Seven H L Wright Cattle Co. - Where Did the Cows Go?
Munds Park has a long history of cattle ranchers. Pioneer, William Munds forged his way West when the land was considered free, and settlers only needed to stake their claim. Pioneers could homestead up to 160 acres, build a home and let their cattle roam freely.
Ranching today comes with established borders and substantial operating costs, but like the settlers, it requires a lot of hard work and grit.
Most people only dream of living a ranching lifestyle, but Jamie and Flint Wright are current-day cattle ranchers living the life of open fields, fresh air, and hard work that keeps you deeply in touch with nature, body, and mind. This husband and wife team own the Seven H L Wright Cattle Co. along with Flint’s father, Jay, and mother, Marjorie. Each couple owns 50% of this family-owned ranch, and their cattle can be seen roaming the forest around Munds Park.
The Wright family has been ranching for 150 years. Ranching began with Flint’s grandpa. Fint’s father Jay, who is 88 years young today, is still working. They started cattle ranching in Nevada and branched out into Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Utah.
They bought the Arizona ranch in 2011 from the Morrison brothers. The brothers owned the ranch for almost 75 years.
Born into the cattle industry, Flint loves working on the ranch and wouldn’t want to do anything else. Jamie, born in Califonia and new to the industry compared to her husband Flint, is in deep love with her husband, his family, and her life as a rancher.
This husband and wife duo explains each grazing location is different, gifting them with new scenic views, and each day brings new challenges keeping them interested in their work. One day they move cows from one pasture to another. The next day they track cows separated from the herd, mend fences, drop salt for the cattle, or assess weather conditions. That’s just a few of the things on their to-do list.
Apparently, cows like their grass salted, so I had to ask why. I was a flatlander just three years ago, so I have a lot to learn. Flint explained that it’s a mineral supplement for the cattle. Environmental conditions rarely exist where grass carries all the minerals needed for the cattle. So they combine salt and a mineral pack to supplement the cows’ diet.
The cows enjoy roaming free in the forest, and some curious cows will wander off from the herd. Flint explains finding cows who explore beyond the herd are relatively easy to find. The ranchers look for fresh cow tracks and manure droppings generally found around a close water source. The ranchers follow tracks and manure until they get all the cows. The cows are rarely away from the herd for more than a week.
Flint said that a smart cow can elude ranchers from tracking them and sometimes not found until the following season. He explained that cows can handle enormous temperature changes, heat, and cold. So they get along fine.
Flint moves the cows as often as every 30 days, sometimes faster, depending on the weather conditions. Monitoring weather is an essential skill for ranchers, a skill they use to establish a pasture rotation plan with the Forest Service. They start the process in March or April each year, developing their rotation plans based on predicted weather conditions. They also assess areas cows have already roamed when developing plans to prevent overgrazing. Flint and his team do the assessment process again for the fall rotation beginning in November, but the plans are always subject to change.
Flint says ranching is not a perfect science, but they adapt and change every season to give their cattle the best fields to graze and allow forest lands to recover. They will let the land rest for an entire year before bringing the cattle back.
Mundsies have asked, “Where are the cows?” all season. Now we know! The cows were rotated out of the areas we generally see them in, allowing our forest to recover.
Arizona has been in a drought since 2000, and climate change is a hot topic worldwide. The Wrights have been ranching for 150 years. Who better to ask about water availability and climate change, so I asked Flint for his thoughts on the subject.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in global climate change, because I do—It’s real. I also believe that human activities have exasperated climate change considerably. But it’s not hotter than it was 50 years ago. It really isn’t. The West has always had drought cycles followed by high wet cycles. What we see right now is difficult, but not beyond the norms.”
I asked Flint if they had difficulty accessing water for the cattle, and he explained there were no issues at this time.
Seven H L Wright Cattle Co. cows are almost entirely Angus-Hereford Cross. They run their Angus cattle to the North and the Hereford cattle to the South. They cross-breed the Hereford and Angus to create a hybrid vigor. Cross-breeding allows the cows to adapt and live in the West environment better than other breeds.
The cows live freely in the forest until it is time for auction. Because their cows are grass-fed and roam freely, they are sold to high-end grass fat and natural beef suppliers including at times, Whole Foods. If you are familiar with Whole Foods, they have a 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating™. Their meats are rated by how well the animals are fed and ensure they are raised in a pasture or range for at least two-thirds of the animal’s life. Flint’s cows rank at the highest level, number five.
I am a meat eater, but I have to say, it breaks my heart that the cows we see in the forest have to leave this happy place and be transported to Texas or California for processing. Flint assured me the animals were transported humanely. Trying to save my conscious and enjoy meat, I asked Flint if we could buy a cow directly from them. Thinking Genna and I could have a nice peaceful send-off for the cow before enjoying the meat. Unfortunately, the waiting period is three years out! Back to Whole Foods we go! It is nice knowing where the cows came from and that people like Flint and Jamie are good stewards of our land and animals.
Lastly, Flint mentioned the gates and fences around Munds Park. He asked that if you see a gate open, please leave it open. If you see a gate closed, please leave it closed. These are the tools they use to guide the cows through the forest. If we intervene, we can hinder their efforts and, worse than that, cause serious harm to the cows or drivers. If gates are left open, or worse, the fences are cut to allow off-road vehicles through, cows will get out and can end up on the I-17.
One more note, please slow down when driving your Side by Side or ATV by the cattle. Enjoy them and be as quiet as possible when passing the animals. The cows will appreciate your thoughtfulness.