It’s said that the bawl of a calf is music to a cowboy’s ear. And there are plenty of bawlin’ calves at Rosewood Ranch in rural Pawnee County these days--along with plenty of happy cowpokes.
Tammy Hammond, Executive Director of Rosewood Services, and her husband, Eric Hammond, Rosewood Ranch Manager, wanted to give consumers a new job option and introduced large, impressive SimAngus cattle onto the ranch. (SimAngus are a mix of Red Angus and Simmental cattle.) Assistant Ranch Manager Kenny Son, a long-time friend of the Hammonds, has a strong background in working with cattle and, along with the Hammonds, helped turn the dream of having SimAngus at the ranch into a reality. While the herd will earn money for the full-working ranch, the most important purpose of having the SimAngus cattle is to expand the working knowledge of the consumers who choose to work with the new program.
Rosewood has provided quality employment opportunities for its consumers since the agency was founded; the cattle operation is one more of the many ways Rosewood consumers earn excellent wages while being engaged in work they choose--and enjoy. Consumers will be involved with all aspects of the business, including taking cattle to market.
Rosewood believes in the “employment first” model and was pleased when, in August, 2010, the Governor charged the state of Kansas to create and support a system that expects, supports, and rewards integrated, competitive employment as the first option for every individual with a disability. Resources are now being refocused to promote people being employed, regardless of the severity of their disabilities.” The Governor then stated “individuals with physical, cognitive and mental disabilities are a significant percentage of the Kansas population. It is unacceptable for this group to experience disproportionate unemployment, and it is imperative that Kansas government demonstrate leadership in addressing this problem...Persons with disabilities should be contributing members of their communities and employment is fundamental to self-worth and quality of life.”
Helping consumers enjoy a high quality of life is important to the Hammonds and so, on a clear day where the prairie winds blew over the herd of red and white cattle, several Rosewood consumers were introduced to their new and challenging employment opportunity. Consumers helped with a bit of sortin,’ ear taggin’ and vaccinatin.’ Now, on any given day, ranch workers bustle back and forth between jobs, including tending the cattle and cleaning the stalls of the ranch’s horses. (The ranch is home to a horse-breeding program, as well as to its award-winning Therapeutic Riding Program, which utilizes beautiful American Quarter horses as the foundation of its equine activities.)
With the addition of the cattle operation, consumers are now employed herding cattle into various pens, operating the cattle chute and tail gate. On the day this writer visited the ranch, the group helped load the ear tag machine, made sure each animal had the correct ear tag number, counted and sorted the cattle, built a corral, set up watering tanks and stood ready to jump into action when asked.
Charles Bortz calls himself a “ranch hand” and says he “likes working with the cattle as much as the horses.” He is learning a different perspective on ranch work--from the ground, instead of on the back of one of the Hammonds’ American Quarter horses during therapeutic riding activities. Bortz has won various awards during horse competitions across Kansas and is now learning to work cattle from the ground, yet another great way he is learning self-reliance and pride in a job well done. He is also excited to be going to a national competition this summer in Oklahoma, sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association.
Bortz stated he can bond with the horses, but doesn’t see himself getting chummy with the big bovines! “The cattle are a lot different than my favorite competition horses. I’m NOT going to try to ride any of them!” He then said “I really like handling the cows and calves and I’m excited about working with them at the ranch in the coming months and years.”
Eric Hammond said two calves have been born in recent days, with more ready to “drop” at any time. “Calving and foaling season is a great time at the ranch,” Hammond said. “It’s a sure sign spring is in the works and it sort of helps remind us why we breed our stock. Nothing beats a new ‘baby’ around Rosewood, be it calf or foal.”
Kinda reminds you of the old cowboy song: “His eyes are bright and his heart is light as the smoke of his cigarette. There’s never a care for his soul to bear, no troubles to make him fret. For a kingly crown in the noisy town his saddle he would not change. No life so free as the life we see ‘way out on the cattle range.” (Jack Thorpe, 1908)