OAKLAND, Ore. — Veril Nelson was not discouraged from becoming a rancher despite his father selling the family ranch while the son was off at college.
He also wasn’t discouraged when coyotes depleted his lamb crop by about 25 percent. Nor did he give up on ranching during times of low prices and high expenses.
After earning his degree in agricultural education from the University of Idaho, Nelson taught in the high school classroom, worked in the Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H program in Klamath County, Ore., and returned to the classroom for 21 years at Sutherlin, Ore., High School, usually while ranching in his spare time, first for eight years in Bonanza, Ore., and for the past 25 years east of Sutherlin.
“I absolutely love it,” the 64-year-old said of ranching. “There’s nothing better than getting up in the morning, checking the livestock, seeing happy cows, enjoying the fresh air.”
The Nelson Red Angus Ranch is home to 60 Red Angus mother cows and 50 New Zealand kiko goats.
“He’s very passionate about ranching,” said Barbie Nelson of her husband of 38 years. “He loves his cattle. He works very hard at improving his herd. I don’t think anybody enjoys it as much as he does.”
Veril Nelson admitted he was “a little ticked off” by his father’s decision, but the son could see there were tough times in ranching back in the 1960s and he understood his dad thought he’d have a better future in a different profession.
But he maintained his connection to livestock with his degree and while working for the extension service in Klamath County, he spent his spare time developing and running a sheep operation near Bonanza. He continued to run sheep after moving to take the Sutherlin teaching job, but that’s where the coyotes depleted his flock, finally forcing him to transition to cattle.
He initially had a commercial operation, but gradually realized calves that were uniform in size, breed and color were easiest to market. He purchased a red Saler bull and all of its calves were red. He continued to build his herd, staying with the red and eventually ended up with a purebred Red Angus operation.
“Once you develop a market, there’s a lot more money for registered animals,” Nelson said. “We’re fortunate in that we purchased a top selling bull in 2003 from the Lorenzen Ranches in Pendleton (Ore.)”
Nelson said Lorenzen Ranches have raised Red Angus since the breed was officially established in 1954.
The purchase of that bull led to an invitation to Nelson to sell his calves at the annual Lorenzen auction.
“It’s a way for us to market our cattle and to see how they stack up with the rest of the cattle in the sale,” Nelson said.
The rancher said about half of his bulls and heifers are sold to commercial herds for use in the beef production process. The other half are marketed as natural grass fed beef.
After retiring from teaching, Nelson got more involved in the Douglas County Livestock Association and is now president of that 250-member organization. He’s also a district vice president for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and is a member of the Douglas County Farm Bureau.
“I think it’s important for everybody who raises livestock, who is interested in the industry, to be involved in associations that support our industry,” he said. “A lot of people have stepped up and provided leadership and I think it was just my turn. The dues we pay for a membership are very well worth it for the representation we get from our industry. Those of us in production agriculture are less than 2 percent of the population so it’s really important that we in the ag industry educate those who are not.”
He does that by also returning to the classroom occasionally to be a guest speaker on an ag subject and by hosting field trips for students on his ranch.
“I have no regrets with what I’ve done in my life,” Nelson said. “Everything I’ve done I’ve learned from. Teaching experiences, extension experiences, ranching, I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve learned a lot from it all.”
Nelson Red Angus Ranch
Owners: Veril and Barbie Nelson
Location: Several miles east of Sutherlin, Ore.
Acreage: 400 for pasture and hay
Cattle: 60 Red Angus mother cows