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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU to host youth ranch management camp at Valles Caldera National Preserve

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service anticipates repeating the success of last year's New Mexico Youth Ranch Management Camp by hosting the second annual event June 3-8 at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico.

Man talking to youth in front of cow in squeeze chute.
Eric Scholljegerdes, NMSU animal and range science assistant professor, talks to New Mexico Youth Ranch Camp participants about a cow's digestive system. Registration deadline for the second annual camp is April 20. Visit http://nmyrm.nmsu.edu for more information. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

"Last year's camp was a great success across the board," said Manny Encinias, NMSU Extension beef cattle specialist and camp committee member. "The event is designed to be a unique educational experience and last year's camp definitely exceeded our expectations."

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 will receive 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.

Throughout the week, participants will work in teams and ultimately present a ranch management plan before a review panel as they compete for prizes and scholarships.

According to Benson, who was on last year's champion ranch management plan team, the camp structure and volunteers brought out "self-discovery, helping each of us find and tell 'our ranching story' to discover who we are as ranchers. I learned more in my week of ranch camp than in any other summer program I've attended!"

Applicants should contact Patrick Torres, Santa Fe County Extension agriculture agent, at 505-471-4711, or visit the camp's website at http://nmyrm.nmsu.edu for information and to submit an online application.

Applications are due April 20. A panel of industry leaders will review the applications and select the participants by May 1. Successful applicants must submit a $250 camp fee by May 15th.