“You Can Set Your Calendar by the Curlews”
Spring is in full swing on the three-generation Copeland and Sons Hereford Ranch 18 miles north of Nara Visa in Union County, New Mexico. “The curlews always nest here. You can set your calendar by their arrival on April 1,” says Cliff Copeland, President of the New Mexico Beef Council. The gramma and buffalo grasses are still mostly brown, but a little rain will bring the green shoots close to the ground right up, Cliff says. “We can hear the migratory birds now, the Canada geese and sandhill cranes flying north, and the mallard ducks that nest here are arriving.”
But the best signs of spring are the healthy baby calves now arriving. Calving season from Feb.-April is one of Cliff’s favorite times of year, along with the branding season that follows. That’s when the Copelands and nearby ranchers “neighbor up” the old-fashioned way to help each other get the chore done while they visit and catch up.
Part of the Copelands’ daily ritual is a morning family visit, often by phone, between Cliff and his photographer wife Pat; son Matt and his wife Kyra; and Cliff’s parents, Cliff Sr. and Barbara, to prioritize and divide up the responsibilities that need tending that day. “Day off is not even in our vocabulary,” Cliff observes. “This is a hard and healthy lifestyle. My Dad is 79 and he still puts in a full day’s work. He is still active in every part of the ranch.”
Cliff grew up on the ranch and never thought about being anything other than a rancher. He left home to study Animal Science at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces and returned with a knowledge of genetics. He is able to see the genetic selection process, the results of their choices, every year with the arrival of the baby calves.
“The weather has been cooperative,” he says of this year’s calving season. “It’s too dry now. We could use some rain, and that may be coming soon”