Hello, from sunny South Florida. I'm Mary Anne Carlton Cruse. My family calls me “MAC.”

As a seventh-generation Floridian and a fourth-generation cattle rancher, I'm excited to be able to share my family ranching experiences with the readers of BEEF.

Along with my older brother Wes, our parents and grandparents, we operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida. Believe it or not, there is more than swamps, palm trees, beaches and Mickey Mouse down here.

Florida does have cattle ranches and some darn good ones. Throughout our state there are many large commercial herds, as well as seedstock producers. Most people find that amazing, but I find it comforting.

Our operation is one and one-half hours south of Disney World or “the big rat,” as most Floridians say. We live and work in St. Lucie and Martin Counties near Fort Pierce, FL.

We have several thousand head of Beefmaster base mother cows crossed to Red Angus, Black Angus, Hereford and Beefmaster bulls. We have three separate divisions covering approximately 40,000 acres. Three of the divisions have been in the family since the early 1900s, and one is a lease. We also have citrus and a small sod enterprise.

My entire family is involved in the operation. We do not have technical “job descriptions” per se; we all chip in when and where we need to.

My grandfather is the family patriarch who started the ranch and is still very active in all decisions. My mother and grandmother do most of the accounting and bookkeeping. My father, brother and I manage the daily operations of all the divisions.

We have six full-time cowboys, as well as other employees. Even with all the aforementioned help, there are times when we run short-handed. This is when my brother and I wish Mom and Dad had had five or six more kids. The labor issue, however, is another article.

Family businesses pose many challenges, but I truly love being involved in ours. I do everything from vaccinating to bookkeeping. I love the variety that the ranch lifestyle gives me.

I enjoy nothing more than helping my brother and the others gather a pasture and work the cattle. I also like the challenges of the financial and regulatory sides of our business.

Ranching is a true passion for our family, something that's truly in our blood.

I'm married to a great man. I stole him from his home state of Georgia and brought him back to Florida with me when I returned from college at the University of Georgia.

Chuck works for the local bank, and the family joke is that he supports my cattle habit. The sad part is that the last few years that has been pretty close to the truth. He works his full week at the bank and helps on the ranch on the weekends and days off.

We don't have children yet, but we have three cow dogs named Biscuit, Barney and Concho, and a cantankerous ol' mare named Sue. It's a rough-looking bunch, but I love them all.

Cattle industry issues will be common bonds for most of us, but I know that the regional differences will be an eye-opener for most folks. Our subtropical climate, unique wildlife and variable weather patterns — just to name a few things — all lend to different challenges for us in the South. I look forward to sharing some of our experiences, stories, struggles and challenges with you.

Mary Anne Cruse, her brother Wes, her parents and her grandparents, operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida.