasses."
The business is now called Pringle Ranch and Patterson Farms and it has 4,500 acres of grassland with another 500 acres of hay. Seven hundred acres are devoted to wheat, corn and soybeans. "We feed our dry cows on fescue and crop residue," she said.
"David and I own 65 cows and we partner with my brother, Todd, on summer grass cattle. We also look after another 2,100 acres and 160 cows nearby for the owner who lives in western Oklahoma,' she said.
Totaling it up, the family is responsible for managing over 8,000 acres and they do it with remarkably little help. "Becky, my husband, and I do almost all the work," she said. "We were bigger and had more employees in the 1980's but now we're running a simpler operation with just the three of us."
Patterson attended her first CBB meeting in Denver just a few weeks ago. "I'm still learning," she said, "and it has been very interesting. I was appointed to the Global Growth Committee and I learned a lot about what we do to promote our beef and educate people about our products in other countries. We work with the U.S. Meat Export Federation and they talked with us about the future - about selling beef in other markets."
There is a strong working relationship between people with the CBB and the state beef councils that Patterson thinks is underappreciated. "They don't get enough credit for the job they're doing," she said. "The Board and the state councils' staffs are dedicated professionals who do an outstanding job getting timely information out, staying abreast of beef industry issues and are available to answer producer and consumer questions. They are a huge asset and help get the most out of every dollar spent."