Warm Chinook winds, a good horse and working with family are some of the many blessings this Alberta rancher counts.
Not much daunts Mary Beth Sibbald, not even calving when winter lingers. She and her husband, David, own and operate Triple S Red Angus Ranch between Calgary, Alberta, and the Canadian Rockies. Their son Dylan ranches with them, while son Adam is in college.
Each year they calve 450 cows, a mix of commercial and purebred Red Angus. The ranch’s spring bull sale, in its 45th year, attracts buyers from across North America. In 2017 the top seller hit $120,000. The Sibbalds’ sons are the sixth generation in Alberta since the family arrived by oxcart in 1874. As ranchers, the family has long supported the Calgary Stampede; David served on its board of directors and became president in 2017.
Born and raised in Absarokee, Montana, Mary Beth Sibbald attended Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming, getting an agricultural certificate in livestock production. At the Northern International Livestock Exposition in Billings, Montana, she met David and “decided to chase a Canadian.” They’ve been married and working side by side for 29 years.
THE FIRST RODEO I was in was a Little Britches Rodeo. I ran the pattern wrong, I was so nervous.
Going to the first barrel, instead of going on the left side of it, I went on the right. It was a disaster. But it didn’t deter me.
DURING CALVING season, you push through. You start at stupid o’clock and finish at stupid o’clock, and then you calve cows through the night. But you know there’s an end in sight, and you just do what you’ve got to do.
MY HUSBAND says no animal goes unloved here. Usually guys throw up their hands with a calf that’s not well or a slow starter. I move in and become the ranch mother. There are a few failures, but I have success stories walking around here. It keeps you going.
I LIKE AI SEASON. You’re on your horse, out with the cows, watching for heats; it’s peaceful. We ride through several times a day. It’s a teaching opportunity for these younger horses, too—just because we’re in the herd doesn’t mean we’re doing something to them. We can relax.
“DOC” IS INCREDIBLY COWY. He doesn’t get worked up, and the cows don’t get worked up. When we’re in the mountains, he is as surefooted as a Billy goat. But he’s the worst horse in the world to ride out for pleasure. If we don’t have a purpose, he’s wondering what we’re doing.
AT NAPTIME it was time for me to clean the barns. I’d bring the diesel truck up here and put the boys in their car seats, and they’d sit there and sleep. I’d be mucking stalls, and I’d go out and check on them.
IF [THE BOYS] started something and decided they didn’t like it, I said, “You’ll finish it. You can choose not to do it again, but you are not allowed to quit.” They probably thought I was the meanest mother on the face of the earth! That’s okay; I think they learned a lesson.
WHEN DAVID got on the [Calgary Stampede board of directors], we understood that as a family it was a huge commitment. We’ll be in the thick of something and he’s got to go to a 2 p.m. meeting. But it’s okay. He might be the president, but we’re all volunteers—we pick it up so he can go.
SUMMERTIME is my favorite [season]. I have a big garden full of vegetables and a freezer full of beef, so I don’t have to go to town. I do have to go buy coffee and cream every once in a while.
YOU JUST WANT to make [the ranch] better for the next generation. You want your kids to have a better life than you had. Not saying that we had a poor life. You just want it better for them. That’s what our parents wanted.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Western Horseman magazine.