Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Capital Press Tue, 25 Oct 2016 06:47:43 -0400 en Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Top-quality Herefords a passion for ranchers Mon, 7 Dec 2015 12:26:06 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas RIRIE, Idaho — Quality is more important than quantity for Bruce and Linda Sharp.

They raise a few registered Herefords near Ririe, Idaho, but their cattle are some of the best in the nation.

“I was raised on a cattle ranch in southeastern Idaho near Idaho Falls. That ranch is now under water, as part of the Ririe reservoir,” Bruce says.

He is the fourth generation in his family with Herefords, but the only one who ventured into purebreds. He was in retail for 35 years, but retired a little early so he could have time to build a purebred herd and show it.

“I bought a small place near the old ranch that is now under water. We have 200 acres of dryland pasture, with springs for stock water and a pond,” he says.

He wanted to build a good herd.

“I knew I could never have the quantity I wanted, so I’ve worked hard at developing quality. I usually have 45 to 60 cows and do a lot of embryo transfer. I bought the best cows I could find, and flush them to harvest embryos to put into recipient cows,” he explains.

“My goal is to do everything I can to produce an exceptionally good female that has the desired qualities — femininity, udder quality, milk. I don’t show a lot, but I go to the Eastern Idaho State Fair at Blackfoot to get my cattle used to the routine and being around people,” he says.

Then he goes to the National Hereford Show in Reno, Nev., in December, and to National Western Stock Show in Denver in January.

He has always enjoyed Herefords.

“The two associations (horned and polled) merged some years ago and I think that strengthened the breed,” Bruce says.

“I am very strict about the bulls I keep. I’ve had some that looked really nice but had some kind of issue and I’ve cut them,” he says. “That works out well, however, because people want my steers for show calves. I am a strong supporter of FFA and 4-H.”

His steers have done extremely well for their young owners.

“When people come to look at my bulls, the first thing I show them is the bull’s mother,” Bruce says, adding that the daughters of that bull will be a lot like his mother.

“I really enjoy my cattle and the baby calves. I can’t get down there fast enough to see those new ones — the results of selected matings. I also enjoy watching the cows doing a great job and the calves out there playing,” he says.

He takes his role seriously.

“The stewardship that we have, as cattle people, is a great responsibility. I feel obligated and honored to be a part of this,” he says. “Taking care of cattle gives me a purpose.”

He and Linda encouraged their five children to get good educations.

“Our three boys and two girls have done extremely well. It’s great for their families, but unfortunately I don’t have their help! They have gone off in various directions,” he says.

“My mother was very passionate in the cattle business; she was involved in the Cowbelle program, and helping Dad. In later years when she came to visit, she liked to see my cattle, but especially liked to see the OJJ brand on them. Her dad was Oscar Johnson Junior, and that brand was from grandpa,” Bruce explains.

“I am passionate about the cattle, and feel blessed to be able to do this, in tune with the cattle and Mother Nature. The most important thing to me, however, is family. I hope that someday some of the grandkids will take an interest, but for now they all love to come visit and be around the ranch life,” he says.

Mark Holt, Western Regional Manager, American Hereford Association, has known Sharp a long time.

“I don’t know anyone in the seedstock business who is more passionate about his cattle and their genetics,” Holt says. “Bruce and Linda love their cattle and enjoy being hands-on day-to-day with them. They do all the work themselves. Bruce knows his cattle inside and out. He has purchased some of the top genetics around the country, and is blending those genetics to produce outstanding cattle.”

Lowline Angus offers big value for its small size Mon, 7 Dec 2015 12:25:58 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas IDAHO FALLS — Small-framed cattle, including Lowline Angus, are becoming popular with people who raise grass-fed beef for custom butchering.

Lowlines began as a research experiment in Australia that kept one herd the same frame size they were when first imported from Scotland; this herd was closed to outside genetics in 1964.

The project was disbanded in the 1990s because ranchers wanted bigger cattle. Gene Kantack of Mini Cows West near Idaho Falls was one of the first people to import embryos and breeding females from Australia in the late 1990s.

“We’d seen an article telling about these cattle being sold when the research project ended. We selected four breeding heifers to import. They came via San Francisco and 97 days of quarantine,” Kantack said.

“Selecting quality breeding stock, flying them from Australia, going through three months of quarantine, made Lowlines very expensive. So then we imported semen from six of the best bulls and used that semen on our heifers,” he said.

“We were flushing embryos, putting them in surrogate cows, mostly Jerseys. We shipped calves all over the country in large dog crates,” he explained. “There was quite a demand for them, even from petting zoos, because at that time there were no Lowlines in the U.S. and they were a novelty.”

His target market was farmers with small acreages who didn’t have much room for cattle.

“These cattle are gentle and easy to handle,” he said. “But the most exciting thing is the quality of beef they produce. Many people talk about fish oil as the best source of good fats but you can get a lot of Omega 3s in beef, and a lot more in pasture-fed beef.”

He believes that if consumers realized there is a difference in the beef they would be more interested in Lowlines.

Other ranchers are also using them for crossbreeding — for calving ease and breed-back on first calf heifers or bringing down cow size in a herd that’s gotten its frame size too large.

Lowlines excel in carcass traits like ribeye area, fat thickness and marbling.

“You can’t get a typical size beef animal to marble in the right length of time like you can with a Lowline. Full-size Angus just can’t grade mid to high choice on grass only,” Kantack said.

Stocking rate is another plus.

“We can put 2 to 1 on a pasture and put 70 percent of the beef on a carcass with 40 to 50 percent of the feed required by a larger animal. If you have a small acreage, every dollar counts, and you can keep these cattle in with a 39-inch-high mesh fence,” he said.

“Many people are not mowing their acre of grass anymore; they’d rather have something to graze it that will provide beef — and they want something they can manage. They don’t want phone calls from the neighbors telling them their cow is out,” Kantack said.

Randy Nabb raises Lowline Angus near Twin Falls, Idaho.

“I bought embryos from Gene, including some from the Australian bull Roustabout,” Nabb said. “I bought my herd bull, Odin, from breeders in Wendell, Idaho, who bought all their cattle from Gene. The cows I’ve been getting my heifers from were bred with semen from Gene’s bull, Quartermasters Best, a son of the original Lowline that was the first one ever registered in America.”

Longtime practices find popularity Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:58:26 -0400 Brenna Wiegand Mount Angel, Ore. — Mike and Patty Kloft were raising and selling grass-fed beef before it was cool.

The Klofts own Lonely Lane Farms and Century Oak Packing just outside Mount Angel, Oregon. Many of the family practices they have followed for years, it turns out, are popular among today’s consumers. Their meat is grass-fed, grass-finished, no antibiotics, no animal byproducts, all feed is raised on the farm, and no genetically modified feed is used.

Patty, a fifth-generation hog farmer who majored in accounting, handles the books for both businesses and much of the processing plant management. Mike raises cattle on the same ranch his grandfather settled in 1939.

Zeroing in on the grass-fed beef niche is taking the Klofts on a progressive journey that has led to new markets and products, new partnerships, the opening of their own packing plant in 2012 and most recently a brand new, state-of-the-art sausage stuffer.

Lonely Lane Farms grows all its beef and works with co-producers for the pork and lamb under its label. They also co-pack for several other farms that are doing the same thing, their products destined for grocery stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets.

“The processing plant really allowed our farm to branch out into value-added product, to be very consistent in the products we’re able to offer … and gives us the stability of knowing that we’ll be able to get what we need processed done,” Mike Kloft said.

That’s especially important when you process and deliver fresh meat 52 weeks a year. Wholesale is about 85 percent of their business; they also fill orders for local customers and are vendors at the Beaverton Farmers’ Market.

The Klofts recently took a plunge into the value-added end of things with the purchase of a Handtmann Vacuum Stuffer, which is able to portion sausages to within 1 percent.

“It gives you a really high quality product because no heat is generated as it moves through — and it eliminates a lot of the human factor,” Kloft said. “It’s one of those toys we’ve always wanted but have never been able to afford until we were co-packing for a multitude of farms and we all were doing enough product that we could afford it.”

The recipes he used to make just for fun are finding their niche, too.

“It was kind of like when we were raising grass-fed beef and didn’t know we were supposed to be marketing it that way; a lot of the recipes we do are sugar-free or are considered low salt,” Kloft said. “There were a lot of people out there looking for those recipes. A lot of our cured meats are cured with celery powder instead of conventional nitrite, which is also what a lot of people were after.”

Lonely Lane and Century Oak also produced 3,000 pounds of sausage for this year’s Mount Angel Oktoberfest. It was a commemorative recipe for the festival’s 50th anniversary.

Old-school meat processors find new popularity Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:57:51 -0400 Brenna Wiegand John Brundridge of Yoder Meat Co. has traversed the Willamette Valley with his mobile slaughter unit for 30 years, and business is as brisk as ever, albeit less competitive.

“Years ago every town had a slaughterhouse,” Brundridge said. Today they are fewer in number, but good mobile slaughterers remain popular with their customers. Word-of-mouth is all the advertising they need.

“There are a lot, I’m afraid, who butcher a couple deer and think they know what they’re doing,” Brundridge said.

Most don’t have the training he did, first at a slaughterhouse and then in an apprenticeship with Bud Yoder upon buying his business. At 72, Brundridge plans to continue at least three more years.

“The hardest thing for me to give up (upon retirement) will be the people I’ve been helping and getting to know for three decades now,” Brundridge said. “People are still growing beef; they still want a good steak.”

In Hubbard, Ore., Voget Meats has been a neighborhood butcher shop for 75 years. Third-generation owners Merle and Grace Stutzman say that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

“We haven’t really made any changes or added much to our product line,” Merle Stutzman said. “They stopped smoking with hardwood in ’68 and in ’85 we started using vacuum tumblers for curing; other than that it’s still done the old-fashioned way.

Voget Meats cuts and packages around 800,000 pounds of meat in a year. In addition to sausages, a specialty is lamb products for a private label.

“Obviously, there are lots of things you could do,” Stutzman said, “but we’re not excited about getting big either.”

With a 107-year tradition, Mt. Angel Meat Co. slaughters 50-60 head of beef, pork and lamb a week. On the packing side, owner Eric Fietz said cuts remain the same save for a few, the tri-tip of the 1980s being a prime example.

However, today’s niche at the Mt. Angel plant has become a USDA inspected facility for small producers wishing to brand and sell their products to stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets.

“I got my first customer 13-14 years ago and at first I thought it was a fad,” Feitz said.

Sheep breeder uses science to make right choices Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:57:39 -0400 Brenna Wiegand SILVERTON, Ore. — Work is underway in the sheep industry that its proponents hope will help return lamb to a featured position on menus across the U.S.

Sheep have traditionally been bred for their show ring appeal, but now they are being scientifically bred for their commercial qualities.

In 1993 Siremax was formed when Columbia-type ewes were bred to Texel cross rams in an effort to breed composite sires superior to established breeds in lean growth, commercial fitness and longevity. The rigorous genetics program includes annual ultrasounds of all lambs.

No one in North America analyzed such data at the time and Siremax partnered with Sheep Genetics Australia. America’s National Sheep Improvement Program has since followed suit.

Siremax has four franchisees across the U.S.; two herds in Minnesota, one in Montana and the one owned by Brian and Amanda Dietrich of Silverton, Ore., where Brian is a veterinarian and owner of Abiqua Animal Clinic.

“There are a lot of people who produce commercial lamb, but they do most of their selection by eye or a few easily measured things like weight,” Brian Dietrich said. “We select our genetics using complicated formulas that allow us to do consideration of their loin muscle and back fat as well as weight and other parameters.”

Dietrich, who started his first flock of sheep in high school, is on the boards of the American Sheep Industry Association and the Oregon Sheep Growers Association.

This year he will be supplying rams to the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Idaho as part of a three-year breed comparison study.

“Ours is not a purebred; it’s more of a composite with two or three different breeds they’ll be analyzing as a potential sire,” he said.

Technological developments make further comparison possible.

“A couple of the big slaughterhouses are putting in digital machines that scan and evaluate carcasses to estimate their retail yield and the optimal way to make use of it,” Dietrich said. “The slaughterhouse gets paid by the amount of retail product they can sell, and they’re generally a lot happier to see our lambs coming through than lamb without a lot of genetic selection behind it.”

Watching over Dietrich’s 400-ewe flock are guardian dogs he breeds — a three-way Maremma, Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd cross that suits him well.

“If it wasn’t for those dogs I probably wouldn’t be raising sheep; there are enough coyotes and dogs that people don’t keep under control to make it very difficult; even bald eagles can be a significant threat to little lambs.”

When alarmed the dogs give a warning bark, bunch up the sheep and position themselves between the flock and the perceived threat.

“It’s really amazing to watch how they work with the sheep and each other, especially since there’s not really any formal training — just instinct that’s been bred into them for centuries, maybe millennia,” Dietrich said.

Dietrich also raises a few dairy cows, keeps about 20 hogs and maintains 100 goats he hires out for custom land-clearing.

K-Bar Ranches thrive under Cow Creek Band Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:57:26 -0400 CRAIG REED Myrtle Creek, Ore. — Being stewards of the land had been a tradition of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians.

So getting back into the agricultural business in 2001 was no surprise for the tribe that is based in Douglas County. The Cow Creeks purchased the K-Bar Ranch near Myrtle Creek, Oregon, in 2001 and then acquired the Rogue River Ranch near Medford, Oregon, in 2013.

The ranches provide pasture for stocker cattle and grow alfalfa, wheat and corn, most of which goes to feed for the livestock.

“Being stewards of the land is in their (Cow Creeks’) DNA,” said John McCafferty, the business operations officer for the Umpqua Indian Development Corp. “A lot of our membership is involved in ranching and timber in one way or another. A lot of the members grew up on small farms so agriculture is something near and dear to the tribe. And the tribe is good at it.”

The K-Bar Ranch is about 2,000 acres. It was established in 1960 by Ken and Glenna Bare and then became a partnership with their sons Vern and Tim in 1976. One of the conditions of the purchase by the tribe was that one of those partners remain to manage the operation. Since Ken Bare was looking to retire, Vern Bare was more interested in a hay operation and Tim Bare’s interest was in livestock, Tim became the ranch manager.

“There wasn’t much more room for us to expand in the area,” Tim Bare said of his family’s ranch. “The tribe had purchased ground around us and it had an interest in expanding its land holdings. So there was a conversation, one thing led to another and a sale was made.

“I think it was a great move for everyone in the family as well as the tribe,” he said, adding that his father did retire and that his brother moved to the Culver, Oregon, area where he started a hay business.

K-Bar Ranches Corp. purchased the 1,700-acre Rogue River Ranch at the base of Table Rock to expand its cattle herd and increase its forage production. The ranch also had a licensed feed yard, allowing the ranch to finish out its beef animals before they were turned into steaks, roasts and hamburgers.

Early this year, an adjoining 65 acres of river bottom ground along the Rogue River was purchased and another couple hundred acres are leased, making that operation about 2,000 acres.

To feature their own beef, the Cow Creek tribe turned its main dining room at its Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon, into the K-Bar Steakhouse.

“There is tremendous potential in the protein markets,” said Tim Bare, who manages both K-Bar and Rogue River ranches.

He said the river bottom ground and the mild temperatures of southwestern Oregon make it possible to grow abundant forages that are used to supplement the grazing of the ranches’ livestock. The two ranches produced about 15,000 tons of hay this past summer.

Out in the fields, there are close to 4,000 head of stocker cattle on the two ranches. The animals are purchased from various mother-cow operations from the Canadian border south to Northern California and east to Idaho. They arrive around Sept. 1 and weigh in at between 500 and 550 pounds. They graze and are fed until about July 1, leaving at between 900 and 950 pounds.

The K-Bar retains ownership of some, finishing them out at between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds at the feed yard. In addition to supplying grain fed finished beef to the steakhouse, half a beef and a quarter beef have recently been made available for sale to the public.

K-BAR Ranches Corp.

Where: K-Bar Ranch near Myrtle Creek, Oregon, and Rogue River Ranch near Medford, Oregon

Who: Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians

Acreage: 4,000 acres total in production

Livestock: About 4,000 stocker calves from Sept. 1 to July 1

Forage: Grass, alfalfa, wheat and corn

Employees: 12 full-time for the two ranches

Michaels family continues ranching tradition Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:57:07 -0400 CRAIG REED DAYS CREEK, Ore. — Lawrence Michaels would be proud of his grandson Troy Michaels.

The grandson is carrying on his grandfather’s wish that the Michaels Ranch remain in the family and operational. Under Troy Michaels’ management, the ranch today is home to 200 mother cows and 300 ewes, and has earned Century Ranch status.

As a high school and college student, Troy Michaels worked on the ranch and learned from his grandfather. After earning an agri-business degree from Oregon State University, the young man returned to the ranch in 1990 and worked full-time with Lawrence Michaels until the grandfather died in 1999. The ranch was left to Troy, the family’s fourth generation to live on and work the ranch.

The ranch had been established in 1898 by Troy Michaels’ great grandfather.

“The long-term goal is to keep the operation going in the family, to follow through on my grandfather’s wishes,” said Troy Michaels, now 47. “He wanted the ranch to stay in agriculture as long as possible, and that’s my goal, too.

“There’s a sense of pride in that ... that my family has been here on this land for that long,” Michaels said. “We not only want to survive. We want to thrive along the way.”

Today, Troy Michaels and his wife, Holly, own 1,250 acres at their home ranch along the South Umpqua River near Days Creek in southern Douglas County. The couple also lease 1,000 acres a few miles away.

Holly Michaels is a teacher in the Days Creek School District, but does the bookwork for the ranch and helps with work when needed and when available.

The Michaelses raise their calves and lambs from birth to a finished weight and follow the beef and lamb all the way to the consumer.

“We market grass-fed beef and lamb,” Troy Michaels said, adding that about 160 cattle and 325 lambs are sold annually. “Our animals that are sold into the food supply have had no antibiotics, no growth hormones and are pasture-raised.”

The ranch’s beef is sold to the Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Oregon, and beef and lamb are sold to New Seasons Market, which has a dozen stores in the Portland area. Several smaller retail outlets in Douglas County also buy beef and lamb from the Michaelses.

“I really enjoy where Troy has taken the business, how the lambs and beef are raised to provide a more nutritious food base,” Holly Michaels said. “I appreciate the time and knowledge Troy has put into it, and the direct-marketing approach he has established.”

“I enjoy working outdoors,” Troy Michaels said of ranching. “With this job you have a sense of accomplishment for the most part. I’m trying to constantly improve the land and the livestock in order to leave the land better than when we took it over. That’s a challenge I enjoy.”

The Michaelses have three daughters, Katie, Sarah and Moriah, who help on the ranch and are involved in livestock projects through 4-H and FFA.

“There’s always new experiences ... a cow jumping the fence and getting out, things like that,” said Katie, who is now a college sophomore. “It’s something new every day and that makes it interesting.”

As a high school senior, with her parents gone, Katie pulled her first lamb, having learned the procedure by watching her father previously. The ewe, the lamb and Katie were fine after the experience.

Each girl has her own small flock of sheep. Katie and Sarah also have pigs and Moriah has goats.

Katie and Moriah said they have an interest in being the fifth generation to run the ranch at some point in the future. Sarah said she would do the bookwork.

Their great-grandfather, Lawrence Michaels, would be proud and pleased to see another generation show interest in continuing the family’s ranching tradition.

Anderson All Natural continues family’s cattle tradition Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:56:44 -0400 Erick Peterson Zillah, Wash. — As orchardist and rancher Jerry Anderson walks his property and oversees cattle being raised for Anderson All Natural, he beams with pride for his son, Kelly Anderson, who founded the company.

The father was an independent rancher for many years, and recalls raising cattle alongside his children. He got to see his children grow up raising cattle, sheep and hogs for 4-H competitions. Now, he is working alongside his son as he continues the tradition.

“Kelly went to Seattle and has done really well in finding a niche market,” Jerry Anderson said.

Kelly Anderson has marketed grass-fed beef since 2010.

“In selling the beef ‘on the hoof’ throughout Seattle, I realized the potential for the product to be sold as retail cuts,” Kelly Anderson said. “A retail beef business was created using our all-naturally raised Black Angus cattle and a USDA inspected butcher and processing facility in Basin City, McCary Meats.”

He explained that the company was built “under the initial business plan to offer an effective ‘online meat locker’ situation where customers could purchase farm-to-table beef in a streamlined fashion and in volumes small homes in the Seattle Metro area could handle.”

From there, the company has pivoted more toward direct-to-consumer sales at area farmers’ markets and through retail grocery outlets in the area, he said.

“In addition to expanding these avenues of sales, we are currently pursuing restaurants with the same commitment to sustainable farming practices that we adhere to,” Kelly Anderson said.

Anderson All Natural’s cow-calf cattle operation has been operating in Zillah on a couple different pastures totaling around 35 head on around 35 acres. The company sold much of the herd this past summer and has approximately 17 steers left. Around 20 acres were recently bought just outside Zillah, and it will be transitioning to a sustainable steer-finishing operation over the next year, he said.

“We will be purchasing steers from a few different cow/calf operations in the (Yakima) Valley that had previously supplemented their herds with our cattle and have the same commitment to our proven sustainable practices,” he said.

Kelly Anderson espouses high standards for herd quality, genetics and the finishing process, which distinguish his operation.

“We purchase only steers from trusted producing partners that we have had the opportunity to thoroughly vet their entire operations and bloodlines, and after a full 16 months on mother and full lush pasture we assess each steer individually to determine anywhere from 45- to 60-day grain finish (while they remain on pasture),” he said.

He said the grain is “basically spoon-fed to the animals, and never exceeds 4 percent of their overall diet. In addition, our cattle never receive any form of growth additive of any kind.”

“We know our strict and lofty standards regarding steer quality and growth-finishing schedule sets us apart from many options currently available for well-educated consumers looking to purchase farm-to-table beef,” he said.

Distributing the beef in the greater Seattle area, he sells every retail cut from his steers, including ground beef, tenderloin steak, ribeye steak, New York strip steak, top sirloin steak, flank, skirt, tri-tip, sirloin tip roast, rump roast, short ribs, brisket, soup bones and offal. He is currently developing a smoked product line using round and chuck cuts.

“Our products are distinguished by our standard cut-and-wrap instructions we’ve developed through customer feedback over the past five-plus years, as well the way in which they’re combined into our online packages creating perfectly sized and portioned packages for every household,” he said. “Also, our price point is incredibly competitive with our direct competition within the market.”

He said that this is a busy time for his company — and it is a growing time. He looks forward to additional growth in the future.

“There is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Tips for getting into direct marketing Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:56:37 -0400 Gail Oberst DALLAS, Ore. — Thinking of marketing your beef to stores, restaurants and individuals? You’re not alone. The idea is a popular one these days, as consumers demand to know more about how their food came to their plates.

But before you launch your farm-to-fork business, be advised: It’s not all steak and gravy.

The demand for niche meat changed the lives of David and Bette McKibben. In 1997, the McKibbens took a break from their Polk County, Ore.-based logging and construction business to travel to England and Scotland. In Great Britain, the couple visited ranches featuring free-range and grass-fed animals, and the seed for niche ranching and marketing was planted. They brought home a passion to grow healthier meats, just as the demand for began to grow in the U.S.

On property they owned in the foothills of the Coast Range, the McKibbens installed a cow/calf operation, McK Ranch, maintaining 40 head.

For a short time, they sold wholesale to a cattle buyer, but after the first year, they began holding back a portion of the herd to sell retail, beginning with whole and half sides of their Angus-cross beef.

When they couldn’t sell all of the meat, they began selling at farmers’ markets and then eventually sold directly from the ranch, trying buyers’ clubs and other direct marketing techniques, with varying levels of success.

Following is a short list of “dos” and “don’ts” for new niche meat sellers and processors, compiled from Bette McKibben’s experiences, from Lauran Gwin of the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network at Oregon State University and from Gene Pirelli, professor and animal scientist at OSU Extension.

1. Don’t give up your day job. Before they sold directly to consumers, the McKibbens sold their beef wholesale, and they owned and built commercial buildings, which they rented out, providing a base income that helped them through thin times endemic to retail sales.

2. Do study USDA and Oregon regulations for selling meat before you begin. “And keep up with them, because rules change,” said Bette McKibben. Attend small farm conferences and workshops, read the latest publications, and talk to other niche meat marketers.

3. Do connect with a reliable processor. Most niche meat sellers have their meat cut and packaged at the slaughterhouse or by a mobile processor. But the onus for labeling and packaging is on the seller. A good place to review processing rules is at

3. Do start with the simplest plan for selling. “I always strongly recommend that people get started with wholes, halves and quarters rather than by the cut sales, which have much higher embedded costs along the whole value chain, including the time and stress of marketing the whole carcass,” said Gwin.

4. Don’t burn yourself out. Selling at farmers’ markets, selling direct to restaurants, setting up a buyer’s club, pre-sales through a CSA farm share program — you might try all of these things, but eventually, stick with the most efficient and rewarding mix, suggested Bette McKibben. Optimizing her time and profits meant focusing her efforts on the best retail restaurants and stores that order ahead and fit into her delivery schedule. “I can actually have a life now,” she said.

A good reference for beginning sellers is Gene Pirelli’s online publication, “Alternative Meat Marketing Strategies.” It is available at the website:

These ‘Ranch Hands’ get special benefits Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:56:10 -0400 Gail Oberst “It’s more like a party,” said Ellen, whose life began on a cattle ranch near Meeker, Colo. Joe — also from Meeker — was a “townie,” Ellen said, whose family operated the Meeker grocery story. They both left town for college and other jobs, reconnecting at a Fourth of July event in Meeker in 1986. They married a few years later.

Joe quickly picked up ranching, moving back to Ellen’s family ranch when they were needed.

There, while raising a family and working other jobs, the Nieslaniks began raising grass-fed sheep of their own to sell directly to customers. But the climate and distance of Meeker from high-end markets pushed the Nieslaniks west. In 1997, they moved to Oregon and joined Umpqua Valley Lamb, a cooperative that sells member meat products to New Seasons and other natural food outlets in Oregon and Washington.

In 2012 they purchased 155 acres in the mid-Willamette Valley near Scio. The Nieslanik’s named their ranch “White River” after the Green River tributary that flows through Meeker.

“We’re just a few miles from Albany and I-5 here,” Ellen said.

Most of the Nieslanik’s direct-selling efforts include urban couples and families.

Today, thanks to White River Lamb’s innovative Ranch Hand program, about 20 percent of their sales are to members.

The program suits busy Ellen and Joe, who like to cook and entertain, in addition to maintaining separate jobs, and the ranch. Ranch Hand members pay a $30 monthly fee or a one-time annual fee. Similar to a CSA, they receive portions of cut and processed lamb and some extras including branded gloves and cooking spices.

But the biggest draw of membership is the annual gathering — an evening at the ranch that features lamb and wine pairings at a gala dinner, sheep dog shows, cooking demonstrations, tours of the ranch and music.

During the year, Ranch Hands are also invited to help at special events such as sheep shearing, lambing, riparian habitat projects and other activities on the ranch.

Ellen said the goal is to share White River’s management practices with those who actually eat the meat they raise. White River also ranches 170 pasture-raised ducks for their eggs and raises doves for weddings and special events.

Ranch Hands are the only individuals who can purchase meat directly from the ranch at wholesale prices. And, if they wish, Ranch Hands can host a lamb dinner at their own homes for up to 25 guests — all included in the membership. Ellen says that part of the Ranch Hand package aims at attracting new members and it is sort of like a Tupperware party.

“We want to get our product into people’s mouths,” Ellen said. “Then they’ll love it.”

For more information about the Ranch Hand program or other activities on the ranch, visit, or call 541-258-2002.

Arabian stallion sires good-natured, athletic colts Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:55:43 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas MERIDIAN, Idaho — Barb Crawford never intended to have a stallion, but she’s been raising Arabians near Meridian, Idaho, for 14 years.

“I bought my stallion ‘Scootie’ (registered name Gold N Glory) when he was a weanling and he’s now 15. When I bought him I actually wanted a mare,” Crawford said.

“I called a lady in Wisconsin after I saw a photo of her stallion, Gold N Ali. He was in his 20s and she wasn’t breeding him anymore. But she did have one colt by him. She sent me a 20-minute video of this colt, taken while her horses were running all over the pasture. Long story short, I bought the colt.”

As Scootie grew up she trained him, and did a little showing.

“He has an amazing personality. He’s the first horse I ever started by myself. I didn’t know the first thing about training a horse so I worked with a local trainer who gave me lessons every week with him,” Crawford said. Now she’s shown him in western pleasure, hunter, sport horse under saddle, open and breed classes.

“...I’ve crossed him on Polish-bred Arabian mares and have been producing endurance horses. Scootie is very pretty, and small, at 14.2 hands, but all his babies grow to 15 hands or taller,” she said.

Now she has bred him to Quarter Horse mares. His versatility helps promote the Arabian breed.

Crawford has only one purebred mare right now.

“We have our first filly from that cross, and her future is to be an Arabian reining horse. She’s very stocky — short and compact — and very athletic,” she said.

Barb did some reining earlier and decided she’d like to do this on her Arabians.

“I hope to keep breeding purebreds and also breed Scootie to Quarter Horses to get some good half Arabs. The working horses are becoming popular today,” she said.

She doesn’t breed a lot of outside mares, but the foals Scootie has sired have done well. One of them is in Utah as a jumper.

She runs a boarding facility and sells a few foals.

“I don’t breed many mares because the horse market has been so down for so long. My goal was to sell Scootie babies and get them into good homes,” she explains.

“The last one I sold was actually 7 years old. I kept him that long because he was just so lovely and had a nice mind. He went to a lady in her 60s who wanted a nice trail horse, and I knew he would be great for her.”

Susan Sink, a longtime friend, boards her 17-year-old gelding at Crawford’s place.

“I’ve known Barb about 20 years. I purchased one of Scootie’s offspring, out of an off-the-track Thoroughbred mare and he is now on the jumper circuit,” Sink said.

Galloway cattle labor-saving, efficient Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:55:10 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas HAZELTON, Idaho — Jim Grant purchased his first Galloway bull in 1967 to use on Angus females and liked the cross, so in 1969 bought registered cows from a breeder near Bozeman, Mont.

Grant’s family had a farm and a few milk cows, and he showed beef cattle in 4-H.

“I got interested in Galloways in grade school. I had to write an essay and found information about this breed and was intrigued. It was 30 years later, however, before I had a chance to own some,” Grant said.

“These cattle are well-suited for our operation because of their ability to forage. When I tell people how much hay I feed in winter; they think I must be starving my cows, but the cattle are always in good flesh. They just don’t require as much feed as most breeds,” says Grant.

They do well in cold climates because of their easy fleshing ability and long, thick hair.

“Many people think they’d suffer from the heat in hot weather, but they just shed more hair,” he says.

The Galloway is an old, polled breed from southwestern Scotland, a rugged area of hills and forests. The cold, wet climate led them to develop a long, thick outer coat and a soft, thick impenetrable undercoat that provides excellent insulation.

They are very efficient in the feedlot.

“Instead of needing to be on feed for 120 days, they should be harvested at about 80 days; they’ve laid on all the fat they need,” Grant says.

The main users of Galloway in the U.S. today are people producing grass fed beef. They are ideal for this purpose.

“I’ve sold cattle all over the U.S. and Canada, and semen all over the world,” says Grant. One of the top bulls in the ABS battery is out of one of his cows.

His cattle are on rangeland that is mostly desert.

“We run our registered cows the same as the commercial cows; we just keep better records on them,” he says. “They eat buck brush and other shrubs, and weeds. We don’t bring our cows in for calving. They are out year-round and they calve on their own.”

Awhile back he leased 30 registered cows to Harley Blegen in North Dakota.

“They had a severe winter, but the cattle came through it very well. Later Harley bought them from me. Those cattle produced grand champions at Denver and the Northern International Livestock Expo in Billings, and have been shown in Canada,” he says.

Blegen — president of the American Galloway Breeders Association for many years — says Grant has always been one of his mentors.

“I’ve known Jim for more than 30 years; I met him when I was 15 years old. He’s a humble guy and when he brings cattle to a show they are just good, functional cattle,” says Blegen.

“My wife and I were out at his place shortly after we leased cows from him; we drove around on 4-wheelers on 2,500 acres of desert looking for 150 cows and couldn’t find them! His purebreds are not pampered. They are registered, with hand-picked mating, but run on the range. His genetics are sought after in the breed, especially his females, because they are such good-doing cows,” explains Blegen.

“We have some of his cows in our herd that are 14 and 15 years old — and still raising a good calf every year, right on time, and we never have to touch them. My base cow herd goes back to Jim’s cows that my wife and I leased. He’s been a real advocate for the breed, but not one to toot his own horn.”

Professional horse trainer started young Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:54:08 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas SALMON, Idaho — Not many 24-year-olds have made a name for themselves as a professional horse trainer.

Heather Carrie Thomas has been training horses since high school on her parents’ ranch near Salmon, Idaho.

It all started when she was in 4-H.

“I was 9 years old when I got my Arabian horse, Chance, and he was 17. He was an awesome horse but I had to teach him all the fancy moves like doing a side pass and opening gates from horseback,” she said. “He was my first practice for training a horse. I taught him all the things for a trail course and we went to the state fair at Blackfoot.”

A local rancher asked her to work with some of his horses the summer before she started college.

“The horses he brought me had been started but were still very green. I put a lot of miles on them and made progress in their training,” Thomas said.

After that, more people started calling, asking her to train their horses.

“Every summer I’d take a few and work with them,” she said.

Then she went to Carroll College in Helena, Mont., majored in psychology and anthrozoology, and helped other students in the horse program.

After graduating, she began training horses full-time. She trained a large group two winters ago for one owner, to get them ready for the Salmon Select Horse Sale that spring.

Last summer she started training for Jo Ann Carroll, who raises, buys and sells horses.

“For her, I am starting young horses, riding them and getting them ready for new owners,” she said.

“A lot of people call me. Some have just one horse they want me to work with but most of them have several horses they want me to train, and now I’m getting a lot of repeat customers,” she said.

Three years ago a man from Tetonia, Idaho, brought her four Rocky Mountain Saddle Horses and kept bringing more horses each summer — Tennessee Walkers, Foxtrotters and other gaited horses.

“Then his brother brought me a horse, and local ranchers brought me horses. It just grew from there,” Thomas said.

Jo Ann Carroll has had several trainers over the years and said Heather has great promise because of her talent for dealing with potential buyers.

“I’ve had some trainers who were not social enough to market the horses they trained. With Heather, I don’t even go with her when buyers look at the horses. She handles the whole thing,” Carroll said. “Each buyer has told me what a gem she is; most of them tip her for doing a great job.”

Many buyers see the horses on Carroll’s website, and Heather helps create the videos. People watch the horses on a 20-minute video and if they are interested they look at the horse in person.

“Heather is so personable and so honest. When she shows them the horse she answers all their questions,” Carroll said.

“She takes videos on her phone to send to the people, and has on-going conversation with them from the time they call and ask about a horse. She sends videos as she is training that horse, so the prospective buyer feels like part of the process,” Carroll said.

Thomas started writing her first book, “Basic Horsemanship: How to be Safe with Your Horse,” while she was in college. “The seeds of this go back to 4-H when I helped kids who were just learning how to ride and handle their horses,” Thomas said.

Then she was assistant instructor for the anthrozoology program at college, in charge of designing classes.

“I came up with exercises and ways for the students to do things with their horses,” she said. “Before long, I had an outline of a book.”

She finished the manuscript and photos this spring, and the book was published in July by The Frontier Project.

Editor’s note: Heather Carrie Thomas is the granddaughter of the author.

Partners in roping, partners for life Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:53:29 -0400 LACEY JARRELL KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Just a little more than a year ago, Mark and Jenna Nonella tied the knot and solidified the bond they developed as roping partners in college rodeo. The couple now owns about 60 Angus-Hereford cross beef cows on a 480-acre leased ranch outside Klamath Falls, Ore.

Together, they are working toward buying their first ranch.

Mark, 26, is a third-generation rancher. He was raised on a ranch and has been riding horses since he was four or five years old.

“Even when I was little, I remember with my toys I built ranches. Since I was a little guy, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” Mark said.

Jenna, 27, is a special education teacher. But in addition to her 9-to-5 job, she brands and works cattle with Mark on weekends.

“In the summertime, she’s cowboyin’ right there with me,” Mark said. “Whatever needs done, we both do and work together.”

Jenna grew up on a ranch in Battle Mountain, Nev.

“I was raised working cattle, doing everything Mark does and did when he was younger,” Jenna said.

According to Jenna, the couple said they chose to follow in their parents’ footstep because of the solid morals and work ethic cattle ranching inspires.

“It’s a good lifestyle and a good lifestyle to raise kids in,” Jenna said. “It teaches you a lot about life and how to live your life. We are very blessed.”

Mark works full-time running cows at his grandfather’s ranch in Dorris, Calif. He is working to establish a herd and saving money for a down payment on a house with some land.

“When I have time, I take care of my own cows and I help my parents,” Mark said.

He explained that the cattle market has been high, which is good for sales, but not for those trying to build a herd.

“I think (buying property) will be very challenging; a lot of people never do own their own ranch,” Mark said. “I’ve been very fortunate, in ranching, to have a family that can help me out.”

Everything the Nonellas do is aimed at one day running their own working ranch, including the couple’s hobbies: roping and riding, starting horses and breeding border collies.

“If we sell something it goes back to our cow operation,” Mark said.

Mark said as a budding cattle rancher it’s been a challenge to learn to save money and save for his future.

“I’ve always known you gotta work hard, but probably the toughest thing for me was trying to save money and put it toward the right things,” Mark said. “After getting married, and with a baby on the way, I’ve got more than just myself and the cows to take care of.”

Mark’s advice to up-and-coming ranchers like him is to “work hard and save your money.”

“Appreciate people who will help you and take advice,” he said.

Our annual Equine IQ Test Fri, 4 Dec 2015 11:52:48 -0400 TERRELL WILLIAMS 1. What is the four-letter term for horse gear, such as saddles and bridles?

2. Where is the pastern?

3. There are two basic types of trailers for transporting horses. One is the bumper pull, which hitches to the back of the towing vehicle. What is the other type?

4. What is ground tying?

5. In grooming for show classes, what is banging the tail?

6. What are blinkers?

7. What is waxing and when does it occur?

8. What do monkshood, ragwort and yew have in common?

9. Who is American Pharoah?

10. In racing, how far is a furlong?

11. In breeding, what does LFG stand for?

12. In rodeo, what is dally?

13. What is proud flesh?

14. What is a Morab?

15. What museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, commemorates a business venture with 400 horses that lasted only 19 months?

16. What is a nicker?

17. What color are Lipizzaner foals?

18. What are whorls (also known as cowlicks)?

19. What is a creep feeder?

20. Who rode Champion?

BONUS QUESTION: What type of computer does a horse like to eat?


1. Horse gear is called tack.

2. The pastern is the portion of the lower leg between the fetlock and the hoof.

3. The second type of horse trailer is the gooseneck, which hitches to a ball in the center of the back of a truck.

4. Ground tying is when a horse is trained to stand in place on command, usually when the lead rope or reins are dropped.

5. A banged tail is trimmed straight across the bottom.

6. Blinkers (also called blinders) are a pair of cups or flaps attached to the bridle to keep a horse from seeing to the side or rear. They are routinely used in driving and harness racing.

7. Approximately two to three days prior to foaling, small waxy droplets usually appear on the mare’s nipples. This is called waxing and it is a sign that the mare is ready to give birth.

8. Monkshood, ragwort and yew are plants that are poisonous to horses.

9. American Pharoah is the racehorse that won the Triple Crown this year (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) for the first time in 37 years (since Affirmed did it in 1978).

10. A furlong is one-eighth of a mile.

11. LFG stands for Live Foal Guarantee. If a live foal is not produced, the mare owner is allowed to rebreed at no additional stud fee.

12. Dally is to wrap a lariat rope around the saddle horn after a steer or calf has been roped. The word comes from the Spanish phrase “de la vuelta,” to make a turn (of the rope).

13. A wound that will not heal produces scar tissue that protrudes from the wound area. This unsightly tissue is commonly referred to as proud flesh.

14. A Morab is mixed breed that is a cross between a Morgan and an Arabian.

15. The Pony Express museum is in St. Joseph. (For more information, visit the website at ).

16. A nicker is a low, friendly rat-a-tat-tat sound that horses use as a greeting.

17. Lipizzaner foals are born black, then turn white with age. (The occasional rare bay Lipizzaner is considered good luck.)

18. Whorls are irregular hair growth spiraling out from a central point. All horses have them, and there are many superstitions attached to their number and location.

19. A creep feeder is a solid structure with bars that are wide enough to allow a foal to enter and eat grain but too narrow to let an adult horse reach in and take the foal’s meal.

20. Gene Autry rode a variety of horses he called Champion in a film and television career that spanned about 20 years.

Bonus answer: A Macintosh.

(Sources include The Horse Lover’s Bible, The Everything Horse Book, The Horseman’s Illustrated Dictionary, and the Internet.)


16 to 20: Top Hand

11 to 15: Seasoned Buckaroo

6 to 10: Weekend Wrangler

5 or less: Tenderfoot

Grazing management key for sprawling ranch Fri, 13 Nov 2015 11:17:04 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas BAKER, Idaho — The Eagle Valley Ranch was created by merging several large ranches near Baker, where western Montana was carved out of Idaho.

In 2003, Nikos Monoyios and his wife, Valerie Brackett, got into ranching in a big way. They bought the Swahlen ranch on the upper end of Bohannon Creek, with 4,000 deeded acres and 6,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management leases.

Over the next three years they purchased three adjoining properties at the lower end of the ranch.

“That gave us about 5,900 acres of deeded land and 12,000 acres of BLM leases,” Monoyios, a native of Greece, said.

“We have been fortunate to have Mike Kossler as manager, and several other loyal long-term employees who have worked hard to make this into a first-class cattle operation. In the past 12 years, we’ve made improvements in the cattle herd, grazing management and facilities,” he said.

The employees are an important part of the team.

“They are the key to our success. My wife and I had no experience or knowledge of the cattle business. We relied on hiring the best people to do the job,” Monoyios said.

Eagle Valley runs 600 to 700 cow-calf pairs.

“When we bought the ranch it was a mixed herd of mostly older cows, with average age of about 10 to 11 years. We had to buy replacement cows for several years and gradually evolved to a black Angus operation,” he said. “We now keep our own replacement heifers. Average age in the cow herd has come down to about 5 years old and quality has improved.”

This year for the first time they started breeding replacement heifers by artificial insemination.

“We heat-synchronized them,” Kossler said. “We’ll see how well we like it when the calves all come at once next spring.”

They have also made progress in grazing management and the facilities, Monoyios said.

“Early on we hired Jim Gerrish as a consultant; he helped design an intensive grazing system,” he said. “We divided pastures into segments with fixed and movable electric fences, and installed water troughs. We trained all our employees to measure grass and keep track of growth rates — and move the cows every few days.

“This has greatly improved productivity and quality of our pastures,” Monoyios said.

The ranch has also hosted grazing schools.

“We are helping other people learn about grazing management,” he said.

“We are doing some things they may have only heard about,” Kossler said. “They can see how we set up water tanks, what we do to move wire fences. We also rotate pastures on some of our own rangeland.”

This take place year-round — changing pastures and moving wire even in winter, to get the best utilization of pastures while still giving them a rest so they will grow back with vigor, he said.

“Another change from the previous management is how we utilize our BLM,” Monoyios said. “The previous owners put cow-calf pairs on BLM leases during summer. We keep our cow-calf pairs on private ground (mainly on irrigated fields). After weaning we put dry cows out on BLM in late fall.”

This gives the BLM ground a chance to recover, and has helped because the calves stay on irrigated ground and gain better during summer, he explained.

The cows calve in March and April.

“But we are able to sell 640-650 pound calves by fall, with the average close to 600 pounds,” Kossler said. “They can’t grow that fast on the BLM. We use our best irrigated feed for cows and calves. We have calves as large as the guys who calve in January, without all that labor calving in cold weather.”

Eagle Valley Ranch is also a good steward of the land and has done several projects in connection with state Department of Fish and Game and other agencies to improve habitat for fish.

“We also support a large wildlife population on the ranch,” Kossler said.

“We try to balance their impact with our needs for the cattle. We have a large elk herd that moves in here late fall. The wildlife are an important part of the ranch and have to be taken into consideration when we figure our overall grass production,” he said. “We support about 250 to 300 deer year round, along with the elk.”

He estimates that by the first of December they’ve had more than 1,000 head of elk in the drainage.

“It’s a huge impact,” Kossler said.

“We’ve been letting some people come in to hunt, for controlled management on the cow elk,” he said. “We are not trying to take all the elk out, but we want them managed and try to push them out to their winter range rather than having them stay in our fields.”