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John Spencer honored as 2005 Cattleman of the Year

August 29, 2005

John Spencer

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 cross breeding.

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.




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