Nearly every morning I drive a stretch of the Grande Ronde Valley to school, past rolling scrubland and open grass fields speckled with cattle. I’m new to the area, but observing these cattle through the last few months has been an eye-opening experience. In the last two weeks I’ve seen one of the most adorable sites maybe ever: baby calves standing by their mothers, looking about at the world. I’ve heard murmurs of “calving” in the hallways at school, and know we’ve entered yet another season in the lives of cattle ranching families. What better time to celebrate Beef Education Month at North Powder Charter School! Local ranchers, including some belonging to Oregon Cattlewomen and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, have made this month’s activities possible. Here are some of the events for this month:
Lunch with a rancher – local ranchers are joining our 3rd and 5th grade classes in their classrooms for Q&A!
Beef presentations – Wendy Bingham, Secretary of Oregon Cattlewomen, is leading beef education presentations in 1st, 4th and 6th grades. Students learn about life on a ranch (and share their own ranching experiences, too) and participate in creative cattle lessons that tie into Core Standards and nutritional information.
Local beef for lunch – a couple of times this month we’re serving up some local beef at lunchtime!
Something I’ve learned about this month is cattle branding. Many of our students live on ranches, so they know the ins and outs of branding and are a great resource for newbies like me. With roots dating back to ancient Egypt, livestock branding has been used for a multitude of purposes–a highly spiritual practice for some ancient cultures and certainly a pragmatic practice for today’s Western cattle industry. Branding is used in open-grazing operations; if cattle get lost, get loose, or get stolen by “rustlers,” the unique brand signifies which ranch is home. Despite some fairly strict parameters on size and design, you’ll find quite creative and meaningful brands out in the fields. Check out this article for more interesting facts on cattle branding.
If you’re in eastern Oregon for any length of time, it’s impossible not to see one of the many ranches in the area. Some ranches have been around for generations, some just a handful of years. Either way, today these ranches are just as much a part of this landscape as the sagebrush or the big sky, and they hold a very real place in the hearts of North Powder families.