Western innovator: Storage opens up marketing
Infrastructure on farm allows direct sales that meet buyers' needs
By TIM HEARDEN
GERBER, Calif. -- A fourth-generation rancher, Bryce Borror is continuing his family's tradition of innovation.
Working at Tehama Angus Ranch, which was a pioneer in cattle-breeding techniques, the 24-year-old Borror is opening new doors for marketing the operation's high-quality beef.
Last year, the family put in a freezer, which enables Borror to take frozen sides of Angus beef to farmers' markets in nearby Chico and Red Bluff with an eye on direct marketing.
"Our main goal in time is to sell boxes of beef," said Borror, noting that a 40-pound box with an assortment of cuts sells for $250.
The effort marks a new direction of sorts for the more than 60-year-old ranch, which is best known for raising bulls to sell to commercial cattlemen for breeding. Its 37th annual sale in September will offer 155 bulls.
The family settled in California in the early 1900s and became successful Holstein dairy farmers in Springville. Bryce's grandfather, Bill Borror, owned his first cow at age 10 in 1943, and later he and his parents established the Gerber ranch as producers of Angus beef.
Bill Borror is credited by industry representatives as being a key player in developing the mathematical formulas behind a breeding tool known as expected progeny differences, or EPDs. Introduced in the 1980s, EPDs have become a common tool for helping ranchers choose breeders based on pedigree and performance.
Bryce's father, Kevin, now manages the cattle operation while his mother, Linda, maintains the office and records. His uncle, Eric, runs the farm operations, which include almonds, walnuts, corn and alfalfa.
A Colorado State University graduate with a bachelor's degree in agri-business and animal science, Bryce Borror always planned to return to the ranch. He mainly helps with the beef operation, feeding bulls daily and matching them twice a year with cows for breeding. He also works on advertising for the business and helps with haying and other farming.
Throughout the year, steers and heifers not suitable for breeding stock are taken aside and fattened up for beef. Even those animals are among the elite, though, having been bred for increased intramuscular fat, greater amounts of muscle and less back fat. They are finished with corn.
Last year, Bryce Borror persuaded the family to purchase the freezer. Before that, people could order quarters and halves of beef from the ranch, which is slaughtered at a USDA-licensed facility in Orland.
The freezer allows the ranch to store and market its beef.
"It's just simply ready to go and we can split it different ways," Borror said. "That's what it would take to take it to the next step and start selling boxes of beef."
Going to the farmers' markets are a way of "trying to get the word out," he said.
"Farmers' markets get people interested and get return customers," he said.
Borror's efforts serve as another example of the younger generation emerging on family farms and trying new things, said Kari Dodd, manager of the Tehama County Farm Bureau.
"He's definitely an innovator in the family, and he's taking it to the next step with more direct marketing and taking the product to a different group of people," Dodd said.
Farmers' markets aren't the best venue for every beef operation, Borror said. They're "a trend" that attracts "an upper class of people looking for locally grown foods," but "that is such a little piece of America," he said.
The trend offers some promise for Tehama Angus Ranch, whose higher-quality meat is more expensive.
"We can't sell our beef in Walmart as the lowest-priced product," he said.
Borror said he's excited about the future of agriculture, adding he's eager to continue the traditions his father, grandfather and great-grandfather built. He said he'd like to eventually add more cows, though he realizes the farming side of the business is important.
"I enjoy having the opportunity to do what I do, to start running a place right out of college," he said. "I try to use my head in everything I do."
Bryce Cameron Borror
Residence: Gerber, Calif.
Family: Wife Erin.
Goal: "To be progressive, keep moving forward and build upon the foundation that is already in place."