By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

GOODING, Idaho -- Caring Cowboys and Beef Counts teamed up for a benefit calf roping on Sunday to provide the Idaho Foodbank with much-needed beef protein.

The calf-roping event drew in 39, high-caliber cowboys and raised $7,700. Combined with Agri Beef Company's commitment of a 50 percent match, the total donation is $11,500.

"It was an extremely impressive event, and the cowboys who showed up were awfully impressive," said Laurie Lickley, a Jerome cattlewoman and an organizer of the event.

That many cowboys on one night is comparable to a National Finals Rodeo event, she added.

"It was a first class event," she said.

Sponsors donated $8,000 in prize money, and the $7,700 donation to the Foodbank was raised from a cowboy and live auction, gate and concession proceed and general donations.

Caring Cowboys was established earlier this year and is dedicated to the preservation of the Western lifestyle by conducting charitable activities and supporting local charities, events and people.

Beef Counts, a unique partnership between Idaho cattlemen, Agri Beef and the Foodbank, was launched in 2010 to provide a consistent supply of beef to the Foodbank for Idaho's needy.

The event was a way to give back to the community, and the Foodbank is such a worthy cause, Lickley said.

Professional calf roper Jake Hanum of Plain City, Utah, participated in the event, provided the calves and helped organize the roping.

The idea was to have good-caliber cowboys, keep it local and make it successful. The event was set for the day following three PRCA sanctioned rodeos in Gooding, Burley and Caldwell, making it easy on cowboy's diesel costs, he said.

"It was a really good roping. I'm hearing form all the cowboys it was a really good atmosphere. It's a place where calf roping is welcome. Everybody wanted us there. Everybody enjoyed it," he said.

Spectators at the event appreciate the old way of cowboying, and there were lots of youngsters getting autographs, he said.

"It's good for the cowboys and good for the fans," he said.

It's also good for Idaho's hungry.

Protein is such a critical component in a healthy diet, and it can be one of the most challenging components for needy families and the Foodbank to secure, said Karen Vault, president and CEO of the Idaho Foodbank.

Idaho's beef industry said "we can help ... and they did," she said.

There are a number of things that have to happen between wanting to feed the hungry and actually delivering food, and Idaho's beef industry figured out how to get beef to those in need, she said.

Through Beef Counts, cattlemen donate cash or cattle to be auctioned, with the proceeds going to the Food bank to buy beef. Agri Beef matches 50 percent of all donations, and the Foodbank makes a quarterly purchase of wholesale beef, which Agri Beef delivers to one of the Foodbank's warehouses.

The roping event will provide more than 12,000, 6-ounce servings of beef through the Foodbank to more than 200 of its partner agencies, such as churches, emergency kitchens, shelters, senior centers and food pantries, said Traci Bracco, executive director of the Idaho Beef Council.

Beef Counts is really unique in that it's not just a once- or twice-a-year donation. It's a sustainable, consistent program of providing beef protein year round, she said.

"Our industry wants to make a difference and committed to this for the long term," she said.

To date, the program has donated approximately 185,000 servings of beef, primarily in the form of roasts, she said.

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