Gila County Extension University of Arizona Arizona Cooperative Extension College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
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Animal Science
"Ranching in North Central Arizona"

Jim Sprinkle's picture
Jim Sprinkle is the Area Extension Agent in Animal Science for Gila and Yavapai Counties. Much of the area served is rugged in terrain with elevations ranging from approximately 2000 feet to just under 8000 feet. Major vegetation types include desert shrub, pinyon-pine, chaparral, and ponderosa pine. In many areas within Gila and Yavapai counties one can pass through all vegetation zones within one hour's time. Dominant grasses for the lower elevations include curly mesquite and sideoats grama (Gila County) or curly mesquite and tobosa (Yavapai County) and for the upper elevations include blue grama, western wheatgrass, and sideoats grama.
Also prevalent in the mid to lower elevations are hairy grama and black grama. During wet springs, annuals such as filaree, red brome, and Indian wheat will provide outstanding forage for the lower desert until the forage dries up. A large area of shortgrass prairie grassland exists in Yavapai county. The Aqua Fria Grassland near Cordes Junction along I-17 is dominated by tobosa grass. As you travel north into Chino Valley, other species of grass appear in the shortgrass prairie including blue grama, black grama, sideoats grama, and galleta. A large shrub component exists in much of the area and is known as the Arizona Interior Chaparral-Grassland. Dominant shrubs within this zone include turbinella oak, mountain mahogany, desert ceanothus, hollyleaf buckthorn, silktassel bush, and manzanita. At the lower elevations, mesquite and creosotebush occur. A common half shrub present at most all elevations is shrubby buckwheat. Average annual precipitation for the lower elevations is around 8 to 12 inches and over 20 inches for the highest elevations. A distinguishing uplifted land form which runs through Gila and Yavapai Counties is the Mogollon Rim (pronounced "Muggy-own") made famous by Zane Grey. The Rim was often referred to as the "Tonto Rim" by Zane Grey in his books.
Mogollon Rim near Pine

Mogollon Rim

Livestock production in Gila and Yavapai Counties is dominated by range cow operations. Only 3% of Gila County is private ground and very little crop ground is available for raising supplemental feed. Consequently, the only option available for many cattle operations to help meet nutrient deficiencies present in forage during the winter and sometimes in early summer is by protein supplementation. Yavapai County has more crop ground available but the Forest Service will not allow hay to be fed on any lands administered by them. Most ranger districts will allow salt, mineral, and protein supplements to be fed.
The ideal cattle ranch for this area would have both summer (higher elevation, above 6000 feet) and winter (lower elevation, below 4000 feet) pastures contiguous to each other. Very little chaparral would be present as tannins occur in most browse which interfere with protein and fiber digestiblility and place the cow in a compromised nutritional state. Conception rates on many chaparral ranches is not much above 60% due to the interactions listed above.
For more information on cattle ranching in north central Arizona or for information on natural resource programs check out the links at the top of the page.

Jim Sprinkle
Gila County Cooperative Extension

P.O. Box 2844
Payson, Arizona 85547
Phone (928) 474-4160
FAX (928) 468-8289
Last Reviewed and Updated: April 4, 2008
Phone: (928) 425-7179 ext. 8585
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