Ranch manager completing 40 years at NMSU research center
In today's world, it is unusual for a person to spend 40 years in a single career, much less in a single position. New Mexico State University reports that only three employees have worked continuously for the Las Cruces campus for 40 years or more.
This month, a fourth individual, Calvin Bailey, will join their ranks.
When the ranch manager position came open at NMSU's College Ranch in late 1971, Bailey, who had recently graduated from the university, knew the job was right for him. So did Bobby Rankin, an animal science faculty member and the recently appointed supervisor of the facility.
"The position was offered and I took it," Bailey said recently. "My wife and I moved out here in 1971, the day after Christmas."
"Calvin was raised on a ranch and got a degree in animal science," said Rankin, who retired in 2000 after a 39-year career that included 14 as department head of Animal and Range Sciences. "You know a lot of things that need to be done on a place, having grown up ranching, that you don't have to learn or ask somebody else about, so it worked out wonderfully in Calvin's case."
Rankin was quick to give credit to a second member of the Bailey team. "There was an extra bonus to hiring Calvin Bailey in that job, because his new wife, Debbie, came with him," he said. Part of that had to do with the delicious meals she would fix for the ranch crew.
"It was easy to recruit college students and graduate students to come out and help with the branding and the calving and some with fencing simply because of Debbie. So I give her a lot of credit for Calvin's success in managing the ranch wonderfully for this length of time. We couldn't have done better on that selection."
The facility, now called the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center, has been owned and operated by NMSU since 1927. The university assumed ownership of the 60,000-acre property through an act of Congress mandating that it be maintained it in a way that benefits the people of New Mexico. The property is located north of Las Cruces. According to Bailey, it includes about half of the Dona Ana Mountains, and stretches east-west from the Jornada Experimental Range to the Rio Grande.
Calvin and Debra raised two children on the ranch, Scott and Rebecca.
Amid the changes, some things have remained constant. As with any farm or ranch, the work never ends. "My duties as foreman out here include the typical management of the ranch from day to day, anywhere from building fence to working on corrals and tending to livestock--cattle mainly," Bailey said.
Significant work has been done over the years on developing cattle that are more suited to the harsh Southwest environment, as well as on understanding the Chihuahuan Desert rangeland, how to maintain it and how it is impacted by livestock. Bailey said around 130 cows are on the ranch now. Most are Brangus, a heat-tolerant breed that is five-eighths Angus and three-eighths Brahman.
Calvin Bailey says he has been working extra hard recently. A recent snowstorm saw single-digit temperatures and extra vigilance was necessary to ensure the livestock stayed safe and healthy. In particular, Bailey needed to make sure there was accessible water in all of the stock tanks. He repeatedly needed to knock holes through the ice so the cattle and horses could drink. Checking all of the tanks in the various pastures entails more than 50 miles of driving.
Bailey wasn't complaining, however--the scenery on the ranch was more beautiful than ever, with snow covering everything from the desert vegetation in the foreground to the mountains in the distance.
For more about the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center go to http://chihuahuansc.nmsu.edu.