Friday, October 18, 2013

Utah Ranchers - The Cox Family

Today we welcome Dustin and Harmony Cox of Alton, Utah.  Dustin and Harmony are raising several little cowgirls and have a passion for taking care of their animals and the land they live on!

We are located in southern Utah in a small town named Alton. There is about 117 people half, of which are under the age of 14. It is located right in the middle of three major national parks:  Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and the Grand Canyon National Park. Our summer range is on National Forest ground through a private lease which is near Bryce Canyon National Park. Our winter range borders the Grand Canyon. Basically our location is just a little bit of heaven
We have a cow calf operation and a hay brokerage business. We broker hay to dairy's across the nation. Our beef cows run in the high mountains of Utah during the summer. In mid-October we wean our calves and we process our cows and then we take them to northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon for the winter. Around the first of June we brand and move them back up to the mountains of Utah.

We retain our own heifers as replacements. The steers are sold on contract every year in July for an October delivery right off the cow. Heifers that are not replacements are also sold on the contract. On the ranch we are able to get by without any employees at this time - except for ourselves and our five wonderful cowgirls. For our hay brokerage business we buy hay from Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho, Arizona, and Nebraska farmers then we sell it to dairy's in California, Texas, New Mexico and Iowa. I am responsible for sampling the hay, marketing the hay and the finding the transportation of the hay. Harmony does the accounts payable and accounts receivable and makes it all run smooth.
Harmony grew up on 1,000 head cow/calf operation and a small hay operation right here in Alton. She spent her youth pushing cows, branding calves, fixing fence stacking hay. Her dad didn't buy a big baler till all the kids were gone. I grew up in Orderville working on a 500 head cow calf ranch called the Corral Ranch. I went with my brothers on and off during the summer. The summer I turned 11 I was full-time in the summer and before and after school the rest of the year up until the time I turned 19. Then I served a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My pay for the summer wages in 1991 when I was 11 years old was a dogie Herford heifer. I was able to keep that perfect heifer and run her in the herd with the guy I worked for Norman Corral.

Each summer after that I received a heifer and a steer. I got my pick of the heifer and my pick of the steer.  The heifer was to be kept as a replacement and the steer I would show at the county fair. When I was 17 years old Norman allowed my brother and I to run a total of 25 head with him as a bonus. So with the heifers that I had and the cows my brother had, we got a loan from a local bank and bought 10 head of pairs which brought us up to 25. Then we bought a bull from a local bull sale. In 1998 we were able to get those cows paid off and neighboring ranch came up for sale where we could run 75 head year-round we got another loan and bought 75 first calve Hereford heifers off Superior Livestock video auction for $550 a head out of Nevada and expanded our operation.
Harmony and I grew up together, in different towns, but the same school. We served on the religious council and FFA council together in high school. We never dated, but we were great friends. When I was on my mission for the LDS Church we wrote to each other every two weeks and then when I got home we started dating and four months later we were married in the St. George LDS Temple.

Shortly after we were married we split off our cattle operation from my brother and we expanded ours by buying a winter place out by the Grand Canyon and our summer place by Bryce Canyon. Through the most recent years we have expanded that we have now 100 head cow calf operation paid for and financially sound. Each of our girls have a cow that they care for along with the others and they can keep the heifer that she has or a show steer at the county fair.

Right after we were married I began working for a construction company of the family that Harmony knew. Through the school of hard knocks and a very hard, very good employer I was able to run equipment and drove a dump truck most of the summer.  I began going to college at Southern Utah University where I received a Bachelors in Agriculture Business - graduating Magna Cum Laude. Harmony received her degree in Dixie State University with a minor in music.

It was kind of a hard challenge deciding what to do in college. I knew I wanted to raise my family and be involved in agriculture but how was I going to do it? How was I gonna make a living  was a puzzle. I started my college education in ag business and then switched to secondary education to teach Ag. After a year of doing this I followed my heart and went back to ag business.  I'm now making a living and involved agriculture.

The experiences I had working in the construction company, driving a dump truck, enabled me to feel confident to go to work for a hay broker and driving a hay truck from Utah to California. After nine months of working for the hay broker my brother and I bought the truck. About a year and a half of owning the truck I sold my share of the truck to my brother and I began working in the office managing the Hay company. After managing the company for several years the time came to start out on our own in the hay business. The first several months were very nerve-racking and frustrating and downright scary, but through the faith of my great wife we were able to push through and we have become very successful and have great clients made up of dairies farmers and trucks.

A typical day for us on the ranch is: we rise between 6:00 and 6:30.  During the school days we have scripture study from the Bible, from the Book of Mormon and  prayer's before  breakfast then send our kids to school.  The younger girls, Harmony and I go do chores around town and check on cows as needed during the summer. Our cows are only 15 miles away which is pretty easy to get to. One wonderful thing about a beef herd is you don't have to check them every single day unlike a dairy herd.  Although we still do have a milk cow name duck because she's a bad influence on the other cows from the famous book Click Clack Moo.

During the winter months our cows are 100 miles away. We have put in several more pipelines and drinkers to have adequate water and to maximize the grazing area of our ranch. One very unique thing about our ranch is after we breed our heifers, our cows never see a bale of  hay,  They are on the desert range in the winter and on the summer range grazing and performing on their own; without any input costs from feed.  Another unique thing about the ranch is that we help Harmony's family on their ranch and we still do a ten day cattle drive in the fall moving from the summer pasture to the winter pasture in northern Arizona. We go about 100 miles in 10 days camping with them right along the way that's been a unique opportunity for us to do with our family to keep the spirit of lifestyle alive in our home.
In our hay business our number one priority is I always have my cell phone. I love technology! I love Bill Gates, I love Steve Jobs. I love the guys who make these phones work as it has enabled me to go to my kids school plays, to be on a horse, and do business as long as I have service. With the hay business were are constantly on the phone calling farmers looking at hay, driving sampling, lining up trucks and doing what we say we're going to do. When we tell the farmer, dairy or truck something we stick to it. Harmony does all the accounting accounts payable receivable for the ranch and a business.

Working with family and being with family and teaching the family that is the number one best thing about being on the farm and ranch. My favorite time of year on the ranch what ever time it is that day. My wife and I's love for each other and agriculture and our family allowed us to always work together. We started from scratch, from ground zero and built a life doing what we love. Of course we couldn't do it without our heavenly father. We are blessed to have the experience of growing up on ranches and blessed that the hay broker gave us a job driving a truck.  I've always wanted to ranch. My sixth-grade teacher brought my mom a paper that I had written on what I wanted to do for a career.  As I read through that at the age of 12 and then today being 33 my desires and my love for a career to work with the family on a ranch hasn't changed.

I wish people understood more of the products that we grow and raise on farms and ranches. We feed our families also. The same things people put in their mouths and bellies, we put in ours. We are confident with them, we trust them, we trust the partners with those who sell a seed, who sell our cattle, who sell us milk. We are confident. We sit down at the dinner table and the things we eat are safe, delicious and wholesome. We hope the families across America feel the same way.

Being involved in animal agriculture brings up many issues about animal welfare and how we care for the animals. We have a fundamental core belief that God created all things for the use of man. As a rancher we care about our animals, we take care of them. We understand that they have a purpose and that purpose is to feed our families and the families across the world.

Thank you Dustin and Harmony for a GREAT feature!!!

How are you involved in agriculture? What is your story? YOU can be our next feature! E-mail Elizabeth and Jamie at