Eastern Navajo Cattle Herd Improvement

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $29,992.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Anthony Howard
Eastern Navajo Cattle Growers

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: livestock breeding, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Suitable ranching

    In suitable cattle marketing, Navajo ranchers introduce cattle management procedures in herd health, breeding systems and rest-rotational grazing systems. In summer 2010, Eastern Navajo ranchers grazed 98 head of cattle for 120 days at Valles Caldera National Preserve summer grazing range in Jemez Spring, New Mexico. In summer 2011, Navajo ranchers conducted rotational grazing management on their tribal ranches. This year, Navajo ranchers improved their income with genetically proven Angus bulls and used an added valued calf program. The six participating ranchers advanced their ranching management skills and applied these techniques to their own ranch operation. The participants successfully topped their calf crop market every year since.

    The ranchers applied what they have learned in the past two years to conduct self-study projects at their tribal ranches. Last year ranchers synchronized their breeding season. The purpose for this breeding system was to produce a uniform calf crop for 2012. The ranchers focused most of their attention on a calf vaccination program. They vaccinated all their market calves for shipping fever complex and weaned all their calves to improve marketing reputation and guaranteeing a healthier market calf. Lastly we learned that by preserving our range land grasses, we can increase our forage quality, which in turn improved our herd conception rates.

    The final results of the herd improvement project showed we had plenty of range land forage to last us all year around. We increased our conception rate. Participating ranchers improved their herd genetic quality by using registered Angus bulls. Our calf crops were uniform on age and color. Our weaning weight on our calves had a moderate to a slight increase. Our market income dramatically improved by 44 cents. Most importantly Navajo tribal ranchers are being coming more self-sustaining ranchers.


    If there is a will, there is a way

    The Eastern Navajo Cattle Herd Improvement project was a two-year project. The project consisted of grazing management, breed improvement and improving cattle marketability income. The project started in 2010 and ended 2012. Six Navajo ranch families came together to better their ranch business in herd genetics, forage quality and increasing the sale income. Our first goal was to rest our range from grazing for one growing season. Our second goal was to increase our genetic traits by using superior bulls. Our third goal was to increase the value of our calf crop product. Our mission was to become self-sustaining ranchers and set a trend for other ranchers to follow.

    Project objectives:

    1. Establish a baseline for the quality of the participating producers' herds. This will be accomplished by sending three calves from each ranch to the Ranch to Rail program at the Clayton Animal Research Center in late fall 2010. Cows will be tested for daily gain, yield grade and carcass quality.

    2. Identify the six heifers from each herd that appear to be most well-suited to breeding in the Crownpoint-area climate/geography and bearing high quality market calves. These heifers will be sent in January 2011 to the NMSU Agricultural Science Center in Tucumcari to have genetic testing and to be put on a special feed diet. They will then be artificially inseminated with semen from bulls whose genetic qualities best complement the heifers' genetics. Resulting calves will be monitored for their adaptation to the environment, weight gain and market quality.

    3. Provide two trainings (summer 2010 and 2011) to participating producers (and any other area-producers) on developing a breeding program using their own replacement heifers, including training on how to keep records of their cows' pedigree.

    4. In fall 2010, conduct trich testing and bull semen testing on several bulls from each herd to ensure their suitability for exchanging among the producers.

    5. Provide participating producers with partial reimbursement to send part of their herd to Valles Caldera in summer 2010 for summer grazing to let their range rest. Producers will observe and document resulting changes in their land.

    6. Hold three to five meetings among the producers to discuss ways to develop a more uniform and higher quality herd. These meetings will be facilitated by Anthony Howard and will occur between May 2010 and May 2011.

    7. Develop an audiovisual teaching tool (either a Power Point with voice over or a video) that captures the experience of the producers in this project and educates other producers on how to make similar changes in their operations.

    8. Invite all ranchers in the area as well as Navajo ranchers in other areas to a meeting at the end of the two-year project in which the results of the project will be presented.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.