Meet Jay and Chyenne Smith: Raising Livestock in Idaho

Meet Jay and Chyenne Smith: Raising Livestock in Idaho


J Smith always wanted to be a cattle rancher and Cheyenne Smith had a lifelong passion for riding horses Over 15 years ago the two met and salmon and together they realized their dreams on the J. Lazy S Angus ranch We started from scratch and and we come to done it without the right partnership It was an adventure for me and and it meant that I could ride horses a lot So it was it was a good fit even though Jay grew up in a family with ties to ranching in Carmon Creek He wasn’t in line to inherit a ranch So he studied business and agriculture at the University of Idaho and went to work for Carl Tyler Chevrolet. Jay put himself through college as an auto mechanic Cheyenne a native of Round Up Montana studied art and visual communications at a college in Colorado But she started her own construction business after finishing school By the time that you met J was already starting a small-scale cattle operation in the Carmon Creek Valley Jay took Cheyenne for a long horseback ride to see the Salmon River country from high above the valley He put her on a good riding horse that an experienced rider like Cheyenne could enjoy The horse thing cinched it They got married in 2005 But then they needed to buy a ranch expand the operation for most people in their late 20s and early 30s You can’t go out and buy a ranch. It’s way too expensive Multi-millions, but J and Cheyenne were passionate about their dream suddenly it all fell into place this guy that had this ranch needed it paid and So that was it just was like fate. It was almost like meeting Jay it just happened We came down here. He did the hay he’s Don’t you guys have a ranch? No, and he just decided that we needed to have this ranch So it was a matter of figuring out how we to pay for it still but he really wanted us to have the ranch Jay and Cheyenne bought the ranch in 2006 They registered their brand as the Jay Lazy S Angus ranch They built up their cattle Operation to the point where they run about a hundred sixty head of least cattle and about a hundred and sixty head of registered Angus cattle on private and leased land The Smiths also run cattle on the BLM Badger Springs allotment to the east of their ranch BLM range in the Salmon River bottoms and on the Diamond Moose Allotment high above in the Salmon-Challis National Forest to the west Jay and Cheyenne love their life on the ranch First and foremost it’s how I always wanted to raise my family Wide-open spaces and a work ethic and a care for your animals You know chores. I was raised this way. I wanted that for my children Jay and Cheyenne have two daughters. Karma 12 and Clara 9. I Love all of it. I love the whole package I like being able to be way outside in the wilderness and the trees with the cattle and the writing Like watching the crops grow – hey, I like raising the horses the puppies the chickens the cats. It’s just it’s all pretty nice. An overarching theme that permeates the J Lazy S Angus Ranch operation is to always strive to make things better. I love a continual challenge and in the cattle business, you can always make your cattle better. You can always make your range better You can always make your crops better There’s the challenges are never done you can you can go as deep into the science and as hard into the work as you want and There’s more than you can handle again tomorrow and I always I enjoy that You know, I’d like to have a challenge in front of me every day The Life on the Range video crew followed the Smith family for a year to learn about animal husbandry Range stewardship, water conservation and wolves. In the process, we saw how Jay and Cheyenne’s ties to their family friends and community all contribute to the overall success of a family business Let’s tag along with the Smith family on their daily adventure of raising cattle in one of the most beautiful places on earth salmon, Idaho Come January it’s time for calving to begin mother cows Give birth on a daily basis starting in early January and continuing through March truly, this is the beginning of Starting a new fiscal cycle of starting a new life cycle of sense of renewing us for the ranch Every day the Smiths keep watch over all of the new calves that are born with some extra labor for a 24/7 operation over two months They constantly checked the newborn calves to ensure the birth goes well and that they start nursing as soon as they’re able It’s critical Sometimes Jay and Cheyenne have to graft a calf to a different mother cow Jay ties the legs of a mother cow around the post in the barn so she can’t reject the calf and Cheyenne does the rest? Helping the orphaned calf bond to its new mother and drink mother’s milk After each calf is born the smiths weigh the calf and give it an inoculation Of vitamins, they keep records on each calf’s birth-date weight It’s actual genetic information its sire and pedigree During calving season keeping watch over the cattle at all times is paramount You know every time you get up to make a check on the cows, that’s running through your mind You know, what? What am I gonna find? That’s not right? What am I looking for? How do I make it right when I when I find it we have a far tighter closer relationship with our veterinarian than we do our family medical doctor. That guy’s on speed dial It’s the last weekend in March and friends and family come to the J Lazy S Ranch to help brand cattle Friends help rope the calves for branding and family members pitch in to help handle the calves The first step is to separate the calves from the mother cows Jay gets a hot fire going to get the branding irons ready Riders take turns roping the calves and helpers wrestle the calves to the ground for branding We come off a co-mingled range for four or five of us run on one range We sort each other’s cattle as we come off and we use those identification marks more for ourselves than any other reason. Jay’s younger brother Chris and niece. Katie are quite the team wrestling the calves to the ground like pros This has always been a tradition for me like I said, it’s been a few years since I’ve done branding, but Something I’ve done ever since I’ve been growing up. I grew up coming down to Salmon from Northern Idaho since I was little as these kids running around here … it always felt like home to me. Chris is a policeman for the Lewiston police department and Katie works for an organization that supports Christian missionaries But they love to come help on the ranch whenever possible The team branded the Smith’s leased Commercial cattle with an LT brand and then their registered Angus cattle with the J.Lazy S brand Jay Smith keeps a keen watch over each animal during the process for quality control you You know one of the things I do is make sure these cattle are just right I want them handled properly. I want the injections done correctly and it’s all for Quality Assurance make sure those animals make The best live animals they can and that they make the best beef product in the end. By handling them correctly, all things go well. The Smith’s fed everyone a big pot roast for lunch for helping them out We have really great friends and family, and really great community Yeah, you almost have to be careful not to tell too many people Otherwise you’d have about 200 people here if it’s everybody everybody in the community likes to come help each other brand The next step after branding is the Smiths separate their cattle into groups in preparation for breeding Five bulls are released into their herd of leased cattle to work on impregnating 100 cows over a 45 day period Each mother cow comes into heat every 21 days even while they’re nursing their calves For the registered Angus cattle they set up a special portable shelter for doing artificial insemination work to breed ideal characteristics into the mother cows Jay Smith spends hours on the computer Researching the best traits in registered Angus bulls to mix into his cattle herd and purchases the semen on the open market Always trying to create the ideal cow In early May it’s time to turn off the leased cattle to a spring BLM grazing allotment next to the Salmon River At daybreak Jay and Chyenne round up 80 cow calf pairs and four bulls in a private land pasture in a matter of minutes Then the Smith’s trail the cattle along busy US 93 with a great support crew Bill Slavin who leases his cattle to the Smiths helps keep the animals going in the right direction on a motorcycle Heading off any stragglers Spring turn out day. So we gathered the cattle about 6 o’clock this morning Because we had to do about 3 miles of US Highway 93. So we got up and going early so we could beat the traffic Went really smooth Kids and neighbors and friends pitched in and helped out so we off the highway and we’ve come about 4 miles north on the other side of the river and we’ve got about 2 miles to go to our turnout spot On to a little strip of BLM for a couple of weeks and then we start climbing the mountain on to the forest first of June The Smith girls Carma and Claira enjoyed the ride. Claira rides Clover and Carma rides Badger How did you like the ride? It was fun. The cars bother you? No, not a bit. This is the mixed emotion day, we’re always happy to be done feeding hay for the season We’re always glad to get the cows on green grass We love the range. We love what that means as far as Utilizing a renewable resource that cannot be utilized in any other way But We know we’re gonna have predator issues. It’s just a matter of how severe, when and where. The Smiths run their cattle on the Diamond-Moose Allotment in the Salmon-Challis National Forest in the summer The Diamond-Moose has a history of chronic wolf depredation on livestock. The Smiths always hope for the best But they know that wolves are in the neighborhood They also have had some issues with people in the forest We’ve had some animals shot in the past mostly people just disturb them running them around if ATVs and stuff like that The wolves are the issue. That’s what actually costs us in the end. We had a good year last year minimal loss We had a pretty heavy loss two years ago. So it’s so random, if I wish I wish I knew In early June it’s time to trail the cattle from the Salmon River to summer range, a beautiful patch of mountains and succulent meadows in the Diamond-Moose Allotment. As always the Smiths recruit friends and family for a long, day-long ride to the high country They start by crossing the Salmon River on horseback to gather 80 mother cows and their calves 160 Angus cattle Jay Smith explains the day’s challenges It’s just a long trail. It’s long Ridge up to the top of the mountain. There’s no good places to stop, corral, hold cattle or else they’ll end up back at the bottom. So you’re committed to a long day. After they gather all the cows they push them up an open ridge and up up up toward treeline The Smith’s know the mountain like the back of their hand. They hit small springs along the way for the cattle and horses to drink Jim Smith and Alvin hit the top first with their group of cattle Jay and Chyenne’s crew arrive moments later with the main group of cattle Everyone is tired after more than eight hours in the saddle. Clara collapses in her mother’s arms It’s time for a cold drink and a much-deserved rest. The cattle have abundant fresh green grass to eat up here They load the horses into the trailers and head for the Smith cabin a few miles ahead Everyone looks forward to a hearty steak dinner tonight Jim Smith bought an old mining claim years ago and built the cabin in the middle of a mountain paradise This is a special place up here for a lot of reasons, but it’s a really special place to be a hub, be a center for our summer cow operation. I’ve ridden up here my grandfather and great-grandfather ran cattle up on this mountain pre-Taylor Grazing (Act) (1930s). So my family’s been a part of this mountain always and so it’s it’s always had a special place in my heart to Run cattle and be part of this Moose Creek Diamond-Moose Grazing Association. Just always been in my blood For Chyenne, the trip involves a lot of advanced planning and logistics My biggest preparation is just stressing out for a week Just to get myself hyped up we have to make a list of all the food that we want and Make sure that we have all the right clothes because you never know what the weather is going to be like once you get up here and make sure everybody’s tack is in good working order and that we have enough horses for everybody and and then inevitably we always forget something … like we forgot butter, so we have to do without butter for two days, but Making sure that the kids have all the clothes Have a good time snack foods probably the most important make sure we can fit all the snack food in our saddlebags I know that of all the times people come and do it with us. This is probably their favorite thing to come do … Jim and Sue Smith make a big breakfast for the group the next morning The plan is to move the cattle through a series of green meadows today The objective is for the cows to put on weight every day But because of the topography and the elevation gain, as you can see, we’re always moving green feed We have a two and a half pound average daily gain as our minimum requirement they’ll gain real well up here. The Smiths drive the cattle over to a steep creek-crossing. The cattle and the horses are sure-footed in the steep country The Smiths will keep tabs on the cattle for the next five months keeping them on the move in the summer range. That’s one of Chyenne’s favorite things to do It’s gorgeous. It’s gorgeous everywhere here and it doesn’t matter where I’m riding with the cows I feel just free … unattached All your worries kind of just get wiped away and you can focus on what you’re doing It’s very rewarding and very freeing. Sue Smith loves being up at her cabin in the mountains She’s been coming up there since she was a little kid – more than 65 years Sue and Jim Smith ride the cattle during the summer months to keep them on the move and protect them from predators That’s the best thing ever. It’s the freedom horseback a good horse and beautiful country and and just the opportunity just the opportunity to spend Solitude quiet time with my Lord and Savior. It’s perfect for me Ron Johnson enjoys helping out. He lives next door to the Smiths Well, I’ve spent you know A big part of my life out in the wilderness and I love being in the mountains and there’s no different. This is you know, they have the cooking over the fire and To just be out in the wilderness in the fresh air There’s nothing better. You know, there’s absolutely nothing better than spending that time … food tastes better, everythings better, friendships are good, talks are good around the fire The Smiths are great people, he says It’s absolutely amazing their heart and their house is open instantly Instantly, at the time that they meet you and their house is just open to you, you know Meanwhile back at the J Lazy S Ranch While the cattle are out on summer range Jay and Chyenne tend to chores around the ranch. A big one is to cut Hay in the pastures Jay has been working on boosting the yield of the hay fields with an innovative irrigation system We actually had our best hay crop ever this year And there was a couple factors to that we had a really wet June so moisture played a good role on that and the other factors just We’re always improving We soil sample every year and we do nutrient management based on what those soil samples tell us We moisture probe so that we put on the proper amount of water without over watering There’s just a few steps. We take every year to maximize production and minimize input costs The Smiths also have made improvements to their irrigation system to improve conditions for salmon and steelhead in Carmen Creek This was a long-term project with multiple partner agencies The concept was to change the point of diversion from Carmon Creek to a Salmon River Canal to leave more water in the stream for fish Smith worked with the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation in Salmon to generate cost-share funds for the Conservation project it took five years of meetings to put the complex project together It’s been really good we had a three-year contract with NRCS what are we metered every drop water that we use we could prove we were staying within the amount of water that we Transferred we soil sample for three years to make sure that we weren’t putting nitrates into the soil from now There is an extra a little over two CFS in the bottom of Carmen Creek in a critical time of year Yeah, it’s a great win-win we got a good system works well for us and our crops and the fish have some water to spawn in. In the fall the Smiths grazed the registered Angus cattle on the Badger Springs allotment Just up the hill to the east of their home ranch. It’s a beautiful area with the Beaverhead mountains in the background Tom McFarland who ranches in the upper Carmen Creek area was involved in developing a grazing management System in the Badger Springs allotment with the assistance from the NRCS and BLM in the late 1990s With solar hot wire fencing more than four miles of water pipelines and seven water troughs They divided the allotment into a three-pasture rest-rotation system The new system would spread out the cattle on the range Protect natural water sources and allow the plants to thrive during non-use periods We saw huge change in the volume of native materials that we had to graze. I’ll all get a break at least every other year. It was really significant. Our calves put on more weight. We sell more pounds in the fall, plant communities and the overall range conditions have significantly improved Indeed range monitoring data from Tom’s son, Seth McFarland have shown an improving range trend over time The Badger Springs allotment is one of Jay Smith’s favorite spots. I Grew up just on the other side of this ridge and I’ve known this piece of ground my whole life and about 20 years ago This has always been a good piece of range and we decided to let’s make it better With this system and with the deferred rotation in the early spring We’ve made a huge amount of difference in this low country. It’s got perennial grasses. It’s got bluebunch, Needle and Thread, all the desired species are here, you know, and it’s also a sign of good management J and Chyenne Smith cleaned out the upper story of the red barn so they could host a big 50th wedding anniversary party for Jay’s parents, Jim and Sue They invited friends and family to come and lots of people showed up They hired a band to play country-western music and Jim and Sue had a wonderful time dancing to just about every tune Dancing is one of their favorite things to do It’s a close-knit community here, but it sounds silly to say but when they asked for something because they never asked for anything We try so hard to do it because they give us so much Our family is community oriented and I think that’s been ingrained in us throughout history your your neighbors are your Source of recreation. They’re your friends. They’re your co-workers Kids go to school together We see each other at the grocery store Church or whatever you run into these people and so it’s real natural when there’s a community event for it to be well attended by a wide variety of people Come November Jay and Chyenne are ready to ship cattle to the market. The calves are fattened up and looking great Jay and Chyenne keep detailed records as the calves grow throughout the year right before shipping They weigh the calves to make sure they’re on target for the contract. They’ve signed with the buyer They are shipping a mix of heifer calves and steer calves tomorrow. They are expecting all of the calves to meet minimum weights If not exceed them Early the next day the Smith’s roundup the calves Load them into stock trailers and drop them off in a corral where they can be weighed by the cattle buyer broker at the Carmon Carmen Creek scales fresh snow fell overnight Making for a wintry life scene for shipping cattle It’s a critical time of year for the Smith as this is when they get paid for a year’s worth of work All of the care that they put into their animals contributes to the pay day The animals looked really good and is what matters more to me than that is they looked good to the buyers? We brought a few extras here so they’d have room to sort and they looked good enough that they Took them all above and beyond the contract can’t do better than that Overall Jay is happy with how things turned out this year. Fortunately. They had almost no depth loss to predators and wolves If you consider Price and death loss and all things considered. This has been a good slightly above average year The Smith signed a contract to lock in the price earlier in the summer So they knew what to expect and they budgeted for the outcome Now they can take a little bit of a breather before calving starts in January They’ll go to the Lemhi Cattleman’s annual meeting, a festive affair And then the Idaho Cattle Association annual meeting in Sun Valley Jay is an officer on the ICA board. And then, they’ll enjoy a vacation in Arizona with the kids my kids are excited kids have never been on an airplane before so we are gonna go somewhere warm and spend a few days and Celebrate a good year and buckle down and do it again The Smiths work hard to raise quality animals and make things better in all aspects of their business and operation my great-grandfather bought These ranches on Carmon Creek in 1924 and our whole philosophy is sustainability we wouldn’t last this long if we didn’t care for our resources and care for our cattle and Make sustainability a number-one priority Ultimately, Jay points out that running a ranch is a business and he stays focused on a sustainable budget and producing the best quality cattle possible To help stay on budget Chyenne drives a school bus for the kids charter school Jay, does extra mechanic work sells around? Hay bale system and manages the bull sale for Lederer angus All of their hard work ensures that they can raise their daughters on a ranch a lifestyle the girls enjoy Claira is nine years old now in fourth grade. She talks about what she likes to do on the ranch I like to go on with my dad on the 4-wheeler Also on my favorite part is when I go and the horses pen Like I was teaching my cousin how to ride my horse And he was really And when I was doing it I learned how to gather Claira likes playing with the chickens, too So whenever this one chicken I get to a cuddle with it. Once I let chickens in the house and it pooped on my dad’s hat Carma is 12 and she’s in seventh grade. She likes riding horses with Claira. They often ride in the back 40 We make a big loop. The chickens always follow me because I give them food and the lands chased us up trees Karma also likes to crochet and she’s a budding artist. She likes to draw colorful dragons Ultimately the Smiths want people to learn about ranching raising animals and ranch life this livestock deal has gotten to where It’s not optional to tell your story you know there’s there’s fewer and fewer of us all the time and there’s more and more people that don’t understand what we’re doing and how we’re raising a healthy nutritious food source sustainably and responsibly and if we don’t tell our story who’s going to We we really truly believe that this life and this lifestyle is a gift and It’s not ours to covet in withhold that’s our share So that’s it’s definitely Chy and my philosophy

27 thoughts on “Meet Jay and Chyenne Smith: Raising Livestock in Idaho

  1. Lovely story of hard and smart work in a beautiful setting. I can relate to some of this as I grew up on a farm (in the 1950s) where we also had a small herd of cattle. Hard work, but so rewarding.

  2. I'm very impressed and proud of you all! Did the same thing when I was a kid in Colorado in the yampa valley!! God Bless You always

  3. Thank God for technical support for today's generation! We had none back in our day!! I understand very well the risks of the rivers as helping grandfather catch wild mustangs. We always had to cross the sun river in Montana catch and come back with the hurd.. was always a chore but grew up strong and ready for anything in life! Only we never got to see an aircraft and go somewhere warm!! Life has changed so much since then! God Bless You all

  4. people with dogs & guns out with their cattle seemed to be the solution with wolves. the columbus method of raising cattle was never a good idea anyway.

  5. I noticed you have a Hydra Bed, made by my sister and brother in law. No longer owners but a great product. They started with nothing and built a highly successful small family business. Just shows one does not need a college or business degree but tenacity and common sense to build anything.

  6. Hello from Pennsylvania ! I've made 9 hunting trips to the Salmon River Country and explored many of the drainages but Carmen Creek is one of my favorites ! On my very first trip in 1991 before the wolves were reintroduced, two friends and I harvested 3 nice bull elk in Carmen Creek all in the same day without horses or a guide ! I remember thinking I was in a sportsman's paradise ! But by 2004-2005 the wolves had decimated the elk and deer herds to the point were we would hunt every day for a week without even seeing one single elk ! I love the town of Salmon and wish I had been born and raised there ! I'm too old and wore out to hunt the rugged mountain sides of Carmen Creek but if I ever hit the lottery bigtime I'll be looking for a second home somewhere in the Salmon River Country ! I'm jealous of the people that call that area home ! Lol

  7. locally everybody in these parts has turned their spread into a "Dude" ranch and try running snowmobiles in the winter, and tourists in the summer. This gives the wildlife little rest and stresses them out making hunting an issue with CWD and other stresses on Deer and Elk populations. Ski bunny's and Utv's have become a problem as if ranching doesn't have enough things to look for. Then we have the "overlanders", jeeps in a convoy cutting the lock on the high gate thinking they can cut across the two high meadows for their entertainment. The tree huggers have been brutal on ranchers and now it seems the exact behavior they promote is having a devastating effect on wildlife.

  8. It’s very important the cooperation of family and friends and the dedication that the Smiths have and it’s nice that they have lots of friends

  9. Very educational and enlightening . This way of life is something to be preserved and valued for it's contribution to the provision of very nutritional food and also for preserving the ecology of the country

  10. Very cool life style, I wish I could of lived it ! You should as I’m sure you do feel very fortunate!

  11. Why in today's modern world still 2 months old young bulls must be castrated without anaesthesia, if these are slaughtered in the same year 7 months later nevertheless.

    Why still beef cattle calves burn calves, if there are microchips to register the calves.

    Old traditions don't seem to be dying out in America, because nobody thinks about the welfare of the calves, or he will also burn his daughters with a hot iron, probably not.

    Just stupid what happens when you let the Angus mother cow herd with her calves run unattended in the middle of the wolf area, but then scream for shooting down the wolves, when wolves kill the calves…

  12. Cows and wolves want to live and be free with their families just like us. Find kindness and go Vegan.

  13. Awesome video. Excellent commendatory. God bless you guys. I really taught that branding had ended but I've learned that it's still being done. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Hey chick, don't they exterminate cows by punching a pneumatic spike into their brains? Yum-yum, think about where this disgusting shit comes from AmeriKa.

  15. loved every second of it thank you so much for making this series beautiful ranch and what a beautiful family perfect life 🙂

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