LCSGA Ranch Rodeo raises scholarship funds |

LCSGA Ranch Rodeo raises scholarship funds

A rider successfully ropes a steer in the 2018 LCSGA 4U Ranch Rodeo in Wellington, Colo. The event is a fundraiser for the LCSGA Ag student scholarship fund.
Photo by Erin Seely, Erin Christine Photography

Though today’s urban areas of Colorado, Wyoming and other western states have exchanged bunkhouses for ubiquitous high-rises, working ranches employing time-tested techniques still exist. Places where branding irons are as commonplace as are cell phones. Where GPS might just stand for “Got Perfect Steaks!”

Combine a cowboy’s usual ranch tasks with an event designed to assist students seeking ag degrees and you get the Larimer County Stockgrowers Association (LCSGA) 4U Open Ranch Rodeo. Its third annual fundraiser will be held Aug. 24, 2019, at McGraw Arena in Wellington, Colo., and all proceeds will benefit the LCSGA Scholarship Fund.

This year’s 15 teams, consisting of four riders each, will compete for prizes in five events:

Time Reducing Fun Event: One member from each team will shoot a cattle dart from a designated distance, aiming for a target within a large triangle. Hitting the bullseye will reduce time to be determined the day of the event.

Calf Branding: One yearling calf will be marked for the branding. Heading and heeling, then branding, is timed; a set of rules must be followed to qualify each team’s performance.

Yearling Doctoring: Following regulations, a yearling will be headed “catch as catch can” (no single front leg) and heeled (no tripping). If it gets up, it must be re-caught and tied again. Time begins after all ropes except the tie string are removed.

Trailer Loading: A roping steer must be headed with a legal head catch and loaded into the front compartment of the trailer. After the steer is loaded, the rope must be removed and one horse loaded onto the back of the trailer. Time ends when trailer gates are pinned.

Wild Cow Milking: A cow must be headed first, and may be heeled after headed; but the cow must remain standing to be marked (by use of a paint stick) with an “X” in the flank. Ranch rodeo Wild Cow Milking simulates an important actual ranch task that is surely no calm “cream for your coffee” activity.


Dave and Patty McGraw, owners of McGraw Arena, are members of LCSGA; Dave is also on its four-member Scholarship Committee, which selects qualified ag students for the annual awards.

Patty McGraw was born and raised in the Laporte, Colo., area on a property where the family kept horses. Dave McGraw, age 68, recalled his early days on ranches in north Waverly where his family ran grade horses used for trail rides in the Colorado mountains. Later on, and through his college days, the McGraws ran 300 head of cattle, operated a dude ranch, and conducted trail rides from the UT Bar Ranch on the Laramie River.

McGraw said he’s occasionally found it necessary to milk wild cows, explaining that (especially light-skinned) cows are prone to blister bags in cold weather. Sucking calves sometimes leave bite marks, which can then further split teats. Light continuously reflecting up from snow exacerbates the extreme discomfort in these chapped/cracked areas. If untreated, the painful condition can cause a cow to kick her calf off.

Before treating blister bags, milk has to first be removed from range cattle (which are obviously not as tractable as lush-pastured Jersey dairy gals). In the “real” ranch world, that means tangling with some rank, mighty disagreeable mama bovines. So, to prevent unnecessary injuries to cow or cowboy, milking at ranch rodeos is now usually simulated — marking cows rather than milking them into a bottle.

Patty McGraw noted that four of the five ranch rodeo classes occur simultaneously within a single ring (the dart gun event takes place separately directly following the grand entry). Each four-person team vies with four cattle: a tie-down steer, steer for trailer loading, and a cow and calf in a scramble format (all in the arena at once), she said. Spectators love the continuous activity, which can be likened to a three-ring circus both in pace and organized hubbub.

T.J. Phillips, Todd Dunlap and Dallas Horton donated the cattle used in the 2018 ranch rodeo. Merchandise from other donors has included a custom leather breast collar, a custom engraved silver bit, halters, reins, tie ropes, buckles, stirrups and coolers. And, there are cash prizes.

Pam and Russ Princ (former Larimer County residents) originally approached Dave and Patty McGraw about use of their Wellington arena, located at the corner of County Roads 11 and 72, just north of Owl Canyon Road. The McGraws purchased the 800-acre ranch in 2013.

The arena was built in the early 1990s by Mary and William “Buzz” Folley, who held ropings and allowed the Rockie Mountain Saddle Club to conduct horse shows there.

Since its inception in 2017, the number of spectators at the LCSGA Ranch Rodeo has grown from about 300 to between 600-700 last year. Many people show up with “city folks” in tow, eager to see what ranch life is like. Children especially enjoy the upbeat action.


Dave said that the 2017 rodeo ended after 10 p.m., with outside lights illuminating the big arena. After all equipment was removed, they still had to wait about another 30 minutes before turning off the beaming beacons. A new roundup had begun — to corral about a dozen hot-wired kids, ages 2 through about 8, who were running around and playing in the large sand-floored enclosure. It was just too much fun to leave.

Patty McGraw said the LCSGA, with approximately 80 members and their ranch families, is the oldest livestock association in Colorado; its 4U Ranch Rodeo exists solely to benefit the LCSGA Scholarship Fund. In 2017, four ag students were awarded $1,000 each and two others each received $500 scholarships. The eight qualifying 2018 applicants were each awarded a $1,000 scholarship, for a total of $8,000.

“The practice of agriculture is important to every level of our communities, towns, the state of Colorado, our United States of America and this big world,” Patty McGraw said. “We are excited to help promote those students advancing into an agriculture area of study and feel we have an opportunity to impact many lives through this scholarship.”

Some areas of study recipients are pursuing are agronomy, livestock production, horticulture; animal science, meat evaluation, and pre-veterinary medicine.

Dave McGraw said, “We’re just so pleased to get these scholarships to deserving ag students. One girl said her $1,000 award was the difference between going to Colorado State University or to a junior college instead.”

The Larimer County Stockgrowers 4U Open Ranch Rodeo begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2019. General admission is $5; children under 12 are free. Please bring lawn chairs, as bleacher seating is limited.

For additional information, or to volunteer for the event crew, donate or inquire about future scholarship qualifications, call Dave McGraw at (970) 889-1960, or email him at Donation packets can be picked up at Mountain Vet Supply in Fort Collins, Colo. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at

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