Arizona’s cattle feeding industry was beginning to bloom in the early 1960s when Carl Stevenson struck out on his own to build a feedyard near Red Rock. He wasn’t discouraged when a friend from California said it was an undesirable place and offered to help find one better.
Today, Red Rock Feeding Co. remains a family-owned 30,000-head feedyard under the management of Carl’s family. Yet the long-running feedyard represents only a fraction of Carl’s amazing life story.
Born in Hollywood, Calif., in 1917, Carl was still a baby when his father died of the influenza epidemic in 1918. His mother, with help from his grandparents, raised Carl in the San Fernando Valley. He graduated high school in 1935 and earned a degree in animal husbandry from the University of California (UC), Davis. He spent a couple of summers on a ranch in Chugwater, Wyo.
“I stayed out (of school) a couple of semesters in Alamosa, Colo., with a horse trader named Gil Traveler. We traded a lot of horses. I rode and broke a lot of horses for him,” Carl says.
After college and right before Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, Carl was drafted into the army. His agricultural experience landed him an assignment in the veterinary corps. “They sent 10 of us to veterinary school for a 10-day crash course. I came out of that with a rating of veterinary technician,” he remembers. He was the only non-veterinarian to head the Army School of Farrier.
Carl’s unit was deployed to North Africa where he was assigned to work with the horse mounted Moroccan troops. He spent the winter of 1944/45 in Grenoble, France where he and 10 men were assigned to provide a veterinary hospital behind Patton’s advancing tanks as they crossed the Rhine. Before war’s end, he served 4.5 years in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany.
Discharged in 1945, Carl returned home and joined one of his UC Davis classmates working on a ranch in northern California. Two years later he married Pat, and in 1951 the young couple and their three children moved to Continental, Ariz., where he entered the developing cattle feeding industry.
“Farmers Investment Company hired me in 1951 to come to Arizona and build a feedyard and then build a second feedyard,” he says. “We pastured cattle where Green Valley is today. It was all open country then.”
It was 1964 when Carl bought that first piece of property at Red Rock, and soon an old friend in Wyoming called to say he was sending three loads of cattle for Carl to feed.
“I said, ‘I haven’t got anything ready to feed yet,’” Carl recounts.
His friend replied, “Well that’s your problem. They’re on the way.”
Soon, another friend from California was sending cattle for Carl to feed.
“I could get cattle about as fast as I could build pens, so we kept enlarging it,” he remembers. “We never borrowed any money to enlarge. We just did it on our cash flow. We started out with 500 or 600 cattle and we got up to 28,000 head.”
Before he left Farmers Investment Company, Carl met University of Arizona professors Bill Hale and Bart Cardon who were developing a new way of flaking milo. The researchers were seeking a way to steam cook and flake the grain to get the same feeding value as corn.
“I put in a cooking system and a flaking system down at Continental and we were steam flaking grain the way they had developed it,” Carl explains. “I must say that I think he was the first to do that, and I think we were about the first ones to use it.”
Carl’s first wife, Pat, died of cancer in 1971, and he established an endowment and scholarship at the University of Arizona in her name. A few years later he married Betty Schroeder.
Carl and Pat had four children who all became involved in agriculture, and two are active in the management of Red Rock Feeding Co. Carl turned 102 in December 2019.
Much of this profile was originally reported by Nancy Brandt for the Arizona Farm Bureau, with interviews by Carol De Cosmo with the Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame.