NMSU hosts unique youth ranch management camp at Valles Caldera National Preserve
New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Twenty-nine teens from family-owned New Mexico ranches, an enthusiastic group of instructors from New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Cooperative Extension Service, and the picturesque landscape of the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico created a unique event for the future ranch managers.
“When you capture this much positive energy into a single event, great things happen,” said Manny Encinias, NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist and a member of the camp’s organizing task force.
The youth ranch management program focused on providing hands-on training for future ranch managers and stewards of New Mexico’s natural resources. The program is an expansion of the research and education contractual agreement between NMSU and the Valles Caldera Trust.
Camp participants selected for the program came from ranches in19 New Mexico counties to learn sciencebased skills used successfully on modern-day ranches to improve beef production, natural resource stewardship, wildlife management and fiscal management.
“During the week-long camp, participants were challenged 12 hours a day with a college-level curriculum of hands-on activities and lectures,” Encinias said. “Each day’s activities contributed information that the youth used to develop a ranch management plan for designated areas of the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve.”
Information presented by NMSU Cooperative Extension specialists and county agricultural agents included Beef Quality Assurance training; pros and cons of artificial insemination and estrus synchronization; uses of real-time ultrasound technology to determine pregnancy and estimate carcass traits; and range plant identification and range management techniques to determine stocking rates for grazing.
NMSU Extension wildlife specialists and representatives from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department talked about the importance of co-existing with wildlife, how to estimate wildlife populations, and how to improve wildlife habitats.
The youth were also exposed to various ways to market cattle. They participated in a traditional salebarn mock sale conducted on-site. They also learned about forward contracting cattle through video and online sales, as well as marketing beef and beef products directly to the consumer.
Other camp highlights included fabricating a beef carcass into retail cuts for the camp cooks to prepare during the week and watching a ranch horse training demonstration. The campers also tested their shooting skills at an air rifle mobile recreation unit and an ar chery range.
“We challenged these young people with a rigorous program for five full days,” Encinias said. “They never seemed to weaken. They were like sponges absorbing knowledge all week.”
To put all of the passion, logical thinking and brainpower to good use, the youth were divided into six teams that developed ranch management plans for assigned areas of the preserve, which ranged in size from 4,000 to 5,000 acres. The plans were presented to a panel of judges made up of successful New Mexico ranch managers, and an audience that included dignitaries and parents.
Winning team members were Richard Rush of Melrose, NM; Michael Meyers of Albuquerque, NM; Lukas Mott of Chaparral, NM; Katrina Benson of Taos, NM; and Leonard Trujillo of Los Lunas, NM.
“We all grew from this phenomenal experience, adults included,” Encinias
said. “These young people met every challenge we threw at them, head-on. They demonstrated their unique leadership abilities and team skills. They definitely got out of their comfort zones. And most amazing, they expressed their genuine appreciation and respect for humanity, livestock and the land.
“If these young people are a demonstration of what is in store for our industry, the future looks bright,” Encinias said. — WLJ