PINCHER CREEK, Alta. — Bobby and Kaycee Peters and their daughter, Eva, are embarking on “the unfinished business tour” this year.
Bobby has set his sights on qualifying for the Canadian rodeo finals in bareback riding and is already on his way after winning that event at the Kananaskis Rodeo.
Kaycee, a registered nurse now on maternity leave, and Eva, will be travelling to rodeos too, when ranch work allows the time.
Ranching is a priority for the couple. They have 300 cows and own about two sections of land in southwestern Alberta. They also rent additional land in the area for grazing.
It’s a scenic location in view of the Rocky Mountains and close to Waterton Lakes National Park.
Bobby grew up in the Pincher Creek region and ranching has been part of his family for generations. He and Kaycee moved to this ranch after they were married in 2013.
Though they are happy with their life, work and land, they didn’t plan to start ranching quite so soon.
The death of Bobby’s father, Clay, last year brought him home after he and Kaycee had worked in Calgary for a few years, he as a consultant in land rehabilitation and she as a nurse at Foothills Hospital.
Bobby’s rodeo aspirations are the unfinished business he wants to complete while his skills for bareback bronc riding are still sharp.
“Our goal always has been to give our kids a ranching lifestyle, so we always wanted to be back here eventually, but I was thinking maybe in 10 years or something,” said Bobby.
Added Kaycee: “I think it was always Clay’s plan, that was always his goal. His life’s desire was to have something to give to his kids.”
Both of them mention the support from community after their loss. The neighbours baled hay for them last summer and that generosity is top of mind.
“Whenever I’m taking the strings or the net wrap off, I’m just so thankful,” said Bobby about the 10 or more families that helped.
Kaycee is also impressed with the community.
“We can’t say enough about the support, family and friends that this community provides. It’s truly amazing through anything like baling hay or bringing over food when you have a baby.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s values that you want to pass down to your kids, that’s for sure.”
The ranch is a legacy, one they plan to preserve and conserve. On a day in late April, Bobby had just returned from checking the heifers. He and Kaycee have seven saddle horses, which are used for cattle handling work.
“When we’re calving, I keep two horses in the corral every day and usually one of them gets saddled. It’s just the best way to check for calves because you can be quiet. You’re not spooking them.
“And then when you go to a branding, you might have a horse that’s just a little bit broke.”
The herd is certified Black Angus, a designation that requires at least half of the genetics to be Angus. All the bulls are registered and over time they are breeding out the Hereford and Simmental influences from the past.
They keep and background all heifer calves and sell the lighter ones when the market looks right.
“We’re keeping probably more replacement heifers than we ever have and that’s kind of our goal. Now that we’re getting these heifers and these young cows black, we’re going to keep more and more,” said Bobby.
They make enough hay to feed the cows through the winter but that’s the extent of any farming involved in the operation.
“I think it’s a goal for us now to maintain and improve, because we want to keep our numbers and keep them constant … and put more money into the ones that we have too. We really enjoy that kind of stuff,” said Kaycee.
The couple met at Montana State University, where Bobby attended on rodeo scholarships earned through previous success in competition.
Kaycee grew up on a ranch in Montana so the lifestyle is familiar and comfortable.
“It’s a blessing, that’s for sure. It’s pretty awesome. You get a better grasp of it when you actually have kids, too. I wouldn’t want her anywhere else, so I’m very thankful for it.”
Baby Eva often accompanies her parents on ranch chores. Kaycee is ambivalent about returning to nursing because the operation requires a lot of attention.
“It’s hard to run a ranch on your own, and you have days when you need support. It’s important for both Bobby and myself. We make a pretty good team out here. We’ve got to support each other on days when it’s hard.”
They’ve developed a mission statement for their operation that lists long-term sustainability, conservation and environmental improvement as goals. Also on the list is using opportunities to be advocates for agriculture.
Striving for those goals while running a cattle operation make for a busy life and they are approaching it with caution.
Once the cows are out on grass this summer, rodeo travel can begin in earnest. Competition in about 40 rodeos is the plan.
“I’m also a realist. I don’t want to be gone to the point where the neighbours have to feed the cows,” Bobby said.
For Kaycee, the rodeo circuit is an opportunity for some adventure.
“After the kind of year we’ve had, it’s a fun thing for us because we can travel and camp and kind of get to go places we wouldn’t normally get to go.”