John Spencer honored as 2005
Cattleman of the Year
MACDOEL - Etna rancher, John
Spencer was presented with the traditional
stockman's hat by Siskiyou County Cattlemen's
Association President Rex Houghton last week and
named the Siskiyou County Cattleman of the Year
for 2005. Selection for this tribute is based on
cattle improvement, feed development and
participation in civic activities.
In some circles, Spencer
is known more as a horseman than a cattleman,
having shown horses throughout the west since he
was in grade school. He was state champion in
western horsemanship as a teenager, but it was not
until he partnered up with a Quarter Horse
stallion named Johnny Pine that people began to
take notice of Spencer and his talents.
Johnny Pine came out of retirement to take the
very first Siskiyou County Cowhorse championship
in the 1970s. Spencer recalls the judge telling
him after that class it was the best ride he had
ever seen the two make.
Johnny Pine and Spencer formed a lifelong
partnership that ended when Johnny Pine died about
ten years ago. Even though it has been that long,
Spencer said when Jess Dancer began reading off
Spencer's history before naming Spencer as this
year's Cattleman of the Year and mentioned "the
name of that horse," nostalgia kicked in and a lot
of great memories returned.
Spencer first came to Etna
for a summer job with Glenn Barnes who became both
a friend and mentor and ultimately persuaded
Spencer to relocate to Scott Valley. During
college at UC Davis, Spencer trained with Dr.
Perry Cupps in reproductive physiology. Spencer
learned the art of artificial insemination from
one of the best and that knowledge would play a
major role in Spencer's future cattle operations.
Starting predominantly with a Hereford herd,
Spencer used artificial insemination to cross
breed Angus, Shorthorn and eventually Simmental.
Spencer found that cattle that were 3/8 Simmental
and the remainder Hereford or Angus were the most
profitable. His work on selecting replacement
heifers led to an invitation to speak at the Bank
of America's Livestock Symposium, a statewide
program held in Fresno each year.
Spencer has also been a strong supporter of the
local U.C. Cooperative Extension office,
participating in research and educational projects
on cattle records, foothill abortion and selenium
deficiency. In 1983, his cattle operation was
recognized by the California Beef Cattle
Improvement Association and Spencer received the
Commercial Producer of the Year award.
Spencer has sought change and new ideas since the
1970s. He made his ideas work by measuring
performance and demanding his cattle produce, or
they were gone. Since 1983, Spencer has used
computer technology to keep track of performance
records that include birth, weaning and yearling
weights. He has also utilized a computer
accounting program to track the profitability of
his cattle. He has always been an advocate of
forward thinking techniques like artificial
insemination, the introduction of new breeds, and
Currently, Spencer has reduced his cattle herd to
about 50 head of registered Angus and spends a
good deal of his time training horses. He usually
has at least one young horse ready to go to the
Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale every spring.
Spencer has served on the Board of Directors for
the Siskiyou County Cattlemen's Association for
five years and served as secretary-treasurer for
three years. He has been a past 4H project leader,
past president of the State of Jefferson Quarter
Horse Association, on the board of directors of
the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association, and
the Siskiyou RCD, as well as involved with SOSS.
"I appreciate what the Cattlemen's Association and
the board have done to honor me," Spencer said
after he was named Cattleman of the Year. "It is
always nice to get honored by your peers." But
Spencer was quick to add that he felt it was
important that he share this honor with his wife
of 37 years. "All of us who have cattle ranches
work our butts off," Spencer said. "We get a
little bit ahead and then get a little behind, but
it is our wives that keep us going. Carol has
helped me tag calves, work cattle - she has
essentially made me what I am," Spencer added.
Spencer and his wife, Carol, have two children --
Jerry and Jennifer. Jerry and his wife, Anne, have
three children and live in Rancho Murietta. Their
daughter Jennifer and her husband Sam Thackeray
also have three children and live in Scott Valley.