For this Oklahoma rancher, ranching may not be his whole life, but it makes his life whole.
“There are so many people who benefit from what I do every day, which is one of the things I like most about being a rancher.” - Spencer Nero
Spencer Nero’s maternal grandfather was a farmer and custom harvester in Rentiesville, Okla., but he ended up changing career paths and sold his cattle and equipment. Next, Spencer’s father started as a first-generation cow calf operator. Spencer followed in their footsteps, but his operation capitalizes on some unique opportunities.
I’m a stock contractor for rodeos, which is probably the main aspect of what I do. I produce calves and roping steers. I purchase small calves and lease them directly to rodeos or to different schools and universities for their rodeo programs. Then, I turn those same calves out on grass and function as a backgrounder, in that aspect. I usually purchase them at 160 pounds and will sell them when they reach 400 pounds. At 400 pounds, the calves are purchased directly from my farm and usually go to a stocker. I do have a typical cow-calf operation, but most of what I do involves leasing calves.
Typically, sole cow-calf operators have to survive on one or two paychecks each year. This isn’t true for me because my calves provide an income before I ever sell them.
Also, I have an off-ranch job as a combustion engineer at a glass plant. I deal with a batch house, which is a similar concept as a feed mill; the ingredients are mixed together, they arrive at the furnace, and my job is to ensure the mixture burns as efficiently as possible to produce glass.
Other side jobs I dabble in, are concrete and dirt work, as well as judging rodeos. These extra responsibilities mean that my day to day operation can look a little different than a full time rancher. I am not able to begin my ranching duties until 5-5:30 pm, which means a lot of late nights.
For me, time is the biggest challenge. I just don’t have the time available to be as efficient as I’d like to be, but I don’t have the option to quit my off-ranch jobs.
People have the misconception that cattle producers only use cattle as a means of income, but it’s more than just that. I don’t think people see the amount of time we put into them; I have a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested. We really do care about the well-being of our livestock.
One of the things I love about this area is the people. The community comes together and there are so many willing to help, no matter what it is. Before I had a barn large enough to hold all of my calves, a neighbor down the road allowed me to use his. I was able to use his scales and facilities at no cost because he wanted to see somebody else succeed in the industry. It’s a tight-knit community and that’s what I love most about it.
I stay connected to the community in a few ways. I’m President of the All Indian Youth Rodeo Association and Vice President of the Logan Livestock Association, which is similar to the Heifer International Program. It helps give someone else an opportunity to start in the cattle industry. A member of the Logan Livestock Association is given livestock, and in return, they give some of the offspring of those livestock back to the Association to give to a different member. This helps keep the industry alive. Also, I am on the board of Project A, which is a non-profit organization and Cherokee Nation entity that focuses on education. I am piloting a program that will produce Cherokee beef if it is successful. Lastly, I serve as the assistant chief for our local volunteer fire department, and I’m a member of the McIntosh County Cattleman’s Association.
My favorite cut of beef is a filet prepared medium rare.
Between 6-12 months of age, cattle spend time at stocker and backgrounder farms and ranches where they graze on a variety of pastures. Here they gain weight and convert forage and grass into lean protein.