Florida Roots

Florida Roots

St. Cloud’s Deseret Cattle & Citrus Wins 2021 BQA Cow-Calf Award

by LEAH GIESS

“A Florida cowboy is different than a western cowboy – we all do the same job, but in a totally different environment,” says Jason Marriage with Deseret Ranch & Citrus. Raising cattle in Central Florida has the added obstacle of sub-tropical conditions. Still, for Deseret Ranch, it’s all about adaptability, willingness to go the extra mile and commitment to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) best management practices.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association recently announced that Deseret Cattle & Citrus in St. Cloud is the recipient of its 2021 BQA Cow-Calf Award.

The National BQA Award recognizes outstanding beef and dairy producers, marketers, and educators that best demonstrate animal care and handling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective operations. 

Deseret Cattle & Citrus began in 1950 with a 52,141-acre purchase of land. Today, the ranch consists of approximately 300,000 acres of land with 42,000 head of cattle. Deseret Ranch operates an integrated system, running each stage from cow-calf to stocker to feedyard.

After more than 70 successful years in operation, Deseret Ranch has committed to innovation and progressive thinking. In order to adapt and capitalize on efficiency, the ranch integrated BQA practices in every aspect of their cattle handling.

“We took a lot of effort to change the way to do things when working cattle and it’s amazing how slowing down has sped us up,” says Doc Platt with Deseret Ranch. “One thing BQA has done the most for us is dramatically improving our safety.”

BQA is the cornerstone of Deseret Ranch’s animal welfare and handling program, and for the cowboys at the ranch, treating livestock right is not what they do but who they are. The success of Deseret Ranch’s animal welfare and handling program is directly correlated to the dedication and commitment of its quality employees. BQA provides a framework for the ranch to teach employees and allows a standard of quality to be followed. Deseret Ranch even adopted a unique and personal implementation of their cattle handling creed. Each new employee must read and sign the creed, which emphasizes the values that are so important to its business.

“The reason we’re able to maintain such a good and precise system is we’re able to recruit people who have tremendous talent and have a desire to do well,” says Parker Ussery with Deseret Ranch. “When you have good talent and good resources, that drive of being unified is much easier to achieve.”

At Deseret Ranch, accountability and continuous improvement is a top priority. Every year, an animal welfare audit is conducted on every unit of the ranch to benchmark their BQA progress. One hundred cows are processed during the audit, and data is collected on hot shot use, squeeze chute operation and cattle speed exiting the chute. The audit also records information on the status of loading and scale areas, fences and lanes, and gives constructive criticism to the unit manager on appropriate improvements for future use.

Deseret Ranch is also a model operation for working in harmony with the natural systems where they believe the land can fulfill many functions. They simultaneously run cattle, manage wildlife, produce citrus, and harvest timber, all while fulfilling important environmental purposes.

“We spend a lot of time, energy and effort making sure that what we do is right for both the cattle and all the other species that share this beautiful expansive land as their home,” says Clint Richardson, general manager for Deseret Ranch.

Deseret Ranch’s dedication to sustainability and best management practices ultimately grows consumer trust in beef and beef production practices.

In an effort to promote a positive public perception of BQA guidelines and advocate for the beef industry, Deseret Ranch entered into a long-term pasture land lease with a local high school located adjacent to the ranch. The lease provides junior high and high school students a unique opportunity to learn and implement BQA practices and principles, positively promote the beef industry, and learn in a hands-on laboratory. Deseret Ranch actively partners with the school district to ensure future generations better understand and value the beef industry’s contribution to animal welfare and feeding the world.

“We want consumers to be able to look back into the history of the product and know that that animal was humanely treated,” Richardson says. “We want consumers to know that we followed BQA guidelines and that we are doing the right things at every step of the supply chain.”