Courtesy of Hugo Klopper
Rancher Hugo Klopper realized at an early age that Northern California was a much better place for a future than his home in Zimbabwe.
“I was born and raised in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and came from a farming background in Africa,” he said. “My mom married Bill McBride, a third-generation rancher, in 1983. They met in Africa on a blind date set up by mutual friends.
Klopper was still in high school at the time, and because of the politics in Zimbabwe he decided to make his future in California.
“I have been managing our Bonanza and Seattle ranches (Bear River Valley Beef in Humboldt County) for over 25 years, which belong to my stepfather,” Klopper said.
Klopper and his family — his wife, Elizabeth, and three sons — raise mainly Red Devons, a British breed from Devonshire. The calves are raised alongside their mothers until about 9 months old, when they are then weaned and moved to new pastures to continue growing.
The growth stage from weaned calf to finished grass-fed cattle is about 12-16 months. He said eating only grass is a time-consuming method to finish cattle, but healthy for the cattle and the land.
Elizabeth Klopper has a Cooper Institute certificate in nutrition and kinesiology and runs the farm office, taking care of online clients, shipping orders, and marketing as well as helping with various projects on the ranch.
“After running a traditional cow/calf operation for many years and establishing a superior cow herd whose calves were sold into the commodity market, I realized that I could provide a much better product and service by retaining ownership of the cattle and provide a 100 percent grass fed product with a focus on consistent quality,” Klopper said. “Raising animals on pasture with ‘all grass, all the time’ will always be the gold standard.”
He says there is no average day. Every day is different, depending on ranch projects that need completing. Klopper is currently installing more water storage and fencing to better manage feed production, which are limiting factors on increasing production.
“I would advise anyone to get into ranching in spite of the hurdles,” he said. “Sure, it is tough to get into because there is such a high cost on infrastructure, land, cattle for what you get on the return. Regulations are a challenge, too. It has been estimated that in California regulation costs to the industry run 25 percent higher than businesses in neighboring states.”
In addition to running the ranches, he has been a board member for the local Humboldt and Del Norte County Cattlemen’s Association for 10 years, president of the association for 2 years, state representative for the county for 4 years and one of nine zone directors in the state for 4 years. He currently is on the executive committee of the state association and is a board member on the local resources conservation district board.
When asked if he ever wanted to have another career, he replied, “Yes, to be fishing!”