Enthusiasm oozes from couple eager to expand

Jake Meyer seems just the kind of rancher that the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program is looking for. He’s young, involved in the beef industry and has plans for the future that include a larger ranch and a larger herd.

And he is currently enrolled in the CYL program, which is organized through Canada Beef and assigns up-and-comers with mentors in the cattle industry so they can develop desired skills.

Meyer, 28, and his wife, Tanya, run cattle on a quarter section along Pothole Creek, just south of Lethbridge. They also lease pasture near Pincher Creek and Vulcan, Alta., and have 140 head of Angus-Simmental crossbred cows.

Meyer has been matched through CYL with former Alberta Beef Producers president and former MLA Arno Doerksen because of his interest in beef industry politics.

He already has his foot in the door, having been elected as an ABP delegate for Zone 2 last month.

“I want to be a leader in the industry,” says Meyer. “I’ve always been a leader my whole life. And if you’re going to be a leader, you need to be in there where the decisions are made.”

But that’s not his only interest. He and Tanya are focused much of the time on their three sons: Duane, 2, and five-month-old twins Bradley and Devin.

The couple joke that they have good hired hands in the making, but it’s too soon to know for sure.

“We hope that our kids are going to be active in the industry too,” says Jake. “We have our whole lives ahead of us.”

Adds Tanya: “We’ll have to have a large ranch just to keep them occupied.”

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The couple have been married for three years. Jake grew up in nearby Montana and always had plans to own his own ranch.

He got work in the oil industry, earning roles of increasing responsibility until he finally became the youngest manager his company had ever had, at the age of 22.

He was running an oil rig in Argentina, but his dream of having a ranch, a wife and a family remained strong.

“Things were very stressful down there,” he recalls. “I didn’t want that lifestyle.”

He met Tanya when he was visiting ranching friends. She is a rancher’s daughter and avid horsewoman who grew up in rural southern Alberta.

“I love living in the country,” says Tanya.

“I love being outside.”

Three young boys leave her little time for other pursuits, but she insists on helping with fall roundup.

She shares Jake’s ambition to one day own a larger ranch, ideally in prime ranching country around Pincher Creek.

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“I think if I didn’t support him, he’d do it anyway,” says Tanya. “And he’s really good at it. He’s definitely a leader kind of a person.”

She hopes to take a bookkeeping course so she can manage the ranch accounts, and she’d like to explore an agricultural business degree when the children are older.

Opportunities to expand the ranch are limited in this part of Alberta. They are surrounded by farmland, much of it irrigated and the rest targeted by developers for acreage subdivision.

That’s why they run cattle in three different locations, a practice that requires lots of horseback riding and transport.

Their heifers are artificially inseminated, calve in March and April and are sold in the fall along with the calves. They’ve bought new heifers every year in an effort to acquire cash flow.

The Angus-Simmental cross works well for their plans.

“A lot of feedlots like that cross,” says Jake. “I’m kind of biased to black.”

Their lives are busy now, but their dreams are tantalizingly close and they have the energy to pursue them.

“It’s tough to get started, when you are young, but it’s not impossible,” says Jake about owning and operating a ranch.

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“It just takes a lot of sacrifice and a lot of discipline and a lot of patience.”