First person: Rancher continues family legacy

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Wesley Grau of Grady has been involved in the family cattle business since 1963, after he graduated from New Mexico State University.

Wesley Grau’s reign as New Mexico Cattleman of the Year is close to ending.

The lifelong Grady resident operates the family ranch with his brother Lane. Five generations of the family, starting with Charles Albert in 1906, have lived in New Mexico.

He enjoys the privacy of the small Curry County village, where he has lived except for his four years at New Mexico State University, where he graduated with a degree in agriculture business in 1963.

His award: Cattleman of the Year is selected by the association members of the New Mexico Cattle Growers. It’s a statewide organization that’s fairly active politically and really beneficial in protecting rancher’s rights and promoting the beef industry. Every year, somebody’s nominated and the rest of the cattlemen in the state vote on it by secret ballot. (The 2010 winner will be selected the first weekend in December.)

The job: It’s very rewarding to select for genetic traits on cattle that are economically superior to the average. Each trait has a different heritability factor. Some of them are highly heritable, like 60 percent. Some are around 10 percent. If you’re selecting for 10 or 12 traits, it takes a long time to get your cattle genetically modified to produce what you want for the commercial cattleman.

Livestock will teach you patience more than anything. We don’t put up with livestock that’s hot-headed. We have to handle them and be around them. We have to tattoo the baby calves the day they’re born and weigh them. If you have a baby cow that’s blowing snot on you, you don’t like her attitude. You realize a coyote’s never getting her calf, but you still want her to be compatible with humans.

Animals need to have a really docile genetic disposition to get through the feed industry without getting stirred up.

Favorite time: The fall is my favorite time of the year. That’s when the weather starts cooling off. The rains usually come and your crops are ready to be harvested. Your calves are ready to be weaned. We start calving in March, April, May. In the middle of October, we start weighing the calves. They weigh 600 to 800 pounds, and that’s very rewarding.

Following footsteps: I chose the career. When I got out of college, I had three ambitions. One was to be a fighter pilot. One was to be a lawyer. One was to be a rancher. I came home to help Dad (Lloyd Grau) a little while, and never did leave when I got out of college.

There was my granddad that homesteaded here in 1906. Then my dad. Then I. Then my son (Marcus), who is deceased. And now I have five grandsons. None of my grandsons live here. Three of them live in Clovis (his daughter-in-law Mandi later re-married Matt Chandler).

Hopefully, one of the grandsons, when they get through college and work a little while, will have a work ethic. This job in agriculture is a six-day-a-week job. We all quit on Sunday and rest and worship the Lord. But six days a week, there’s always something to do. There are fences to fix, there are predators to control, you have to put up hay and feed in the summertime for the wintertime. In the wintertime, you have to make sure everything can get water, which means breaking ice.