I dedicated a series on West Texas ranchers called “Why I Ranch.” Each month I will highlight a rancher in West Texas and ask them to share their story about the ranch life.
Ray and Sandra Pfeuffer make Ranch Life look easy. They have raised a beautiful family. They work hard. They are active in 4H. And, oh yea, they ranch in West Texas. Here is the other half to Ms. Sandra’s answers 🙂
How did you get your start in ranching? My family has always ranched, going back to the 1800’s. It was never our sole source of income, but I have done it my entire life.
How important is agriculture to your family? It is very important to all of us. All of my kids have grown up around it and love working with livestock. I feel I am doing something worth while, helping raise food for our country and other countries as well.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? The weather probably, but then again the weather is not normal anywhere, anymore. I like that multiple species can still be raised in most places, barring coyote problems.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? It seems as if there is not. I believe society as a whole has gotten so far away from the land, they have no clue how food is produced.
Who did you learn the most from along the way? My dad, Billy Pfeuffer, my uncle, Franklin Pfeuffer, my grandpa Raymond Wersterfer and a neighbor growing up in Comal county, George Lackey.
Did you know that Texas female operators have increased approximately by 50% and the number of acres they manage by about 15% since 1997? For August we are featuring Sandra Pfeuffer. Sandra and her family ranch just outside of Christoval in Schleicher County. Her family is extremely active in 4-H and there isn’t much that this woman doesn’t do. As I am sure you could say about all women ranching and raising families in Texas – they do it all. Here is Sandra’s story…
How did you get your start in ranching? I have always been exposed to ranching because my Mom’s side of the family has always ranched. My mom married a carpenter and she stayed at home and raised 7 children, took care of the homestead and made sure we stayed active in 4-H and/or FFA when we were growing up. However, my actual start in ranching, was when I married my husband Ray in 1996. I was working at Tyson Foods in Seguin, Texas and he worked for his dad, who had an earth moving business, and ranched on the side. The Pfeuffer Family, like my mom’s family had been ranching since they immigrated to Texas. In 1999, my husband encouraged me to quit my job at Tyson to be a stay at home mom, aka full time ” Ranch wife”, I remember my boss telling me I was making the “biggest mistake of my life, you will never be happy as a rancher’s wife, you won’t be able to provide insurance for your family, you will never have enough, because every successful rancher had a wife who worked a “real job”, you will get bored.” I am glad, I took his advice with a grain of salt, and still decided to retire from my”real job” and begin my life as a rancher’s wife. Doing whatever my rancher husband, needed me to do. For the record, I am happy, we do have insurance, we usually have enough, I still work, just don’t get a paycheck, and I am hardly ever bored.
How important is agriculture to your family? Agriculture is our life, our income is totally dependent on agriculture. Agriculture has provided our children with valuable lessons and values, that we hope they will pass on to the next generation.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? I have always said “That being a rancher is like being a quail. Something is always after you.” You have to be vigilant and keep watch on the water, the weather, the predators, the market, the cows, the sheep, the goats, the horses, the fences, the bills, the tax collector, the list goes on and on. When you ranch, something is always going to happen that causes you to take two steps back, and you need to be ready, so when it happens you can quickly step forward again. We try to be very proactive controlling brush, Ray spends most of his time improving the land, we want to have as much grass as possible to make it through the drought. Being in West Texas is unique for many reasons. The weather, you never know what the weather is going to be like. Most days your praying for a rain, and then there will be that day when a massive cold front blew in overnight, it’s freezing, and your out fixing water gaps that got knocked down in the rain over night, using every ounce of strength, to try to stand up a fence gap with shit and everything else frozen on it, while trying to be thankful for the rain you just received. Definitely, have to be careful what you ask for in West Texas. Lightening, I have lived in four different areas of Texas, the lightening in West Texas is by far the most impressive, it can definitely have you gathering spray trailers and neighbors in a heart beat. But the most unique thing about ranching in West Texas is water. Most, West Texas ranches utilize well water, so water definitely determines what your day will be like.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? NO! I don’t think children today realize how important agriculture is to our society. I am thankful for programs like the Extension Service and the Farm Bureau that are trying at the elementary levels. But, I would like to see more effort at the middle school and high school level when the kids are starting to actually think for themselves. We really need to impress on them the importance of agriculture and reinforce what we attempted to teach them in elementary school.
Who did you learn the most from along the way? My husband, he has been doing this his whole life. It is what he does and what he is good at. He has trained the kids and I well.
Dr. Jake Landers
After a 30-year career with Extension, I hope I have half the brains, sanity, and passion that my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Jake Landers possesses. Dr. Landers set the bar pretty dang high and it is an honor to learn from him in the pasture and in the classroom. As I said in an earlier post, Dr. Landers morphed into a Range Father of mine overnight. The second I met him he was my hero.
Dr. Jake Landers served as an Extension Range Specialist at the Texas A & M Research and Extension Center, San Angelo in 1979. He developed techniques and procedure for individual plant treatment of brush and prickly pear cactus for ranchers in 17 counties. He initiated prescribed burning as a procedure for managing rangeland to reduce undesirable species and stimulate grasses. He wrote short articles for newspapers and magazines and continued writing after his retirement from the Extension Service. He was recognized as the outstanding person in Range by the Texas Section of the Society for Range Management in 1990 and Sustained Lifetime Achievement Award by the parent society in 2016.
Jake described himself as a gentleman rancher at best, but I beg to differ. His Dad was in full charge until Jake was 60, and his brother Fritz assumed the duties until they divided up 20 years later. Since then Dr. Landers has helped decide when and where to graze and when and where to burn, control mesquite and pricklypear. Dr. Landers is not trying to make a profit, but he is still learning and operating by experiment. Most of which I am convinced is adaptive management, but Jake makes it look so dang easy, fun, and effortless that it is more stewardship than anything.
How did you get your start in ranching? I learned a lot about raising sheep, goats and cattle growing up on the ranch until I was 18. I had intended to get a degree and come home to ranch. But the drought and other interests kept me in school until I was independent of making a living on the ranch.
How important is agriculture to your family? Agriculture was important growing up because it was 95% of our income. Now it is important as an enjoyable experimental hobby.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? Speaking more of the Edwards Plateau, the mix of vegetation allows raising of cattle sheep and goats while keeping a viable white tailed deer herd for hunting.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? Not in the least. My experience with teachers in conservation workshops indicates that most do not have an adequate background in agriculture to provide the information.
Who did you learn the most from along the way? I learned about plants mostly on my own. I learned a lot working on programs with county agents and a lot about burning from Larry White, Range Extension Specialist at Uvalde.
Frank and Sims Price Ranch
In 2012, Price Ranch was recognized for their range management when they were presented the Outstanding Rangeland Stewardship Award by the Texas Section, Society for Range Management and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. And it was recognized as a 2013 regional Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP) winner during the 2013 Cattle Industry Summer Conference.
How did you get your start in ranching? The Price family began ranching in 1876. Frank Price has managed his family’s ranch for 40 years, first in partnership with his father, and then in partnership with his son Sims in 2011. Together, they run their cow-calf operation on 68,000 acres. Sims and his wife Krista are the fifth generations of Prices on the ranch, which they operate in four counties. The ranch operates with three primary income enterprises including sheep, cattle, and hunting.
How important is agriculture to your family? The Price family has two primary goals. First, the ranch is operated as a separate business, self-sustaining, and is expected to show an annual profit. Second, but equal, their goal is to leave their natural resources in the best possible condition for the next generations.The family is dedicated to these goals. They have recently started using Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) dollars to make continuous improvements to the ranch, and they also use controlled and prescribed burning to their benefit by adjusting their livestock grazing charts to include speed of moves, flash grazing, animal density and total deferment.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? In a normal year, they receive 18 inches of rainfall. These last two years have been abnormal, with exceptional drought and devastating wildfires, particularly in their area,” said Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President Joe Parker, Jr. “Even though they had to reduce their herd to protect their land, they still found lessons in flexibility during the adversities. The Price family’s experiences with wildfire lead them to be a leading voice in Texas on inter-agency cooperation in fighting wildfires. We are glad to have his practical and sound leadership in such an important area.” The father-son partnership at Price Ranch represents the fourth and fifth generations of Prices to ranch in west Texas.
This October we are featuring Mr. James K. Rooter Brite, Jr. from Bowie, Texas. Rooter is a father, rancher, conservationist, and my friend. The Brite Ranch has been a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) for Rooter’s entire life. He has been a director of the TSCRA since 1999, and has served on their Agriculture and Research and Natural Resources and Environmental committees since 1994. He has served as a director of the Upper-Elm Red Soil and Water Conservation District since 1979. He has served on the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts board and on the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. He represents the National Association of Conservation Districts on the National Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative steering committee. Additionally, he serves on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Natural Resource and Environment Committee.
How did you get your start in ranching? I am a third generation on this ranch. I was born and raised on the ranch where my grandfather J.A. Brite purchased in 1929. I took over my dad’s cow herd in the mid-1960s and purchased the ranch from dad in 1974, when I began full-time management of the ranch with my wife, Lynda, and eventually my son, J.K.
How important is agriculture to your family? Agriculture is about one third of my income. You have to look at the cumulative value of everything you do on the land. Management decisions you make now will make a difference 30 years from now. It all adds up, whichever direction you go. At an early age I learned the cause and effect of different land management practices. These first-hand lessons I learned from the land stimulated my desire to learn more and be diversified in my management. I apply land management practices that are practical, using common sense. I don’t do things because they are what somebody else thinks might be good. I do things because they work on this land, and that’s what makes the difference.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? The only constant is inconsistency with the weather and markets.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? There needs to be a much greater attention on ag, but it must be taught by qualified and experienced teachers.
Who did you learn the most from along the way? By college age, I was intrigued by the land so I enrolled in Texas Christian University’s two-year Ranch Management program. TCU Professor Chip Merrill inspired me to try new things and not be afraid to try something different. I approached the resource management of the ranch using a short-term reactionary response to changing forage, production, and anticipated market condition. My long-term management is of a continuing upward trend in success of native forage. I feel like we can utilize our current management methods and maintain, or in areas of need, improve the productivity of this ranch in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.
Thank you Rooter!
This September, Mr. John Treadwell will share with us his story on “Why I Ranch”.
John ranches in Tom Green, Menard, and Schleicher counties. John is the recipient of the 2006 Statewide Lone Star Land Steward and Leopold Conservation awards. John has a mix of sheep and cattle on his operation and holds resource stewardship at the top of his priorities.
How did you get your start in ranching? I grew up as an unpaid cowboy during the peak of the screwworm infestation. Getting rid of those flies is one thing the Government did correctly. Later, after college and the Navy, I got a lot of pleasure from gardening, producing food for my family and neighbors when I lived in Dallas and gardening was also a stress reducer from my corporate job. Years later, after I sold my business, my son Brian asked me to assist him in his guiding/outfitting hunting business based on the family’s 4000 acre ranch in West Texas. We soon outgrew the home ranch and needed to lease other properties for hunting, but were appalled at the condition of the available ranches. We decided to look for a block of land that would enable us to manage the deer, quail and turkey populations to ensure sustainable and controllable numbers for our hunting operation. He eventually found two adjoining ranching properties for sale and we had 8000 acres in Eastern Menard County. Hunting alone would not float the note so we added cattle and began dividing the existing pastures to apply our version of high intensity/short duration rotation system so that we could bank grazing and would not need to feed our stock during the winter.
How important is agriculture to your family? I think my family is more aware of what goes into the food we consume, and are appreciative of the work we go to in order to produce it. But, a lot of gardening is not fun and the same goes for chickens, sheep and cattle. So often there is recognition but not commitment.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? West Texas ranching causes one to be cautious in his planning because nature is so unpredictable and we are so near the desert as far as rainfall’s reliability. We need to be continuously grateful for what we receive because it could easily be worse.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? I think that some exposure to plant and animal growth and behavior could be part of Biology but since no university has a degree in sustainable ag or organic ag, where would the instructors come from?
Who did you learn the most from along the way? I’d have to credit Rodale, Allan Savory, Walt Davis and Jimmy Powell and of course Holistic Ranch Management. I observed my Grandfather and Father as being the opposite but still influential. Make a plan, observe, and re-plan.
Thank you John!