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Wapato couple built herd on rising grass prices

By Erick Peterson

For the Capital Press

Couple builds an organic herd in Washington state.

Wapato, Wash. — The growth of Roy and Janelle Moses’ ranch, Holy Cow Grassfed Beef, is a study in good timing.

The pair purchased property in June 2006 with the plan of building a herd on fertile land that most of their neighbors use for grapes, hops and other crops.

They started raising grass hay when it was going for $3 a bale, they said. As prices went up to $12, they found themselves in a good position to purchase animals.

“We lucked out because our grass was a favored mix of sweet grass, natural grass, clover, orchard grass and others,” Janelle said.

It was popular and ranchers would pay up to $15. The Moseses also continuously looked for varieties of grass to add to the mix, she said.

Roy and Janelle were also fortunate in the price and availability of animals. They purchased five cows with their grass profits, and then went shopping every time they had money. They purchased from friends, contacts and 4-H members.

Now with around 200 cows on their 128 acres, Roy and Janelle do not need to sell grass to support their herd. Nor do they have to only shop local. The herd supports itself, and when they buy, they can travel long distances to pick up top-quality cattle.

“Business is good,” Janelle said.

They had 86 calves in 2012, and expect to have even more by the end of 2013.

Their ranch continues to grow toward self-sufficiency as they approach retirement age. Now in their 60s, they said that they are putting in work now so that they can relax in the years to come.

They came to ranching with the minds of entrepreneurs — from a background that included truck driving, retail and the entertainment business.

“When you start a business, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to build it,” Roy said. “You’ve also got to consider the market. Doing what other people aren’t doing is important.”

“It’s the most important,” Janelle said.

They started Holy Cow with the aim of raising grass-fed animals, which at the time was uncommon. They have marketed the uniqueness of the animals, promoting them as extraordinarily tasty and building a customer base.

In the past few years, they said that they are proud that their organic techniques have been a positive influence in the Yakima Valley, where they reside.

Also, neighboring ranchers have been helpful to them.

“We have an amazing community in this area,” Janelle said. “You might not know it unless you lived here, but people have been good to us, and we hope that we have been just as good to them.”


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