By Julie Wiessner
Derrick and Ilene Wagoner come from a long line of ranching and farm families. They’ve continued that by passing their knowledge and experience on to their five children, Bryce, Nevada, Elaina, Rietta and Buddy. These traditions have created a way of life for the Wagoners that has become a part of all that they do.
“We are ranchers and run our own cattle,” noted Derrick Wagoner. “We are not any different from any other ranchers in the area, like the Jeffers, the Fitzgeralds and the DeSpains. These people are all gentlemen and gentle women who just give and participate and work hard.
“Ranchers are steeped in the tradition of ranching and take seriously the need of responsible stewardship of the land.”
This includes harvesting and managing what he calls “big grass country.” He explained that there are eight to 10 different grasses and five to six browsers, plant life other than grasses, that livestock are able to use in this area. “The land is not covered up in trees, it is easy to see the cattle to work them,” he said,
Tending cattle is not as simple as providing food and space; several times a year the Wagoners gather the cattle together to tend to the needs of their stock.
“Working the cattle means to gather, brand, wean, give pregnancy tests and put the bulls out,” he continued.
The methods have changed little over the years, and are done today as they were back when Buddy Sr., Wagoner’s dad, taught him and his siblings the skills of ranching. During the spring, calves are sorted and branded; during the fall, there is mostly weaning and shipping. In between is tending to health issues and medical needs that could arise.
Over the years the Wagoners have leased ranches in both New Mexico and Arizona. They were at a place in Navajo for about 13 years, then others in Jackrabbit, Vernon, Woodruff, Taylor and Comada, N.M.
Besides ranching, Wagoner’s father began a livestock auction business, again passing that knowledge onto his son as they moved from Cortez, Colo., to Las Vegas, N.M., then to Albuquerque N.M.
Wagoner and his family finally settled in Sun Valley, closing the Albuquerque facility.
“We moved to Sun Valley in 1984, and leased/purchased the property from D. Baker and Virgil Stewart in 2001. Doyle Hatch built the original corrals,” he recalled.
“We have friends here and have built a good rapport with everyone in our area. We have developed, established and made this into a good business.”
Wagoner explained the life lessons learned from ranching, and how it has helped him and wife raise their children. “All of our kids have raised a calf from a bottle, which grew into a producing offspring,” he noted.
When their children were young, ranch life was full of responsibilities, but also adventure and fun. During their high school years, the kids were busy with sports and events. But as adults, the young Wagoners learned there was much more to ranching.
“When they turned 18, they started helping with the lease and ranch expenses, so it was not just a ‘gimmie’ all of the time,” said Wagoner.
As a result, Wagoner knows that he can trust his ranch and the auction house with his children.
“If Ilene and I want to or need to go somewhere for a couple of days, we can hand the whole thing over to our children and they will take care of it,” he said.
Wagoner can also be found at the Junior Livestock Auction that takes place each year as part of the Navajo County Fair, serving as the auctioneer.
“We like what we do and love marketing livestock. It meets the needs of the community, and for some customers, provides a weekly cash flow.”
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By Julie Wiessner