Hi, my name is Renee Russ Jackson. I’ve been a member of the Elko County and Nevada CattleWomen for about 25 years. I grew up on a family cattle and sheep ranching operation outside Ferndale, California. Our family ranches are on the north coast of Humboldt County and date back to the 1850s. My husband John and I live on the YP Ranch, 90 miles north of Elko. John is the general manager of the YP and it originally was developed by his grandparents. We are very fortunate that all three of our kids love the ranch and their time spent here. Our oldest daughter and her husband also live and work on the ranch full time. Our son is graduating from Cal Poly in December and then he will also be coming back to the ranch to work on the cowboy crew and on construction projects such as water developments.
We have a cow/calf operation and raise all of our replacement heifers. My typical day changes depending on the time of year. Early in the fall, the cows “come home” off the desert and forest range. We gather pairs and process the calves (vaccinate & brand the slicks or unbranded calves) and sort them into steer cow/calf pairs and heifer cow/calf pairs in preparation for shipping and weaning. We usually saddle horses around 5:00 am and meet up with the cowboy crew at the 7J Ranch. We head out from there to various locations on the ranch to gather cows & steer calves and wean and ship the steer calves. Later in the fall we gather and wean the heifer calves and get them moved into the weaning lots. We love working cattle but once in awhile when things get challenging, I try to pay attention to the lead guys, keep my mouth shut, do my job and persevere. Most days I get home by 3:00pm and catch horses for the next day, do chores and get dinner started.
The wildfires of 2018 changed the ranch considerably this past summer. The Martin and South Sugarloaf fires had a huge impact on the wildlife and fences. We lost a few head of cattle, some haystacks and a lot of fall feed. With so much destruction all around, we also have to stop and count our blessings ... we were so fortunate that we didn’t lose more cattle... and thanks to our good friends, crew and Independence Valley Volunteers, we didn’t lose any horses or homes.
The best thing about ranch life is the freedom and bond of a tight family and crew. The toughest thing at times is our location; being 2 hours from town has its ups and downs. A couple of days ago my best horse became ill after a long, cold day of weaning; so thankful our youngest daughter (who is a licensed veterinary technician) knew what to do. She did a super job of administering a shot of banamine in the vein. A couple of hours of walking and Boomer was on the road to recovery. Most days at the ranch are really good, fulfilling days. There are things that come up like equipment breakdowns, severe weather, marketing the cattle and government leases that have the potential to be stressful. I worked for a bank for all four summers of college. Even though I liked the people, it was pretty obvious that I needed to earn a living outside. The thought of being in an urban area very long would totally stress me out. The best way to make a good day is to plan for it. I’m a bit of a weather junkie and try to dress for it. We have to be on the self reliant side to get along with our climate and remote location. Thankfully John and our son-in-law are pretty mechanical and they can fix just about anything from equipment, machinery, etc to furnaces and home plumbing. Youtube is good for something! My favorite season is spring. I absolutely love branding and going on the wagon is a huge highlight every year. Most days we set up a horse shoe-shaped trap in a new location. The calves are feeling good on green grass and the wildflowers are amazing. It’s a great motivator to get in shape and stay healthy. Spring and summer are also great for getting in a few quarter horse shows, ranch rodeos and half marathons. There are good things to look forward to with the change of the seasons. On the 4th of July our family takes side-by-sides up into the mountains behind our house. We take a picnic lunch and lots of pictures. What a wonderful day we always have... exploring, taking in the beauty and awe of the mountains and wildlife. We can only hope and pray that in time the mountains will recover from the totality of the wildfire that engulfed it this summer.
At the Cattlemen's Convention a couple weeks ago, one of the speakers was saying that only 2%of our population is involved in agriculture. We help produce some of the safest and best tasting meat for consumers. I think it’s important for folks to know that beef is nutritious and delicious as well as a great source of protein. The ranch land is in better shape when the grass is grazed responsibly. We love our cattle and treat them well. This lifestyle allows us to do what we are meant to do and hopefully, with good stewardship, hard work and perseverance, the ranch will continue on to the generations to follow.