Socorro County teen attends ranch management camp

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A Socorro County FFA teenager got the opportunity to experience firsthand the many aspects of ranching and the final goal of producing quality beef.

Courtesy photo: Socorro High School sophomore Brianna Lara, of San Acacia, attended the New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp at the Valles Caldera National Preserve June 8-13.

Socorro High School sophomore Brianna Lara, of San Acacia, attended the New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp at the Valles Caldera National Preserve June 8-13. She was one of 28 teens from across the state to attend the camp, and the only one from Socorro County.

During the week-long camp, Brianna and the other participants were challenged 12 hours a day with a college-level curriculum of hands-on activities and lectures.

“Each day’s activities contributed information that the youth used to develop a ranch management plan for the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve,” said ranch camp co-director Jack Blandford, Luna County Extension program director.

“Each day focused on a single aspect of ranch management,” Brianna said. “On the first day we learned how to break down a beef carcass into the end products that wind up in a store’s meat department. Everything from reproduction to processing the beef.”

With a career in veterinary science in mind, Brianna jumped at the chance to be able to dissect a cow embryo.

“It was extremely hands on,” she said.

The succeeding days were divided into three specific areas of managing a successful ranch, including:

• Ranch budgets, goal setting, and the importance of getting cattle marketed to receive the highest value.

• Wildlife management and on what all goes into and the business of outfitting, and guiding hunters in the state. Brianna said she learned forest management using the ax, the match, and the market, and got to experience shooting with the 4-H air rifle trailer, archery and shotgun.

• Day four was Range Day, where Brianna learned how to tackle the problems of invasive species of brush and weeds. Tom Dean, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service, taught basic identification principles and how to record and preserve those species of plants viable to a grazing operation.

• On the final day Brianna she had to presented her ranch plan to a panel of judges made up of successful New Mexico ranch managers, and an audience that included dignitaries and parents.

“It was a great experience. I loved it,” Brianna said.

The annual ranch camp is a collaboration of New Mexico Beef Council, the Valles Caldera Trust, New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and the Cooperative Extension Service.