Colvin Ranch in its fifth generation

Ignatius Colvin arrived on the Oregon Trail in 1851 and established a ranch near Tenino, Wash.

By Sheryl Harris

For the Capital Press

Published on November 30, 2017 11:39AM

Fred and Katherine Colvin use no grain to finish their cattle.

Courtesy of Fred and Katherine Colvin

Fred and Katherine Colvin use no grain to finish their cattle.

These cattle will eventually become individual cuts of beef or Beef by the Box, a way to purchase several months’ worth at one time.

Courtesy of Fred and Katherine Colvin

These cattle will eventually become individual cuts of beef or Beef by the Box, a way to purchase several months’ worth at one time.


Now in its fifth generation, Colvin Ranch continues to produce all-natural grass-fed beef and pastured pork.

Ignatius Colvin arrived on the Oregon Trail in 1851. The 550-acre ranch he established is near Tenino, Wash. Once it was a stagecoach stop; today, Fred and Katherine Colvin manage the ranch “with a part-time employee and the dog and a cat,” adds Colvin with a chuckle.

As with many ranching and farming families, their kids have moved away and will not be carrying on the tradition.

“We’ve put things in motion to keep it going — keep it from being subdivided,” Colvin explains.

One of those things is the conservation easement the Colvins put on the ranch about 10 years ago. It restricts use of the land for wildlife and as grasslands for the ranch.

“We have about 150 native prairie plants,” Katherine says. “Camus, balsam root, golden paintbrush, but no thistle or scotch broom.”

Colvins get around any critical habitat designation for the native plants because they already do more than is required.

“We developed a grazing system dividing the land into about 30 paddocks so nothing is overgrazed. We don’t want to weaken the grasses, especially in spring,” Colvin says.

What’s good for the land is good for their operation, he says.

Humane livestock handling considers what the animals do naturally and uses that knowledge to get them to do what you want. The Colvins say it’s easier than forcing animals to your will, and less stressful on the animals.

No antibiotics are used on their animals.

“We vaccinate,” Colvin says, “but that is to prevent infection. Antibiotics are used to cure infection. Our goal is to raise healthy animals; then they don’t need antibiotics because they don’t get infections.”

The ranch’s pastured pigs are purchased as weaner pigs and are provided with outside areas on dirt or pasture with shade, cover from the cold, and a wallow to control their temperature.

This summer was drier than most.

“It dries up every summer,” Colvin says. “We don’t irrigate, so we depend on rainfall. What grows March through June lasts through summer, then we get some fall growth. We feed alfalfa and blue grass hay because they have more protein and help digest the lower-quality dormant grasses.”

“We have a lot of good things here,” Colvin says. “We have good grass for the cattle and no hard winters. And we have a good population base to market to.”

Still, he admits there are challenges to those who would be ranchers today.

In Western Washington especially, land is scarce, what there is may not be good cattle land, and the cost of the land is high.

More good reasons to properly maintain his ranchland.



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